A great quote from Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been doing the rounds in the papers this week. After leaving Valencia, Rafa was quoted as saying: “I asked for a table and they bought me a lampshade,” in reference to the type of player the Spanish club were signing. It has resurfaced again because of what Rafa has been saying in recent days:
“I decided to sign an extension at Liverpool because the squad was good and the money could be there. But things have changed. It’s not a question of money in my contract. I said no to massive offers. I decided to stay under some conditions. I left Valencia because the conditions changed. Now they have changed at Liverpool.”
The conditions changed at Valencia when Rafa fell out with then sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch over control of transfers and the failure to reinforce the squad. The reference appears to suggest that the same thing is now happening at Liverpool and with Benitez stating he needs four or five new players to make the team competitive, a dispute with the board looks to be on the cards. There are very similar parallels with the situation back in 2004 at the Mestalla when Benitez eventually left Valencia because of the dispute. The stubborn man that he is, I have no doubt that Rafa will not settle for a “lampshade” this time either.
Back in 2004, Benitez was on the verge of leaving Valencia for Liverpool when a meeting took place between Valencia president Jaime Orti, director Manuel Llorente, Benitez himself and his agent Manuel Garcia Quillon. Llorente had offered a two year extension to Rafa’s contract but the terms were far less lucrative than what Liverpool were offering. What Benitez really wanted though was control over transfers and the removal of sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch from his post. Orti did consider the proposal but Rafa eventually left for Liverpool in the summer anyhow.
A very familiar situation developed at Liverpool over transfers. Before he signed his contract extension last season, Benitez wanted greater control over the club, and especially the signing of players. Benitez got his way and he got a lucrative contract along with the sacking of Rick Parry at the end of last season. With the lack of transfer funds this season though, Benitez once again finds himself in a difficult situation. Interest from Juventus, who have apparently offered him a big contract with sizeable transfer funds of £80million, means he once again has a bargaining chip to play with, like he did with Liverpool at Valencia in 2004.
Speculation over his future has grown and grown, and Rafa has allowed it to, so he is in the best position to negotiate with the board. He has said that he will meet with new chairman Martin Broughton in the next few days, and after the match against Hull City next Sunday, we will know whether Rafa has been successful in getting his “table.”