Rafael Benitez: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

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Rafael Benitez: What Have You Done for Me Lately?
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Whenever the name "Liverpool Football Club" is uttered, a flurry of memories, stereotypes, and iconic images flood the mind.

From the 18 league titles, to the five European Cups; from Hillsborough to Heysel; and from the world famous "This is Anfield" sign, to the equally well-known Kop, the associated thoughts often depend on your footballing allegiances.

One thing that can't be denied by a fan of any club, however, is that Liverpool has a proud reputation.

A reputation for success oozing from every orifice of the club; a reputation for producing world-class footballers; and most of all, a reputation for having the best fans in the world.

The solidarity shown between each and every supporter, a bond strengthened by both triumph and disaster, is legendary.

The chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone" before every game serves as a reminder for the 22 players about to take to the field, and the millions of fans around the world that, for the next 90 minutes at least, Liverpool fans and players are united with a common goal.

Yet recently, these long-standing reputations have taken a serious hit.

The American owners were the first culprits.

Never before has such a saga hit the Anfield boardroom. In fact, Liverpool were notorious for keeping off-the-field matters behind firmly closed doors.

But the rift between Tom Hicks and George Gillett grew so intense that the club is now synonymous with turmoil.

The success has dried up too. No major trophies have arrived at Anfield since the 2006 FA Cup, a factor that may have caused the damage to the third prominent feature of Liverpool FC.

The fans.

It seems now, as a fan, you are classed into one of two groups: the anti-Rafa brigade or the Rafa-lovers.

Both parties view the other as disillusioned fans, which has caused a crack in the normally solid Liverpool wall.

For the record, I refuse to join either party, although my opinions may lead one or two of you to place me in one.

First and foremost, I am a supporter of the Liverpool Football Club. Not Rafael Benitez, not Steven Gerrard, and not Fernando Torres. As such, I want what is best for the club.

If that means getting rid of Benitez, then get rid of him. If that means getting rid of Steven Gerrard, then get rid of him.

But while the short-term future looks bleak, a vision tarred considerably by the dismal FA Cup loss to Reading, the long-term future of the club is a lot more important.

Think of all the high points Rafael Benitez has provided Liverpool fans. Istanbul in 2005, in my view, saved him his job for years. The FA Cup in 2006 had fans dreaming of regular trophies again, and another Champions League final the following year did nothing to dampen those hopes.

And just over six months ago, Benitez led the club to their best ever Premier League finish.

But football operates in a "what have you done for me lately?" world and, quite frankly, Benitez hasn't done a lot.

In fact, he has seen Liverpool crash out of the Carling Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League, as well as leading the club to seventh in the table.

If he were sacked tomorrow, you could certainly see the logic.

But the consequences of such a decision could be far-reaching and devastating.

It has been widely reported that Liverpool can't actually afford to sack Benitez due to the club's perilous financial state, and if that is the case, then a balance must be found.

Which would cost the club more: sacking Benitez or failing to get a Champions League spot?

If the board truly believe a change of manager would help secure a top four finish, and that that would compensate for Benitez's exit, then they should be willing to take that risk.

Personally, I see it as hypocritical to say that Benitez will be the man to bring the league title back to Anfield only to change my mind a few months later when things start to go slightly awry.

I won't rattle off the usual excuses (or reasons, whichever way you choose to look at it) why Benitez has failed to build on such an auspicious season last year.

Instead, I will say why I think he, not the team, has been unlucky.

For some reason, Benitez is viewed as an easy target for the media. Be it his rotation policy, his supposed "rant", or even his goatee, Benitez has often been a subject of ridicule in the press.

This will have, undoubtedly, clouded people's judgement of the man. I've heard some say he is a terrible manager. Seeing as he has won La Liga twice with Valencia, a UEFA Cup, a Champions League, and an FA Cup, I beg to differ.

That isn't to say he is without fault, but the man is a lot more capable than the bumbling Spanish waiter that the papers portray him as.

Things must start improving soon, but Benitez should be given time.

If, towards the end of the season, things haven't picked up, then the welfare of the club could come under serious threat, and then questions should be raised over the manager's future.

For now, though, I took the good times, and I'll take the bad times.

 

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