Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Was Rafael Benitez Liverpool's best manager for the last 20 years?
In a word : Yes.

Lets compare his record against the other Liverpool managers from 1990 onwards.
The managers to be included in this comparison are Graeme Souness,Roy Evans and Gerrard Houllier.
Kenny Dalglish will not be included in this comparison as his tenure started in 1985 and ended in 1991.
I will only be including managers whose tenure started and ended from 1990 to 2010.

Graeme Souness

When Graeme Souness took over management of Liverpool FC from Kenny Dalglish in 1991, he was taking over a side that had won in previous seasons, 3 Premier League Titles and 2 FA Cups under Kenny Dalglish. It was a side that featured Ian Rush, John Barnes, Bruce Grobbelaar and Peter Beardsley.
Souness then proceeded to win a grand total of 1 FA Cup.

On the plus side,he did bring through youngsters such as Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler.

Roy Evans 

Roy Evans took over Liverpool FC in 1994 bringing in the era of the Spice Boys. He won the League Cup in 1995 and finished runners-up in the FA Cup in 1996. He brought through a certain young prodigy called Michael Owen who would later go on to play for Man Utd.
In Roy Evans time at the club Liverpool would go on to finish 3rd,4th and then 3rd in the league.

Gerrard Houllier

Gerrard Houllier took over Liverpool FC in 1999 after a disastrous attempt at joint management with Roy Evans. He rebuilt the side with signings such as Sami Hyppia, Stephane Henchoz, Dietmar Hamann and Gary McAllister. This rebuilding bore a successful result when in 2001, Houllier led Liverpool to 6 trophies - FA Cup, UEFA Cup, League Cup, FA Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup.
He also won the League Cup in 2003.
In October 2001, Houllier suffered a heart attack and was taken to hospital. He returned to management 5 months later. Liverpool under stewardship of caretaker manager Phil Thompson finished 2nd in the Premiership their best ever finish.
Highlights included a memorable comeback win against Arsenal in the FA Cup final with Michael Owen scoring 2 goals, a 5-4 win over Alaves in the UEFA Cup final which needed a golden own goal from Delfi Geli to settle the match and becoming the first manager to win at Old Trafford in 10 years.

Rafael Benitez

Rafa Benitez took over in 2005 winning the Champions League in first season at the club after trailing 3-0 at half time to AC Milan. He also finished runners up in the League Cup losing to Chelsea in the final. The next season, he led to Liverpool to the FA Cup glory in an epic final against West Ham coming back from being 2-0 down. The season after he reached the Champions League final only to lose to AC Milan.

Memorable matches include of course THAT final in Istanbul, THAT final against West Ham, a 4-0 trashing of Real Madrid,  a 4-1 mauling of Manchester United at Old Trafford which followed a few days later, a 3-1 over Olympiakos, a record 8-0 win over Besiktas in the Champions League and wins over Juventus,Chelsea and Barcelona.

Benitez made Liverpool a force in Europe once more winning the Champions League in his first season with a team that featured legends such as Djimi Traore, Igor Biscan, Antonio Nunez and Josemi.
This made him only the 3rd manager after Bob Paisley and Jose Mourinho to win the UEFA Cup and the Champions League in successive and the 2nd Liverpool manager since Joe Fagan to win the Champions League in his first season.

In Rafa Benitez's time Liverpool finished 5th, 3rd,2nd and 7th in the league.
He came within an inch of clinching the Premier League in 2008-2009 season despite suffering only 2 league defeats.

Despite what some pundits say, most of his buys were very good.
Bringing in Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Luis Garcia, Dirk Kuyt, Daniel Agger and Alvaro Arbeloa is not a record to be sniffed at.

Yes he won less trophies than Gerrard Houllier.
Yes he was stubborn.
Yes that rant about 'facts' was unnecessary.

But the fact is Rafa Benitez was the best manager Liverpool have had for the last 20 years!
So why was he criticised by so many people in the media?
I'll have to cover that in another post.

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