Rafael Benitez: Freedom of the Press?

David GoreCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2008

At work, in between actually working, I tend to check the sports pages for the latest stories. When I did that today, on the Sky Sports website, I read about Rafael Benitez apparently dismissing Liverpool's title hopes by saying the other title sides must "mess up" for his team to be crowned champions.

He compares Liverpool to Valencia, who, arguably, profited from some major slip ups from real Madrid and Barcelona to win their first title in 31 years.

Now as most people who know me are aware, I'm a bit of a cynical man. I see programmes like Pop Idol and Big Brother as the scurvy of TV channels, and today's mass-produced Christmas as a jumped up Coca-Cola advert. I'm just naturally a Scrooge, questioning anything.

So I found it hard to believe that a professional who is usually so cagey would come out and make comments such as these right in the middle of a critical period for his team, and it isn't hard to read between the lines and notice a similar reservation in the way the experienced Sky Sports team wrote it up.

So I delved a little further. The story has appeared in most of the major British papers, but began its life in...

The Sun.

The original article failed to cite any sources or times, simply repeating the phrase "Benitez said..."

Anyone who listens to Benitez's press and media interactions knows his style of speech, to the extent of it being lampooned on Youtube by a Scouse amateur impressionist. He's careful, measured, very cagey and reserved. He always avoids difficult or compromising questions, and will even bend the truth rather than say something that would damage his team or players.

So the quotes in the article simply do not add up. I mean, knowing how the man talks, does any of this sound Rafa?

"For us to win the league we need Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal to mess up their season.

"It is very rare that three teams all mess up.

“So there’s no point waiting for our direct adversaries to slip up because it won’t happen."

For me, that is not Rafa. Most articles, even badly sourced ones, always cite a mythical "unnamed source" as its origin. This one doesn't even bother to do that.

So to my mind, the writer, Steve Brenner, a seasoned Sun hack, is either proving himself a really terrible and amateurish journalist, or lying directly.

Given as it is The Sun, neither would surprise me.



Less than a few hours after writing this article, Rafael Benitez did as expected and moved to attack the report, which was apparently a complete misquotation in an interview given to a French journalist, which was then printed by The Sun in a very lazy and amateurish way, without checking or naming sources before going to print.

Of course, not all Sun readers will see the latest statement from Benitez, and many will doubt it as a retraction. Thus the tabloids make a story out of nothing again, and a man is forced to justify something he didn't say. Freedom of the press? I wonder.