Good money after bad?
Since his arrival at Anfield in the summer of 2004, Rafael Benitez has proven himself as one of the best tacticians around, winning the Champions League in his first season and turning Liverpool FC into a prominent European force.
The Reds have also made steps closer to winning that illusive Premiership title under Benitez. The Kop faithful feel like it is just a matter of time before their 19 year wait comes to an end after finishing just four points behind Manchester United last season, and for many, playing the best football in the process.
However, in the last five years, the Spaniard has sold/released 76 players and brought in 75. Such a frequent change of personnel can only hamper a team’s hopes of building the required stability to be a serious title threat year after year.
Benitez’s signings share a striking resemblance to Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kicks; a successful one is outstanding but it may take five shockers to eventually achieve it.
The former Valencia boss has indeed made some superb signings but it often takes him a handful of average transfers before he splashes out on the real deal. It took Josemi, Jan Kromkamp, Antonio Barragan, Alvaro Arbeloa and Philipp Degen to finally sign a top class right back in Glen Johnson. We also saw the likes Peter Crouch, Craig Bellamy, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Morientes before Fernando Torres brought the solution to Liverpool’s striking problems.
Liverpool fans debate that financial instability at Anfield has been the reason behind their impotency to sign the best players, yet, in the last five years, ‘Rafa’ has spent a reported £230 million on transfers whereas Sir Alex Ferguson has spent around £175 million. Although Benitez has recovered £150 million of that sum, Ferguson has regained all but £10 million of his expenditure.
During his reign, Benitez has sold 18 of his own first team signings, of whom only Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia and Alvaro Arbeloa can be regarded as having successful spells.
Sir Alex Ferguson, in contrast, has sold only six signings made from 2004 onwards. His knack of acquiring players with ability then turning them into world class players is the defining difference between himself and Benitez. Players like Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and Cristiano Ronaldo were brought to the club with strong reputations in their respective countries but, under the guidance of the Scotsman, have been nurtured into some of the best players in their positions. Ferguson’s patience and determination to stick with those who have not developed as quickly as others is a major factor behind his success of getting the best out of all of his squad members.
Over the summer, Benitez again failed to sign adequate cover for Fernando Torres. If ‘El Nino’ suffers a spell on the sidelines, not Andriy Voronin, Nabil El Zhar and David N’gog combined could provide a temporary solution upfront. Lack of finance cannot be an excuse in a summer which has seen Manchester United and Chelsea sign Michael Owen and Daniel Sturridge respectively, on free transfers.
While Liverpool fans should not hold this against their manager, or doubt their title credentials, Benitez’s failure to sign the right player first time around is evidently a contributing factor as to why they have not tasted Premier League glory during their current manager’s time in power.