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Dalglish vs Rafa: A 5 Point Comparison

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WITH all that’s been going on recently, it’s hard to know how one should feel as a Liverpool supporter.

The team lately has been bi-polar. We win brilliantly in the cup one week, and stumble dismally in the league the next.

The unpredictability of our performances has left fans divided and unsure. Do two cup finals in a year make up for the relegation form we’ve been demonstrating in the second half of our league season?

Does attractive attacking football played mostly on the ground (most of the time at least) excuse the fact that we’ve been hitting the posts more often than the back of the net?

And most of all, does King Kenny still deserve to hold on to the managerial crown he’s been bequeathed?

It’s all very complicated, and I’m not sure I know the answers. One thing I do know though is that the name Rafa Benitez seems to be popping up a whole lot more on Liverpool forums everywhere.

The famous Spaniard, much like Dalglish, will forever split opinions at Anfield. While he did win us the Champions League in 2004/05 and earn for us our highest ever Premier League points finish in 2008/09, many still doubt his credentials.

Regardless, Rafa still has legions of fans among the Liverpool faithful, and the same can also be said of Dalglish in spite of Liverpool’s many failings this season.

There are of course those who would shudder at the thought of having either manager at the club next season, but for today, it might be interesting to do a head to head comparison of the two.


Managers are often judged primarily by their transfer dealings, and of all the players brought in by Rafa,the likes of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Pepe Reina, Lucas Leiva, Yossi Benayoun, Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Dirk Kuyt, and Alvaro Arbeloa can be counted as unquestionable successes.

Moderate successes during the Benitez era include the likes of Maxi Rodriguez, Peter Crouch, Albert Riera, Luis Garcia, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Fabio Aurelio, and Mohammed Sissoko

And then we have the players who famously failed to live up to their hype: Alberto Aquilani, Robbie Keane, Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena, Jermaine Pennant, Fernando Morientes, Antonio Nunez, Mark Gonzalez, David Ngog, Philipp Degen, Andriy Voronin, Jan Kromkamp and Josemi.

Rafa’s transfers look to be pretty evenly split between successes and flops, which probably explains why Liverpool fans are so divided in their opinions of him.

A similar analysis of Dalglish’s signings during his second spell at the club reveals the following:

His transfer successes include, Luis Suarez, Jose Enrique, and Craig Bellamy. Arguably, his only moderate transfer success has been Charlie Adam, and his transfer flops, judging on the whole, have been Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, and Andy Carroll. It would be hard to say anything about Sebastian Coates and Alexander Doni, since they have hardly played since joining.

It is also worth looking at the number of expensive flops (Aquilani, Keane, Henderson, Downing, and Carroll each cost more than £15m) and cheap successes (Maxi, Arbeloa, Benayoun, Lucas, Agger, Skrtel, Reina, Bellamy and Enrique each cost under £7m) each manager was responsible for.
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First Season In Charge

Dalglish has yet to complete a full season in charge at Anfield as full time manager in his second spell at the club, and it wouldn’t be fair to compare his first season at the helm against Rafa’s best seasons. Let’s therefore take a trip down memory lane and recall 2004/05.

Rafa was left with a team that had just finished fourth in the Premier League under Gérard Houllier. His first order of business was to convince Liverpool’s English stars Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen to stay.

He succeeded with Gerrard, but was forced to sell Owen to Real Madrid or risk losing him on a Bosman. Rafa did not need to get a replacement striker though, since Gerrard Houllier had secured the services of Djibril Cisse just before leaving.

Rafa therefore set about reshaping the rest of the team, releasing Danny Murphy, Markus Babbel, and Stephane Henchoz, and bringing in Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia, Josemi, Mauricio Pellegrino, Scott Carson, Fernando Morientes, and Antonio Nunez (as part of the Owen deal).

All this was done for a net spend of £32m. Rafa also deserves credit for breathing life into what was then the stagnant career of a certain Jamie Carragher.

Rafa finished the season 5th, one place lower than the year before, but we did win famously the Champions League in Istanbul, which got us into Europe’s premier competition the following year and forced many to overlook our poor league form that season.

The start of Dalglish’s second stint as Liverpool manager was somewhat similar to Rafa’s. While still caretaker manager, Dalglish, like Rafa, was forced to oversee the sale of his star striker (Torres) who handed in a transfer request. He sold Babel as well, and spent their combined transfer fees on two replacement strikers, Carroll and Suarez.

Dalglish then began remoulding his squad by releasing in bulk ‘deadwood’ players such as Konchesky, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Poulsen, Ngog, Degen, and El Zhar. Raul Mereiles was also sold to Chelsea, while Aquilani and Joe Cole were loaned out.

Having trimmed the squad substantially, he then bought the rest of his transfers, who were mentioned earlier in the article. All this was for a net spend of about £30m – £40m.

Dalglish’s new and expensive Liverpool team, like Rafa’s, failed to deliver in the league. They did however manage to go on two very good cup runs, and with the Carling Cup in hand, Liverpool has already qualified for European football next year, though not at its highest tier. Another cup final at Wembley came on the May 5th along with the chance to appease even the most critical Liverpool fans, who want nothing less than to be crowned champions of England yet again, but it wasn’t to be.


This is one area where Rafa’s pedigree really does shine through. Not many would argue that under Rafa, Liverpool became a European force to be feared and reckoned with.

Dalglish on the other hand has never led Liverpool in a European tie as manager, except in two Europa League matches in 2011. The Reds ended their European run that year after losing the second of these two matches to Braga in the round of 16.

Public Relations

The media is where most of the money in football is made, and therefore, doing well in an interview is almost as important as performing on the pitch.

Rafa seems to have the upper hand in this respect. Aside from the infamous ‘Rafa Rant’ which many said cost us the league in 2008/09, Rafa was mostly dignified in front of the camera and respectful of the media.

In contrast, Dalglish seems to have lost his patience with the press. While he started off charming and witty, some of his recent interviews have been almost cringe-worthy. His handling of the whole Suarez affair was questionable as well. All in all, 2011/12 has been a PR disaster for Dalglish and his club.

Annoying Habits

Here, we talk about fans’ pet peeves. There were many during Rafa’s reign. Some of the more memorable ones included overly defensive tactics, a starting eleven that was never the same two matches in a row, the use of zonal marking, and playing players out of position.

With Dalglish, there haven’t been as many such annoyances. Liverpool’s football has generally been positive, but again we don’t stick to a starting eleven. Other than the lack of appearances of some of our more regular goal scorers (Maxi and Bellamy), and perhaps the repeated use of Jordan Henderson on the right, Dalglish’s tactical choices do seem to go down well with the fans most of the time.

And so there you have it – a head to head comparison of two Liverpool managers who have been loved and hated by Liverpool fans in near-equal measure. Who would you prefer in charge of Liverpool, and why? You decide.

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  • AZ says:


    Gave us a winning mentality
    Got the best out of players even by so called “playing them out of position”
    Improved players

    Since Dalglish came in
    Gerrard, Johnson and Suarez have not improved their game
    Reina and Downing have got worse
    Agger doesnt look confident
    Carragher has got worse (partly down to age but I suspect Benitez would have drilled him better to cope with less pace)

    On the other hand:
    Skrtel looks better
    Kelly looks better

  • Emmanuel says:

    We can never avoid peoples weaknesses,it is a matter of their strengths overcoming their weaknesses.One thing I know about Rafa is that he never gambled in big games.He disappeared with the fear factor of Anfield.Those CL nights, you would see his players touching that board,”THIS IS ANFIELD” as they went down the dressing room tunnel and it told all about the spirit at the club.Rafa did not have 100m pounds to spend like KK the first season,yet he brought success to the club.He never had atleast 80m pounds,now someone wants to compare him to KK who swum in floods of finances the very first season.Rafa would tell you that playing the likes of Babel was not like he liked it,it was only that he was choiceless and had to seek survival skills than fold arms,he would tell you that when it came to attacking only Gerrard and Torres was what he wanted to have and even more of them.Learn to listen everytime when people talk and have analytical minds with a bit od honesty because Rafa was not lost like Dalglish.Carra once said Rafa was a coach and Kenny is a manager:Underline Carra’s words please and think about them.It is the reason why you would see Rafa introducing zonal marking,coaching a player on movements,helping a player to be on target than woodwork like he Rafa said in one of his interviews,how about Dalglish? Go RaFa GO!! THIS IS ANFIELD.ynwa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • lee says:

    The players that Rafa bought were so good that they went to great clubs like Real madrid, where as those of dalgish are good only for 2nd division teams, except for Suarez who i doubt was a choice of dalgish considering he does not have a british passport. With Benitez anfield was a fortress, but with kd sieve which is being exploded week in week out, with benitez we were playing at all front and had limited num of players so he could justify his rotation, but with kd playing only for the league and cups What the fuck of rotation is he doing, with benitez Tactics were seen to be successful but with dalgish he just get on the field praying that the other teams play a mediocre game and make some errors so that we can win, if not in his post match conference he will just say the other teams were better than us and do the same thing the next week instead of motivating his team!!
    Its clear Dalgish is outdated, is he really still a liverpool fan, didn’t he saw that we really needed a goalpoacher, a good winger to get ferguson down to earth, yet if city was not in the league ManUre would had got their 20th league title!! And Everton is still higher than us in the league.. Plus BLind Dalgish still claiming the players he bought are world class and that he don’t need to buy anymore players!! Come On, even a 2 yr old child will be able to take the decision who he wants as manager of LFC!!

  • hobbes says:

    To address two of your criticisms of Benitez…

    There is nothing awry with zonal marking. Most of the successful teams in Europe use it in one for or another. Statistically Liverpool conceded fewer goals from set pieces than all but Chelsea. Chelsea also used zonal marking. the whole zonal marking issue was manufactured by the media as a stick with which to beat Benitez because he wouldn’t play their game.
    Similarly, in the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 seasons (the only ones I have seen statistics for) Benitez made fewer changes to his first 11 than Alex Ferguson.

  • David says:

    Rafa made some aweful choices and fell out with too many people. He put himself above the club – I never want him back.
    Fact he is the reason Alonso left.
    Fact his rant about facts upset the team
    Fact he aired all the dirty laundry to try to save his reputation.
    Fact his only real success was most Houlliers team.

    • lee says:

      Did you knew Alonso before he came to Liverpool!!!! So just question yourself, it was Benitez who brought Alonso, if he wanted to leave it was his choice, REal madrid is not a small team, it has attracted great players like owen, mcmanaman.. and alonso and arbeloa wanted to go back to their country, they made their choice.. Besides if Benitez wud had stayed Acquilani would have been even more famous than Alonso. About the rant thing lots haas been commented by other fans here down. If Houlier team was so great why was his head sacrificed because of fans like you, should have kept him!!

  • Themobious says:

    Rafa rant. We won games after that, Utd got more points. Rant had nothing to do with not winning title (not that you said it did) but we need to keep history clear and not the history our toilet paper press would like us to remember

  • Rory says:

    Well, i just say that it’s simply impossible to compare Rafa and KK, i like both persons but as manager Rafa take it easily…

  • Themobious says:

    The same people who don’t want Rafa back want moaninho. It’s a joke.

  • F.O says:

    Rafa will ever be rafa& daglish will, as well.But note this lack of winning mentality cannot win “epl“ .if rafa is still here wit sort of money being given,maybe by now lfc would ve been crown the king of england; because almost unbeaten runs in 2008/9 answers dat(losing just 2 games),a word is enough 4 a wise,YNWA..

  • F.O says:

    Rafa will ever be rafa& daglish will, as well.But note this lack of winning mentality cannot win “epl“ .if rafa is still here wit sort of money being given,maybe by now lfc would ve been crown the king of england; because almost unbeaten runs in 2008/9 answers dat(lost just 2 games),a word is enough 4 a wise,YNWA..

  • jide says:

    We need Rafa Benitez again. Hes our true leader. He brings winning mentality to ????e players and ????e team as a whole.we all need him next sseason.

  • CJM says:

    KK saved us from Roy, and that alone, is something to be grateful for. He had us playing football on the ground again, and with that back came our pride.

    But his buys haven’t been great, and his tactics and coaching haven’t either.

    But Rafa is well ahead of him in modern management. I’d be happy with Rafa coming back tomorrow and KK moving upstairs.

    And what is all this nonsense about zonal marking again. Rafa’s defences were legendary, and that was partly down to zonal marking. It is no coincidence that most top European teams use zonal marking – it was only ever the ‘little-englander’ pundits that had a problem with it.

    Let’s get Rafa back and give him KKs budget…

  • YNWA says:

    both are good and superb as person and manager.. thinking bout KK, i think our team today is better compared to last year.. we did created loads of chances just that we couldnt finish it.. goals from the team not even reaches half of the chances made.. do u guys think, if those chances were taken brilliantly, we going to be below the top 4 not to mention 8th or 9th place today?? even mancity or mu will be below us.. they just needed time to gel well together.. as rafa 1st season in-charge, he didnt straight away won us the league.. same as KK.. 1st season in-charge they won FA n Carling cup respectively.. next season, who knows, KK bring LFC back to europe in champions league like rafa in his 2nd season?? so y don we give the chance to KK.. to get the players up, and the team up..

  • YNWA says:

    about buying players.. we should understand that the price before and today is totally different.. y some player are overpriced?? because, to get certain players where the team does not want to let go of the players, more money are needed to lure them out.. same as c.ronaldo, kaka.. if real wants to buy them for only 15-30m, MU n Acmilan surely dont want to let the players go.. somemore, both of them just signed a new contract before leaving..

  • I totally agree with YNWA also of the rank Liverpool was in the EPL when Rafa taken as manager and of Dalglish it’s very tough to bring top players already got Suarez a world class player Carroll becoming effective strength for Liverpool with more improvements as for Rafa of years deception

  • Bekim says:


  • Cps says:

    The quality in the squad does not compare at all. Rafa got Alonso (now with Real Madrid), Mascherano (now with Barca), Arbeloa (now with Real Madrid), Torres (now with Chelsea). Dalglish got Suarez but failed to find a way to hold on to Torres. This was a huge failure. They would have been absolutely fantastic together. Both would have benefited and both would have scored and assisted many more. Charlie Adam at one point was being compared to Alonso?… and possibly making it hard to find a spot in the team for Gerrard?! Henderson is youngand played out of position. Downing has very little confidence. It’s as if he knows he going to hit the post every time he gets off a decent shot. Forget about he horrible misses. Enrique has also lost the confidence he tried to have early on. Bellamy is class, and at least entertaining to watch. Maxi was absolutely under used. Kuyt was disrespected. Miereles should have been kept (but I guess Roy bought him so…) Shelvey should have never gone out on loan (Roy got him but being English saved him.). He will grow into a great player. And now the big one. Carrol. He’s starting to show that he can play. There’s no way they should have let the price go up 10mil at the last second. There would have been so much less pressure on him and the club for doing it. He also plays a different type of game than the rest of the team. It’s really not his fault. You can’t make a player like him different. He does what he does. You can’t make him a quick pass and move guy as much as you can’t make Lionel Messi a target striker. Hopefully he gets more confident and the team finds more ways to play more with him. They are no doubt a better team with him on the field whether he s ores or not. Lastly, the player that was missed he most this year. Lucas. Brought in by Rafa. He was originally an attacking player Rafa made him change his brain which is not easy. It’s only due to his talent and commitment that he has become one of the better holding midfielders in he game. It took some time and many fans were harsh on him for too long. Hopefully he is back next season and stays healthy. What’s needed is quality. Not just English players. Ashley Young is both… but he went to a second place, crash out of the Champions League group stage, Europa League knockout stage, no trophy this season team. Need: Finisher, 2 Wingers and Lucas to stay healthy. Good to win a trophy. Good to get to another final. Next season: Aim for… anything better than… I lost track. Where are we?…

    • Rory says:

      BIG QUOTE FOR YOU, one of the most correct posts i ever see on Liverpool sites, i just disagree about the fact thatwe need two wingers and a finisher, in my book we should play with a 4 3 3 (modern football) and we should buy a playmaker similar to Xabi like Luis Gustavo or a balanced midfielder like Schweinsteiger and play him with Lucas and Steve, than we need an offensive skilled wing like Robben, Bale or Ribery for example or a striker with speed that can play a bit in large position like Tevez, Higuain or Cavani to create space and take away defenders from Carroll

  • Rory says:

    It’s possibile to sign in a petition online to ask John Henry to bring back Benitez?

    • Matt Castellian says:

      Can I be the first to sign it?

    • David Tyrer says:

      Can I be the second, third, fourth and fifth, please? Also, I’d just like to point out a couple of things. First, Benitez signed Shelvey in May 2010. Roy and Kenny had nothing to do with it, so there’s another good signing you can mark off against Rafa.

      Second, it’s kind of sad when all those opposed to Rafa cite Alonso leaving as – usually – their first reason for not wanting him back and blame that for his poor final season in the league, conveniently ignoring the fact that the situation at the club made his job practically un-doable. Not to mention a certain couple of senior players who are widely believed to have stabbed him in the back and poisoned the dressing room against him (you may recognise them under Kenny, they’re the two senior players that are regularly pants and often bleat in the press about how happy they are under Kenny’s management). Alonso leaving wasn’t good and we didn’t find an adequate replacement but we still had a team that included the likes of Reina, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger, Lucas, Gerrard, Mascherano, Benayoun, Torres and Kuyt.

      And not matter how bad his final season in charge was, it’ll never be anywhere near as bad as this one. Also, as much as I want Rafa back, I don’t think Kenny sticking around is a good idea. Rumours about his role in Rafa’s demise the first time around would make the relationship un-workable, whether they’re true or not.

      • Rory says:

        Totally agree, everybody knows the role of Gerrard and Carragher in the sack of Benitez, and you know what? they made the biggest mistake they could have done and i think that now that they play for the second year (maybe third) in a MIDDLE rank team they’re happy…the point is that, NO ONE IS IMPORTANT AS THE CLUB AND SO THIS IS FOR GERRARD, especially now i think that Benitez is so much more important than a player since we’re clearly without a general plan, sorry captain but be “the” local lad doesn’t mean you can decide who can manage OUR team, especially after everybody have seen your last two choices…so now (that you’re also at the end of the road), shut your mouth and do your job, play. The rest leave it to someone who knows it better.

  • mark says:





  • John says:

    Miss singing best midfield in the world
    Ynwa rafa

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