Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Benitez's best buys (and Rafa's rejects)

THE GOOD
Xabi Alonso
£10.5m (Real Sociedad, August 2004)
Alonso has become the poster-boy of Liverpool's poor start to the season. Offered for sale the season before last, the team's heartbeat last season ? and sold to Real Madrid (at a handsome profit) this summer. His passing has been badly missed ? a great buy, but the failure to replace him has been disastrous, so far.
THE GOOD Xabi Alonso £10.5m (Real Sociedad, August 2004) Alonso has become the poster-boy of Liverpool's poor start to the season. Offered for sale the season before last, the team's heartbeat last season ? and sold to Real Madrid (at a handsome profit) this summer. His passing has been badly missed ? a great buy, but the failure to replace him has been disastrous, so far.
THE GOOD Pepe Reina £6m (Villarreal, June 2005) Reina may not be first choice for Spain, but he is reliable, consistent and one of Europe's top goalkeepers.
THE GOOD Dirk Kuyt £9m (Feyenoord, August 2006) The strange thing about Kuyt is his transformation from free-scoring forward in the Dutch league to hard-grafting midfield workhorse. His commitment can't be faulted, however, and he remains a favourite amongst the fans.
THE GOOD Fernando Torres £20m (Atletico Madrid, July 2007) That £20m now seems cheap for one of the best forwards in Europe. If only his fitness were a mite more reliable.
THE GOOD Glen Johnson £18m (Portsmouth, June 2009) They didn't need a right-back and it remains an awful lot of money to pay for one, but, going forward at least, Johnson has given energy and dynamism to Liverpool's right side (if not defensive solidity).
THE BAD Jermaine Pennant £6.7m (Birmingham, June 2007) Pennant is undoubtedly talented but inconsistent and with a wayward reputation. A worthwhile gamble, perhaps, but the last 6 months of his contract were on loan at Portsmouth and he was let go on a free transfer. Now at Real Zaragoza.
THE BAD Lucas Leiva £6m (Gremio, June 2007) As Alonso's departure is debated, Luca Leiva, the Brazilian midfielder, is often used as exhibit A for the prosecution. Clearly not suited to the task of running a top Premier League midfield. But Benitez persists with him.
THE BAD Ryan Babel £11.5m (Ajax, July 2007) The Dutch media have him down as the new Thierry Henry. Regular watchers have him down as an expensive flop who has never consistently impressed. And when Torres was ruled out of the game this week against Lyon, it was David Ngog who was chosen. An indictment, indeed...
THE BAD Robbie Keane £19m (Tottenham, July 2008) The suspicion persists that Keane was bought for, rather than by, Benitez. A talented player who didn't have a role at Liverpool, and his disastrous 6 months ended with a return to Tottenham and left Benitez a forward short (and he still is).
THE BAD Alberto Aquilani £20m (Roma, August 2009) He may yet be the saviour of Liverpool's season, but where is he when they need him? Injured when he arrived, and injured still, £20m is a lot to gamble on a player who has only played 73 times in three seasons.

One of the enduring criticisms of Rafa Benitez's management is that while his first choice team is capable enough, his squad is too thin – hence the fear that without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, the team has little chance.

So as Benitez reputedly enters last chance saloon, what were his best and worst transfer deals?

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