Rafael Benitez arrived in the summer of 2004 to replace Gerard Houllier. Benitez was already a much sought after and respected coach, having broken the Madrid/Barcelona monopoly on the Spanish championship twice and also taken Valencia to a UEFA Cup final success in 2004.
His first six signings all came from La Liga; classy midfielder Xabi Alonso being the pick of the bunch and settling in well with a supreme range of passing.
Right back Josemi, winger Antonio Nunez, midfielder Luis Garcia were followed by Mauricio Pellegrino in the January window – where Fernando Morientes made his long awaited move to Anfield after months of speculation. A massive signing for the club – and Benitez.
Benitez’s first English signing was goalkeeper Scott Carson who arrived from Leeds for Â£1m in January.
In his first season as Liverpool manager, Benitez masterminded the incredible journey which saw the club lift their fifth European Cup on May 25th 2005, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Impressive victories over Juventus and Chelsea were beaten by the second half comeback from 3-0 down to 3-3 and then victory on penalties. Writing Benitez into Anfield folklore within his first 12 months at the helm.
The summer of 2005 saw a mass clearout of players deemed surplus to requirements and no room for sentiment as the likes of Baros, Dudek and Hamann were replaced with new signings Pepe Reina, Peter Crouch and Momo Sissoko. All three had impressive first season’s during 05-06 establishing themselves as first team regulars.
Another trophy arrived at the end of the 05-06 season in just as dramatic style as his first season, this time an FA Cup Final comeback was needed as the Reds drew 3-3 with West Ham and won on penalties. Gerrard again the hero with a 94th minute 35 yard equaliser.
The summer of 2006 again saw arrivals and departures. Hamann left, Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt, Jermaine Pennant all arrived and Daniel Agger began to establish himself following the Charity Shield win over Chelsea.
The 2006-07 saw Benitez guide the Reds to third place in the Premiership and the Champions League Final in Athens against AC Milan again.