Left: for Villarreal in January 2006 (player exchange).
Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey, or Josemi as he is more commonly known, was Rafa Benitez’s first signing as Liverpool manager. Benitez compared the aggressive right back to Jamie Carragher, and also added:
“I know this player and he is good in defence, good in the air and can make this team stronger.”
After impressing in his first league game against Tottenham, Josemi enjoyed a run in the first team. However, a sending off against Fulham resulted in a three game ban, during which Steve Finnan established himself as the club’s first choice right back. Unfortunately for Josemi, Finnan would be one of the more consistant players during Liverpool’s sporadic 2004/05 league campaign.
Josemi also found it difficult to adapt to life in England. He struggled with the language, as well as the pace and physicality of the English game. Whilst he managed to make seven appearances during the memorable victorious Champions League campaign, he did not play in the final, and began the following season firmly as backup to Finnan.
He only started three league games in 2005/06, and in the January transfer window he returned to Spain with Villarreal, as part of a swap deal which saw Jan Kromkamp move to Anfield. Upon his departure, he remarked:
“My family and I suffered a lot. I was not a happy person. Every person is a different kind of animal and some people can adjust quicker and better to living abroad.”
At £2 million, Josemi was at least not a costly signing. His early performances suggested he could be a useful player for the Reds. But he never settled in the country, and it was reflected on the pitch, as he often looked off the pace. Both he and Benitez blamed the English weather, which is as poor an excuse as a lot of his performances.
Verdict: Good early performances, but soon found himself as a back up, and never adapted to England or the Premier League. Unfortunately, Rafa’s first signing was a MISS.
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