Unfinished Business – Fact! Should Rafa Return to Liverpool?

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I have always held FSG in high regard after their purchase of Liverpool Football Club. The manner in which they despatched their American compatriots, Messers Hicks & Gillett, was stunningly meticulous in it’s execution. Callous, cold and quite frankly ballsy to say the least. They came, saw what they wanted, and grabbed it from right under the noses of the cowboys who had us on the verge of bankruptcy. Initially I was worried with more Americans arriving, and the potential of more chaos given their seeming lack of knowledge of “Soccer”, as they would call it.

Rafa Return

After a short while we could see FSG were a lot different to the Yanks they disposed of, but we also saw the need to learn more about the club, the fans and football in general. They have done a fairly decent job of taking us from being a few days away from even existing as a football club to marketing us correctly to the world. They still do seem to lack the ability to see what the club needs as a figurehead, as a manager. Replacing Kenny with Rodgers looks nearly as foolhardy  In short, very very naieve. Still there is always time to put it right this summer. The close season could see a lot change at Liverpool, and after the deflation of this season, it really is needed.

After a season of incompetence in the transfer market and on the pitch, FSG find themselves at the crossroads yet again. Lets not forget these guys have invested heavily in the club since their arrival and with the announcement of the stadium expansion they have shown their desire to mix with the big boys is still part of their business plan. I honestly believe that FSG want Liverpool to succeed and for that reason they will change the management next season. Where they will look, nobody knows, but I want to make a case for someone who, in my opinion, offers us the best way forward with the least amount upheaval.

While Mr Klopp presents us with a mouth watering opportunity, is like a wet dream for our owners, and very few of us Red’s would be disappointed by his arrival. But, there exists a better fit for the club. They say you should never go back, when your done with something you are done. Such language does not exist in the head of a certain Señor Benitez. This is a man, like Kenny, who bleeds red. This is a man, like Kenny, who has unfinished business at Liverpool. This is a man, unlike Kenny, who is still at the top of his game. This is a man who wants us!

Klopp may take some convincing, even as a closet LFC fan, Rafa, he would take us in heartbeat, regardless of what state we are in after the dust settles from the calamity of this season. We may well end up thanking the football god’s that he does still want us.

So, the burning question is this – Could FSG tolerate a headstrong Spaniard who, if backed in the manner they have with Rodgers, would almost guarantee them the success that they so desire? Could FSG bite the bullet and accept that tomorrow’s men, like Rodgers, are presently just that, and they are operating in the today at Liverpool? Brendan Rodgers may become a good manager, but he’s not one right now. His step sitting at WBA showed us as much. He now looks like a man dangerously out of his depth and resigned to his fate.

The case for Rafa over Klopp could well divide opinion, but I will try and justify the thought process I have in making the case for Rafa.

Firstly, Rafa’s family are still residents of Liverpool, minimal hassle or cultural learning required for him, he’s practically a Scouser. He understands the City of Liverpool and its people better than any other we could look at. He loves LFC as passionately as we do, maybe even more. He is a born winner, he does not talk the talk, like our current mouthpiece, the actions and results of the Benitez speak everything about the man. His record leaves Klopp in the shade, although I expect Klopp will go on to do great things also. Rafa loves Liverpool, it’s as simple as that, we should love the fact he would still consider us.

I posed the question to myself last week, what if Rafa had found himself managing Liverpool at the start of this season, how would it have been different?

Well there would be so little adjustment needed for Rafa to take the managers chair, he knows us already, just needs to adjust to the new ownership model. I am purposely avoiding what he could have done in the transfer market or this article would become a novel and I could well be wheeled off to the funny farm prematurely!

So, it’s Sunday 17th August and Rafa is in charge. I would imagine Rafa would relish the squad he found, plenty of diamonds like Can and Markovic for him to shine into something special. He would also have had the balls to tell Gerrard that his future would be better served as a sub a lot sooner than Rodgers did. Rafa is not one for sentiment, when you’re past your usefulness or don’t appear to want to be at LFC, Rafa moved you on, Michael Owen as an example. And maybe, just maybe, Rafa could have convinced Gerrard to be part of the coaching staff, who knows!

I can’t see us needing 27 penalties to defeat Middlesbrough at Anfield either, Cups are Rafa’s speciality. We would have been spared the dross of early season and it’s a certainty that Rafa would have gleaned more than 15 points from 14 league games with the resources available. We would probably have seen a lot of Lucas too! And Top 4 would still be a reality, if not already secured, in such a pitiful league. We may well have had a few more facts and few more laughs along the way.

Champions League is where the irony of this muse really bites. Imagine Rafa steering us through that Group? Basle and Ludograts are hardly a worry to a man with this kind of pedigree. I don’t think you would have seen such a failure against Madrid at Anfield, we still may not have won, but we would have tested them a lot more! The return leg in Madrid would have spared us the utter shame of what unfolded that night. Rafa would have had a plan, Brendan’s plan was acceptance of defeat. Madrid are a great side, but so were Milan in 2005, we all know how that ended! Rafa “gets” LFC, and he 100% gets our European tradition, he’s part of it. I am not suggesting we would have experienced Euro glory, but we would have been spared the shame! There would have been a lot fewer replays in the domestic Cups, especially given the favourable FA Cup opponents who we laboured to get past under the current management.

Another thing Rafa would have done differently would have been the handling of underperforming players. It amuses me to think what he would have done with Balotelli. I cant see him being used as the scapegoat under Rafa, if such issues existed he would have been shown the door in January, but he would have worked out, after 30 mins or less, that Mario alone up front is like playing with 10 men. He is no friend or admirer of the UK press either, so I doubt very much we would have had the circus we have witnessed from Rodgers this year.

It was Rafa that signed Glen Johnson and I’m sure he would have binned him to run down the contract far away from the first team. Manquillo is what I consider a Rafa type player and we would know a hell of a lot more about him by this stage then we do today, fact! He would have found a system that suited his resources in their natural positions. Opposing managers would have a huge headache with Rafa in charge as they never knew what to prepare for with total certainty, another huge bonus.

I’m sure the Sterling episode would have been managed a lot firmer than it has been thus far. I can’t see a man like Rafa laughing off the Shishka Pipe affair. And if Raheem wants out, Rafa would oblige without pandering to a badly advised kid! But I must add the wiser head of Rafa might have grounded Sterling before the media circus began.

Moving into the next season we would have real optimism that the name Rafa Benitez, a winner, could lure “above par” players for Liverpool. In short your team is only as good as the ability of the man leading it, and that’s where we find ourselves today.

Of course to add balance I need to remind myself of the negatives of Rafa, which I still feel the positives outweigh. He did suffer a meltdown towards the end. The combination of H&G, no money, shameful press hounding and sheer frustration of our impending decline had a terrible effect on him. He was not without fault with some of his transfers, but name me a manager that has not signed a cabbage here and there. Those last days of the Rafa era looked as ominous as today looks with Rodgers. The difference is, Rafa recovered, Liverpool did not. Rafa just keeps doing what he knows best, winning, while Liverpool stagnate. The very thought of Rafa back at Liverpool would have the Wenger’s, Mourinho’s and van Gaal’s of this world feeling a little less comfortable in their top 4 slots. Rafa Benitez comes with his faults, but he loves Liverpool, he loves us, the fans and he craves success. I feel if that compromise could be met with FSG then Rafa would make us fab again. After all, the man has unfinished business!

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  1. Good article. I agree with it, but only in part. You base your opinion far too much on emotion.
    I agree that Rodgers is still a manager learning his trade and that Liverpool may not be the place to be learning. I also agree that Rafa’s tactical nous is top notch. Yes he loves the club, but is that enough? I remember how frustrated it was watching Rafa chop and change, rotate for rotation’s sake and play defensive football. Not to mention making daft substitutions. I also remember the Rodger’s of last season, playing a style of football that we could have only dreamt of. Rodger’s transfers are mediocre but we still aren’t sure if they are in fact his own buys. Rafa’s is not much better but players like Agger, Skertl, Torres, Masch and Alonso are class.

    In a nutshell, we should give Rodgers a chance due to this season’s injuries and judge him again next season. I am sure if we are still in this sorry state next year, Rafa will still be around and willing to come to us.

    • thanks for the comment. I did say Rafa comes with his faults, but the positives outweigh them. Most of his faults came from the war in the boardroom and being handed a £2m budget. The guy just went off the edge, Im sure we would see the best side of Rafa if he and FSG could ever meet in the middle. thanks again for reading!

  2. Hodgson was the manager when FSG arrived. They fired him after a few months and hired Kenny as interim manager, then gave him a two year contract at the end of that season.

    They spent big money in their first window — 35M on Carroll and 22M on Suarez.

    Kenny was fired because of the way he handled the media and because LFC finished 7th. They struggled to score goals.

    The football you saw last season is what the Americans want – possession based attacking football.

    They brought in Rodgers because they wanted a young manager who wanted to play attractive football, who worked well with young players and who could stay for a long term and build a legacy.

    • thanks Jay, The old memory playing tricks on me, thanks for pointing that out, rectified it. I understand why Kenny went, but will never accept the manner of his disposal, because thats what it was. I just want us to be winning again, with rafa the odds are better with minimal upheaval.

      Cheers again

  3. Rafa have a lot of faults, but he surely is talented.
    The main problem with Rafa is that he needs the control over the transfer market, we know what happens when he doesn’t like a player. Unfortunately, i would say that it’s almost impossible for him to come back, which is really a shame.

  4. great story!,you said what i’d like to say.rafa ahead of the kop and gerrard as captian again it would a dream come true.
    otherwise klopp great football tactcian thank you all merseysiders aroud the globe “you’ll never walk alone”

  5. Hello Dave,
    Given that Rafa isn’t gonna continue at Napoli after this season in Italy and news that FSG are gonna give Rodgers one last chance, I don’t think we can see Rafa in LFC next season. What are the words that frustrates all the LFC fans commonly- transformation, rebuilding. How many times were we vexed of hearing them again and again past Rafa era. I want to ask you, with all the youngsters in the club, what if even Rafa fails to deliver in his first year ? What if even he says the same transformation, rebuilding again ?
    Still this is good article and there’s a lot of teasing for fans in this.

    • Hi Sid, part of the reason we have that promise of youth can again be attributed, in part, to the work of Rafa. Change always comes with risk. Rafa with his record and prior knowledge makes that change a little less risky. If he didn’t deliver I would be very surprised, his record shows the ability to manage well in a first season. Don’t forget he won a Champions League with us in his first season, with Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan. There are a few better players making up our squad these days, would be a interesting to see how far Rafa could take them, I would imagine further than BR.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. I really wonder how can journalists,analysts and bloggers miss the key reasons of transfer dealings of liverpool this year.last season we barely had a squad of 15 players on top of that u lost your top scorer and best player. So liverpool had to play 4 tournaments and they wanted to win atleast one trophy(that’s lot of matches) so liverpool needed to make their squad bigger which they did by buying the players which were willing to join us and it wasn’t such a bad transfer window because we managed to grab (moreno,emre can,origi and markovic) three of best young players available.if we had gone for top quality players(though anfield can’t attract em anymore but still) we could only have managed to buy 3 or 4(at most) with our 100 million transfer kitty and assuming all our transfers ended up as success(which is quite rare even with world class managers) that would have raised number of players(useful players) in our squad to 17-18…with that squad we might have blitzkreiged the league for first few matches but before the end of december we would have tired squad of 8-9 players….rest being suspended or injured(due to number of matches we were playing and exhaustion). so I won’t agree with notion that liverpool showed incompetence in transfer market.infact they managed to balance the books and increasing the size of squad with best available promising young players.

    • That incompetence goes back quite a way Phil. Its always a gamble with players, but it starts to smell fishy that BR now tells us we need marquee signings for the future. Most of us laymen fans could have told him that last July, especially after Suarez went, and he had the funds. Its about squad management also, you have Balotelli as your primary striker after the DS injury, yet fail to utilise him in any way useful? Mario comes with his faults, but also has quite an impressive set of skills if you use him the correct way. Mario was never gonna be a hit isolated as we saw after the DS injury. Schoolboy errors!

    • I agree with your post to some extent but the thing that has killed us this season is a lack of goals and somehow we managed to shoot ourselves in the foot by deciding to sign Mario Balotelli over Loic Remy who would have been more of a suitable fit with our style of play and cost less. I’m not convinced by Markovic and is a player who has shown little to suggest we should have spent £20 million on him, he not even getting picked now! He reminds me of Harry Kewell who only plays in flashes and the rest of time goes missing. I’m also sceptical of Lallana but hopefully he’ll prove me wrong, those 3 together cost a combined £61 million!!! If that is not transfer incompetence i’m very worried about the next transfer window!

  7. but I completely agree that playing gerrard and balotelli in team is like playing with 9 men…though I am sure rodgers knows that as well as he is benching balotelli but he can’t manage to bench the heart-throb of merseysiders..


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