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Rafa Still Beneath Us!


Kenn

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While I?ve since accepted that tight-assed Rafa Benitez speaking beneath himself is now standard fare in any Liverpool versus Chelsea encounter of whatever shade these past few seasons, his continued singsong about Chelsea?s dollar this time around (after all that has gone on at Anfield during this transfer window), I think, borders on chronic amnesia. What more exposes a man?s lack of character or unwillingness to take responsibility than his clear inability to recognize when the boot is on the other foot?

Long before the season commenced, Jos? Mourinho took a panoramic view of the competition and stated in each case what would be their ambition for this season. With regard to Liverpool, Mourinho did not say anything different from what the Anfield players themselves were already saying (and are still saying), which is that winning the Premiership is the focus for them this time around. Yet, egged on by the drama-addicted press, Benitez is now throwing a belated fit over this!

Perhaps, Mourinho?s real sin was to add that Benitez would be without any excuse this season if they don?t win the league (since he?s spent heavily on players), or maybe the thin-skinned Spaniard isn?t comfortable being told that he now has to bring the holy grail of the Premiership title to Anfield having dared Liverpool American owners to back him for this purpose or he leaves. Or, maybe he recognizes that his Premiership record against Chelsea under Mourinho must be the worst of any Liverpool manager having lost five of six - his only win coming last January when Chelsea were unusually decimated by injury.

Whatever the real reason for Rafa?s anger, he?s now emerged from his cupboard, geared in full amour, telling whoever cares to listen that Mourinho is breaking his self-imposed restraint not to speak about other clubs. It?s a measure of the man?s intelligence that he does not know the difference between a man saying he was going to be mellower this season and talking about other teams in a dispassionate, matter-of-fact way as part of his job as manager of another team competing for the same honours. It also did not matter to Benitez that Mourinho?s statement in question preceded his declaration to be mellower.

However, the worst of Benitez?s shameless rants ahead of the game is his claim that Florent Malouda chose Chelsea over Liverpool because of money. I don?t know who amongst Rafa?s latest recruits is coming to Anfield to earn peanuts, but Malouda made clear why he chose Chelsea ahead of Liverpool. He has friends at the Bridge and Mourinho sold Chelsea to him better than Benitez could sell Liverpool. Anyone who?s watched how the Frenchman is adapting to the Premiership even this early in his career here wouldn?t be in doubt that he?s in Chelsea to fight for and win things (except you?re Benitez, of course). In any case, I do not think Malouda will be coming to Anfield to flaunt his wallet or to tell Benitez how his missus finds the London shops more chic than Liverpool?s. He?ll be coming to prove to him on the pitch why his choice of Chelsea is a more sensible one.

Benitez?s relentless obsession with money and how it controls results, the players and so on makes me wonder what Messrs Hicks and Gillett really think of him, especially as he continues to glance longingly in the direction of Abramovich with all sorts of complimentary comments. He possibly thinks everyone understands that it?s his own attempt at mind game against Mourinho (to undermine the Chelsea manager?s own role in the success of the club), but I think the American moneybags wouldn?t wait forever to hear him compliment them too for bringing back the glory days to Anfield. Indeed, maybe they?ve already started wondering if Rafa is the right man for the job since he can?t stop admiring billionaire owners of other clubs. Or is Rafa thinking the unthinkable? Is he hoping to get that call one day to take over Jos??s job? Well, it won?t happen, Rafa! You fail to win the league this season, Hicks will kick your butt and Gillett will shave off whatever remains of your pretentious legacy at Anfield. You?re a good manager, no doubt; but you just don?t have it in you to be great. Sorry, we have The Special One and we are coming!

Be afraid, be very afraid!

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I think deep down, Benitez is jealous of the Special One. I mean the man has achieved almost all the honours the club can achieve (except the CL, but we'll get it this year) and the usual story that we bought the league is utter crap and I'm growing sick of it. Real Madrid has all the money in the world, yet they barely won the league last year and have not won anything since 2003. It's clear that money is not the only thing that makes a good team, it helps it's true but you need something more and that something more is the leadership of a good manager, of a good skipper and the great team-work between all the players.

Nice post Kenn!

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Guest Brian M

I actually believe that the Jose vs Rafa match-up is less personal than historical. As in, more about Portugal's longstanding animosity towards Spain, than anything else. Of course in these overly PC times they can't come out and say that (if only). But, I think it may be at the heart of matters.

To put it in global context, you might want to put Portugal's hatred of the Spanish up there with with the Chinese or Korean hatred of the Japanese. Though like the Northern Ireland / Ireland / UK debate, it's more complicated than it first appears.

And of course this ancient Portugal v Spain issue had its flames recently stoked by this Nobel prize winning twonk:

-----------------------

Portugal and Spain will become one, says Nobel author

Giles Tremlett

Monday July 16, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

Nobel laureate Jose Saramago. Photograph: AP

Nobel laureate Jose Saramago has sparked controversy among his fellow Portuguese by suggesting that they will, one day, be swallowed up by their larger neighbour and eternal rival, Spain.

"It is inevitable that we will end up joining with Spain," the author of The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis told the newspaper Diario de Noticias in Lisbon at the weekend. Saramago, who has lived on the Spanish island of Lanzarote for the past 10 years, said a united Iberian peninsula of some 55 million people would benefit both Portugal and Spain.

"What do we see when we look at the Iberian peninsula?" he asked. "We see an undivided whole made up of different nationalities, some with their own languages, which have lived more or less in peace."

He denied that the Portuguese people, or their culture, would lose out in a union with Spain. "We would not stop speaking Portuguese or writing in our language and, with 10 million people, we could do nothing but gain from such closeness and territorial, administrative and structural integration," he said.

The 1998 Nobel prize winner, who left Portugal in the early 1990s after a row with the then conservative government over his controversial novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, denied he was motivated by anger with his home country.

Critics, however, claimed Saramago was giving vent to anti-Portuguese feelings. "Saramago's vision belongs to the 19th century, not the 21st," former foreign minister and Madrid ambassador Martins da Cruz, told Diario de Noticias. "It is very easy to hate Portugal from abroad. What is difficult is to defend our interests, and that is what Saramago fails to do."

Any attempt to unite Portugal with Spain would run into considerable opposition. Portuguese commentators already complain loudly whenever major Spanish banks and companies buy up Portuguese counterparts.

The two countries also row over water, with Portugal complaining that too much is taken out of shared major rivers such as the Tagus and the Douro by the Spaniards.

A poll carried out three years ago found the Portuguese considered the second most important date in their history to be the day in 1640 when they regained independence from Spain. Only the 1974 Carnation Revolution, ending a 40-year rightwing dictatorship, beat it.

Saramago is not the only so-called "iberista" in Portugal, however. A poll in the Sol weekly newspaper earlier this year revealed that 28% of his countrymen were in favour of union with Spain.

A similar poll in Spain's Tiempo magazine found 45% of Spaniards would approve of union - as long as Madrid was the capital and republican Portugal could be persuaded to take on Spain's royal family.

Saramago confirmed his own union with Spain yesterday, marrying Spanish journalist Pilar del R?o at a ceremony in her home town of Castril, near Granada, according to the Cadena Ser radio station. The small civil ceremony was reportedly carried out because they had failed to register an earlier wedding in Lisbon.

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