Liverpool have gone 17 years without the league title and the time has now come for Liverpool, and manager Rafa Benitez, to put up or shut up.
Benitez has spent much of his time at Liverpool complaining about the financial restraints that have been imposed on him, about Liverpool’s cautious transfer policies, that have allowed him to miss out on players he has wanted, or meant him being priced out of his top targets. His latest rant after Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat to Milan in May has been greeted with a suitcase of cash that he has dispensed throughout the world. Allied to his free spending comes the news that Liverpool are to build a new stadium, by 2010, which would allow them to compete with the big boys.
The Anfield revolving door has seen Bellamy, Cisse, Dudek, Fowler, Garcia, Pongolle and Zenden exit and Babel, Benayoun, Leiva, Mihaylov, Torres, and Voronin arriving. The outlay has been spectacular by Liverpool’s recent standards, and comes courtesy of their new American owners. The problem that Benitez now faces is that he has finally got what he has been asking, more accurately, complaining about, money to buy his top targets. This now means that any more failures and he will more than likely be heading back to Spain. A Champions League win and another final appearance may not be failures, but the truth is that, as Porto and Liverpool have shown in the last few years, the best team does not necessarily win the Champions League. The best team in the country does however win the League. Liverpool have not come close to achieving this in the last 17 seasons.
Generally it takes a season or 18 months for a foreign player to adjust to the English game. Benitez wont have that luxury. He has spent heavily in reshaping his squad and while the individuals may take time adjusting to the style and tempo of English football, they will also have to gel with their new team mates and vise versa. Perhaps Benitez has bought to many players to realistically challenge for this seasons title. Whatever the risks of buying so many foreign and new players he must surely understand that times are now different in football. While he may have had the boards understanding of such matters in the past, with big spending by new American owners, who don’t have ties or real understanding of the football, immediate pay offs are the expected. They have given Benitez the money he asked for, now they expect him to deliver.
Benitez will hope that his new signings settle early and that they are able to deliver what he needs, a title challenge, because another season of settling for 3rd or 4th place, could see his time in England cut short. It’s time for all the talk to be put aside and no manager will be under more pressure this season then Rafa Benitez.