Tim Sherwood is gone. RIP Tim Sherwood. In this edition of our manager shortlist series, I take a look at Rafa Benitez.
Career record: 447-212-220 (50.85%)
Accomplishments: So let's talk about some fuchts. Benitez has an impressive trophy haul, including 2 league titles and the UEFA Cup with Valencia, a European Cup (and another Champions League final appearance to go with it) and the FA Cup with Liverpool, a Club World Cup with Inter, another UEFA Cup with Chelsea, and, most recently, a Coppa Italia with Napoli.
Before he was a football manager: Rafa spent most of his playing career bouncing around the Spanish Segunda, mostly with Real Madrid's developmental team, Castilla. Presumedly from the customer feedback he's received from the terraces of England, he was also an excellent waiter at some point. This, however, does not help us all that much. Although I suppose it's nice to know that the team will always know where to get some good sangria.
Tactical analysis: I'll quote Kevin below from our 2012 shortlist below, as I don't believe much has changed during his time at Chelsea and Napoli, but allow me to give you the TL:DR version first: what if we had a defense-oriented coach like AVB, but who actually knew what they were doing and also what red to pair with that steak.
Benitez almost always favored a 4-2-3-1 formation while at Liverpool, though he regularly used a 4-4-2 both at Liverpool and Valencia depending on the situation and the personnel available to him. He regularly played two of Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy together at Liverpool while Steven Gerrard played as the more attacking central midfielder in a 4-4-2, but he gradually shifted away from that with the acquisitions of Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano.
Most would categorize Benitez's tactics as slightly conservative and defensive for the talent that he was working with at Liverpool. It was not uncommon for him to play for a draw in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages or against the other old 'Big Four' teams. However, a team with Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres fit and in form unsurprisingly produced some pretty beautiful stuff at times.
While Benitez certainly isn't married to a system, he got a reputation at the end of his reign at Anfield for being very stubborn and unwilling to move away from personnel that obviously wasn't working well together.
This guy sucks, why is he on the list? Ok, let's talk some fuchts. Not mind games, fuchts. Despite an inability to deal with the media that makes AVB look like Harry Redknapp, Rafa Benitez has an impressive track record of not just excelling at teams with fewer resources their competitors, but winning trophies. Tottenham would be foolish to overlook anyone with a track record of winning things with limited resources.
Would he come to Tottenham? Uh, maybe? The chatter among the English journalist class seems to say that he's ready to jump if we make an offer. Whether this is solidly sourced information or the English tabloid press eating its own tail is difficult to say. If we're being charitable, Tottenham are as big as Napoli. If we're being honest, they're probably bigger than us, at least for now. They're in the Champions League right now AND have Barry Glendenning on the run, two things Tottenham Hotspur cannot currently claim to be doing. Normally I'd say a top English job is more enticing than its Italian counterpart due to Italian clubs' proclivity for firing managers, but given Levy's recent track record, this job probably isn't much more secure.
So would he leave? By all indications, he looooooves England. He spent a lot of time during his years off in Liverpool. You can tell he has a lot of affection for the country. That said, he is clearly very careful about his next steps. He passed up a lot of jobs between Inter and Chelsea, presumedly because he would only be happy with a club of a certain stature. I'd say it's probably all down to how badly he wants to coach in England. Which is to say, I have no idea.
Final Thoughts: Rafa Bentiez is a talented manager who has won trophies almost everywhere he has coached. He has done so not just with limited resources, but with owners so crazy that they make Levy look like Buddha. He is also a man who thought Gareth Barry was a player talented enough to replace Xabi Alonso and somehow managed to purchase Robbie Keane for £19 million at the precise moment his career went to ground like Luis Suarez in the box. He is also prone to having meltdowns in the press that make supporters long for the measured comments of Ian Holloway. He is not the most talented of man managers either and after the mess of the past year, it might be in our best interests to have a more player-friendly manager in place to get these players back into form. He will also want his own guys in charge. And I'm not sure how excited Daniel Levy will be to make significant purchases after last summer. And I'll bet he's not wild about seeing Pepe Reina in goal either.
Ultimately, however, he is also really boring. It's not like he's Tony Pulis or anything, and I like winning, but I think I've kind of had enough defensive football over the past two years. Still, he's not the end of the world. I'd just like to see us set our sights a bit higher.