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Could Benitez ever make Reds return?

TEAMtalk guest Rich Kitto looks at Rafael Benitez's relationship with the Liverpool fans and examines whether he could ever return to Anfield.

Last Updated: 11/04/13 at 10:56 Post Comment

Rafael Benitez: Ties with Liverpool

Rafael Benitez: Ties with Liverpool

Benitez reconfirmed his adoration and commitment both for his wife and a bird he had a passionate six-year fling with on Tuesday when he confidently told Marca: "I will return to Liverpool one day almost certainly, my daughters and wife are still living there."

And much like a man who once had a great thing going with a woman before an awkward separation, he clearly hasn't got over his previous encounter with Liverpool.

But the whole relationship between Liverpool, the fans, the city, the players and the Spaniard has always been a complicated one, as some supporters go to bed dreaming of the reunion with Rafa, whilst others much prefer the Northern Irishman currently wearing the trousers.

Though whilst considering everything Benitez has previously done for the club, can he ever be considered suitable for the role again?

Surely a new direction and style is what's required for a team in transition?

Brendan Rodgers must have been quietly cursing when Benitez was installed as interim Chelsea manager in November. Having spent the last six months coaching players and fans round to his way of thinking and encouraging them to forget about a certain Mr Kenny Dalglish, the last thing he would have wanted was another previous manager with a huge affinity to his current club thrust back into the limelight.

Regardless of future circumstances, Benitez will forever be associated with Liverpool, and certainly more so than any club he has managed to date, which is surprising considering his success at Valencia.

Though the man depicted by today's press is very different to the one that took Liverpool so close to the title in the 08-09 season. He was calm, assertive, reassuring and bold without large claim. He was the first Spaniard to manage in the Premier League and as such brought new techniques and methods that combined extremely effectively with some classy foreign imports.

Now that he's seen as an over-sensitive, stubborn part-timer who only likes to talk facts', Benitez has become a symbol of pity and sympathy for many (even within Chelsea), and as such his success at Liverpool has been somewhat diluted.

Yes, yes we're all aware of that Champions League victory, that FA Cup final win thanks to Steven Gerrard, and that victory in the Nou Camp. But whilst results are seemingly all that matter in this business, the progress that Benitez's team made to claim those trophies goes unrecognised and far supersedes the performance of the current side.

For instance, between October and December 2005 Liverpool set a new club record of 11 consecutive clean sheets - so far this season that stands at three. In the same season they won 12 games in a row (again a club record), compared to four so far this term. In the 06-07 season the team went 30 games unbeaten at Anfield, current best is four so far. In 07-08 the Reds scored more goals in the league (119) than any other team in England (currently 84 with six to play). In the 08-09 campaign they amassed their highest ever points tally in the league thanks in part to winning 13 league games away from home (currently set at five wins). Then finally in the 09-10 season Benitez's team broke another club record of scoring in 18 consecutive Premier League games at Anfield, which is a stark comparison to the Reds' game at home against West Ham last weekend.

Of course its unfair to judge Rodgers completely in a like-for-like comparison, as Benitez had years to construct and shape the team he desired, whereas Rodgers has largely been handed a team made up of previous managerial signings. Though the point being that whilst many supporters of clubs other than Liverpool will heavily mock and humour the fans for harping back to Benitez, and vice versa, the club had some unprecedented success whilst the Spaniard was in charge that has not been met since.

But it was far more than purely the results or style of play that lead Liverpool supporters to become so enamoured with the Spaniard, more so it was his willingness to take on the 'big boys' and more specifically Sir Alex Ferguson. Whilst that ultimately ended up with his infamous 'rant', one of the large reasons that Reds supporters never warmed to Roy Hodgson was his support, or rather lack of vitriol, towards the team that knocked them off their perch. And lest we forget the hugely generous £96,000 donation the Spaniard made to the Hillsborough foundation. Ultimately Benitez understood Liverpool, and Liverpool accepted Benitez as one of their own.

But whilst Rafa shares this affinity and past success with the club, Rodgers is right in the assertion that if Benitez was really wanted back at the club he loves then that could have happened last summer: "Obviously that opportunity was there in the summer if the owners wanted to go down that route as Rafa was unemployed and not working. But they felt it best to go in a different direction and develop the club in a different way."

And this different direction is with a man who epitomises modern-day management. Yes Rodgers may lay claim to a few hyberboles and embarrassing gestures featuring envelopes, but he has the team moving along the right path. Their inconsistency has been present - and extremely frustrating - for the past few years and is something that needs to be addressed, but Rodgers has invested well in the squad and reinvigorating those that initially were deemed surplus.

Whilst Benitez recently got vocal support at Anfield following one of the tougher phases he was going through at Stamford Bridge, it seemed more a sign of mutual admiration then a plea for a return from the home faithful. After all, since leaving Liverpool seventh in league at the end of the 09-10 season, his career hasn't exactly flourished.

Rodgers deserves the time to break the records that Benitez has put before him, and although Rafa has carved his presence into the clubs illustrious history, that is exactly where he should remain. It is time for all involved to move on.

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