There is much talk about the need for change at Liverpool Football Club: on the ownership front, on the management front or indeed both.
The key question, however, is what kind of change Liverpool needs. While a change of ownership combined with a generous injection of funds would be most welcome, the future of Benitez and the personnel he has brought to Liverpool has become – to put it mildly – controversial.
There are indeed many sides to the argument concerning the quality of transfers in the Benitez era. To suggest that Benitez has failed miserably in this department (as argued increasingly by some Liverpool fans over the course of this painful season) is to forget that he has brought in players of the calibre of Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt and Torres – while also holding onto Gerrard at a time when his exit for Mourinho’s Chelsea was all but certain. Less satisfactory transactions such as the Keane fiasco and the loss of Alonso, Hyypia and Arbeloa are the other side of the story, but then again Ferguson and even Wenger have had similar failures at different times.
More pertinent, perhaps, is to consider the general direction of the club – in particular, the development of the ensemble of Liverpool’s playing staff and the composition of Liverpool’s coaching staff. Following the reorganisation of Liverpool’s power structure last year, Rafa has sought to build solid foundations for long-term success by bringing to the Liverpool Academy Frank McParland, José Segura, Rodolfo Borrell and (in an ambassadorial role) Kenny Dalglish. At the same time, a revitalised scout network has seen the recruitment of European youngsters (such as Daniel Pacheco, Daniel Ayala, Lauri Dalla Valle and Krizstian Nemeth) has been increasingly balanced by the development and acquisition of exciting British talent like Nathan Eccleston, David Amoo, Martin Kelly, Tom Ince, Michael Ngoo and, most recently, Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey.
The solid spine of the Liverpool first team – Reina, Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Skrtel, Mascherano, Lucas, Gerrard, Benayoun, Aquilani, Torres and perhaps even Babel - has thus seen a parallel (though similarly incomplete) improvement at the level of the Reserves and the Academy. More importantly, the arrival of individuals such as Borrell promises long-term developments along the lines of Barcelona’s enviable model revolving around a nucleus of home-grown talent.
Our horrendous season on the field has unfortunately clouded the many achievements of the Benitez era and threatens to influence the thinking of Liverpool decision makers. It is to be hoped that Martin Broughton and the Liverpool board can turn their eyes away from this year’s failures and towards the broader picture; and that they are able to marshal the required funds and assurances to keep Rafael Benitez at Liverpool for the duration of his contract.
Benitez’s departure in the summer would derail the club’s progress at a critical time, bringing about an exodus of both coaching and playing talent and threatening the foundations laid in recent years.
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