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An analysis of Rafael Benitez

Posted By Allan Jiang On Nov 14 2010 @ 5:23 am In Soccer | No Comments

Managing Tenerife, Valencia and Liverpool, Benitiez won eight trophies in a span of six years (2000-2006) and what started off as a meteoric rise from modest obscurity has since stagnated into an inquiry probing his competency as a top flight manager.

The most treasured moment of Benitez’s reign at Liverpool was the 2005 Champions League triumph against Milan overcoming the loss of Kewell after 23 minutes, coming back from 3-0 deficit and keeping their nerves from 12 yards out against a demoralised Milan (Shevchenko’s penalty summed up Milan’s last 75 minutes). Two years later, he would lead Liverpool to another Champions League final and from 2004-2006, he won four trophies but from 2007-2010, he won nothing. Throughout his reign, he spent £289m on transfer fees yet still did not accomplish the feat Daglish did in the 1989-1990 season – win a league title for Liverpool.

Liverpool became a formidable side on the back off Benitez transfers like Torres, Garcia, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt and Reina. Conversely, the signings of Josemi, Nunez, Morientes, Gonzalez, Kromkamp, Palletta, Pennant, Leto, Babel, Dossena, Cavalieri, Keane (a complete debacle) and Aquilani, players that were all surefire failures created the perception of Benitez’s shortcomings in the transfer market specifically the Keane saga which turned into a £7m loss.

Managers do make mistakes in the transfer market, consider Benitez’s predecessor at Inter Milan, Jose Mourinho who signed Quaresma and Mancini combining to £31m and both were colossal failures and in the case of Quaresma, he had already failed at a big club (having failed at Barcelona) which made his signing even more questionable. On the other hand, Benitez did make a £19.5m profit on Alonso but without Alonso, Liverpool fell apart leading to Benitez’s demise and the handover of the poison chalice to the unfortunate Roy Hodgson.

Having replaced Jose Mourinho, Benitez’s career at Inter Milan will forever be compared to that of Mourinho who brought back memories of Helenio Herrera (led Inter Milan to successive Champions Leagues in 1964 and 1965).

Following a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, Benitez stated that changing Mourinho’s ways would take time. What is there to change? The team won the treble last season. Perhaps that comment foreshadowed the impending problems that Benitez faces. Maicon becoming a major liability at full back. Sneijder’s anemia problems. Milito’s unhappiness. Eto’o unwillingness to play as a winger. The expectations of Moratti. The shadow of Mourinho.

Just like Mourinho imprinted his own identity on Mancini’s team, Benitez is attempting to imprint his own identity on Mourinho’s team. Youth wasn’t an option Mourinho took, Benitez perhaps should take a chance with the youth and ambition of Coutinho, Santon, Biabiany, Mariga and Nwankwo considering the stagnant start of his aging Inter Milan side.

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