Liverpool last night sacked Rafael Benítez, with the Spaniard pocketing more than £3 million in compensation, according to today’s newspaper reports. Manager for six years, Benítez has taken Liverpool to the promised land of the Europa League after failing to qualify for Europe’s elite tournament with a seventh place Premier League finish.
Having spent more than £266 million in the transfer market, Benítez failed to deliver the Premier League title, with more than 20 years having now passed since Liverpool were last crowned English champions. Little wonder the club has continued to fail, with the Spaniard brining in world talents such as Lucas Leiva, David Ngog and Philipp Degen.
Predictably Manchester United supporters responded to the news with dismay amid calls to step up the now iconic Keep Rafa At Pool campaign and ensure the Spaniard remains at Anfield. Reports that United fans will now take dishes of paella to Old Trafford next season in protest have not been confirmed as fact.
Although Benítez’ contract entitles the former Valencia coach to £16 million in compensation Liverpool, £351 million in debt, hopes to broker a lower payment to the 50-year-old manager over the next 48 hours. The Spaniard has four years left on his current deal with the club and unless a severance agreement is concluded between the parties the lame-duck manager could conceivably stay on at the club. With news having leaked of the severance offer the club’s bargaining position remains incredibly weak.
Perhaps best remembered at Old Trafford for his now infamous rant against Sir Alex Ferguson in January 2009, Benítez often resembled a coach on the very edge. Not that his side played good football despite the hyperbole emanating from the manager’s Melwood training ground office. Under the Spaniard Liverpool’s creative players were often emasculated in favour of solid defence.
Ultimately though Benítez failed, despite the 2005 Champions League win on penalties over AC Milan, with United vastly superior on the domestic front in the past six years, let alone two decades. Sir Alex not only knocked the Anfield side off its perch but stomped all over the club’s rotting corpse.
Although reports of dressing room unrest may have pushed the club’s hated American owners to force Benítez out, Liverpool now faces a fight in the dressing room as well as the boardroom.
With the club up for sale, little to no money available for squad rebuilding whomever takes over as manager, leading players such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres may seek an exit. After all, with only the Europa League for company next season, many leading players will find the grass greener in pastures new.
Real Madrid’s new coach Jose Mourinho is keen on brining the Liverpool captain to Santiago Bernabéu, while Manchester City’s owners want a marquee signing in the brilliant but perennially injured Torres.
Early reports suggest Liverpool may look to the past – don’t they always – and appoint Kenny Dalgleish as interim manager while the owners continue to seek a buyer for the club. Owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet – almost as hated as the Glazers – have already said it may take two years to sell the club.
Whatever the many problems at Old Trafford, with the Glazer family sucking the life out of the club, ticket prices higher than ever and the Red Knights’ bid apparently dead there is always the warm glow of knowing it could be worse, we could be Scouse.