So finally it has been confirmed. Rafa Benitez will stay at Liverpool for another five years after he agreed a contract extension that will keep him at Anfield until at least 2014, putting to an end (some of) the speculation that has haunted the corridors of the club for the past eighteen months or so.
Of course we all suspected this was coming, the announcement that Rick Parry would be resigning his Chief Executive post come the end of the season hinted that Senor Benitez had emerged victorious from a power struggle that had reached breaking point over the unlikely figure of Gareth Barry last summer. In that instance it was Parry who seemingly got his way, but as the saying goes “he may have won the battle….”
Benitez is known to have been stalling over a new deal out of fear over the club’s transfer policy. No longer could the Spaniard accept delays in transfer negotiations, and questions over his chosen targets. Benitez requested the kind of free reign over transfers that is enjoyed by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson & Arsene Wenger. No more lampshades masquerading as tables at Liverpool, Benitez’s side, playing Benitez’s way. And now comes the fun part.
For Rafa to sign such a long-term deal (a five year contract in this hire ’em fire’em climate is something to be remarked upon in itself), it is fair to surmise that he has been given certain promises from his Superiors with regards to transfer policy. It will therefore be fascinating to see the decisions taken this summer, and whether sufficient funds are made available to turn his good side into a great one. We all know the areas which need to be addressed in this Liverpool squad, it would be farcical to suspect Benitez does not.
Obviously there are certain variables which may assist or hinder Benitez’s long-term buying strategy. Namely who replaces Parry as Chief Executive and, of course, the long-standing ownership issue. With the Kuwaiti bid being sneered at by those in the know as a smokescreen, there to flush out more serious interest, there are still rumours lurking around every Merseyside corner about potential new owners.
Benitez is in a strong bargaining position with any suitors, with a reputation enhanced by the past week’s wins over Real Madrid & Manchester United, and was very smart about aligning himself with the supporters in his latest statement. Any new owner would be forced to think very carefully before unveiling any grand plans which do not involve the Spaniard. And not just because the length of contract in Benitez’s inside pocket would demand a hefty compensation should he leave before 2014.
Hicks & Gillett have not done much to endear themselves to Liverpool fans since rolling into Anfield with talk of “Roffa” and “Snoogy Doogy” in 2007, and there will doubtless be dissenters towards this latest announcement, but from a personal perspective I believe it is in the best interests of the club.
Benitez has his faults, the media fall over themselves to highlight them. But his tactical depth, his physical preparation of the squad, and his attention to detail cannot be faulted. And hopefully now we will get to see how good his transfer eye REALLY is…