Will he be back? Many LFC fans are hoping so.
Frank De Boer is the latest to turn down the Liverpool job. So did Brendan Rogers who is going slow with his coaching ambitions. Juergen Klopp on the short list has indicated his future is with Borussia Dortmund. Similarly, Didier Deschamps finds no reason to leave Marseilles. There is no chance Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho will coach this club.
The choices boil down to Andre Villa-Boas and Roberto Martinez, with the former being favoured by bookies and fans alike to be the next manager, the latter seen as John Henry’s choice. The glaring omission: Rafa Benitez. The former Liverpool manager has been declined even the honour of an interview.
Benitez has not coached since he was fired in December 2010 after his disastrous tenure at Inter. He now lives in Wirral, a Merseyside suburb and has continued his association with LFC having donated close to £100,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group dedicated to the 96 fans who lost their lives in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy.
His heart beats Liverpool red. “I regard Merseyside as my home because of the way my family have been accepted and treated by the people and I know that the group is such an important cause.”
Clearly, there is a reason for his hiatus. He wants to coach Liverpool once again. The sheen of the 2005 Champions League win and the 2006 FA Cup victory will never wear off for most fans along with the club’s second place finish in 2009, their best showing in the league since the inception of the Premiership.
Most of the later fallout over Benitez stems from his difficulty developing a personal rapport with his players, an obsession with squad rotation and zonal marking, and a lengthening rap sheet of uncovering duds (remember Andriy Voronin?) while inflating the payroll. Many of these personal idiosyncrasies coupled with the club’s financial turmoil under former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s resulted in a very short sighted transfer policy that saw Xabi Alonso being sold to Real Madrid in 2009.
That decision essentially doomed Liverpool. An injured Alberto Aquilani was kept under wraps and Lucas, Alonso’s replacement was nowhere as good as he’s now. With the leveraged buyout swindlers spending their living moments selling the club, Rafa was left wielding a carrot. Part of that unfinished business also saw Rafa turn to Kenny Dalglish hiring him to developing homegrown talent.
John Henry, the present owner has reservations over Benitez’s micro-managing style as well as his penchant for demanding cash on supply for his transfer choices. This disquiet is not new as Henry in one of his first public statements since his takeover laid the blame squarely on the Spaniard for a bloated squad with little depth. However, with Liverpool having made little gains in the league the last two seasons should shift the onus onto the owner for his managerial choices as well as his decision to bring in Damien Comolli, the man superseding Dalglish to bring in a fleet of high priced transfers with little impact (Suarez notwithstanding) while spending over £100m.
Benitez left no doubts as to what he could have done with that money if he had been manager. Henry might change his tune if AVB and Roberto Martinez fail to impress the owner in their interviews. That is what most fans desire. In their eyes, Benitez is head over shoulders the clear favourite. He deserves to tell his side of the story and to be afforded an opportunity to finish unfinished business.