So Arsenal couldn’t do themselves, and indirectly us, a favour the other night by taking three points from Spurs. No doubt they will be gutted given the effect this has had on their title challenge. Yet another failure of style over substance although Arsene Wenger, as he usually does when we or indeed anyone beats them apart from Barcelona, will claim some form mythical moral footballing victory. Either that or blame the referee!
Anyway Spurs’ win surely means that our fourth place chances are reduced from a sickly, spluttering, flickering flame to a barely visible piece of ember or should that be pile of volcanic ash? May be someone at Anfield will prove to be a fan of The Prodigy (work it out). At least, with the exception of Chelsea, we are now the only other club in so called top four with something to play for!
Elsewhere and with the bell tolling, on our domestic season at least, thoughts turn to the future and more specifically that of Rafa. Reports are that Juventus have rekindled their interest but have only given Rafa a week or so to decide if he wants to fall for “the lure of lira” (copyright Monty Python) and manage them. Clearly with all the uncertainty about takeovers and finances etc, not to mention the outcome of our season, this is a preposterous demand. Surely the Italians should have the courtesy to wait until the season is ended? Despite rumours apparently Rafa’s people haven’t even met Juve so how can they give him such a deadline? It doesn’t make sense and I suspect Rafa’s best off out of it if this is an indication of how the club goes about things.
The fact that this story has gone public also suggests that this is fabrication? Perhaps Juventus, in trying to get Rafa to commit in this way, are trying to warn off the attentions of Real Madrid who will also be looking for a new boss in the summer? Rafa with all this connections (he was a player, youth and reserve-team coach and assistant manager, but not at the same time obviously!) would be the obvious candidate.
I personally believe that one day, some day Rafa will manage Real Madrid. He will want to go there and they, it seems, want him, in a Spanish newspaper poll Rafa was the preferred choice amongst its readers. The question is when will he decide go? At the moment it is a minefield and all sorts of theories have been put forward. Key, presumably, is whether our ownership issue is solved and when, or if, it is funds are available to rebuild the team. Only yesterday Rafa’s agent said.
“The intention of Benítez is to fulfill the contract that he has with Liverpool until 2014 but it’s true that the club is subject to fluctuations in their financial situation. They could influence the future of the club and therefore Benítez as well.”
As it stands Rafa is sitting pretty. If he gets sacked he gets a nice compensation settlement. If his agent’s quote becomes a reality and he decides to go he will smooth his exit by sitting lack of investment and lack of funds. If the investment happens he has his war chest topped up and he can carry on refining the team and building on the work he has done. If the new broom does sweep clean again he gets a nice compensation package.
Real Madrid want him however, should that fall through it will not be lost on other European clubs that he has managed Liverpool to two Champions League finals, wining one, a semi final a quarter finals and one group stage. Even when we haven’t qualified we are the Europa League semi finals and have a good chance of wining it – another nice, and above all noticeable, notch on Rafa’s CV?
Ultimately the fans have the power to decide Rafa’s fate. He is only in his job because of the goodwill that exists towards him. This is partly because of Istanbul, partly because of what he’s done since, if not this season, and partly because the bulk of any disaffection among the fans has been concentrated on Hicks and Gillett where, rightly or wrongly, Rafa is seen as a victim of their incompetence.
The question remains how much goodwill will remain if the ownership issue is sorted and Rafa gets the funds he requires? If it happens and Rafa is still at the helm come August opening day he, after his season, might find himself with less leeway. He will have to hit the ground running? Will he be up for the challenge or see this summer as the ideal opportunity cut and run and take up what many see as his “reserved” seat at the Bernabeu?
Interesting times await?