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Liverpool Are Doomed - With Or Without Rafa


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Rafa Benitez deserves to be sacked. He’s had six years, hundreds of millions of pounds and Liverpool are worse off now than they were under Gerard Houllier. But if George Gillett and Tom Hicks think that his demise will make any difference to their stricken football club, they are very much mistaken. For as much as Benitez is culpable for the lack of success on the pitch, the Americans are wholly responsible for the financial apocalypse off it.

Liverpool loyalists won’t want to hear it, but no manager could survive a season as disastrous as the last campaign. If Chelsea finished seventh, crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages, were dumped out of the FA Cup at home by Reading and only qualified for the bloated irrelevance that is the Europa League because Portsmouth are so broke that they can’t be trusted to fulfil their fixtures, then Carlo Ancelotti would be scanning the job pages as well.

Liverpool’s net spend since 2004 is beaten only by Manchester City and Chelsea and yet, if you were to list his top three signings it would be Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso, two of his first acquisitions, and the abundantly obvious talent of Fernando Torres. Choosing his worst three signings would be a far harder task because there are so many contenders. Every manager makes mistakes in the transfer market, but Benitez has made more than most.

Then there’s the youth policy, or rather the complete lack of it. Young players aren’t given a chance at Liverpool as they are at Manchester United and Arsenal and the last rookie to cement his place in the first team was Steven Gerrard. That’s partly the fault of the academy staff, but if Benitez won’t play them then what chance do they have? A huge scouting network accumulates some of the most promising talent from around the world and it’s left to go stale in the reserves.

When you take Istanbul out of the equation, it’s actually quite hard to find many reasons for Benitez to stay. There was an FA Cup, secured on penalties in 2006. There were a few Champions League runs. There was the title race of 2009, a rare thing in Merseyside these days. Erm….that’s it.

I repeatedly used these pages to back Benitez last season because of his track record in Spain and his obvious tactical acumen. I thought that if anyone could haul Liverpool out of their nosedive, it was the man they already had in the ****pit. Perhaps though, no-one could have saved this club. Perhaps the damage had already been done. Gillett and Hicks might think that a simple change of manager will make the difference, but it won’t. Without serious investment, and there’s no sign of it out there, Liverpool are doomed.

There’s no point going over the Americans’ rap sheet. We all know it off by heart. They have taken one of the most dignified and respectable football clubs on the planet and they have rubbed its face in the dirt. Their fiscal lunacy, their broken promises and their complete lack of class have driven Liverpool to the edge. Benitez has his faults and he has certainly made his mistakes, but they have been exacerbated by the clowns in the boardroom who have sought to undermine him at every turn.

So what do they have now? An upper mid-table team with debts of at least £350m. A club with no Champions League football, no transfer kitty and, with revenues set to drop drastically, a sudden need to clear the wage bill. On the bright side, that bit shouldn’t be too hard to solve because Steven Gerrard and Torres are said to be considering their future. You’d struggle to find someone sensible who would back Liverpool to beat Tottenham, Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa to the all-important fourth spot now, but without Gerrard and Torres? Good luck with that.

Who would sip this poisoned chalice now? Which top manager would lash themselves to the wheel as the ship slams into the rocks? Martin O’Neill is the bookies’ favourite, but he might be wiser to stay at Villa Park, they look a brighter prospect. Roy Hodgson would love one more big challenge, and they don’t get much bigger than this, but he’d demand certain assurances before he went. Either way, both men are tied to their clubs with expensive contracts that Liverpool would struggle to buy out.

New owners are desperately needed, but what chance is there of that? Even if you bought the club for the price of this newspaper, you’d still have to contend with the crippling debt, you’d have to find at least £100m to fund new players and then there’s that new stadium. How much will that cost? £250m? The trouble is, the Americans aren’t willing to hand over the keys in exchange for a rolled up copy of The New Paper. They want £800m! £800m! That means that the new owners will have to bring £1.5bn to the table to give Liverpool the facelift they need. That’s more than Manchester United are worth!

In the three and a half years since the Americans arrived, Liverpool’s debt has snowballed from something that you could fling at a passer-by to something that could wipe out a small Alpine town. Sacking Benitez isn’t going to change that. Liverpool are so deep in the dark stuff that winning football matches may not be their most relevant concern for very much longer. I pity whoever they’ve got lined up to take on this impossible job. Benitez had time and, the last 18 months notwithstanding, he had financial support. His successor will want for both.