The Rafa Benitez conundrum

There is never a dull moment at Liverpool is there? With the news coming that the club are for sale at a staggering £600m, Fernando Torres is out for the rest of the season and, with fourth place looking a very distinct possibility, there is no clearer sign that Rafa Benitez will still be at Anfield for the start of next season.

The two main clubs linked with him, Juventus and Real Madrid, have both given strong indications that they would welcome the Spanish manager and in a season of twists and turns for all concerned, there has been enough at Liverpool alone. Whereas much of the focus will be on the club’s star players this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if Benitez and his future is the first thing that is sorted out when the dust settles on a poor season for the Reds.

Benitez has been at Anfield for six years and in that time I can’t recall a Premiership manager from the top half of the table coming under so much scrutiny. They haven’t won the league in all that time, and this season was meant to be the one where Liverpool would go one step further than their second placed finish from the last campaign. Having won two trophies in dramatic style, it was expected that the foundation would be laid for him and Liverpool to progress in the league- they haven’t won the title since 1990. In addition to that, Benitez’s tactics and use of substitutions has come under the radar even more than before because of the fact that his side has struggled so much this season. They were out of the title race months ago, knocked out of the Champions League during the group stages and lost to Reading in the FA Cup. I have noticed that quite a lot of his pre and post match press conferences have involved him defending his team and has often “guaranteed” Liverpool’s fans that they WILL finish in the top four. Is that just fake bravado?

With the press on his back and the background distractions overtaking the importance of what happens on the pitch, Benitez may feel that time is right to walk away from Anfield. Liverpool isn’t a club that is associated with sacking their managers and can’t afford to sack Benitez so what option could he take should he choose to move on to pastures new? Juventus seem to be pretty adamant that they can get him as their sources claim that they are “90%” sure that it can happen, and apparently last week the Italian club gave Benitez 10 days to decide if he would like to join them. Juventus are in a similar situation to Liverpool where it looks very unlikely that they will qualify for the Champions League and are not going to win Serie A. However, there is no chance that they have the same monetary issues as the English club does and this may tempt Benitez as it will give him the opportunity to re-establish himself. Italian football would also suit him as the slow and more measured build-up that teams adhere to over there is something that Benitez has been labeled with. I wonder if the thought of going head-to-head with his old adversary, Jose Mourinho, would tempt him even the chances of Mourinho remaining in charge of Inter Milan next season are very slim.

If Benitez still wants to test himself in a league that more or less matches the Premier League then a return to Spain may be his best option. Having managed Valencia prior to joining Liverpool, the destination that continues to be mentioned is the giant that is Real Madrid. According to a survey, involving Madrid’s fans, which was taken in the Spanish newspaper, Marca, most of them want to see the Spaniard take over at the Bernabeu this summer. I have my doubts as to whether Benitez will be able to handle the huge expectation and demands that will instantly be placed on him. For a start, does he have what it takes to bring the best out of Kaka and Ronaldo? Madrid is a team that has always had flair players and like to play an attacking style of football. Benitez is not overly negative but surely he would have to sacrifice his defensive formations and let the likes of Ronaldo and Kaka do what they do best. He was, of course, a youth coach at Real and would know that he would be required to do something about the team’s lack of progress in the Champions League. At Madrid there are players who have bigger egos than the current stars at Liverpool do so his man-management would be tested to the maximum- and this has been a flaw of his.

The end of the season is going to be eagerly anticipated by Liverpool’s fans as to what happens on and off the pitch, but ultimately it looks as if Rafa Benitez will decide where his future lies- not anyone else at Anfield. Benitez gives the impression that he is becoming despondent with the state that Liverpool find them and may feel that he has taken the club as far as he possibly can. While a lot of their fans have voiced their anger at the owners, they don’t choose the team or tactics for every match. Six years is a sufficient amount of time at a club of Liverpool’s status and Benitez has only delivered two trophies in that time and it would be easy to use the boardroom troubles as an excuse. So whilst the fans will be baffled by his signings, lack of success and supposedly losing the dressing room even Benitez may be thinking enough is enough. Having seen the “In Rafa We Trust” statement on countless occasions I suspect that a lot of their fans don’t anymore and if the man himself thinks that his time in England is now up.

You can follow me on www.twitter.com/prashster

 


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