RAFA MUST HEAL THE SCARS; Taking the High Ground: Defiant Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez

Daily Mail (London), February 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

RAFA MUST HEAL THE SCARS; Taking the High Ground: Defiant Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez


Byline: MATT LAWTON

WHO WOULD actually sack Rafa Benitez this summer, should it beconsidered necessary? Would it be the Americans who currently own the club orwould it, by then, be those billionaire businessmen from Dubai who are so keento buy it off them? Benitez has about as much of an idea as everyone else andfor that reason he simply has to focus on tonight's Champions League encounterwith Inter Milan and hope that he can keep his current employers as well as hisprospective ones happy.

Fail to guide his team past the runaway leaders of Serie A over the two legs ofan intriguing first knockout round tie and then on to another Champions LeagueFinal and the feeling is that Liverpool's manager will be out at the end of theseason.

A campaign that ends without a trophy and another disappointing League finishcould, it is thought, be about all anyone here can stomach.

Understandably, Benitez thinks two Champions League Finals in three yearsnot to mention success in the FA Cup prior, obviously, to Saturday's defeat athome by Barnsleyshould be enough to cement his position at the club and he has said as muchagain. 'I am confident I will be here for a long time,' insisted the Spaniard.

He says he wants to stay and finish a job he believes will conclude with thatelusive first Championship since 1990 and that has to be to his credit.

Approaches from clubs like Atletico Madrid might yet prove tempting when hisposition has been offered to Jurgen Klinsmann and heaven knows who else, butBenitez has immersed himself in Liverpool's history and tradition and made thekind of commitment that a great many managers never dare do.

He has invested [pounds sterling]7million in a mansion when most of his contemporaries wouldopt for a significantly less expensive apartment or, in the case of ManchesterCity's Sven Goran Eriksson, just stay in a hotel..

He has also immersed himself in the challenge he took on when Gerard Houllierdiscovered that success in Europe as well as in domestic cup competitions neverquite satisfies that Liverpool thirst for the Barclays Premier League.

As Benitez said yesterday, he has his 'ideas about the future' and likens hisLiverpool side to the Arsenal team of two years ago. A young, gifted side thatvery nearly dropped to fifth in the championship but reached the ChampionsLeague Final and are now five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

It is all about progress. Tonight and then at Inter's San Siro stadium on March11, Benitez needs his team to prove that progress is still being madeprove that they can beat an Italian side comfortably on course for a thirdstraight Serie A title and prove that they at least remain the team who haveconquered AC Milan, Barcelona, Chelsea and Juventus in this competition. …

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