Recently most of the discussions involving Liverpool Football Club have revolved around the question of whether or not the Club will or should sack Rafa Benitez, and if so, when?
There have been many vociferous opinions banded about and heated debates on this contentious topic.
The 2009-10 season is over halfway through. Liverpool and Benitez find themselves in positions that they mutually could never have contemplated twelve months ago.
This time last year, the Reds were riding high in the Premier League, and all the talk about Benitez was whether he could be considered an 'Anfield Legend' yet or not.
How times have changed. Liverpool Football Club and their beleaguered manager have fallen from grace.
Currently, Liverpool find themselves out of the FA Cup, out of the Carling Cup, out of Champions League and out of the running for the Premier League title, which they so coveted.
From a season at the end of which the pride of Anfield was expected to parade the English Premier League trophy through the streets of Liverpool for the first time ever, the Reds unexpectedly find themselves in a four-way scrap to finish fourth. And not even in pole position in that race.
To say Liverpool have underperformed this season may well be the understatement of the 2009-10 season.
All this has put enormous pressure on—the once consider messiah—Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard has come under fire from some fans who have been calling for his tenure at the helm of English football’s most successful club to be immediately ended.
The media have all but waged war on Benitez. The Liverpool manager is being subjected to brutal attacks in the press, television and the Internet. The latest of which were the ludicrous reports that the Spaniard had already signed an agreement with Juventus to join them next season. This was emphatically quashed by Rafa himself.
Reports have labelled the Reds’ manager as a dead man walking and his sacking inevitable.
Many reasons as to why he has not already been given the boot have been voiced. Most centre on the extremely large compensation clause Benitez allegedly had written into the new contract he signed not so long ago.
Given Liverpool Football Club’s current precarious financial situation, it has been reported that the club has no choice but to retain his services. Any move otherwise would result in a multi-million pound payout that could cripple the club’s finances.
The most widely accepted scenario in the whole fiasco is that the club will bite the bullet and sack Benitez if he does not guide them to the all important Champions League qualification spot come the end of the season.
Liverpool Football Club will not sack Rafa Benitez, even if he ultimately fails in securing the club the prized fourth position finish.
Time and time again, top club officials, including the managing director Christian Purslow, have come out in public support of their man. The club has faith in Rafa and believe that, in Benitez, they have the man to lead Liverpool Football Club to great things in the future. They have built the workings of the club around him and have a long-term plan in mind.
The question about the future of Rafa Benitez lies not with his employers, but with the man himself. He guaranteed to the fans a fourth place finish in the League.
In putting out such a bold and definite statement, in using the word “guarantee”, Benitez has drawn his sword.
If Rafa is not able to guide his Reds to the “guaranteed” fourth place finish that he has so boldly promised fans, it then becomes a question of pride and honour.
If there are two things that are undisputed about Rafa Benitez, they are that he is stubborn and proud.
Therefore, if Liverpool Football Club and its fans find that Benitez has not led the team to fourth spot as he promised and guaranteed he would, then in all likelihood Rafa Benitez will resign.
The club may not want this, and some sections of the fans may not either. But given the pride and stubbornness of the man, he will fall on his own sword as he was not able to keep a solemn promise that he made to the fans of the club that he loves.
So whether or not Rafa Benitez remains at Anfield come the end of the season does, ultimately, depend on whether or not he can lead his team to a Champions League finish.
However if he fails, it will be more of a question of pride and honour that will seal his departure from Liverpool Football Club, not the sack.