10 good reasons to love Rafa Benitez
After our (rather unsuccessful) attempts to convince you of Raymond Domenech’s appealing qualities, our thoughts turn to that much-maligned manager from Madrid, Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool went out of the Champions League on Tuesday night despite a 1-0 win over Debrecen, as Lyon failed to bite in Fiorentina.
Benitez is taking a lot of stick from fans and non-fans alike but here are 10 (OK, nine) good reasons to love the man:
1. His detractors still put it down to as much to luck as judgment, but the achievement in taking that ragtag bunch of players to Champions League glory in 2005 just can’t be underestimated. The shake-up at half-time, bringing on Dietmar Hamann and switching to a three-man defence, changed a game that no one in the world believed could be salvaged and gave Benitez the defining moment of his coaching career.
2. David Ngog. You can pore over the transfer record all you like, and many, many fans, bloggers and journalists have, but the signing of French striker Ngog for just 1.5 million pounds from PSG will surely go down as a terrific piece of business. Ngog has a great career ahead of him, if used wisely. If…
3. Montse. Kenny Dalglish once claimed that he couldn’t give a TV reporter any clues about who would be playing the Cup final as it was his wife, Marina who always picked the team. Rafa doesn’t go that far but his wife Montse did have a role in keeping him at the club in 2007. “Benitez is not going anywhere. He’s under contract and he told me that his wife has said that if he ever did go, he’d have to go without her because she’s staying in Liverpool!” co-owner Tom Hicks was quoted as saying.
4. Doctor Who? Rafa was made a Doctor ‘Honoris Causa’ of the University Miguel Hernandez of Elche in 2008. So if love is out of the question you should at least look up to him unless you have a higher degree, too.
5. Attacking style. Valencia fans have mixed feelings about Benitez but most recognise that he at least tried to play a more attacking style — as opposed to the counter-attacking strategy under Hector Cuper — and it was rewarded with those two league titles. When he joined Liverpool, it was a similar story, at least early on, as the team played the ball around much more than they had done towards the end of the Gerard Houllier era. So at least he tried.
6. Speaking of attack, how about that one on Alex Ferguson. Great entertainment. Fact.
7. Zonal marking. This has been a source of great joy for opposition teams in the Premier League this season, so if you are a fan of another club you should be praising Benitez to the skies.
8. That trip to the pub. It is by no means unusual for Liverpool fans to go to the boozer on a European trip but no one expected the team manager to turn up at an Irish bar in Cologne.
9. Fernando Torres. If David Ngog shows Benitez has an eye for a bargain, the signing of Torres shows it’s sometimes worth shopping at the nose-bleed end of the market… as long as you get the right player. Torres cost 20 million pounds or so and would be worth at least twice that now and quite possibly a lot more, which if nothing else should make up for purchases such as Dossena, Riera, Babel, etc, etc…
10. Ok, that’s only nine. Anyone care to nominate a 10th?
PHOTO: Liverpool’s coach Rafa Benitez gives instructions to his players during their Champions League match against Atletico Madrid in Madrid October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez