Ruthless Rafa won’t let the **** grow under his feet

It looks like Rafa Benitez will again show his ruthlessness this summer with further departures from Anfield. The defeat in Athens was followed by the news that Mark Gonzalez will be sold after just one season at the club, and that there will be others following him.

Since being appointed in the summer of 2004 Benitez has sold 36 players as he has attempted to reshape the squad and shed the deadwood left behind after Gerard Houllier’s tenure. The likes of La Tallec, Pongolle, Traore, Diao, Diouf, Cheyrou have all departed, but so have some of Benitez’s own signings.

Benitez’s Transfer Policy

Rafa has signed 39 players (discounting youth signings this number is closer to 30) – interestingly though 7 of the Spaniard’s signings have already left the club within his three years (Josemi, Nunez, Morientes, Kromkamp, Barragan, Pellegrino and now Fowler). And further of Benitez’s own signings are set to leave this summer – Gonzalez ‘for sure’, Zenden most probably, Carson, Bellamy and Paletta quite possibly).

It would be fair to say the staff turnover at Anfield in recent year’s has been pretty similar to that of a local McDonald’s restuarant. There are two views for this, one being the question mark over why so many players have been signed but failed to deliever, and the other side being that players judged below par are quickly moved on.

The likes of Zenden, Pellegrino and Fowler were free signings, brought in to provide experience and beef up a squad which was thin on quality three years ago, for me I would say they were neither succesful or unsuccesful signings.

Neither Josemi, Nunez, Barragan or Kromkamp arrived with much expectation and all failed to impress. Yes, they were disappointing signings and rather Houllier-esque type players but they were brought in much like Fowler and co. to provide squad cover and maybe more in hope they would progress into worthy purchases. Nunez and Kromkamp were signed in part exchanges (Nunez somewhat forcibly in the whole Owen to Madrid fiasco) and Barragan and Josemi cost less than £2.5 million between them. Hardly anything to worry about?

The not to-so-great buys

flopOne disappointing signing it could be argued was that of Fernando Morientes, and the only player to cost a significant sum – signed for £6.3m (sold for £3m). The case of Morientes though was due more to a player simply being unable to adapt to the English game and therefore he was moved on and replaced by a player more suited to the Premiership, Dirk Kuyt.

As we get to those expected to be allowed to leave this summer though you could question the signings in particular of Bellamy and Gonzalez.

Bellamy was seen as a coup at £6m and signed to inject pace and diversity to the attack, but has failed to fit in within the Benitez regime, despite impressing in the Nou Camp and offering a new aspect to our attack when used. Whether it is a case of off-field rather than on-field attitude affecting his seemingly imminent departure isn’t clear. Benitez’s focus on strategy and tactics may not be suited to Bellamy’s style.

not so speedyThe biggest disappointment has to be Gonzalez, particularly following the great lengths taken to secure a work permit and after Benitez hailed him as the best player in Chile and said “Gonzalez is a player who will shine in the Premiership but very soon he could be one of the most exciting players in England. Liverpool supporters love to see players who can lift them out of their seats and Gonzalez is exactly that sort of player.”

Let’s just say Gonzalez is the only Rafa signing which can definitely be marked down as a ‘miss’.

It is in fact heartening though to see this turnover of players of the calibre we are seeing leave the club so quickly. Benitez has spent little on these players, quickly discovered they don’t make the grade and just as quickly dispatched of them.

It is a stark contrast to Gerard Houllier’s tenure which saw millions upon millions lavishly splashed upon the likes of Diouf, Cheyrou, Diao, Pongolle, Le Tallec and Cisse – being put on long term contracts and never being shipped out as Houllier stubbornly stuck by his claims of ‘new Zidanes’.

Rafa Benitez knows the type of player he needs but just as importantly knows the players he doesn’t need and isn’t afraid to admit a mis-judgement of a player by keeping when he is no longer needed.

I just hope the trend doesn’t continue for too long – and that it doesn’t spread on to more costly signings failing to make the grade, I trust it won’t and that the end of this summer will signal the start of a more settled and balanced squad.

Although one thing is for sure, Djibril Cisse will no longer be the club’s record signing when the Premiership season kicks off on August 10th!

Matt Ladson