IN the eleven days that have passed since Kenny’s departure we’ve seen a who’s who of managerial candidates linked with the position from Roberto Martinez & Didier Deschamps through to Andre Villas-Boas & Jurgen Klopp. But so far the only links between LFC and Rafa Benitez have been either via the press or by the massive wave of optimistic support from the fans themselves. Despite what we may or may not want, it really is beginning to seem as if Rafa is not going to be under consideration this time around and there can really only be one reason for this:
Something about him scares FSG.
The first and perhaps most obvious reason, would be that he’d been sacked from his last two jobs. Two very, very high-profile jobs. He was moved on from Liverpool after the clubs worst league season under him and Inter Milan sacked him after an average start to his first season. However, his final season with the Reds was still a better one than either of our last two and after Jose Mourinho won Inter the treble, he was always going to be under intense scrutiny from Massimo Moratti – a man renowned in Italy for his impatience with managers.
I feel that they would have much greater foresight than this though (they must have if Roberto Martinez is their main candidate for the job!) because even a cursory glance at his CV shows a man that is more than capable and easily qualifies for the job. 2 La Liga titles with what was (during his time there) one of the least fashionable and smallest clubs in the Spanish elite league, and a UEFA Cup. Then on to Liverpool and a Champions League in his first season, followed by the FA Cup and a number of other cups and minor trophies at Inter, Liverpool and Valencia. Perhaps most importantly for us, as Liverpool fans, he took us as close as we’ve ever come to the Premier League title in 2009 and that means a lot because we know he is one of the few that would know what it takes to get us back there.
So surely all of this would see him at least qualify for an interview? Well, you’d certainly think so but it would appear that the answer is no, as despite the conflicting reports between press, it seems that he still hasn’t been approached by FSG. Given his popularity amongst the fans though – and his exemplary CV – it really is hard to understand why. I mean sure, they’re supposedly looking at younger managers with potential but he isn’t exactly ancient, being in his early 50′s so there has to be something else.
A look over his previous period as manager shows that he earned himself a reputation for being something of a troublesome figure, so this would probably end up being a factor. While his relationship with Hicks and Gillett got off to a positive start it quickly deteriorated when the owners absenteeism became more and more prevalent, when transfer promises weren’t keep and when the transfer kitty began to dry up toward the end of his reign when Benitez felt like we were at a potential turning point, having finished 2nd. The following season did not go well and Rafa and his supporters still put that down to his identified transfer targets not being chased and promises made over policy, etc. not being kept.
Also, Benitez had a penchant for not being afraid to voice his concerns through the media, as he did several times during his term. The press would – often willingly – allow themselves to be used as a conduit through which he could pass messages to the fans about the situation at the club and speak about other issues that he was unhappy over, such as referees, opposition players and managers (one in particular springs to mind) and I think that this would provide a sore point in particular, given how much was made of the situation Kenny created around the Suarez affair during his press interviews and conferences at that time. Like Kenny, Rafa is not a man that is afraid to speak his mind and after the bad press the club received between December and February this year, they may well be looking to ‘more press friendly and affable’ as a pre-requisite for the new boss and Benitez does not fit that bill at all.
From what we know of Fenway, they’re a group of businessmen – fronted by John Henry – that like to have a tight grip on their ‘franchises’. Sure, they’ll pretty much let the club run itself for the most part but, as we saw on Wednesday 16th, they will take the action that they feel needs to be taken to protect their investments. Allowing a volatile, outspoken, borderline obsessive man like Rafa full control of the club would be a couple of sidesteps outside of their comfort zone.
Not to mention the man himself but any appointment of Benitez to the club would present another problem to the owners, one which they have been made all too aware of already in their short time at the club: fan power. The Spanish coach is very highly thought of amongst fans and is known to have very close ties with fan-groups in the area. Indeed, he still lives in the area himself, with his family and home being just on the Wirral. With the pressure the fans exerted on the previous owners, it wouldn’t take too much of an imagination stretch to foresee any potential flashpoints down the line, should all promises not be met or his preferred transfer targets be missed out on.
Ironically, fan-power may well end up working against us in this case though as despite being the clear fan-favourite, Benitez’s popularity with the fans - and his past – appears to have ruled him out. At least as far as we can see. Of course, as far as we’re aware only Roberto Martinez has been approached by the clubs’ owners, despite what the press might’ve said about all of the potential candidates. One thing is certain though and that is that, of all the men that are possibly in the running, Rafa Benitez would present the owners with the most headaches and this may well give them cause to fear him and, unfortunately for us, will ultimately rule him out altogether.
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