No. 44 – The Day Rafael Benitez arrived
After much speculation, Rafael Benitez was officially announced as the new football manager of Liverpool Football Club on 16 June 2004. He replaced Gerrard Houllier and was given a five year contract. 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.
Benitez told of his delight at his first Liverpool press conference ‘œWe know Liverpool are one of the most important clubs in the world. I know the history of Liverpool Football Club. It is big, wonderful. I am young, I want to win a lot of matches and I want to win in the right way. I want the supporters to be proud of the team, of the manager, of the players, of the club. It is a dream to come to one of the best leagues in world, one of the best teams.”
Benitez had written his name into Anfield folklore within his first 12 months at the helm. He masterminded the incredible journey which saw the club lift their fifth European Cup on May 25th 2005, in Istanbul.Â Three months later saw Liverpool secure the UEFA Super Cup.
The following year saw him lead Liverpool to victory over West Ham in the FA Cup final in 2006. Rafa had lead his new Reds to two major trophies in his first two seasons – an achievement unmatched by any of his predecessors.
Rafa reaffirmed his commitment to Liverpool by signing a new four-year deal in June 2006 despite widely publicised interest from abroad.The 2006-07 season saw Benitez guide the Reds to third place in the Premiership and the Champions League Final in Athens against AC Milan for the second time in three seasons.
Despite the lack of silverware during the 2007/08 season, the main talking points were off the pitch with Benitez and the club’s new American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, however after leading the Reds to a much more concerted title challenge in 2008/09, Benitez signed a new five year contract on March 18, 2009 with the Reds after months of uncertainty, keeping him at Anfield until 2014.
Rafa Benitez’s Reds also recently came out as the number one team in European competition based on Uefa’s co-efficient rankings system, which takes results over the past five years into account.