Benítez’s Liverpool vision was impeded by neglectful owners

By Michael Owen

rafael benitez

Football management is often compared to a number of other professions. In Rafael Benítez’s case, an architect is the suitable equivalent.

When Benítez first arrived at Anfield, Liverpool Football Club was a glorious old building in need of desperate repair and the Spaniard was the man charged with doing so.

For three years he slowly worked away, fixing the club bit by bit. Sometimes things did not go to plan, but with a European Cup, FA Cup, Super Cup, Community Shield and another Champions League final accomplished in those three years it was clear Liverpool were going in the right direction.

But Benítez hit a stumbling block after it became clear that David Moores, Liverpool’s owner at the time, did not have the financial power to take the club to where it needed to be.

So in came Tom Hicks and George Gillett to try and take the club to the pinnacle. They promised much but ultimately did not deliver.

The American pair represented neglectful owners, slowly niggling away at the club and gradually destroying everything that Benítez had worked so hard to restore.

The Spaniard had a grand vision for the club but it appeared the Americans were only concerned with the short-term financial benefit of ownership. Benítez’s calls for help were ignored.

One revelation that emerged after Benítez left Liverpool was that the former Valencia coach wanted to build a 5000-seat stand at the academy to draw more attention to a youth set-up that had been unfortunately neglected under Gerard Houlier.

But the request was ignored and Benítez’s dream of a youth system on the scale of Real Madrid’s was shattered before it had even got off the ground.

One fan group who held a private meeting with the Liverpool boss in 2008 spoke of a warm-hearted, friendly man who only cared about the future of their club. A man who had the simple aim of ensuring the club was all pulling in the same direction—a far cry from the unapproachable image the media, and certain members of the board, had given him.

Hicks, Gillett and the want-it-yesterday mentality of modern-day football ruined any chance of his vision for the club coming to fruition.

After a poor season Benítez said his final goodbye to Anfield and as a parting gift donated £96,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group. It was a touching show of class that underlined the fact that Benítez—a man who had no previous connection with England—simply got Liverpool Football Club, the City of Liverpool and its people.

Bill Shankly came to Liverpool with a grand vision of turning the team into the best in the world. In a very similar way Benítez arrived with a vision to restore it.

The great Scotsman has a statue outside Anfield that bears the words: “he made the people happy”. And the same can surely be said of Rafael Benítez.

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