Astonishingly, it seems that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez could be on the verge of leaving the club. Benitez reacted petulantly last week when the club's American co-owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, postponed any decisions about expenditure in the January transfer window. It appears that Gillett and Hicks's tolerance threshold for insubordination is rather low, for they are now seeking to rid themselves of Benitez by the end of the season. Either that, or they are seeking to control Benitez with dismissal threats, which doesn't sound like a rosy way to proceed either.
Now, I've never been an unconditional fan of Benitez. I think he's an excellent manager for the European game, but he's never really sussed out how to win the Premiership. Even in his first season with Liverpool, Benitez made a succession of slightly odd team selections and tactical decisions, which restricted the team to only 5th place at season's end.
Benitez's greatest triumph, of course, was taking Liverpool to victory in the Champions' League that same year. But even there, in the final, he made an astonishing mis-judgement in selecting Harry Kewell to start the game, and by leaving Dietmar Hamann out of the team until the second half, AC Milan rampaged to a three-goal lead. Liverpool's come-back was remarkable, but hugely fortunate, and was driven more by Gerrard, Carragher and Hamann, than by Benitez.
Benitez's erratic decision-making has continued into a fourth season with Liverpool, and a stunningly inexplicable 'rotation policy' has again restricted the team to its current 5th-place in the Premiership table.
But should Benitez go? On balance, I don't think so. Whilst he's an odd fellow, he's also clearly got something about him as a manager, and I don't know who could replace him at the moment and be more effective. Nevertheless, I've felt for some time that Liverpool won't win the Premiership under Benitez, and it seems that I will be proven correct even earlier than I imagined...