Days gone by, it was Lucas who would bear the grunt of supporters unhappy at a dissatisfying result. Fast forward to the current season and while Lucas is pin-pointed as a weak link in midfield, it seems his gaffer has overtaken his mantelpiece as Liverpool pinata.
Various sections of the media; journalists, pundits, commentators and analysts, have each had their own say on how the Spaniard has handled his job of the men in red since he took over from Gerard Houllier in 2004, pointing to tactics, rotation, his levels of expenditure, his understanding of the English game, preparing his team for a league campaign as opposed to a cup competition, the list goes on.
The biggest, undoubtedly, being his operations in the transfer market. It is a well-noted fact that Benitez has spent roughly £200m during his time in charge of Liverpool but what irks me is the misconstrued presentation of these ‘facts’.
These apparently well-informed and knowledgable footballing brains seem to portray Benitez as though he has been on a level playing field with managers at clubs if similar stature in the league. Not true, not even close.
Also, they point to failed signings as though he is the only top level manager to make mistakes in the market. Dare we call them ‘mistakes’ however on his tight budget? ‘Unrewarding gambles’ i’d label them.
The one’s i so often hear include Robbie Keane (£19m), Andrea Dossena (£7m) and Andriy Voronin (free). I would be the first to admit that these signings have hardly been effective for the club and deserve the ‘flop’ tag.
However the shrewdness of Benitez is so rarely highlighted. Such a long list of players bought in to the club by Benitez have been positive for the club in the long term, even if they failed to make an impact on the field.
Xabi Alonso, brought in to the club for £10.7m and sold for over £30m to Real Madrid, Fernando Torres bought from Atletico Madrid for £20.2m in a time where world class strikers are fetching over the £30m bracket and higher, Javier Mascherano from Media Sports Investment for £17m when players like Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves have cost greater sums.
These players forged themselves into the spine of our club. But what about those less high profile signings that haven’t been so successful?
Craig Bellamy was sold for a £1.5m profit after scandals during his playing career in red, Momo Sissoko was sold for a £2.6m profit even though he was unable to pass a ball further than five yards and also after recovering from a potentially career ending injury to his eye, and Peter Crouch bought from Southampton for £7m and sold for £11m to Portsmouth even though Benitez was ridiculed for buying a player from lowly Southampton for such an inflated price.
Behind these higher profile wheelings and dealings, he has been able to conduct transfers with youth players just as effectively.
Jack Hobbs brought in for £150,000 and sold to Leicester City for a deal thought to be upwards of £1m and Emiliano Insua cost £1.3m from Boca Juniors.
Rafa Benitez is no slouch in the transfer market.
This ‘£200m’ figure is indeed a fair swab of money, but when you consider he has sold all players for a touch over £108m, you must congratulate him.
The side he took over from Houllier has hardly start-studded. From that side back in the Houllier era, to the one he has at his disposal now has cost a net spend of roughly £80m. From your Danny Murphy”s and Milan Baros’ to your Fernando Torres’ and Javier Mascherano’s.
This isn’t knocking Houllier at all, i have utmost respect for him as he brought silverware to the club and turned it around from the Graham Sounness mess.
There is more behind this story of Benitez and his ‘feable transfer skills’ and i will be addressing this media-driven barrage on the gaffer as ill-informed nonsense but for now, i feel it wise to leave you with a mere background on how Benitez is far more intelligent in the market than you may be told.