Next Liverpool Manager Betting: The return of Benitez?
In football, it’s incredible how quickly things change. In April, Brendan Rodgers was seemingly on the brink of winning the Premier League title and widely considered to have worked miracles at Liverpool – eight months later, and he finds himself second-favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked.
Only Nigel Pearson of Leicester City – bottom of the league, no victories in ten – is considered more likely to depart next. That sums up what a sorry situation Rodgers finds himself in, despite the fact Liverpool remain only six points away from fourth. With Liverpool’s next two matches against Manchester United and Arsenal, however, that situation could worsen considerably by Christmas.
Replacing Rodgers, should it come to that, would be a difficult task. Assessing the list of supposed replacements is interesting – because the common theme amongst the favourites is the fact they’re all currently employed elsewhere.
The top four are supposedly Jurgen Klopp of Dortmund, Rafael Benitez of Napoli, Frank De Boer of Ajax and Laurent Blanc of PSG. All are midway through important campaigns for major sides, with the latter two battling for the title. It would be unlikely for any to leave midway through the campaign, even if they’re in different situations – Klopp finds his Dortmund side in the bottom half of the Bundesliga.
However, all four could become available at some point in 2015. Klopp is ranked as the favourite for the Liverpool job, but seems the least likely to depart within the next year – despite Dortmund’s struggles. He’s continually insisted he’s at Dortmund for the long haul, there is little sign of the board disagreeing with this forecast, and besides, he’s the toast of Europe. Should he leave Dortmund, he’d want to jump ship to a Champions League side, and at this point Liverpool seem unlikely to be in that competition next year. He’ll probably have better options.
De Boer would love to move to the Premier League following four years of success at Ajax, although Arsenal has always seemed the perfect fit for him. Ajax’s approach to football and focus upon youth tallies with the vision of Arsene Wenger, who once attempted to sign De Boer as a player. Considering Ajax’s current assistant manager is Dennis Bergkamp, things seem to fall into place nicely. That move, of course, is dependent upon Wenger’s future.
Blanc is an interesting case. He wasn’t PSG’s first-choice as manager – or anything close to it – and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him moved in favour of a bigger name, especially if Blanc doesn’t win the league title, or fails to progress to the European Cup semi-finals. But would Liverpool want him? Blanc’s track record is decent – he won the league with Bordeaux – but with France and PSG he’s been much less convincing, particularly as a tactician. His history as a Manchester United player wouldn’t be a major problem, but it’s not particularly helpful.
Then there’s Rafael Benitez, who would surely jump at a return to Merseyside, where he retains close links. He didn’t enjoy his experience at Chelsea and has never looked entirely at home with Napoli, and the opportunity to return to a club where he’d be welcomed with open arms would be too good to refuse. Opinion amongst supporters was split at the time of his departure, although any doubters will surely now view his six-year spell more favourably after the relative lack of success since. It would be a significant outlay for Liverpool’s board, however, to pay off Rodgers’ contract, get Benitez out of his Napoli contract, and then tie the Spaniard to a Liverpool deal. At this stage, it’s difficult to see them taking that plunge.
Other names on the list seem entirely unlikely. Ronald Koeman, Andre Villas-Boas and Michael Laudrup are exciting names, but none of their Premier League achievements are more impressive than Rodgers’. Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher would be popular appointments in the future but are unprepared at this stage, while Guus Hiddink hasn’t managed a major club side on a permanent basis since Real Madrid in 1999.
Realistically, it would be harsh to dismiss Rodgers at this stage, and if Liverpool want a choice of candidates, they’d be best waiting until next summer when a range of good managers could be available.
But if the Liverpol board decide a more immediate change is needed, it might boil down to a simple question of new versus old: Rodgers against Benitez. Rodgers won’t be dismissed unless Liverpool have a reasonable replacement lined up, and it’s tough to see who that replacement will be if it’s not Benitez. As Roy Hodgson learned four years ago – albeit in very different circumstances – the option of bringing back an Anfield hero is often too good to refuse.
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December 11th, 2014 by Michael Cox