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ROY DOESN’T NEED TO RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN
BY RORY SMITH, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH’S NORTH WEST FOOTBALL WRITER
IN the six weeks after Rafa Benitez’s six years at Anfield came to a close, the official history of his reign was established.
In the boardroom and the stands, in the press and the pubs, it was a story written, as always, by the victors. The doctrine of Benitez as failure had become fact.
He failed because he did not, could not win the Premier League title. He failed because he lost the support of his players, a squad he – with two notable exceptions – brought to Liverpool.
He failed because he favoured quantity over quality, but then somehow found himself deprived of both. He failed because he sold Xabi Alonso. Whatever the reason, he failed.
It is a harsh judgment on a man who won the Champions League once, reached another final, returned the FA Cup to Anfield, orchestrated Liverpool’s first true title challenge in almost a decade, and brought some of the world’s best players to the club. Some would say Benitez’s legacy, in silverware and market value, is proof that he was a success. Which of those views is correct is a debate that has raged between Liverpool fans with increasing intensity over the last couple of years.
RAFA: A success and a failure bends and it twists to suit the dogma of the time.
Debating whether that is right or wrong, though, is of no merit. Not because it is futile, nor because it distracts from the real issue that Liverpool face, its absentee American overlords, but because for the club to move on, there needs to be an acceptance that Benitez was a success and a failure.
The word George Orwell, a man who viewed football as a game “bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence,” coined for such occasions was “doublethink”.
It is the ability to hold two mutually contradictory views as truth at one and the same time. It is a skill Liverpool must learn to develop.
the goalposts in terms of funding, he still failed.
Even in an era when fourth place is considered a form of qualified success, thanks to the imbalance in the game created by the financial behemoth of the Champions League, seventh is nothing but failure.
In such circumstances, the temptation for Roy Hodgson, the man nominated as Benitez’s replacement, to rip up the Spaniard’s template must be considerable.
It is a fine footballing tradition, after all: a new manager is supposed to gut the squad, banish the backroom staff, start from scratch.
It is vital that Hodgson resists that lure, that a thoughtful, considered manager acknowledges that he has not inherited a long-term legacy of failure, that his predecessor, for all the criticism and vitriol he received in the dying throes of his tenure, has bequeathed him plenty of evidence of his success.
Naturally, much of the talk this summer will be of the fate of Liverpool’s crown jewels.
Javier Mascherano is agitating, again, for a move closer to his home in San Lorenzo, just north of Buenos Aires.
To accomplish this, he wishes to move to Barcelona (400 miles closer than Liverpool) or Internazionale of Milan (50 miles further away).
The former has won out, of course, but then that is what happens at times of regime change. History, in football as in politics, is malleable. It
Yes, Benitez failed. He failed last season, in particular, and while it is easy to suggest it was caused by Tom Hicks and George Gillett moving
Fernando Torres is contemplating his future as Chelsea and Barcelona hover, concerned not by the identity of the man who takes training but by