So it seems the end is drawing close for Rafa Benitez at Anfield, with reports all over the place pointing to the Liverpool owners offering Benitez £3 million to leave immediately. Quite what has happened to bring Liverpool lurching in to another crisis so soon after the season has ended is unsure, but for me, he’s been under pressure ever since he guaranteed the club would finish 4th back in January.
That at the time looked a long shot as Liverpool huffed and puffed there way through turgid performance after turgid performance. Even the most biased Liverpool fans were unsure if it was attainable but come the May 9th, the club had crashed from almost winning the Premiership in 2008-2009, to almost not qualifying for Europe in 12 months. No doubt it was all Sir Alex Ferguson or referee’s fault. At the moment the Daily Mirror are claiming he’s actually been sacked, most of the other stories are saying he’s been asked to leave.
Now, I’ll be honest, I simply didn’t think the club would see sense and try to get rid of him. I’m sick of the apologists blaming the board for Liverpool’s problems. It’s a phony war, it doesn’t cover the fact that Benitez has spent so badly, so consistently over the 6 years he’s been at Anfield. Yes, the board are culpable for some of the problems, but it doesn’t cover the fact he has sold 34 of the 77 players he has signed. Almost half, that is a frightening amount, that is probably the worst turn over of a manager at a club in the modern era.
The club are not in a position to sack him due to the financial situation, Gerrard and Torres are being linked with clubs, Mascherano wants to leave for family reasons, Benayoun is on the verge of joining Chelsea. Transfer targets have now had to be downgraded from Champions League players to Europe League targets. Yet for all that, people still go on about that night in Istanbul. 5 years ago. Or winning the F.A. Cup on penalties against a newly promoted West Ham side. 4 years ago.
This is a club on the edge of the precipice, financially and football wise. Last summer I wrote that Aston Villa had more chance of winning the Premiership than Liverpool and was roundly castigated by Reds fans who thought I meant Villa would win the league. I didn’t, I meant Aston Villa had more chance of winning the Premiership than Liverpool. As it turned out, they finished higher in the table but neither of them had a chance of troubling the top end of the table.I just thought Liverpool had no chance of winning the title.
This is a manager who sold Liverpool’s best prospect in years, Stephen Warnock to Blackburn and then replaced him with abysmal left back after abysmal left back. Warnock’s career has continued to blossom since his departure and is developing in to one of the leagues best left backs. This is a manager who spent the summer of 2008 trying to flog Xabi Alonso and then whined all summer 2009 when Alonso told him he wanted to leave. Then replaced him with an injury prone midfielder who he then seemed to fall out with. Outstanding.
The only people I imagine who will be sad to see Benitez go are anyone who supports anyone else in the top eight. Of course there will be plenty of Liverpool fans, still blinded by the amazing comeback in 2005, unable to see just how far the club have fallen since that night who will be distraught. I don’t understand it. If Liverpool had won the league in 2008-2009, for me they would have been the worst Premiership title winners since the league started in 1992 and probably the worst league winners in nearly 30 years since Villa won it in 1981.
I won’t fall into this trap of speculating who’ll replace him, but I don’t doubt CV’s will be whizzing themselves to Anfield as we speak. I doubt anyone else, apart from Graeme Souness, could make a worse job of it than Benitez has the last 4 seasons, 2008-09′s second place excluded. The added bonus is the club have Kenny Dalglish there to steady the ship in the current climate and that alone will make sure the club will move onwards away from Benitez’s dire tactics and referee baiting.
Leave me your comments below and you can always find me on http://twitter.com/paulbestall