After a season in which Liverpool narrowly missed out on the English Premier League title, it seems astonishing that the Reds, following their 2-1 loss to Manchester United on Sunday, are all but finished in the race for the final Champions League spot.
The final whistle had barely blown on Liverpool's desperately bad 3-0 defeat at Manchester City on Aug. 23 when the message flashed up. A challenge was thrown down, a point made. Rafael Benítez had finally gone; those who wanted to see the back of him had got what they wanted and Roy Hodgson had taken over. But there was no immediate sign of improvement. In fact, Liverpool was even worse.
NEW YORK -- By the time Rafael Benitez's six-year tenure as manager at Liverpool drew to a close this summer, it was clear to longtime observers that he was a changed man from the once quietly confident Spaniard who had first walked through the doors at Anfield. Appearing visibly stressed at times, the constant political infighting with the club's board and the continuous criticism from sections of the English media seemed to have finally taken its toll. When he succeeded Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan in June, one wondered if he would have been best served taking a year off and recharging instead.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez is not a happy man. In the past few seasons, he's had his own way in the transfer market, happily signing 3-4 big-name players each summer, spending an average of $70 million across the last four.
A year ago in this space, we dropped the hammer on Liverpool, which had inexplicably defied the odds and advanced to its second Champions League final in three years. But seeing as the Reds lost out to AC Milan, managed only another fourth-place finish in the English Premier League and finished the season without a single trophy, it was a tough call to leave them on the Rankings. Not even another Rafa Benítez miracle could save them.