Rafa Benitez, will have woken up this morning worried about his job but more importantly worried about what he’s going to do come January. With the Champion’s League cash flow over for this season he is facing a transfer window in which he will be under pressure to make money, not buy a new injury free striker as he may have hoped. In fact, Liverpool have earned very little from the group stages itself. Money is distributed by UEFA according to results and the late concession of goals against Lyon could have cost the club over €300,000 each time*! While Steven Gerrard is keen to encourage both fans and players that Liverpool will now win the Europa League, financially it is not even a second prize. In 2007 when Liverpool lost the Champion’s League final to AC Milan they came away with a bonus of €4 million. Sevilla FC won €2.5 million for winning the UEFA Cup the same year. That competition may have a new name but its financial reward is considerably lower than the Champion’s League.
So a club which is trying to find a buyer is effectively in financial crisis. However, the problem at Liverpool is not just financial. Any football fan will tell you that luck always has a part to play and it would seem that the players of Merseyside (both Everton and Liverpool) have been hanging horse shoes upside down and walking under ladders. Injuries have been coming thick and fast and well there is no point even talking about Darren Bent and the infamous beach ball. A run of bad luck breeds a sense of disheartenment. Maybe they were lucky to equalise in the seventieth minute against Manchester City or Birmingham but a draw is not the result any of the team would have hoped for at the start. Blaming bad luck may be a bit dubious but the lack of confidence which it has produced amongst the players has become a tangible problem.
Then there is the manager. But more importantly the manager’s crazy decisions. Taking Benayoun off when he is the best player on the pitch. Playing Torres in a crucial game when he is far from fit enough and thus risking a more serious and prolonged injury. Acting as if a draw against Manchester City was a positive result. Benitez has been notorious for his strange decisions, his inability to stick with a winning team but right now there is clearly a spark missing. Liverpool need a Harry Redknapp, someone who can take a team from the relegation zone and have them beating teams 9-1 less than a year later. Has he delivered anything? Fernando Torres? The Champion’s League? The first was an obvious target. The team that won the Champions League was without doubt the team of Gerard Houllier. There have certainly been good days and he has achieved very positive results but the lack of trophies is without doubt hanging over his head.
Which brings us to perhaps the biggest problem of all. The Liverpool Football Club which has been playing in the Premiership since 1992 is effectively the younger brother of the club which preceded it. It has had to live up to the achievements of the beloved son, eighteen league victories, four European cups. The younger son wins a lot of badges for effort, is runner up very often, is leading for two thirds of a race and then loses in the last mile. When he does achieve something, it is always compared to the achievements of his elder brother, a reminder that he has more to do and to achieve. The teams of old haunt the Liverpool team of today when in fact it should encourage it. Nobody wants to become Notts Forest, the forgotten team who actually won the European Cup – twice.
There are certainly other problems and this is just the tip of the iceberg but it would seem that for another year Liverpool supporters will continue what has become their mantra – maybe next year.
*These figures are not exact. They were correct when I wrote my dissertation in 2007. We can assume they are similar this season.