Back in 2013 when Liverpool were in desperate need of some help, there was one man who again, was there to be relied upon. The squad was lacking majorly – and like today, couldn’t attract those readymade world-class players. Thankfully, this January the Reds somehow managed to secure the arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
In the competitive January market, there’s only so much you can do – the Reds had learnt that from their splash of £35million on Andy Carroll. So effectively, if you don’t have a scout like Steve Walsh who left Leicester for Everton this season, expect to open up the purse.
Liverpool, however, did have someone who could give them that invaluable information. Was it an agent? Nope. It was none other than Rafael Benitez. When the Spanish manager had left Inter Milan, he called the Liverpool scouting department to inform them of the talents of a young Brazilian named Philippe Coutinho.
But it was only when Rafa said he’s going to be world-class. When Rafa says a thing about a player like this, you listen.
Damien Comolli (Former Liverpool Director of Football Strategy)
Damien Comolli may have had one of the best job titles ever, but not only that, he was right about Rafa. After signing a new five-year big money deal, we can only accept that Benitez was right. He was well aware how good Coutinho could be – and without getting into the pedantic debate of is Coutinho world-class?! – he’s still only 24 and has shown on multiple occasions that he has the potential to reach that level – if he’s not already there.
Comolli: “We didn’t even know Coutinho was that good – it was difficult to watch him play because he was never playing at Inter.”
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) January 30, 2017
It seems like only Rafa knew the secret about the Brazilian maestro. A display of ultimate loyalty, but that wasn’t the only thing he did. January also included the signing of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea to Liverpool, at a bargain price of £12million. The forward has been great for Liverpool, regardless of his current injury problems – fans know only too well of reading Twitter and seeing that their star striker was once again injured, usually 24 hours after returning. The acquiring of both these players were Benitez inspired – and fans will be forever grateful.
Huge goal in the comeback that night! Another massive goal from Coutinho on the biggest of stages pic.twitter.com/zMlSGC0yk9
— Dan (@Jondanagan) January 15, 2017
Coutinho is a biggame player, he’s capable of producing against the biggest teams. He can also raise the performance of his teammates, defenders must focus on him, thus giving space for other players. He’s already contributed five goals and five assists in the Premier League in just 14 starts, this season – the sort of consistency Anfield fans have been longing for.
It would have been so different had Benitez not been at Inter Milan. The best thing about it all is that he didn’t have to tell Liverpool about this player – he could have waited until he got another job and signed him there. True class from the Spaniard – Newcastle are in the right hands. Real Madrid weren’t even struggling when they sacked Rafa. How many managers will go from Los Galacticos to the Magpies, and stick around following relegation? Not many. Too many managers play it safe in this era – more need to be like Rafa. Challenge yourselves.
If Mike Ashley wants to do something right at Newcastle, he’ll do everything he can to keep Rafa Benitez. He’s messed things up before, so hopefully he doesn’t again. But on the chance he does, Liverpool can look forward to signing the next Alan Shearer from the Under 23s.
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