10 good reasons to love Rafa Benitez

November 26, 2009

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

8 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

10. The facial hair. He has a stupid beard to make the rest of us feel good about ourselves.

Posted by Jembo | Report as abusive

Can’t believe I forgot that one, Jembo…

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

I was going to say beard. I also think he is ever so slightly getting a Scouse twang when he says “Gerraaard” but it’s still not as pronounced as Jan Molby’s

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

10. Whether sorcery or exquisite choreography, this clip is fairly impressive:http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=4Vtjf4SWr2E

[...] more here: Reuters Soccer Blog » Blog Archive » 10 good reasons to love Rafa … By admin | category: love | tags: achievement, featuring-indie, good-reasons, intriguing, [...]

10. Nothing. Bollocks. Zero. Adios. Bye.

Posted by Rayray | Report as abusive

[...] Source Tags: benitez liverpool, co owner, debrecen, defining moment, detractors, doctor honoris causa, doctor who, elche, hamann, higher degree, kenny dalglish, miguel hernandez, pore, rafa benitez, raymond domenech, terrific piece, tv reporter, unsuccessful attempts [...]

[...] post: Reuters Soccer Blog » Blog Archive » 10 good reasons to love Rafa … This entry is filed under love. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 [...]

Hang about… point number two!? Hard to tell from words on a page… but are you actually being serious!? N’gog!? The most worthless piece of s*** to grace the premier league!? How about getting rid of crouch, keane, alonso… that’s a reason to love him.Joe Murphy, EFC fan ;-)

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Hi Joe. Well, sort of serious. ;) I may be wrong (I often am)but I have a feeling Ngog will turn out to be a good player. He’ll probably leave Anfield first, mind.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

He is so pink and puffy. He is like a stubborn teddybear, always complaining of the need to botch up his starting eleven due to a slew of injuries… (Was it not for Torres’ injury, we would not have dropped out of the CL)

Posted by vava | Report as abusive