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Randy Marsh

Probably the best article I have read about Rafa Benitez

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Rafael Benítez is brilliant but polarizing coach - Sid Lowe - SI.com

Sid Lowe>INSIDE SOCCER

 

Benítez a great but polarizing coach

 

rafabenitez2-298.jpg

 

The final whistle had barely blown on Liverpool's desperately bad 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on Aug. 23 when the message flashed up. A challenge was thrown down, a point made. Rafael Benítez had finally gone; those who wanted to see the back of him had got what they wanted and Roy Hodgson had taken over. But there was no immediate sign of improvement. In fact, Liverpool was even worse.

"So," the message said, "can those who have been slaughtering Rafa Benítez for everything over the last few years explain that one, then? Go on, I'm waiting."

 

Responses flooded in: It was too early. It was a one-off. It was still Benítez's fault. It was, after all, his team -- the team he had put together. The team he had wasted pots of money on buying; a limited, plodding, functional team. When Liverpool fans marched in protest against American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, some carried framed photos of Benítez above their heads. As if he were the Ayatollah. When he left, others could barely contain their glee. They had been screaming for him to go for ages. As if he were the devil incarnate.

 

Few coaches seem to have divided opinion quite like the Spaniard. Good guy, bad guy; guilty as sin, innocent victim. He is solely responsible for the miserable fate that befell Liverpool; no, he is responsible for the club's greatest moments and was slain by the political and economic civil war at Anfield. There is something about Benítez that forces you to take sides. With him or against him, ally or enemy, there is an intensity, almost an anger, about judging his legacy. About the debate as to whether he was a Good Liverpool Manager.

 

Black and white, no room for gray. Except that there is plenty of gray.

Halftime in Istanbul, the 2005 European Cup final. Liverpool is down 3-0 but in an hour and a half's time it will be European champion. It will be arguably the greatest comeback ever. Liverpool's fifth European Cup, a glimpse of its true glory days -- its first European Cup win in 20 years. The most stunning in its history.

 

Benítez has to motivate his players. He also has to change things, quickly and effectively. It's a massive test. He starts making alterations. There is a confusion and tension. Djimi Traore, who has been substituted, is heading into the shower when he is called out again, told to put his kit back on. Steve Finnan can't continue, although he insists he can. Benítez wants to send on Didi Hamann. Djibril Cissé, too. He turns to the tactics board and runs through what he wants to do. As he draws to a close, a hand goes up. "Er, boss?" "Yes."

"There are 12 of us."

Even Liverpool's greatest moment, even Benítez's biggest success -- the success that means that supporters will always be grateful -- is tinged with a feeling of "yes, but." Even Benitez's most brilliant tactical innovation -- switching to three at the back in a European Cup final -- can feel slightly diluted. It can be used as ammunition against him, as well as a shield with which to defend him.

 

Liverpool won the European Cup, sure. But did it do so when it ditched Benítez's original, botched tactics? Did Benítez win it? Or did Steven Gerrard rescue him, winning a barely plausible victory? Just as he had when the club was within seconds of being knocked out in the group stages, only for Gerrard to score an extraordinary goal against Olimpiakos? Did he do the same thing the following season when Liverpool won the FA Cup -- Benítez's only other trophy -- with a what seemed like a 700-yard shot in the dying minutes of the final in Cardiff?

 

Yes, the final was freaky; yes, there was luck, but ... Benítez took Liverpool there. Liverpool smashed Bayer Leverkusen. It beat a Chelsea team whose resources dwarfed its own. And it knocked out Juventus with a startling -- and unexpected -- sprint out of the blocks in the quarterfinal, planned by Benítez. That episode in Istanbul could be a metaphor for Benítez and Liverpool. A metaphor for the arguments that surround him. Much of what is said is cliché. Much of it is half-truth. Much of it is just not true at all. Yes, but ... everywhere you look with judgments on Benítez there are caveats. Arguments and counterarguments. So, let's look at some of them, shall we? Let's answer them, explain them.

 

Benítez spent a fortune in the transfer market -- $353,137,732, to be precise. And most of it was wasted. Look at the rubbish he bought: Andrea Dossena and Alberto Aquilani. Antonio Nuñez. Jermaine Pennant. Fernando Morientes. And the list goes on.

 

But he recouped $233 million. The myth of Benitez the big spender is exactly that: a myth. His total net spend was $121 million. Over five seasons, an average of $23 million a season. In his penultimate season, his net spend was just $3.8 million. In his final season, he actually made $7.7 million. That's hardly big spending. Nuñez was effectively forced on him. Aquilani was injured. At the time, everyone thought that Morientes was a good signing. Pennant was man of the match in the 2007 European Cup final. And what about Javier Mascherano, Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso. What about Fernando Torres?

 

• That's hardly something to crow about. That's not many; they were obvious signings. Any idiot would buy Torres.

 

Any old idiot like Sir Alex Ferguson, who decided Torres wasn't worth the risk, for example? Mascherano wasn't a fixture at West Ham. Alonso was a kid at Real Sociedad. Reina had been forced out at Barcelona. Torres was a gamble. If he looks like such a sure thing now, it is testament to Benítez's vision -- and his coaching.

 

Speaking of Ferguson, Benítez lost the plot in 2009 with that attack on the United manager. When he walked into the news conference with a piece of paper and ranted about "facts," you knew Liverpool's title challenge was over. Fergie's mind games won out. No wonder Liverpool, which was on top that day, didn't win the league. No wonder Benítez never won the trophy that really matters to Liverpool: the league title. He was paranoid, too, distracted by a battle with the board -- a desire to control everything.

A desire to have the resources to compete, you mean? A desire to be able to do his job without interference? And lost the plot?! After Benitez "lost the plot," Liverpool lost just once in 18 games. It won 10 of its last 11 -- including a 4-1 win at Manchester United. You know, Ferguson's Manchester United. Liverpool lost only twice that season and finished four points behind United -- the first time it had been genuinely in contention to win the league in almost 20 years. But for injury to Torres and Gerrard, it would have won the league.

 

• Or but for the 11 draws. Liverpool only won 10 of its last 11 because it had to. The team was, as one first-teamer admits, "going all out for it, but by then it was too late." It was chasing results and got them. It should have chased them before. Benítez's conservatism earlier in the season cost Liverpool the title. So did its dependency on just two players. And anyway, then he tore it all apart. He sold Alonso. And he should have played Gerrard in central midfield and used two strikers. Gerrard should not have played off the striker. It was yet another stifling, boring 4-5-1, with no width. He kept buying wingers but never kept faith with them: Mark González, Albert Riera, Pennant. Forever imposing narrow-minded "discipline" on them, he clipped their wings, beat their creativity out of them. He never let them show their talent.

 

Yeah, because González, Riera and Pennant have done so much since departing. Because Gerrard played so well there against City? He should have played him as a central midfielder even though that season he was the third-leading scorer in the Premier League and provided the second-most assists playing off Torres? Is that not an attacking option? And what about the teammate who privately admits: "Gerrard can't play in the middle of midfield; he doesn't have the positional sense"? And who would you have played up front? As for Alonso, ultimately the sale happened because Alonso wanted it to.

 

How about Dirk Kuyt? Or how about buying a striker? Like Robbie Keane. Alonso only wanted to leave because Benítez had tried to shift him out the year before.

 

Because Benítez wanted Gareth Barry, didn't have the funds for both and had let himself be swayed by the likely implementation of an English-player quota and the desire to have a left-footed central midfielder. Wrong? Maybe. But understandable.

 

No, completely ridiculous. And that was yet another example of Benítez's failure to connect to his players. By the end, they were all against him.

 

Actually, they weren't all against him. And that says more about their attitude than his. The players who respected Benítez are the intelligent, committed ones. Torres has no problem admitting that Benítez can be hard work, obsessive and infuriatingly single-minded -- he tells the story of the coach congratulating him the day after he found out he was going to be a dad for the first time, only to discover that Benítez was actually congratulating him for a near post run he'd made in the previous game -- but he has no problems admitting that Benítez has made him a better player. And isn't that the point? They're there to work.

Liverpool players who rejoiced at his departure should heed the warning of what happened at Valencia. When he left there, the players were delighted; six months later, they admitted they were better off with him. The coach who led them to two league titles in three years. Without him, they won nothing. Why should he indulge the egos? Why should he pander to them?

 

Because ultimately, it's about winning, getting good performances out of players. And if that means coddling a player, sucking up to him, you do it ...

 

And that's the thing. Benítez never could. Ultimately, it was the simplest skill of all that proved the hardest. The tragedy of Benítez's time at Liverpool was that he just couldn't talk to key members of his squad, he couldn't relate to them, communicate to them, motivate them. He couldn't do the same with the owners and administrators of his club. And, for all the good things, that inability ultimately cost him his job. In the end, he probably had to go. Yes, he had become a problem. But he wasn't the only problem. And he wasn't only a problem.

 

 

 

 

That is a fuckin great piece of journalism. I do not agree with every point but it covers all bases and opinions and sums him up well I think. Incredibly balanced and well worthy of a read, just hope we can not let it decent in to the usual slanging match.

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Decent Article, alot to agree with, but IMO Rafa totally lost his way in the final season and since the Torres/ Yossi signings everything he went near in the market was a failure to which he deserved to lose his job for, not one player signed in the 2008 and 2009 summers was a success, and he and he alone is at fault for that, he let Risse(who was poor) go paid double on a worse player, let Crouch go payed double on a worse player, then he bought riera a fuckin Donkey.

Arbeloa sold for £3.5m and we paid 4 times that for a worse player, and the cream of the crop Aqualani, a player who had barely played 100 games in 5 years he paid £20m for, these signings are the reason we finished 7th last season, and no manager at any club should be forgiven for such total disregard and ignorance in the transfer market and a drop of 5 places in the league.

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he tells the story of the coach congratulating him the day after he found out he was going to be a dad for the first time, only to discover that Benítez was actually congratulating him for a near post run he'd made in the previous game

 

Hahaha. That's quality.

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He did well in his first few years and the team showed progression.

 

Change of ownership came and over time he gradually lost the plot.

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quote..""Few coaches seem to have divided opinion quite like the Spaniard.""

 

well that's because internet fans have only just been invented,

so the statement isn't quite true.

rafa give us our pride back,

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He's fucking gone. Get over it.

 

We'll see how good he is now he's taken over Inter. I mean Houllier only won 2 french titles because he took over a title winning team didnt he? so come on Rafa, show us your title credentials now.

 

dont want to get over it, ok

 

quite liked being number one ranked team in Europe for 3 seasons.

yes number one.

 

i hate fickle fans

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He's fucking gone. Get over it.

 

We'll see how good he is now he's taken over Inter. I mean Houllier only won 2 french titles because he took over a title winning team didnt he? so come on Rafa, show us your title credentials now.

 

You're a fucking retard. Get over it.

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He's fucking gone. Get over it.

 

We'll see how good he is now he's taken over Inter. I mean Houllier only won 2 french titles because he took over a title winning team didnt he? so come on Rafa, show us your title credentials now.

 

I take it you never talk about Istanbul, Cardiff, the 2001 treble, the 77, 78, 81 and 84 European Cups, Wembley 65, Shanks, Paisely, Fagan and King Kenny then? Seen as they've gone and are part of our glorious History we should get over them too? Divvy.

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I admired him for not sucking up to the players. Gerrard is not a very nice character in real life but Rafa went out of his way to support him when he was hauled before the court for one of his many bar room brawls that actually came to the attention of a prosecutor. Gerrard has been inconsistent for every manager he has played for and is always trying to dictate where he should play. Rafa got more out of him than any other manager.

 

Rafa converted Carragher to a central defender and selected him more than any other player, yet Carragher paid him back by politicking against him for years while maintaining a sycophantic relationship with Houllier. Why should Rafa suck up to a traitor?

 

Torres has said many times that Rafa is the best manager he has worked with and that he taught him so much. All without sucking up.

 

Mascherano, Kuyt and even Alonso have spoken highly of Rafa, as have many other players.

 

Carragher and Gerrard put the knife in only because they knew Rafa was vulnerable to the owners and their agent, Purslow. In my book, this makes Carragher and Gerrard the owners agents. Carrragher thought he would secure a contract for his dirty work, Gerrard followed him because he is an easily led sulk who wanted to shift attention from his own lousy performances last year and blame the team's downfall on Rafa.

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Its a good article, but all of the points of the article have been explained by people in the past, and the people who raised the points have then been ridiculed.

 

Our friend who has wrote the article is now suffering ridicule in this thread from the same people who have slated others raising good points.

 

Its the way of the 'minor internet celebrity' nowadays. People on the internet want to become infamous on certain websites for holding an extreme stance on a certain subject. It gives them a sense of purpose that they must be lacking in the 'real world.'

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4 pts,4 fucking pts. The width of a fag paper,aaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!!!!!

 

I know, I know.....

 

Turn any two of these games into wins and number 19 would have been ours.. That's how close we were.....

 

Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

Liverpool 0-0 Fulham

Liverpool 0-0 West Ham

Liverpool 2-2 Hull

Stoke 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool 1-1 Everton

Wigan 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool 1-1 Man City

Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

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Reserve game to watch

Virtually any international side to watch

 

Nah fuck it I'll argue over the Inter Milan boss again

 

Talking to yourself now?

 

It's a pretty poor effort, putting the arguments of simpletons into italics and looking dashed clever by shooting fish in a barrel.

 

Just one example; who, anywhere on this planet, said Rafa was bad for "not showing patience with Gonzalez, Riera or Pennant"? Go on, name one.

 

The original message about the 0-3 was obviously sent by a complete mong.

 

In the end he probably had to go

 

But, but, but, but, but........

 

You still all sound like a gaggle of lovelorn schoolgirls.

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I know, I know.....

 

Turn any two of these games into wins and number 19 would have been ours.. That's how close we were.....

 

Aston Villa 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

Liverpool 0-0 Fulham

Liverpool 0-0 West Ham

Liverpool 2-2 Hull

Stoke 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool 1-1 Everton

Wigan 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool 1-1 Man City

Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

 

If my auntie had bollocks etc.....

 

Yes we were close but any team can look at a decision or game over the course of the season and look at it as a defining moment.

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This is an interesting new thread that will surely cover points and opinions never discussed before.

 

Reserve game to watch

Virtually any international side to watch

 

Nah fuck it I'll argue over the Inter Milan boss again

 

Why does it have to descend in to an argument? Why can't supposedly a group of mature adults conduct a discussion over a former employee of Liverpool Football Club without it becoming a waste of everyones time?

 

The article covers many of the main issues over his tenure. It discusses just how widely varying peoples opinions are of him, "polarize" summing it up perfectly. Like I said in my original post, it's balanced and for that reason I thought that many people on here would be interested in reading it, as many are by the looks of it, regardless of whether they are for or against Rafa.

 

If you're too mentally incompetent to engage in a discussion or simply not arsed about the thread then don't bother posting, instead of trying to turn this one in to the usual tedious argumental shite that most threads turn in to.

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I think it overstates the case somewhat. I've never seen any real vitriol directed at Rafa outside of internet forums to be quite honest, the run of the mill fan may have thought it was time to go, but didn't consider him 'solely to blame' for anything, certainly not the club's overall plight - I didn't anyway, nor have I ever met anyone who did.

 

Rafa falls into the same bracket as Houllier, a talented and gifted coach who gave us some great nights and trophies, made some top signings, and who deserves to be celebrated, but who had achieved all they could achieve here and who ultimately began to go backwards.

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