After 17 months of negotiations, rejected contracts and power struggles, it looks as if Rafa Benitez has been given the respect he deserves and has put pen to paper on a new deal at Anfield. Today is a good day for Liverpool Football Club.
Paul Kelso of The Telegraph:
The deal was closed with a series of faxes and telephone conversations between the Spaniard’s advisers and the Americans. Frustration at Benitez’s prevarication has been growing, with some connected with the club suspecting he was holding out for an offer from Real Madrid.
Regular readers of my newspaper review here on This Is Anfield will know that throughout the bad patches this season, I’ve always been optimistic and shown my support for Benitez. Perhaps at times a little too optimistic that it becomes unrealistic, but my backing of Benitez hasn’t faded. So obviously I’m delighted with today’s news. I’m going to be very interested in seeing the reaction of fans, many of which were questioning his future just two weeks ago. For Benitez’s cause, the timing of this couldn’t be any better. Two emphatic victories over Real Madrid and Manchester United have given Reds fans cause for excitement after a mid-season slump.
And it is fantastic that Benitez has such faith and love for our football club that he hasn’t got up and walked out, despite all the opportunities given to him. Benitez has had to put up with a lot of (excuse my French) shit from our owners and backroom, but it finally looks like his enthusiasm to guide our club in the right direction has won over. And so it should. Oliver Kay of The Times writes this morning:
In reality, BenÃtez might not be quite so convinced about the owners, particularly Gillett, who was behind an attempt to replace him with JÃ¼rgen Klinsmann as tension escalated behind the scenes at Anfield in the autumn of 2007. Gillett was initially opposed to some of the demands that BenÃtez was making in terms of his future role, but Randy Lerner, the Aston Villa owner, assured him that Martin O’Neill enjoys a similar level of control at the Midlands club.
If the power battle at Anfield must have a winner, then surely it will be Benitez now. He has got his wish in seeing the back of chief executive Rick Parry this season, and compromised on having a bigger say in operations at the club including transfers and the youth system. Although Tom Hicks and George Gillett won’t be giving him full control, he’s certainly happy enough with what he’s been promised. Ian Herbert of The Independent agrees:
The balance of power has clearly swung towards him and away from the chief executive’s office ‘“ where incumbent Rick Parry’s departure was announced last month. The exit of Parry may have helped secure 48-year-old Benitez’s signature on a deal worth over Â£4m a year which should keep him at Anfield until June 2014 and extend his career at the club to a decade, should he see it out.
Cynics would say that Benitez has had his chance and should have had more success by now ‘“ so a new contract is a step backwards for Liverpool. But let’s look at how football works thesedays. I’m going to put this theory out there ‘“ the three most successful clubs in the Premier League right now are Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton. Okay, okay, wait, I shall explain my choices.
Manchester United of course of their dominance of the Premier League since it was formed in 1992. I don’t think anyone can argue with that. Arsenal because of their consistency in lying in the top few of the table, winning three Premier League titles. Although they’re in a bit of a trophy drought at the moment, they still look set to qualify for next season’s Champions League, and are indeed in the quarter finals of this year’s campaign. I’ve left Chelsea out because of Roman’s roubles. And finally, the more controversial one ‘“ Everton. They are successful for what they are ‘“ a smaller club with a smaller stadium. And where they used to toy with relegation every season, they now regularly challenge for the league’s UEFA Cup spots. It’s on a different scale to what we’re after, but it’s still success.
The thing these three clubs have in common is that they all have long-term managers. Alex Ferguson has been at United since 1986, Arsene Wenger at Arsenal since 1996, and David Moyes at Everton since 2002. Having a manager at your club can breed long term success. Perhaps sometimes they will face stumbling blocks and have to go backwards to go forwards, but when a manager has the time and power to build something special, they can build something successful. More club’s should follow suit, realise that success doesn’t come instantly, it must be built carefully.
Alex Ferguson didn’t win his first tile at Old Trafford until 7 years into his job. He didn’t win his first European Cup until 13 years into the job. Benitez has already won the European Cup, taken us to two European Cup finals, and is taking us close ‘“ if not all the way ‘“ this season. It looks as if Benitez’s success building is working much faster than his Scottish counterpart over in Salford. And that is why this contract is so vitally important to the imminent future of our football club.