Head in to any pub in the Red half of Merseyside and you would know why a certain Spaniard’s name is still reverberated in this Red half of Merseyside even though he is the interim manager of a fierce enemy.A man with vast Football knowledge who once claimed to have watched three matches simultaneously and take notes is a testimony of the fact of someone who wanted to learn and analyse the beautiful game,an appetite which will never diminish.As you see an old man,perhaps in his late seventies,opening bottle of champagne to celebrate his birthday along with other members of their historic group called “Spirit of Shankly”,you would be mesmerised after having a candid conversation and then stand up and acknowledge the vast knowledge they possess.As you move your eyeballs around the walls of the pub,you would be shocked to see a man’s portrait beside the legends of Bill Shankly and Bob Plaisey.
In a club where legendary status is not easily earned,you would be surprised but more than that astonished as to why a certain Spaniard’s name is still chanted in this part of the world.For someone who won just two trophies in his illustrious five years at the helm as Liverpool manager why is he still remembered by the Anfield faithful?He much more than a manager who managed funds from miserly American owners(who only looked for their own profits)to always supporting his players against all odds,instilling a confidence among them to garner a side of whom the football fraternity never gave a chance to win major trophies and most of all gaining a popularity among fans which may remain unparalleled in the Premier League era, Rafa Benitez Maudes will always be a fan favourite. Most of all he will always be a Liverpool legend.
Rafa,as he is fondly called will always be remembered as someone who brought the Champions League back to Anfield.Some shrewd transfers which worked wonders,he led Liverpool to the FA Cup title for the seventh time the following year beating West Ham on penalties.The following year Liverpool narrowly missed out on the Champions League again,this time at Athens losing to the same rivals,AC Milan they had beaten a couple of years ago at Istanbul.The following year Liverpool almost won the Premier League title again losing out narrowly by just 4 points to arch rivals Manchester United.A disappointing sixth place in the EPL next season,crashing out of the Champions League in the knockout season didn’t go down well with the fans and the owners and Benitez ultimately left to manage Inter Milan in Italy.
However few remember Liverpool lost to Atletico Madrid in the semi finals of the Europa League when Diego Forlan scored in stoppage time to bring the aggregate score to 2-2.Liverpool eventually lost on away goals rule.A sad day filled with tears matched with supporters who marched to Anfield chanting his name will always remain iconic.He came from a foreign country,won over fans,brought world class players and most of all made the people happy like Bill Shankly and Bob Plaisey.
Its sad that some experts and Liverpool fans themselves say all the credit that led to Liverpool winning the Champion League in 2005 goes to Gerrard Houllier as he was the one who built the crux of the team.Perhaps they forgot who brought Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia to Anfield(at prices which is unthinkable today),both of whom were immaculate throughout the tournament.They also tend to forget who built the central defensive partnership of Carragher and Hyppia right from the start of the season.How on earth they fail to remember the managerial masterstoke he gifted Anfield with his inspired changes bringing on unheard Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Neil Mellor against Olympiakos.Both of them scored crucial goals before Steven Gerrard’s cracker Liverpool to the knockout stages when it looked impossible at half time as the Reds required to score three time to progress.As they say some managers can do miracles.This was the one of many.Displaying tactical genius Liverpool beat giants in Europe rolling past Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea.Benitez provided a more advance role to John Arne Risse and this worked wonders.Who would forget his cross from which Gerrad scored in the final at Istanbul.His micro tactics to play three central defenders to negate Pirlo, Kaka, Serginho and Shevchenko ultimately won Liverpool the title in another miraculous night.Bringing on Dietmar Hamann at he break was perhaps the best tactical moves we could ever witnessed.
He bought the likes of Pepe Reina, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano among many others who are the crux of the present Liverpool side and that too at throwaway prices.Perhaps the £4m buy of Lucas was his best transfer dealing.He had the panache to train players and make them perform much higher than their potential.
His amazing rant with Manchester United manager,Sir Alex Ferguson mad him the fan favourite.He raised eyebrows at Anfield when he tried to sell Xabi Alonso to Juventus in the summer of 2008.He pursued Gareth Barry of Aston Villa then,but failed to agree on the transfer fee.Ultimately the following year Alonso was offloaded to Real Madrid for £30m,a deal which earned thrice the profits of his original signing fee.He then bought Italian Alberto Aquilani for £20m(which would be paid in instalments). It looked like a great deal but the Italian turned out to be a flop.People criticise him for this but they don’t realize why he did that.In his book titled “Champions League Dreams” he defended his logic to sell Alonso.He termed Barry as more versatile which he showed in the previous season helping Manchester City to win the title.Many don’t know he tried to sign David Silva which would have been a wonder signing.Look hos these two have been performing for City.He was given limited funds but he did his best to turn Liverpool’s fortunes and boy he did.
Many managers have come at Anfield but not many have been crowned the term “Legend”. Rafa Benitez was God’s gift to Liverpool-these words is still echoed among knowledgeable and vociferous fans who support their team week in and week out. Rafa still has an apartment in Merseyside and loves the club from his heart.
Its history that makes a club great and Rafa was one of those who contributed to Liverpool’s history.Coming from a humble background in his native country, Spain,he rose to be one of the most respected managers all over the world.he started his managerial career as Real Madrid’s youth coach and also worked under current Spain’s coach,Vincent Del Bosque. Its said that in Spain,no other club has the right to win trophies other than Real Madrid or Barcelona,but Rafa Benitez won the La Liga with Valencia and that too in consecutive years winning the UEFA Cup as well. This was where he rose into prominence before being appointed Liverpool manager.
Lets look at some quotes of his before we wrap thing off
“Winning trophies has made me put on weight.”
“Before, I said that they were maybe the best supporters in England. Now maybe they are the best supporters in Europe.”
“I WOULD MANAGE LIVERPOOL ONCE AGAIN IN THE FUTURE”
and the best of all was yet to come….
“To work hard and have our supporters behind us and believing until the end, you run a little bit more”
RAFAEL BENITEZ MAUDES may be interim Chelsea manager but his legacy at ANFIELD and the Red half of Merseyside will roll on in years to come.
“YOU WILL NEVER WALK ALONE” ,RAFA BENITEZ,
THANK YOU SIR,YOU MADE THE PEOPLE HAPPY.