Rafael Benitez’s time at Liverpool football club is finally over. Benitez and the club decided to part ways after a six-year relationship, which built-up steadily for five years before suffering a sudden collapse in its final year.
But following a poor campaign, it’s easy for the football world to forget the places where Rafa took Liverpool, easy for them to forget the characteristics Rafa instilled into the club in his time, and easy for them to say that this was the right decision.
Not for a Liverpool supporter, though. Bidding farewell to a man who took our club to the summit of Europe isn’t easy, especially with the club’s uncertain future.
Left in the dark by the owners?
When Gerard Houllier left, the club was wrestling with mediocrity – a fourth place was an achievement, champions league appearance was a one-off, and world-class talents seemed a distant dream.
Enter a Spaniard, named Rafael Benitez. He took over a club at a time of mere hope, and turned it swiftly into expectations. He took over a club that was shackled by it’s own past glory and broke them free with trophies. He took over a club that was desperate to seek it’s dying reputation and turned it, if only for a while, into the most feared club in Europe.
In his very first year in-charge, Rafael Benitez brought back the forgotten glory days to Liverpool football club,and turned every painful tear at the club into tears of joy. In less than ten months, he gave the Reds that night in Istanbul.
When we had settled for a decent champions league run, he took us to the final. When we had settled for a runners-up place, he took us to the holy grail. When we asked to be put back on the European map, he put us on the world map.
An FA Cup triumph at Wembley followed the next season. By then, Rafa Benitez had spoilt us and made us forget how the club was in 2004. By then, from simply hoping for trophies, the club began anticipating them. What followed were four barren years that eventually led to his downfall.
During his first five years, Benitez instilled a certain never-say-die attitude in the team. He inculcated a culture of achieving impossible comebacks, a tradition of winning against the odds, and an uncertainty of not knowing when Liverpool were beaten. This was typified in wonderful second-half comebacks against Olympiakos and Fulham, a miraculous win at Istanbul, a fabulous riposte at Luton Town and a brilliant recovery at Wembley – all in the first two years. More amazing turnarounds, such as the ones against Middlesborough, Wigan and Manchester City in 2009, simply epitomized the indomitable belief which Rafael Benitez’s team possessed.
His mere presence at the club was appealing enough to bring in world-class players like Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres, and wonderful talents like Luis Garcia, Daniel Agger and Albert Riera.
The men who made the difference!
( image courtesy: [email protected] )
Rafa gave the club famous European wins over Barcelona at the Camp Nou, Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and Internazionale at the San Siro. His tactical genius was the reason Liverpool became the most unwanted opponent ahead of a Champions’ League draw. His strategic proficiency was the reason Liverpool overcame teams with players like Traore, Le-Tallec and Josemi, in the line-up.
It was Rafa Benitez, who induced a bit of swagger and long-lost arrogance into Liverpool’s football. It was him, who gave us the 4-2-3-1 system that blew away opponents. It was Benitez, who transformed Jamie Carragher into one of the finest centre-backs in the world. It was him, who made ‘Gerrard-Torres’, the most feared forward pairing in Europe, and the same man stood up to Sir Alex Ferguson, when the club needed him to.
Yes, a disastrous campaign followed in the 2009/10 season, but Rafa steadily built the club to pack a heavy punch for the League title. He failed by four points and like for a boxer, who put every last bit of effort into that one punch, everything fell apart for Benitez and the club, thereafter.
This is where the owners were supposed to step-in with an injection of cash, to provide a fresh impetus. Rafa knew that this was a necessity, and he argued with the owners for the benefit of this club.
Rafael Benitez has cemented a special place at Liverpool football club. His last words at the club were ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – an example of how deeply involved he was with the club. Deep down, every Liverpool supporter wanted Rafa to be the man to lead this club to their next League title. But some stories just do not have fairytale endings.
At least, this one had a fairytale beginning.