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Where next for Benitez?

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Phil McNulty | 12:05 UK time, Thursday, 23 December 2010

As Rafael Benitez celebrates Christmas at home on the Wirral peninsula following his exit from Inter Milan, an unlikely theory is formulating in the minds of some Liverpool supporters.

It is a theory that may even formulate in the mind of Benitez himself - namely that a departure laced with acrimony after only six months at the San Siro might actually be a road that leads him back to Anfield.

For all the turmoil and mediocrity of Benitez's final season at Liverpool, there is no question one of the game's most complex and divisive characters still holds a section, however small, of the club's support in his thrall.

However, if Benitez and his admirers retain some distant hope that the Spaniard could some day reclaim his old job, it might be best if they think again.

Benitez speaks to the mediaBenitez's stock remains high after successes at Valencia and Liverpool. Photo: Getty Images

Benitez's availability will alert clubs around Europe despite damage done to his reputation in the last 18 months, encompassing his decline at Liverpool and a swift demise at Inter.

And given he has retained his home across the Mersey from Liverpool, where he sought refuge as his reign at the San Siro reached its contentious conclusion, there may well be suitors in the Premier League should he linger on the market long enough.

Yet, while he retains a special affection for Liverpool's fans, even giving them a namecheck after Inter won the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in what turned out to be his final game in charge of the Serie A club, it is unlikely his flight from Italy to England will attract more than a passing glance in Anfield's boardroom.

Firstly, Liverpool have a manager in Roy Hodgson, admittedly one who is struggling to impose himself but nevertheless one who still retains the support of new owner John W Henry and his NESV cohorts from Boston.

Liverpool also have a director of football strategy in Damien Comolli, appointed by Henry. In Benitez's managerial world - and he is not alone here - there can be only one director of football strategy. And that is Benitez himself.

Finally, and rather significantly, a large part of the Liverpool executive team who lived through the final turbulent months of the Benitez regime have fresh memories.

There is also still a feeling inside Anfield, voiced by Hodgson although aggressively challenged by his predecessor, that Liverpool had been left with an environment overpopulated by poor players and expensive Benitez failures.

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Hodgson unfazed by talk of an Anfield return for Benitez

Benitez, who left Anfield with a reported £6m pay-off, has demonstrated acumen that will still make him an attractive commodity on the market - if only he could keep his distance from the compulsive politicking that has characterised his career.

For someone many regard as a warm and engaging personality, he also appears to have an insatiable desire for conflict, a love of creating chaos out of calm. Such a track record will be studied as closely as his footballing pedigree by potential employers.

A man of contradictions, Benitez was perceived as ruthless and only too willing to freeze out those who did not buy into his methods yet generous enough to donate £96,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group after leaving Liverpool.

He craves absolute control and yet too often wants to deflect the blame in the direction of others when matters veer off course. He demands full responsibility and yet appears reluctant to take it when times get tough.

Those contradictions also apply to opinions as to his standing as a coach. Very few are neutrals on the subject of Rafael Benitez.

He did an outstanding job at Valencia in succession to Hector Cuper, bringing two La Liga titles and the Uefa Cup to the Mestalla before leaving for Liverpool. Benitez, in what was to become his trademark, fell out with Valencia director of sport Jesus Garcia Pitarch, famously complaining about lack of control over transfers with the words: "I asked for a table and they bought me a lampshade."

At Liverpool, he will deservedly have a special place in the club's history for the miracle of Istanbul and the Champions League final win against AC Milan in 2005. However it became apparent there were fractured relationships with the club's hierarchy, notably former chief executive Rick Parry, former owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, plus ex-managing director Christian Purslow.

Benitez celebrates Liverpool's Champions League win over AC Milan with skipper Steven GerrardBenitez steered Liverpool to Champions League success in 2005. Photo: Getty Images

Even against this backdrop, Benitez won the FA Cup against West Ham in 2006 and reached another Champions League final, this time losing to AC Milan, the following year.

But he has stumbled badly since steering Liverpool to a second-place finish in the 2008/09 Premier League, only four points behind champions Manchester United.

In this campaign, Benitez produced a side that could play blistering, high-speed attacking football of a calibre that saw off Real Madrid on a magical Anfield night in the Champions League and also brought a stunning 4-1 win at Old Trafford inside four days.

In amongst the criticism of Benitez's behaviour, the bickering with owners and the pointless and ultimately self-defeating attack on Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson when Liverpool sat top of the table in early 2009, there must also be credit for much of the work the Spaniard did before his reign slid to a miserable conclusion.

Such was my own conviction that Benitez had got things right at Liverpool that I felt confident enough to predict a title triumph last season - only to err by the margin of seven places and the small matter of 23 points.

Benitez's penchant for confrontation was repeated at Inter, when his invitation to Massimo Moratti to "back me or sack me" after beating Congolese side TP Mazembe to win the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi was accepted with alacrity - and not in Benitez's favour - by the all-powerful Inter president.

No table. No lampshade. Just a door and how to make his way through it.

This challenge to authority was made from a position of weakness as Benitez has struggled badly to match the feats of old adversary and Inter predecessor Jose Mourinho, who won Serie A, the Italian Cup and the Champions League last season.

It was almost as if he walked into a booby trap of Mourinho's making. How could Benitez improve on the feats of "The Special One"? He was sipping from a poisoned chalice.

Benitez hoped to do this with a more attractive style but was not helped by injuries to key players and a reluctance on Moratti's part to loosen the purse strings. Then, for someone seemingly only too willing to pick a fight, Benitez chose one he could not win.

When linked with Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt earlier this season, he said: "I am the coach and I cannot sign players. That is for the technical director and the chairman. I am fine like this. I can focus on my work on the pitch and that is all. I am the coach not the manager."

It seems logical to presume that, from Benitez's desire to maintain roots on Merseyside, he is only too happy to work once again in the Premier League.

Geographically, Blackburn Rovers might suit his purposes but it is hard to see any other way in which they would be a comfortable fit for Benitez. Steve Kean has been told he is in charge until the end of the season and Benitez, in any event, may not regard them as illustrious enough to satisfy his ambitions.

Also, the abrupt manner in which the club's new Indian owners dispensed with manager Sam Allardyce shortly after taking over suggests the two parties might not be a perfect match either.

West Ham? Like Liverpool, they have a manager in place in Avram Grant. Not only that, a relegation fight in the capital would not appear to be Benitez's natural territory.

A return to La Liga is a possibility, where his achievement in breaking up the cartel of Real Madrid and Barcelona with Valencia ensures his stock remains high. However, he may have to move down some rungs on the ladder to resume that fight once more.

Wherever Benitez turns up next, those same contradictions and confrontations seem sure to follow him, ensuring he remains one of football's most intriguing figures.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Benitez is a perfect example of someone who should work under a director of football. He has no idea in the transfer market. He's also a poor coach.

    Tactically adept however. He'd probably be a good international manager, if he can keep his mouth quiet.

  • Comment number 2.

    He's a manager who rode his luck for too long at Liverpool after winning the Champions League with Gerard Houllier's squad. I don't rate him at all and it would be ridiculous for Liverpool fans to welcome him back after chasing him out only 6 months ago!

  • Comment number 3.

    Phill have you had this ready for the past 36 hours..... waiting for the news to actually be confirmed?

    Rafa back to Liverpool.

  • Comment number 4.

    Whilst there are a number of Liverpool fans who would be delighted to see him back at Liverpool, there are also a sizeable amount who would not. I daresay the new owners would not risk upsetting a large portion of the fanbase by re-appointing a manager who took a Champions League winning squad and gradually whittled it down to a seventh placed finish.

  • Comment number 5.

    Very poor coach, never develops youth players, buys nobodies and pays way over the odds!!!

    I wouldnt want him managing a Sunday league team.

  • Comment number 6.

    He likes living in Liverpool - but they have already sacked him. Everton have David Moyes. This leaves Tranmere - about Rafa's level I think.

    Wherever he goes in the future he will just be sacked anyway - awful manager!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    The media's persecution of Rafa is clear to be seen in your article Phil

  • Comment number 8.

    He'll end up back in Spain, I can't see a decent team in England or Italy touching him. Could even end up back at Valencia

  • Comment number 9.

    Vastly overrated manager. Maybe next stop Blackburn?

  • Comment number 10.

    Liverpool could do far worse than accepting Rafa back.
    In fact, they have been for the last 5 months!

  • Comment number 11.

    Can we have the link to the 606 thread back on the article please, as well as the link to this blog, if necessary?

  • Comment number 12.

    Please go back to Liverpool :)

  • Comment number 13.

    Very poor coach, never develops youth players
    towards the end of his reign at lpool he installed pep segura and borrell as technical manager and u18s coach (both formerly important members of barca's la masia )
    the academy is now implementing segura's methods )4-3-3 in attack, 4-5-1 without the ball, for ALL its teams. The emphasis is on technique and footballing intelligence..Expect LFC to start producing alot of high class homegrown players in the next 5-10 + years. This is a benitez legacy

  • Comment number 14.

    No doubt someone will take him on but his reputation is now shot.

    Plenty of Liverpool supporters will always back him because of the Champions league win (i can't blame them for that) but after 6 years he left a worse squad than the one he inherited and his transfer record was pretty awful. He made probably 5 decent buys but about 60 bad ones.
    Now he's inerited the European champions and they've gone backwards very quickly.

    2 years ago he was touted as a future Real Madrid coach, can't see it now.

  • Comment number 15.

    It couldn't happen to a better bloke. After practically destroying Liverpool, Inter Milan were obviously not going to allow his ineptness to continue unabated, like Liverpool did.

  • Comment number 16.

    @ DaniosAnscombe

    how ill informed you are.

    Rafa changed the whole youth setup at Liverpool in 2008 because it was in such a sorry state.

    He brought in the two men responsiible for Barca's crop of home grown talent as well as King Kenny to oversee. As well as a number of top rated international scouts.

    Incedently it was Purslow who changed Kenny's role.

    LFC will see the benefit of this in the next few years. Martin Kelly is just the start.

  • Comment number 17.

    I will burn all my Liverpool items and refuse to support them ever again if this useless idiot is allowed to darken the door of our club again.

    He is a truely awful coach and does not deserve the millions of pounds he continues to gain through being a horrible coach.

    Awful, Awful, Awful...

  • Comment number 18.

    Shocking manager. The worst man managment ever. How can you take a treble winning team and dismantle them in 6 months? I am sure that there are a miniority of fans that would want Rafa back at Liverpool. However they are either everton fans in disguise or not true fans. The majority are embarrased by him. People say he helped win the champions league but if anyone won that game for us it was Gerrard. Rafa started with Kewell for crying out loud!! after he had just come back from injury. Sum's him up really.

  • Comment number 19.

    David Rolls - don't worry, there are plenty with a more balanced view who would appreciate his services.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - you don't take Valencia to a treble in 2004 with nearly zero resources against two teams with far more firepower, and then take Liverpool - the fifth best team in England that year - to the Champions League and the FA Cup and almost win them their first league title in 20 years in spite of a few poor transfer decisions without being an extremely good manager. Which is why it's so infuriating to see how badly he seems to have lost his way in the last couple of seasons.

    I agree with an earlier post, take the transfer market out of the equation and he'd be right near the top of the pile. International football would be ideal for him, I'd say Portugal would be the best fit but given their recent 4-0 win over Spain they seem to be doing just fine at the moment. So perhaps an upcoming central European team like Serbia or Slovakia would be the best place for him to cut his teeth in the international scene.

    Either way, a very good manager in poor form.

  • Comment number 20.

    It was an interesting situation that he found himself at Inter, he never seemed to have the full support of the club, especially that of the President Moratti. Then when he did succeed, in the Club World Cup, he lead to his own demise becuase of his outburst after the final.

    Have a look at my latest blog article on the Benitez situation. Benitez joins the Italian Job...less.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree with Rorb (post 1). Rafa is a great tactician, probably the best around, but he has enormous flaws. Not having a clue about spotting talent is one of them and man management is another.
    He reminds me of when Napoleon was told about any up an coming general he always asked "Is he lucky?".
    Rafa is. But then again, maybe you make your own luck.
    I, for one, would be happy to have him back, with maybe Carragher as assistant and long term replacement, but kept well away from transfer dealings (although consulted, no doubt). What I like about him most is that he loves the club, although that in itself is no guarantee of success. I reckon the Liverpool fans are about 50-50 on this.

  • Comment number 22.

    Anyone else read that bit about Benitez wanting to do what Mourinho did by playing better football and immediately think of Brian Cluff, Leeds and "The Damned United".

    It never works it seems, a team set up to play a certain way cannot just change its style. Perhaps the Blackburn board should take note

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ reply #5

    If this is the truth. Where did Martin Kelly, Dani Pacheco, Jay Spearing come from and why did he buy Jonjo Shelvey?

    Also, would you call Alonso, Garcia, Torres, Reina, Mascha, Arbeloa, Kuyt, Johnson & Agger nobodies?

  • Comment number 25.

    Was always going to happen, how could he possibly live up to Mourinho's results?
    Will always be remembered for Instanbul but Rafa is definately the past at LFC. Re-appointing him would be a backward step.
    Dosen't have a clue in the transfer market either, any funds made available by the Americans need to be invested wisely, not some of the names we are currently being liked with!

  • Comment number 26.

    Where next for Benitez? If he has an appetite for another job straight away which his record suggests he does I would say Wolfsburg as they continue to slip down the Bundesliga...

  • Comment number 27.

    Fingers crossed he makes his way back to Anfield!

    If he does, will he give back the £6m he pocketed on his way out last time?

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    The 606 thread for those who missed it -

  • Comment number 30.

    This is what annoys me about football, the managerial merry go round.

    Rafa has pretty much been fired for incompetence now twice in a year, managing to drag Liverpool and double winning Inter Milan down the table.

    And yet the man will undoubtedly be offered another to job, I just don't get it. Anywhere else in life you **** up and you pay, but not in football managment.

  • Comment number 31.

    Question for you Phil:

    If it was your decision, would you give Rafa another chance at LFC, or would you be happy to stick with Roy?

  • Comment number 32.

    I feel sorry for Rafa. His tactics might have been good, but he couldn't tell a good player if he was slapped in the face by one, and his decisions with regard to subtitutions last season left EVERYONE perplexed, including the players. That is not a good sign when the squad don't understand the manager.

    I'd be very interested to know your comments Phil about Rafa's playing career being very modest, and also his huge success with Valencia coming with a squad with no really huge stars - meaning the way he played and managed that team was very different to a team full of stars, such as Inter. Perhaps he was trying to 'level the playing field' at Liverpool so as to get another squad of players good enough to win things, but without having stars. It backfired spectacularly though, and as a life-long Liverpool fan I was very happy to see him leave.

    I do wish him well though. I think he is just out of his depth at a club like Liverpool or Inter.

  • Comment number 33.

    At least Inter didn't hang around for 3 years before kicking him out. Don't know what makes people think he's better than the Sam Allardyces of the football world. IE; Only good for small teams.

  • Comment number 34.

    as a liverpool fan i dont want him to go back to liverpool

  • Comment number 35.

    Judging by the Rafa wars going on in my Twitter feed, it's far more than a 'small section' of supporters who are in thrall to Rafa. The split is more like 80/20 in favour of Rafa returning. We all, however, realise it is unlikely.

    We'll never forget him, that's for sure.

  • Comment number 36.

    Benitez did not win the Champions League in 2005, the players did. To put out a team that went 3-0 down at half time, awful! I'd say Gerrard played the biggest part in getting them level.

  • Comment number 37.

    Benitez kicked out after six months!

    *Robbie Keane Likes This

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil - If Benitez comes back to the PL, its likely to be to join the 'Mad Hatters Tea party' thats threatening to develop at Blackburn; or even better, Evram Grant goes to Blackburn and Benitez to West Ham? Look out for the 'management carousel' starting up in the New Year - hold on to your hats folks!

  • Comment number 39.

    Phil, if 66% of Liverpool fans (according to an Empire of the Kop poll) want Rafa back, how can you claim that it is a "small section" of the club's support?

    Liverpool are currently stuck with a manager the fans - and probably the current leadership - would never have chosen in the first place and certainly do not rate after the terrible start to this season. Meireles aside, grave errors in the transfer market (entry of Poulsen and Konchesky, exit of Aquilani) have not made Hodgson especially popular with practically ANY section of Liverpool fans.

    Roy is surely a competent manager, albeit one better suited to manage a country as opposed to a club team. Rafa, on the other hand, has proven again and again that he is one of the top managers in the world, often performing miracles against expectations (Istanbul, a second final and semifinal in the Champions League, earning enough points for Liverpool to top the European rankings, his pre-last season in the Premier League, his two Spanish championships with Valencia against Real's galacticos and Barcelona, his UEFA victory with Valencia, and so on) and rebuilding Liverpool from the bottom up (the revival of the Academy is due entirely to Rafa's reforms and shrewd recruitment of staff and players).

    Rafa would fit back into Liverpool FC like a glove - especially with the new regime. If only our new owners would make this daring move, I have no doubt that they and Liverpool fans would be richly rewarded.

  • Comment number 40.

    I think it is FACT now that Rafa has been found out as a manager. He clearly rode his luck with a very distinctly average Liverpool side for a season or two, but then after being supplied with what can only be described as a transfer 'warchest' he fell short and that was evident with his last season in Liverpool and a number of his transfers. FACT

    How a man can go to Inter Milan and fail is beyond me considering there have been very little changes to the team that had recently won the treble. And to complain about lack of funds again is pathetic. FACT.

    Rafa is clearly suited to managing a spanish Club side and I am sure will no doubt be back in Spain with Valencia or another mid table side shortly.

    He is a distinctly average manager, FACT, but also a very rich man after his last two jobs. FACT $$$$$

  • Comment number 41.

    Is there anyone in world football worse at mind games or brinkmanship than Rafael Benitez? What a buffoon!

    Some wishful thinking pundits tried to make him out to be a genius at the time of his 'FACT rant' when it was clear to everyone outside of Anfield the man had made himself look a total idiot, and this latest stunt just defies comprehension.

    Either he genuinely believed the club would back him on the back of winning a Mickey Mouse trophy or he is devious and conniving enough to have engineered a surefire way out of a job which is clearly beyond him. Either way one has to question the sanity/integrity of the man.

    As a United fan I can't wait to see him back to Anfield, although as much as I loathe the red half I wonder whether even they deserve him..... on second thoughts..... of course they do : )

    Rafalution II
    Rafalution - the nightmare continues

    Please let it happen.

  • Comment number 42.

    To me, Liverpool fans had blind faith in Benitez on the back of a fortuitous Champions League victory.

    His record in the transfer market was abysmal (despite lots of money to spend) but most alarmingly, his faith in youngsters was almost non-existent. I find it hard to swallow how much grief Hodgson gets, given the fact that most of his problems are caused by the shoddy squad he inherited from Benitez.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ Bozz I would happily call Garcia, Arbeloa, Agger and Johnson nobodies. They're useless!

  • Comment number 44.

    Quite a few people on here suggesting it's a minority of lfc fans who want him back. Visit some of the forums and see the polls and you'll see it's actually a majority.

    One bad season in six. Certainly not a sackable offence to anyone with sense.

  • Comment number 45.

    More Liverpool fans would prefer Rafa back than Roy to stay. FACT!

  • Comment number 46.

    Although he has had a glimmer of success at Anfield I personally think he has consistantly bought failures. I would like to see him back in the Prem though just to listen to his constant excuses. The man has more excuses up his sleve that Fergie and Arsene put together!

    Keep Hodgeson at Anfield I say but which ever manager Liverpool get there are not going to win the Premier league any time soon!!

  • Comment number 47.

    As much as most Liverpool fans seem desperate for Rafa to return (if only to be rid of a man they deem "unworthy" of their club), I doubt Fenway will have any appetite for the Spaniard's constant political games or massive hunger for cash, cash and more cash to throw at a myriad of mostly average (and that's being kind) players.

    Obviously Hodgson is on borrowed time (let's face it, he was only ever employed as a stop gap by the previous regime), but the question is - who do Liverpool go for? With Comolli in charge of recruitment they'll probably have to look abroad given few British managers (or at least the ones worth having) would put up with the imposition of a "Director of Football Strategy."

    And until the colour of Fenway's money becomes clear, few top European managers will be interested in the job.

    One whisper I've heard though from a very good source - Liverpool will break the bank for Andy Carroll next month. Him and Torres could be a fearsome partnership.

  • Comment number 48.

    Only the Liverpool's in Rafa we trust brigade could possibly be on this forum, trying to put a spin on things and argue why this man is one of the best around.
    Im sorry, it simply doesnt wash anymore. The man is just a giant problem waiting to happen wherever he lands.
    Ive been saying it for years and his Inter tenure has just reinforced what I - and the rest of the entire footballing world has been saying tenfold - this man is no good for any club. Hes taken a club that has dominated its league for the past half decade under 2 different managers and is the current European Champions and in 6 months transformed them into a team that looks like it will struggle to get into the Champions League.
    Its unbelieveable that people still think this man is capable to working at the top in the world of football.

  • Comment number 49.

    Liverpool's previous owners provided a very convenient foil for Benitez. Gillett and Hick's shortcomings distracted many people from the fact that Benitez was ruining their team by buying mediocre players and utilising bizarre tactics.

    The brilliance of Torres and Gerrard saved Benitez's blushes on more than a few occasions. When they both experienced a slump in form and fitness Liverpool under Benitez finished 7th. Unfortunately for Roy Hodgson, those two are also out of form / injured this season but when they're back and on form I've no doubt that Liverpool will finish higher than 7th this season. Liverpool fans say they're missing Alonso badly, and they're right, but Alonso left because Benitez wanted Gareth Barry to replace him!

    Beintez seems to be incapable of motivating a side or bonding with his players, instead he just requests a bottomless budget to attempt buy his way to success (anyone who says he didn't have money to spend at Liverpool is deluded) - and if that tactic fails then he just asks for more money. He complains that Mourinho had 80 million to spend - but doesn't that mean he's inherited a team with at least 80 million worth of talent in it? (yes, a few players were sold but the core of Inter's hugely successful side remained)

    His feud with Mourinho is like a gnat picking a fight with an elephant, although few managers could turn a treble winning side into a mediocre mid-table team so quickly - so in that sense I guess he sort of is 'special one' too.

  • Comment number 50.

    What chairman in their right mind would want to appoint this poisonous snake? I felt something that resembled minor sympathy for him when he left Liverpool - now I feel nothing at all only loathing.

  • Comment number 51.

    As a long standing Inter fan, I can say that we are delighted with the news of Rafa's departure. In six months he has caused only pain to Inter's supporters. The few bright spots we had during this period seemed more of a coincidence rather than by design. Three cheers for Moratti for having managed in six months to do what Liverpool did in six years.

  • Comment number 52.

    Amazed by fellow Liverpool fans wanting him back at Anfield.

    Under him we played dull defensive football often rescued by Stevie G. His record in the transfer market is atrocious, he wasted millions on average and poor players and never even managed to get 11 good players on the pitch at once. His decision to try and sell Alonso for Barry was truly horrific. Whatever happened with Robbie Keane, he had some involvement.

    On the plus side, I think he is the best tactician out there and he was amazing at using players in one off games.

    Bottom line is poot transfer record and an ability to alienate those around him.

  • Comment number 53.

    Re: Inter's new managerial opening: just the opportunity Mr Allardyce has been looking for!

  • Comment number 54.

    More interesting than the Rafa Benitez managerial 'merry-go-round' will be his replacement at Inter Milan. Which manager will they lure away from their 'hot seat' to rescue their current position and the recommencing Champions league in February.

  • Comment number 55.

    There are numerous polls on LFC fan forums around the Internet all with over 65% in favour of Rafa over Roy. FACT!

  • Comment number 56.

    Personally had enough of Rafa's "management" at LFC to last more than a lifetime. Any manager whose judgment in the transfer market and interpersonal skills are so flawed should not be considered for the club. Rafa's youth legacy may or may not pay dividends in 5 or 10 years time. His first team policy legacy is plain for all to see right now.

  • Comment number 57.

    As a Liverpool fan I would welcome Rafa back to Anfield with open arms. Despite what the Media portray the majority of Liverpool fans would also want him back, look at the polls. Hodgson is miles out of his depth at Liverpool, every time he opens his mouth it is to change foot! The sooner he is replaced (please with Rafa) the better.

    So why do we want Rafa back?

    1. He loves the club, he understands what been a Liverpool manager is about. He doesn't snuggle up to Ferguson (Hodgson). He donated part of his pay-off to the Hillsborough fund. He sits down with fans and talks with them. Most importantly he fought for the club against Hicks and Gilette.

    2. His record. League winner in Spain with Valencia twice. Champions league winner with Liverpool, and beaten finalist. Fa Cup winner. Made Liverpool number 1 ranked club in Europe. The 4-1 win at OT. The thrashing of Real Madrid. Achieved Liverpool's highest Premier League point tally. The man has a fantastic pedigree. Compare this record to Uncle Woy!

    3. Fernando Torres. Look at his career, who has got him scoring and turned him into the best striker in Europe? The answer Rafa Benitez.

    Now people question Rafa's transfer record, but ask any Liverpool fan who the first players would be that they would like to see out of Anfield and they will probably answer Konchesky and Poulson (both woy signings £11 million worth!!!!). Rafa brought in Torres, Alonso (sold for huge profit) Mascherano, Luis Garcia, Arbeloa (sold for profit) Reina (best keeper in the world). Yes he did make some mistakes, but this was mainly due to lack of backing from Liverpool board for example having to settle for Pennant when he wanted Simao.

    So some people criticise Rafa's youth policy. Insua, Ngog, Pacheco, Ecclestone, Della Valle (Sold by Hodgson to get Konchesky!!!!!) Alonso (brought in as a 22 year old) Nemeth, Kelly, Ayala are all players that came or are coming through the revitalised youth policy that Rafa implemented. I mean Woy Hodgson is doing his best to destroy it but there are a few gems still there!

    Some people say 'Rafa won the Champions League but with Houlliers squad'. That only makes it more of an achievement. Rafa managed a squad left to him which included Traore, Biscan etc and managed them to beat Juventus, Chelsea and Milan and win the Champions league! It was an unbelievable achievement.

    I'm not sure that the new owners have the bottle to get rid of Woy and bring Rafa back, but to me it would be the best Christmas present possible.

  • Comment number 58.

    Rafa is simply not good enough for a team expected to win trophies like Inter.

    Which is why he's perfectly suited for Anfield.

  • Comment number 59.

    Rafa the gaffer back at LFC please. No disrespect to Roy, but he is not exactly rebuilding us, rather doing a Souness. Rafa would have us back in the top 4 this season. Interesting to see what will happen in the near future.

  • Comment number 60.

    I really don't understand this view that many people have that Rafa undermined Liverpool and bought in loads of expensive failures.

    It's a myth.

    The only expensive player not to have made it is Acquilani - but in the most baffling of developments he was sent out on loan, by Hodgson, to Juventus, just when he looked like being really decent at the end of last season.

    Legend - not a failure. (Mirror)

  • Comment number 61.

  • Comment number 62.

    I have to ask Phil what are you on?

    Benitez is and always has been overated and way out his depth!! He was lucky enough to win the European Cup on 05, not a league but a cup. anyone can string some lucky results together and win a cup just ask Wimbledon 88 or Pompey from this decade; no offence to either but the true measure as any Liverpool fan knows is adding to those 18 league trophies based on consistent results all season! Lets face facts the Champions League as its know now is not what it was in the 80's maybe it should be re-named top 4 league, after all the eventual winner as we have seen so often of late is not even the reigning champions of their own country, bit of a joke just like Benitez is.

    I honestly cant imagine anyone offering this guy a job - if they do Ill question what they are on aswell! He has left Liverpool with the worst squad since before Shankley got a hold of them and considering the damage done by previous managers since Fagan left in the mid 80's that takes quite some doing! He has no idea full stop!

  • Comment number 63.

    I think Bentitez didn't fit easily in the Premier league where journalists seem to only want British managers to be given more time. Fergie didn't win anything at Man Utd for years and "dragged" them down the table in his third year before rebuilding and the rest is history. Benitez is not a bad manager as his exploits with Valencia prove. Yes he made some terrible and strange signings but which manager hasn't. Fergie, Wenger, Mourinho and even Houlier have all wasted millions of pounds on players that didnt cut the mustard.

  • Comment number 64.

    Rumnours in Italy are that he never gained the respect of the dressing room, partly because they were still upset at Mourinho walking out ("the Mourinho widows") and partly because the players are old and set in their ways, and he tried to change training methods (hence his comment that players went secretely to the gym when told not to).

    Inter has a history of dressing room unrest and fickle owners, hence their record of sixteen managers in sixteen years (including Hodgson, only remembered for selling a young Roberto Carlos because he thought he wasn't any good)

    The 'back me or sack me' plea seem to have been designed to get fired and get out of that mess. It is a fact that no Inter player came to his support since he said those words, not even a cursory 'we support the manager' from captain Zanetti.

    Just a bizarre situation - why appoint him in the first place if they were not willing to back him?

  • Comment number 65.

    "I asked for a table and they bought me a lampshade."
    I think he bought a whole tablefull of lampshades for Liverpool.
    he didn't realise how good Liverpool were, he stumbled upon it when they suddenly had to go for everything when chasing ManU, then they played good, for half a season.

    You say that Very few are neutrals on the subject of Rafael Benitez,
    i would counter that by saying that most nuetrals have sussed him out as an average coach who is poor in man management & the transfer market, it's only Liverpool fans that seem to hold him in such high regard....strangely

  • Comment number 66.

    A lot of black and white comments. His either very good, or as most contributers say, an awful manager. Personally I don't know. No one who is rubbish can win 2 La Liga's beating RM and Barca. Was it Houlier's side that won in 2005 or an average side superbly motivated by Benitez?

    Then there are the players he bought and depths he dragged Liverpool down to from 2007-2010. As a Spurs supporter and watching the way he managed Inter this year he was awful, no ides, no motivation, clueless.

    So what is he....great, unlucky or simply useless. All I know is, I wouldn't want him at Spurs.

  • Comment number 67.

    @ #22: That is a very interesting point. Benitez's situation at Inter is definitely reminiscent of Clough's at Leeds in many ways. On top of that, Clough had also immensely underachieved in his brief spell at Brighton the season before joining Leeds, albeit with a team in today's equivalent of League One.

    Who knows, this probably is just a dip in form for Benitez and he may rise from the ashes yet - just as Clough had done. Admittedly, however, that's all wishful thinking; good luck to Benitez either way.

  • Comment number 68.

    I think Benitez has been clever here. He's left a bad situation with a big payday. He was left with not much of Mourinho's squad after Milito, Samuel, Coutinho, Chivu, Maicon, Motta, Stankovic, Sneijder and Cesar all have had injury problems this season + Balotelli was sold and not replaced. This on top of AC Milan spending big on Ibrahimovic and Robinho meant that the writing was on the wall from the start. And then he got himself sacked for asking for money to spend!!! Very conveinient not to mention any of this.

    Of course non of this is mentioned in the blog or by the English media who have always had it in for Benitez, whos trophy cabinet buries the likes of Hodgson's or Redknapp's.

    In fact his coaching reputation in Italy and Spain hasn't really been damaged by this or by one bad season at Liverpool. He will be in contention to get the next big job that comes up in La Liga, and English media darlings like Houghton, Redknapp and Hodgson won't.

    I don't see a better manager than Benitez who Liverpool can realistically get for next season (Hiddink, Mourinho, Ancellotti not interested). Roy Hodgson surely won't be there going into 2012 but you never know.....

  • Comment number 69.

    Why on earth would a liverpool fan want benitz back?
    He buried that club. It will take them years to come back from the turmoil he left them in. 2nd rate players & bad tactics. The guy is a joke, which has been proven agian at Inter. Hopefully chelsea can sign him and he can ruin them aswell. :o)

  • Comment number 70.

    Comments pretty much back up Phil's point on how devisive he is.

    Personally I think he is a terrible manager, and as a United fan would love him to go back there - FACT

  • Comment number 71.

    Rafa is a man of honour, he does not play to the gallery. The english press hate him, but he does not care, he cares only for the real fans of LFC, the Kopites. I would think it an honour to have him back as our manager.

  • Comment number 72.

    I wonder what the opinion would be from Liverpool supporters, if Roy Hodgson had the team competing in the top four of the Premier League and working well in the Europa League?

    Would you want Rafa Benitez back now or would you be totally behind Roy Hodgson?

  • Comment number 73.

    "it's only Liverpool fans that seem to hold him in such high regard....strangely"

    Why is it strange.

    Just look at the trophy cabinet ;o)

  • Comment number 74.

    Rafa going to Inter should never have happened. Everyone knows him and Mourinho hate each other and yet he tried to coach a triple league winning side in a different manner to how Mourinho did it.

    Rafa should spend the next 12-18 months on the sidelines, gaining knowledge before going back to football.. What jobs are out there that he could take on?

    Maybe Villa will sack GH and Rafa can take over there?

  • Comment number 75.

    13 + 16 - so Rafa's legacy started in 2008?? What about all the other years??

    Rafa's legacy is a thread bare squad!!

  • Comment number 76.

    I expect Liverpool to sack Roy now and bring back Benitez

    Liverpool have still got very good players and the problem they got now is that they have the wrong manager, Roy
    Only two seasons ago Liverpool were so close to winning the premier league with Benitez

    If Benitez does not return to Liverpool I expect he may go to Wolfsburg. It looks like McClaren will be sack from Wolfsburg soon and I would not be surprised if Benitez replaces him

  • Comment number 77.

    Incredible. 6 months after finally getting rid of him, there's talk of getting him back? He was lucky in the Champs League final and FA cup, had one good season where we had numerous last minute (dare I say lucky?) goals, transfer-wise inept, and petulant like a challenge.

    And WHEN is someone else other than me going to twig on the Valencia fallacy? The Spanish league has 20 teams like us and he won it with 76pts, then was 6th (I think?) with 60pts, then wins it again with 72pts (yes, 72!!!!). He plays a formula that will average out 75pts or so a season. Having taken an all-conquering Inter team and made them into the new Liverpool is an amazing achievement....

    For all of Hodgson's a average start, remember that he is using the majority of the duffers that Rafa bought.

    The only fans who should want Rafa back at LFC are United and Everton.

    Hopefully NESV are as sensible as they appear to be... and don't listen to those who think a £96k donation out of a few million makes a good man (which he is) a good manager when he is plainly only average and no better than who we already have.

  • Comment number 78.

    It seems that the majority of Liverpool fans want Rafa back, and the majority of Non Liverpool fans don't want him back. The reason is that Rafa is a great manager. BRING HIM BACK TO ANFIELD NOW PLEASE.

  • Comment number 79.

    "Rafa's legacy is a thread bare squad!!"

    Errm, no, I think you'll find that's the legacy of Hicks and Gillet.

  • Comment number 80.

    More rants at Fergie, patronising remarks for the media, CL football, Liverpool back on ITV, 4-1 thrashing handed out to the Mancs!

    Rafa, come back now, all is forgiven!


  • Comment number 81.

    I could not understand how Inter would not take the game against Werder Bremen seriously.They could of won the group with a victory over Bremen, but it appears that Benitez was only interested in this "Mickey Mouse" tournamount in Arabia. "WE" all know in the business that when an Italian team is not interested in a game ,Long John Silvers X1 will beat them.But this disinterest in the Werder Bremen game surprised even an old stager, like me.However the bookies knew it was likely to happen. There is more to this sacking that meets the eye.

  • Comment number 82.

    'Benitez is a perfect example of someone who should work under a director of football'

    the funny thing is that he hates working under a director!

  • Comment number 83.

    Would be nice to see Rafa back in the EPL, Liverpool and Blackburn fighting for relegation survival would be a sight to behold. Blackburn will be there anyways due to the specital that has been branded at there wake in the last few weeks.

    I personally (coming from a Blackburn Fan) have to have some admiration for the guy, he did an OK job at liverpool. Good Luck to the man :)

  • Comment number 84.

    This is a strange decision by Inter, surely he needs more time to settle. Will the Liverpool owners want him back? Remember his transfer record! He tried to get rid of Xabi Alonso for Gareth Barry? I reckon he will end up in Russia or back in Spain. Or maybe Chelsea after Ancelotti has gone?

  • Comment number 85.

    Haha this is where the party is at then?

    Let the Rafa bashing part II begin!!

  • Comment number 86.

    30. Yew Wun Thuree Seavun Seavun Ait Thuree Foor Nein

    "And yet the man will undoubtedly be offered another to job, I just don't get it. Anywhere else in life you **** up and you pay, but not in football managment."

    I think the banking industry might be another exception.

  • Comment number 87.

    Which leading European club would touch Benitez now?

    United, Arsenal, Chelsea...even City or Tottenham wouldn't go anywhere near him.

    Spain? Barca and Madrid value attractive football...Mourinho aside. So that rules out Benitez.

    Italy? His reputation there is surely permanently tarnished now. Milan nor Juventus would turn to him in the future.

    Benitez's best hopes are now with "second-tier" clubs in the top leagues. For example, Villa/Newcastle/Liverpool in England, Valencia/A.Madrid in Spain or Roma/Lazio/Fiorentina in Italy.

    But Benitez the man is such an utter idiot that even the above clubs would think twice about employing him. That's now three fallings out with his last three clubs.

    So I wonder if Benitez's future is in "smaller league's" big clubs. For example, Lyon/Marseille or Benfica/Sporting. Or maybe a smaller club in England with ambitious owners such as Blackburn.

    But I think one thing is for certain - Benitez's career has long since peaked and from here on in the only way is down.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Although he was better than many people give him credit for, there is no way he should be considered for coming back to Liverpool. He had his time, failed to win the league and that was what we all wanted. It's not as if his time here was laden with trophies, if it was he wouldn't have gone in the first place.

  • Comment number 90.

    JamTay1, he annoys me, and I don't like wishing bad fate on rival teams. But hey if you are enjoying your guaranteed champion's league football this season, then by all means, welcome him back (with a 100m to spend on tat).

  • Comment number 91.

    Rafa at Inter was just a question of time as so many pointed out when he was appointed.

    Must be nice for Rafa to know that he just couldn't cut it with Jose's team!

    Take him back to Anfield and let the comedy roll out again! Superb entertainment from Fantastic Mr Facts

  • Comment number 92.

    Clearly Benitez is not a bad manager as he has won trophies in two top leagues. He inherited an average Inter side who under Mourinho punched above their weight. It was there to see that no-one in current football management could have produced from Inter what Mourinho managed to achieve.

    Saying that, the new Liverpool owners don't appear to be nostalgists, and I can't see them going for a manager who has pretty much the whole of the Italian and English press depserate to bring him down.

    As a Liverpool fan of 40 years+ I'm still backing Hodgson - ok, this season is lost, but he needs at least to go beyond the next summer transfer window to bring the team around.

  • Comment number 93.

    Also, hearty congratulations to Phil McNulty. Not only is this a very well-written piece (though lacking any kind of meaningful conclusion as usual), he also seems to have abolished pre-moderation, meaning my inane comments can be seen by all the very second I post them.

  • Comment number 94.

    Phil with due respect, the season that you thought Rafa had got it right, was the season that Liverpool became draw specialists if my memory serves me correct. I think it is this season in question that turned so many people off Benetez. He started to gloat and then demonstrate his complete lack of grace when losing the season. I believe he has been lucky in his tenure as a manager. Italian Super Cup and World club cup won with Murhinos teams, Champions league won with Houliers team. In both cases, both teams showed signs of massive injuries so there is no doubt in my mind his training methods are wrong. By all means Bring Rafa back to anfield. I would love to see Liverpool fans have a spell in the old second division. Gerrard and Torres would be off at the first opportunity. They and Reina are the only quality left at Liverpool and Torres looks knackered. I have to agree he is inept in the Transfer market, I think his character is not suited to be in charge of people or teams... Ferguson and Murhinio got to where they were by being strict, but by also knowing how and when to adapt a system, a player, a plan. This is Benetez's failing. Nobody like a paranoid manager, and Benetez has only one enemy in football. It's himself. I think this Bunch of Americans in charge of Liverpool would have more honour than the last lot. Hodgson will come good in time, as opposed to Benetez who will go bad in time. It's no surprise to us who 'underate' Benetez that he lost his job before Christmas.

  • Comment number 95.

    Some of the hatred towards Rafa on this thread is laughable, mostly from armchair warriors, foreign Johnny-come-latelys and fans of nomark clubs that fancy gobbing off.

    I doubt one of them has even seen the Valencia side that Rafa won 2 La Liga's with (which played football that would give the current Barca a game.

    His record puts him in the Top 10 active managers in the World and he'll prove it once again in the future.

    Do your research head-the-balls.

    p.s. Nice one Reccy... a fair comment ;-)

  • Comment number 96.

    "At 12:23pm on 23 Dec 2010, Heskeys Noggin wrote:
    He's a manager who rode his luck for too long at Liverpool after winning the Champions League with Gerard Houllier's squad. I don't rate him at all and it would be ridiculous for Liverpool fans to welcome him back after chasing him out only 6 months ago!"

    Yeah what a great squad, injured prone Kewell, Traore, Biscan, Smicer. All left and went on to huge things! Houllier himself admits he bought badly in his final year or two at Liverpool. Yet apparently Benitez had this fabulous squad left to him.
    I am guessing when he came second in the prem that those players; Alonso, Reina, Torres, Mascherano, were bought by Houllier as well?

    Rafa is a great manager but will always be derided because he is not someone we can relate to, and eventually neither can the players. We have to respect his choice but a man who would not take a day off work for his Dad's funeral is not something anyone can relate to. The same with his press conferences. This carriers into the media, such as the ridiculous accusation that he disrespected glorious Big Sam with some gestures.

    I am not even a liverpool fan, just fed up of how the media can paint someone with a fantastic record of achievment (La liga win with a team other than the big two, Champions league winner and runner up) as bad like Rafa, and someone who has won an FA Cup as the second coming like Redknapp.

  • Comment number 97.

    @72 - Thats a stupid comment. So stupid I had to read it twice to make sure it wasn't me going mental.

    Nobody wants rid of a manager who is winning. Roy isn't and neith is Rafa.

    Anyone who is quoting "polls" showing "we" want him back needs there frikkin heads seeing to.


  • Comment number 98.

    Love the way the in Rafa we trust brigade are on here spouting the same old hymns about his past achievements in Valencia or how he won the Champs League in 2005 with Houlliers team depsite Liverpool being played off the park for 70 minutes, im sure they will try to sell it that it was all part of his masterplan to be so dismal and still walk away with the trophy....

    However they all seem to be ignoring the 1 ton elephant in the room, and thats how much he has destroyed Inter Milan. European champions, domnitaing the league domestically for the past 6 years and yet Benitez comes along and all of a sudden they are a mid-table club. This cannot be ignored! Stop glossing over the fact that this man has done absolutely nothing of not in football for the past 5 years except destroy clubs and pick fights with absolutely everyone around him. Hes a bleating small minded, petty and bitter man who is an average football manager at best.

  • Comment number 99.

    Next England Manager?

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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