Thursday, June 03, 2010

Benítez Packs His Bags

Another adventure of a Spanish football coach in the English Premier League has come to an end with Rafa Benítez leaving Liverpool today. Benítez lasted quite a bit longer than Juande Ramos, who has yet to properly recover his career following his unhappy spell at Tottenham. For a while it seemed Rafa was made for Liverpool, after he arrived as a well regarded up and coming manager with an impressive track record at Valencia. Then came the extraordinary Champions League victory against Milan in his first season, a result which seems to have won him the unconditional loyalty of many of the fans regardless of the relative lack of success since then. You have to wonder how long he would have lasted without that great start.

This season has ended the dream, as Liverpool finished outside of the all important Champions League qualifying positions. Although there are obvious problems concerning the ownership of the club and its financial position, it's hard not to conclude that Benítez has his share of the responsibility. He became a slightly petulant figure at times, unable to deal with the mind games of the Mourinhos and the Fergusons; and always blaming the lack of success on the funds available for signing players. There lies the problem, because Benítez did get money to spend and often didn't spend it wisely. The result is a Liverpool team that is arguably poorer than the one that he inherited, something masked only by the continuing presence of Gerrard and the frequently injured Fernando Torres (especially when he is due to play his old club!). The departure to Real Madrid of Xabi Alonso, his best signing along with that of Torres, left a gaping hole in the team.

If the reported payoff is anywhere near to being accurate then he won't be suffering too much, especially with the rumours that he could soon end up at Inter Milan; albeit with a hard act to follow. Maybe Italian football will be closer to his idea of how the game should be played, several of those who played under him have criticised him for being a control freak unwilling to allow players to express themselves outside the bounds of his rigid tactical plan. The club may still be able to attract a relatively big name replacement although without much money to rebuild the team. One of the ironic consequences of the Premier League generating so much money is that it has attracted the attention of people who have zero interest in the sport but plenty of interest in the cash.

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