THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

23 March ~ The point that most parents dread in the development of a teenager is not the day they come home clutching extra-strength cigarettes, vials of crack cocaine, or a moping, mute and jobless boyfriend five years their senior. It's the day they come home with sarcasm. That first intensive phase when they discover that it's an all-purpose response to queries of every nature can be far more trying than an addiction to shoplifting, truancy and Vodka Shotz. If you're not a parent and are finding it hard to relate, just take a look at future ex-manager of Liverpool Rafa Benítez, who seems to have been struck by a chronically delayed adolescence.

His post-game press conference blaming Alex Ferguson's Legendary Mind Games (soon to be manufactured in a Premier League-Mattel joint venture) for forcing Howard Webb to give Manchester United easy penalties seems to have been a petulant affair, dotted with sardonic digs at Ferguson's apparent attempts every Friday to influence match officials, and offering the view that the bloodied head of Maxi Rodriguez was caused not by the studs of Gary Neville, but rather "a bird from the sky". It's not reported whether he stuck out his chin and mock-stroked his goatee in the manner of a 1975 schoolboy appropriating the television personality of James Hill.

Teenagers at least have the excuse of rampant hormonal change to explain all their bad decisions and pouting moodiness, and by diving into a world of sullen sarcasm they can try to cover up their insecurities at the terrifying prospect of looming adulthood. But Rafa is almost 50 years old. Does he not realise that few expect such sourness in a man of his age? Perhaps this explains why Liverpool managed to knock Lille out of the Europa League Cup thingie last week. The pre-match talk from their manager consisted of the speech: "This competition's really, really important, boys. Much better than the Champions League. I really want to win this one, really badly." He then stalked out of the changing room, slammed the door, and the lads took him at his word and went out and did the business.

Well, whatever works in a time of crisis. But it makes you review some past Benítez quotes and wonder just how sincere he was. For example, after the Lille game he said: "It was a difficult game because they are a good team, but the atmosphere was fantastic and everybody is happy now." Yeah, right. It was just like beating Milan (on penalties) all over again. With a happy dressing room at Anfield thrown in too. And what about this one when he signed Alberto Aquilani last summer? "Alberto is a very good player and I'm delighted we've reached agreement with Roma for his transfer. Alberto has a winning mentality and great experience in both Serie A and the Champions League." Sure thing, Rafa. Bet your suit feels soaked from its post-title dunking in the team bath already, eh?

My favourite quote from another Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, goes: "If you've got no sense of humour, you might as well be dead." Being sarky's fine if you can pull it off with a measure of wit and a have a knack for self-deprecation. Benítez sounds instead like a bitter man firing acerbic asides at random targets in a bid to distract attention from his dying reign and its defective squad. Personally, I couldn't care less whether he stays or goes. But if it's the latter, he could try exiting with a shard of dignity before we completely forget his finest hour, that win (on penalties) against Milan, where his half-time tactical changes were the springboard to one of the greatest comebacks in European Cup history. And this time, there's no sarcasm intended. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (14)
Comment by t.j.vickerman 2010-03-23 11:06:22

Thanks Ian. That article was just perfect. I'm not going to say anything else about it. But it was absolutely perfect.

Comment by ian.64 2010-03-23 11:09:05

What is continually astounding is the latitude the sports media give managers like Benitez to say what they want and act how they want without challenging any of the bullshit that is thrown at them. Whether it's because the press act on the principle that they might as well verbally hoist themselves on their own petard or they really do take such crap very seriously, a manager could tell them to go home, shoot the kids and take an axe to the wife and they wouldn't get any comeback. Ideally, a hack should tell Benitez to get stuffed in return without fear of being excised from the press room.

It's astonishing how the bigger the club, the more a manager has the license to act like a child, behave weirdly, come on like a gangster boss or inhabit a world all their own that contravenes any common sense or reality. The answer is for someone to have balls enough to tell them they're talking, well....balls.

Comment by G.Man 2010-03-23 11:35:16

That first paragraph was brilliant, and the rest of it was no let-down.

Rafael Benitez is a very strange man indeed.

Comment by green_rhino 2010-03-23 13:00:18

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, my parents used to tell me after a hormone induced bout... I was proud of it then - maybe Rafa thinks that too?
Anywya, I'd like Rafa to stay on at Liverpool as he exactly what everyone else needs. And that's not sarky either!!

Comment by albiedog 2010-03-23 14:58:16

Heard in the school playground every day

oooh He's spent 260 million in 5 years oooh

ooooh look at the way Keane has lit up the SPL, he should never have sold him oooooooooooooooo

ooooh did you see how lucky he was to win the champions league because he picked the wrong team ooooh

Ooooh why doesn't he celebrate goals oooh?

Ooooh look at him writing all those notes?

Ooooh isn't he brilliant in Europe? Oooooh fancy being knocked out the Champions League

Ooooh, Alonso was the key to beating manu 1-4 last season.

oooh the body language on gerrard shows he doesnt want to be there

Ooohhh he doesn't associate with the other managers in the league.

Oooh that zonal marking?

Oooh going into the season with one striker?

Oooh why did they get rid of Alonso?

Ooooh fancy letting Arbeloa go

Ooooh they werent really a 2-man team, it was all Alonso wasnt it?

Oooh I cant remember it being a 2-man team with Carragher in it, can you?

Ooooh how bad is Lucas?

Ooooh his only 2 trophies were won on penalties and they were lucky both times

OOOH we dont give a shit about who we beat to get there, except Chelsea of course who were cheated

Ooooh didnt he treat Robbie Keane badly?

Ooooh Steven Gerrard looks so disheartened, and can you blame him?

Ooooh he keeps picking Lucas and Insua and Kuyt - why doesnt he change the team and rotate a bit like Sir Alex?

Ooooh fancy not playing Babel? Fancy paying £11m for Babel

Ooooh fancy buying Aquilani, he's not as good as Alonso? Ooooh but he should give him more games even though we're saying he's crap.

Ooooh fancy playing Carragher at right back?

Ooooh they're so negative?

Oooh isn't that Ngog a diver? Fancy a player diving, oooh

Ooooh look at they way the destroyed Real Madrid and Man Utd - I hear "the shackles" came off, and then look what they did to Portsmouth, he let "shackles off again" Ooooh!!!

Oooh Insua's the worst ever play to play for Argentina, and if Lucas is Brazilian I'll eat my hat?

Ooooh why did he buy Glen Johnson - he can't defend?

Oooh why did he sell Crouch and Bellamy?

Oooh why has he got such a poor squad? He's signed so many players?

Ooooh I dont like the like of that Maxi Rodriguez

Ooooh why did he have to take full control of transfers, and why's the Academy not producing any more sulky cunts like Gerrard?

Ooooh he doesn't play golf and comfort all the players

Oooh he's terrible at man-management

Ooooh he's so difficult in interviews

oooh he so stubborn

Oooh he "cracked up" and blew the league last season. Ooooh weren't they negative?

Oooooh fancy guaranteeing 4th place

Original article - hackneyed misrepresentation to sit alongside all the above misrepresentation. Though of course par for the course. the man has won two la ligas, One EufA cup, One Champions League, one FA Cup


BUNCH OF ARL WOMEN - IGNORANT ONES to boot

Comment by Jongudmund 2010-03-23 16:24:57

That's a fantastic response Albiedog. I can't believe anyone, even a WSC writer, would dare suggest that Liverpool aren't the absolutely greatest club in the world with the world's bestest manager at the helm. This madness must stop!!

Comment by sponge 2010-03-23 16:35:02

Never fails to amaze me how certain people manage to see things so differently. Here we have someone writing that Rafa doesn't get called on his "crap" often enough. Yet there's really not another manager in the country that has to put up with so much utter nonsense and false truth's spoken about him and his side.

But then, i really shouldn't be surprised either as this is the same media that fell in love and continue to dote over Mourinho.....A professional bullshitter. But then he is a bit dreamy isn't he?

Comment by Lincoln 2010-03-23 16:47:49

Have to agree with the post from Albiedog and Sponge. I have been a loather of Liverpool in my time but find myself cheering on every Liverpool win in the hope they get that 4th spot. The only reason for this is to turn off the complete drivel that comes after each defeat from pundits and journalists. Any small deficiency is picked over.
My favourite of all the things they use as a stick to beat Rafa is that he won the cup with a team that wasn't his. As if Houllier had a real eye for the very best players. As if anyone could have won the cup with Josemi, Djimi Traore, Biscan, Smicer, Kwell, Cisse etc. I am assuming that as that team sadly split following the predicted European cup win, for which Rafa was just a jumped up administrator for, all these players have been winning major trophies for fun and have been busy upsetting other players by their hogging of the FIFA player of the year and Ballon d'or.

Comment by albiedog 2010-03-23 17:53:04

Jongudmund
Are you Big Sam in disguise?

Seriously it's the regurgitating of spurious bile that is an insult to anyone - let alone any self respecting sports/footy fan - with a modicum of a brain.

Just a pretty poor show for a writer for a recognized football media outlet such as this one felt sufficiently indignant to pillory what even my 4 year old grandson can tell was a pretty lamentable attempt at irony from a person who even after 5 years or so here has yet to even begin to master our lingo. Pathetic piece if truth be known.

Comment by Uncle Ethan 2010-03-24 01:00:36

Is that post attempting to insult people by calling them women? How very seventies. I can almost picture the tartan trimmed flared jeans and the scarf knotted aorund the wrist.

Anyway, what are ARL women? Australian Rugby League? Avidly Rabid Liverpudlian? Anorexic Rafa Loving?

Comment by albiedog 2010-03-24 08:14:02

Now that is what I call funny.

Nice one Ethan lad.

Comment by Jongudmund 2010-03-25 11:40:14

Your wit has pierced my heart Albiedog. Comparing me to 'Big Sam' was the mot juste. I'm not sure when I will fully recover.

To make up for it I re-read the article to look for spurious bile. Couldn't find it. Again I am awed by your intellect for you obviously identified some militantly aggressive commentary that somehow passed me by. Well done.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-03-26 09:56:34

Interesting, a post talking about wit and using sarcasm to make the point. Ouch, just cut my finger...

Comment by albiedog 2010-03-27 10:20:53

Jongudmund

To clarify. The essence of my point is simply that the media attacks on Rafa Benitez have become a parody of themselves.

In "target" terms relentless media distortions has deningrated the man to the status of a footballing barrel of fish. In predictable hackneyed fashion the author of the original piece chose to scrape that barrel with yet another tedious piece of hostile dismantling - namely the poverty of Rafa's sarcastic skill in a language with which the man has manifestly never been comfortable. Benitez is fluent in Spanish [of course] and Italian but struggles to get by in French and English. I'd love to see the author's efforts at Spanish irony.

I repeat. The manager who is this easy target has won two la Ligas to leave Real and barca gasping. Plus a Eufa cup. Plus a Champions league and FA Cup with Liverpool. Anyone ridiculing such a capable manager with a track record that any other manager other than Fergie, Ancilotti and Mourinho would crave is by definition ridiculous.

That is not to deny the justification for criticism. But the craving to regurgitate misrepresentations and distortions as the tools to denigrate is beneath contempt. As is the reluctance for those doing it to acquaint themselves qwith the true facts.

Related articles

Graeme Souness – Football: my life, my passion
by Graeme SounessHeadline, £9.99Reviewed by Peter BrooksbankFrom WSC 378, September 2018Buy the book To football supporters of a certain...
Klopp: Bring the noise by Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey Press, £12.99Reviewed by Huw RichardsFrom WSC 375, April 2018Buy the book Some managers seem destined for certain clubs....