Is Benitez losing the Plot?

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When Rafa Benitez first came to Liverpool he was a much respected man, the coach who had taken Valencia to the La Liga title ahead of Madrid and Barcelona, the coach who walked out on Valencia when he felt he deserved more support. In his first season he delivered the Champions League after that stunning comeback against Milan in Istanbul. He won the FA Cup the following season, and after that took Liverpool to another Champions League final against Milan, which they lost.

Those were simpler times, times when Benitez English was limited, and we all enjoyed his broken English charm. Those days are gone. With his ever improving language skills, and free spending, Rafa is now showing a pretentious side to match the goatee he now sports. Benitez it seems will find anything and everything to complain about.

He complained about the outcome of the Gabriel Heinze hearing, where the tribunal found in favour of Manchester United and blocked the Argentine defenders move to Liverpool.

“I would like to ask the Premier League a number of questions,” said Benitez. “How can a player with a signed agreement be treated like this? He has a document which is clear, but the Premier League prefers to believe the word of someone else who made a mistake.”

Anyone with even a limited knowledge of the case could see that there was no way Liverpool and Heinze were going to win this one. Heinze had a written agreement with United that he could leave if anyone made a bid of 6.8 million pounds for him, which Liverpool did. However it was made clear to Heinze that he would not be sold to any of the top 4 teams in England, Uniteds main rivals, and this was an oral agreement that the player and David Gil at United had, and an agreement that was recorded by Gil. So a contracted player was trying to break his contract and an agreement that he made with his employers. This was a case he could not win. How Liverpool could feel slighted is a mystery.

‘I know there were accusations made against Liverpool in the hearing which were unbelievable. How can this be allowed?

The role that Liverpool played in this case has got to be questioned. Firstly, and most obviously to have come up with the exact bid to match the release clause showed that they must have had contact with Heinze and his representatives without the permission or knowledge of United. In this case it could have been Heinze’s representatives who approached Liverpool. However the fact that Heinze was using Liverpool lawyers, was so adamant that he be allowed to join Liverpool, that Rafa was very outspoken about Heinze and his desire to join Liverpool, all suggests that in principle the move had been agreed, again suggesting that Liverpool had been meeting and talking to Heinze without Uniteds permission or knowledge. While there is no doubt that this happens all the time in football, it does not make it right. The most damning evidence came from Phil Alexander, the Chief Executive of Crystal Palace, who old the hearing how Palace had been approached by Heinze’s representatives about a scheme they came up with to get around United’s block on the Liverpool move. The proposal would have seen Palace buying Heinze from United, for the agreed upon fee, and Palace then selling him on to Liverpool. A scheme like that would not have been possible without Liverpool’s knowledge and as innocent as they proclaim to be in this whole nasty mess clearly they must have got, or been willing to, their hands dirty.

” Then I want to ask the Premier League why it was so difficult for Liverpool to sign Javier Mascherano, when we had to wait a long time for the paperwork, but it was so easy for Carlos Tevez to join Manchester United?”

This is perhaps the most ridiculous of his complaints. Firstly, when United initially moved for Tevez at the end of the season, they followed the blue print of Mascherano’s move to Liverpool, but having done exactly what Liverpool had, they were unable to bring Tevez to Old Trafford. The Tevez saga continued for 3 months before eventually an agreement between West Ham and the Premier League allowed Tevez to complete the move. So a more pertinent question must be why was it so easy for Liverpool to sign Mascherano?

Benitez then moved his rant on to the fixture schedule, taking another swipe at the Premier League.

“I would like to ask the Premier League why is it that Liverpool always play the most fixtures away from home in an early kick-off, following an international break?” he said. “We had more than the top clubs last season and we have four already to prepare for this season. It’s going to be very difficult for us to win the Premier League because the other teams are so strong, but I want our supporters to know that despite the disadvantages we have, we will fight all the way.

“We will fight to cope with our more difficult kick-off times and all the other decisions which are going against us.”

It seems that Benitez must be an anthiest, because were he a religious man he would surely be blaming god for whatever slight he feels next. He seems to be getting his excuses ready for failing to deliver the league title again, taking Liverpools draught to 18 years. United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all had to cope with the same problem over the last few seasons. It’s the price of being successful and popular. The fixtures are designed for TV coverage, and maybe Benitez should give back a fair piece of his TV rites money in exchange for kick off times with the teams that don’t get as much live TV coverage as the top four. Of course then he wouldn’t have Torres.

Jose Mourinho has calmed down a lot this season, taking a more mellowed approach to his media responses, and it seems Benitez has taken his place. However while Mourinho had 2 successive league titles to back up his rants, Benitez has none. While he must be commended for delivering the Champions League, something Chelsea and Arsenal have as yet failed to do, and United’s win now almost a decade ago, and the FA Cup, making Liverpool a good cup team if not title challengers, we must remember one fact, while not taking away the winning of these two cups, both were won on penalty shoot outs, Liverpool did not out rightly beat their opponents in the final, they were merely luckier. To be that lucky you first have to get to the final, to get in the position to win it, and you Liverpool did that.

While Liverpool have made the best start to the season from the top teams, and Unite the worst, you cant help but feel that Rafa is starting to feel the pressure, and this may be a do or die season for both him and Liverpool.

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