All great relationships come to an end, the natural course having run as far as it can. Sometimes they start passionately and brightly and quickly burn away to nothingness. Sometimes, they are a slowly burning and taut affair that consumes all within them in a supernova of passion oblivious to all around them. Occasionally, despite saying the opposite, things simply aren’t working. The public face presents a lie, when everything behind the scenes falls apart.
Of course, finishing 7th is no insult and 6th is not out of the question but this is Liverpool. European Champions on 5 occasions, runners up twice. League Champions 18 times and runners up on 12 other occasions. The most decorated club in English League history can end up qualifying for the Europa League because Portsmouth are not allowed to enter. Is it good enough to be surviving on scraps thrown by clubs imploding financially? Simply put, no it isn’t.
I saw Benitez’s post match comments on Sunday and was astounded. You can’t position yourself as a champions of the fans and then refuse to commit yourself to confirming whether you intend to be at the club next season. Benitez owes that to the Anfield faithful at the very least. They have backed him 100% throughout his consistent battles with the owners and the boardroom and now he throws it back in their faces. I think most fans of other clubs would be hard pressed to have kept the patience with a manager like the Liverpool fans have with Rafa Benitez.
Of course, his supporters will always point to the 2005 Champions League final victory and to a lesser extent, the F.A. Cup victory the following season over West Ham United. Last season saw Liverpool come within a whisker of winning the title but ultimately missed out due to the points dropped against “lesser” sides. The beginning of the season saw them lose as many leagues games in 8 days as all of last year. Complaints about Real Madrid tapping up Xabi Alonso were treated with the contempt they deserved after Benitez had spent most of the summer of 2008 trying to flog him.
He claims the club needs 4 or 5 great players, unlike the majority of the 77 he’s signed. With the exception of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, every single player at Liverpool is a Benitez signing. Incredibly, of the 77 players he’s signed, 30 of them have been sold on. His supporters claim the board have tied his hands in regards to the money he’s had to spend, but looking at his transfer record, honestly, can you blame them? A scatter gun transfer policy that currently sees Liverpool using Mascherano as a right back and a £7 million left back in the reserves. A depth of striking talent after Torres that a Championship club would be embarrassed to have at its disposal.
This refusal to commit himself to Liverpool next season surely treats the fans like idiots. He has more support from them and delivered probably less than any Liverpool manager since Graeme Souness’ dreadful tenure in the early nineties. He eventually fell on his sword and resigned after they were beaten by Bristol City at home in the F.A.Cup in January 1994.Yet the 3 seasons he’d spent there were littered with dreadful signings, arguments and badly judged media interviews, such as with the Sun newspaper on the 3rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Yet even he won the F.A. Cup in 1992.
Souness finished 6th, 6th and 8th and the club were at the weakest they’d ever been in the modern era. Liverpool have finished outside the top 6 twice in the last 20 years and only 4 times in the 47 seasons they spent in the top flight since winning promotion back to the top division in 1962. Of course, they may still finish 6th but that’ not Benitez’s weakness for me, it’s his refusal to treat his supporters with the respect they deserve after all the support they’ve given him and tell them if he’s staying.
Perhaps of course, he’s playing the protection card, asking the board for the moon and then quitting when they quite rightly tell him to get stuffed. Only then will he consider the offer from Juventus that is on the table and has been for weeks. Added to this the fact that he absurdly claims he’s trying to meet up with the new chairman after canceling two scheduled meetings in the last fortnight weakens his position even further.
Liverpool’s fans deserve better, the club deserve better and no-one is happy. Rafa looks fed up and coming from a family of Liverpool fans, they’re fed up. The relationship has run its course and if Rafa Benitez really cared about Liverpool he’d do the right thing and quit. When you get to a point in a season where you want your team to lose to stop a rival club winning the title, I think that’s all you need to say and that’s a fact Rafa. It can only get worse from here.