Sunday 25 February 2018

Expert view: No light at end of tunnel for doomed Rafa

ALAN HANSEN - Expert View

The fact that Rafa Benitez is only the fourth manager at Anfield since Liverpool last won the league championship 20 years ago tells its own story.

No club show more loyalty to their managers than Liverpool and that has been borne out by actions rather than words throughout those 20 years.

If Benitez were managing any club other than Liverpool, he would be a goner, but that is not the way that they do things at Anfield.

Results are the ultimate criteria for judging managers, however and, even though I don't think Liverpool will get rid of Benitez, if they lose again at Stoke tomorrow, maybe something will have to give.

The defeat against Reading was the latest in a long line this season -- Fulham, Portsmouth, the draw at Blackburn. People are looking for light at the end of the tunnel, but there isn't any.

There are three possibilities facing Liverpool now. They can make a change, appoint an interim manager and then make a permanent appointment in the summer. They can keep Rafa until the summer and then make the change or they can decide to keep him indefinitely.

At the moment, you would have to say that you could toss a coin on any of them.


I have never called for any manager to be sacked and I am not going to start now. Results and performances are what decide the fate of every manager.

But Benitez is probably under as much pressure as Graeme Souness, Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier put together. The three things that have ensured he is still in place are the patience of the board, the loyalty of the supporters -- and money.

Having signed a five-year contract only last March, it has been suggested that it could take upwards of £20m to compensate Benitez should he be dismissed, so that would clearly be a major stumbling block.

If the club are struggling to come up with £10m for players, then how can they afford to make a change of manager?

The patience of the club's hierarchy is underlined by that statistic of four managers in 20 years, while the supporters have been sensational in backing Benitez.

It is the supporters I believe who hold the key to his future. When they began to drift away in the final days of the Houllier era, it prompted the club to act and make a change. At some point, those same fans will have a cut-off point when they decide that going to Anfield is no longer for them.

When tickets suddenly become available in the two to three days before Premier League games, that is when the number crunchers start to look at things. That is what happened to Houllier. The Liverpool fans are ultra-patient and that is why Benitez is still there.

He cannot point to the money he has to spend in the transfer market as an excuse for the situation Liverpool find themselves in.

He may not be able to spend big money, but while none of his £5-8m buys have worked out, you only have to look at Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United to realise that there is a real value within that price bracket.

All of Liverpool's present players, with the exception of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, have been brought in by Benitez, so it's not as though he can claim to have inherited somebody else's squad.

One of the biggest mysteries is how Liverpool have gone from being so good last season to so bad now, but it all comes back to the fact that those players on the pitch are Benitez's players and most of them aren't good enough and don't appear to have the heart for it.

Some fans would love to see Kenny Dalglish take the helm again on an interim basis and I know that Liverpool is in Kenny's blood.

If he was asked, I'm sure he would do it, but Kenny will not want to go down that route because he is 100pc behind Benitez.

What everybody wants to see is some leadership on the pitch and for results to improve, but at the moment, there is nothing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport