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Everywhere you look or listen, Rafa Benitez’s ability to manage Liverpool Football Club is being questioned. I’ve not been immune to criticising the Spaniard myself, as followers of the Soccerlens Podcast will testify, but I’m far from alone in highlighting his deficiencies. Even Liverpool’s loyalist fans are split on whether the goatee-ed one is still the man they want to lead them forward.
Rafa Benitez remains one of the wisest tacticians around. Give him a set of players ahead of a big match and he will get them well prepared and set up to beat the opposition. He’s got his faults but he certainly knows how to nullify opposition danger men.
It’s Rafa’s transfer activities that should concern Liverpool fans most. A prolific buyer of players, his percentage rate of successful purchases lies well below 20%. And crucially, his record at selling players isn’t too clever either.
With the whole world still scratching their heads at his decision to flog Xabi Alonso, I thought it would be interesting to highlight five of Rafa’s worst sales since he’s been boss at Liverpool…
It’s the obvious one but there is little you can say in Rafa’s defence here. Xabi Alonso was a vital cog in the Reds machine that performed so well last season and his absence was always going to be critical. You simply can’t take away the oil that made things tick and expect the engine to run as smoothly. Some will argue that Alonso was intent on quitting Anfield but Rafa is culpable in that respect too. The relationship broke down between the pair as a result of flirtations with Gareth Barry and the obvious lack of faith in the man who was manning the ship in his midfield at the time. It’s a sale that could lead to the end of Rafa’s tenure.
Real Madrid were the beneficiaries of yet another of Rafa’s outcasts in 2004, in the shape of Michael Owen. In fact, one of the Spaniard’s first acts as boss was to offer his leading goalscorer to a major European rival for a mere £8million. Was he doing them a favour? OK, Owen hasn’t been the same player in recent years but ask any Liverpool fan if they’d prefer him to Voronin or Ngog and I know what the answer would be.
Full-backs are clearly not a forte of Senor Benitez. He’s bought and sold more of them in five years than most managers could manage in 20. Given the susceptibility of current incumbents Aurelio, Insua and Dossena, surely his decision to sell local lad Stephen Warnock to Blackburn Rovers for a mere £1.5million should be called into question. He signed Gabriel Palletta for £2million, remember. Now at Aston Villa, the consistently reliable left-back can’t be far away from an England call-up.
Is it just me or did you think Bellamy was doing OK at Anfield? With a respectable goal ratio of one in three and his pace causing havoc every time he pulled on the shirt, he gave Benitez’s side a new dimension. A genuine Liverpool fan, love him or loathe him, Bellers was an asset to that team. Liverpool’s loss was West Ham and now Manchester City’s gain.
Given the current shortage of attacking options at Rafa’s disposal surely it was an error to allow Crouchy to leave so soon after settling in on Merseyside? Fair enough, the lanky front man is no Fernando Torres but if I was a Reds fan I’d be delighted to see his name on the team sheet, whether as a starter, or a sub. I don’t buy into the theory that Crouch didn’t suit Liverpool. He can play. And just as importantly, he is a great character in the dressing room too. The team would have been a happier unit with Crouchy, than without him.
What do you guys think? Am I being unfair on Rafa?