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Oct 2011
10:05 Comments (4)
This is how it all began...

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Juanma Morán

A lot of people have referred to Rafa Benitez’s first match in charge of Liverpool as the first league game of the 2004-5 season, although his official debut was actually a few days earlier. It was really the qualification round of the Champions League which pitted him against the Austrians Sturm Graz. Apart from being a significant moment in the coach’s career, that game also has another particularly memorable significance. Whilst Steven Gerrard was giving the opposition a hard time with 2 sensational goals, Michael Owen was watching the match from the subs bench.

People who enjoy superficially analysing the short-term transfer market will always point out the departure of one of the best strikers in the world as a mistake by Rafa in his transfer policy. Taken out of context no doubt this is true. Ian Rush’s successor went to Madrid for £8.5 million plus an almost unknown player called Antonio Nunez who hardly made an impact in his year at Melwood. Not good business. However, if we take in to account that we are talking about a player who is finishing his contract and had publicly announced his desire to leave, this changes things. And in the offices of Anfield they know this only too well. McManaman, the guy who wore the number 7 Liverpool shirt in the nineties and was under no pressure at all, had left the club through the back door and for no transfer fee to fill the coffers.

It was the last night for ‘wonder boy’ at Anfield. But above all, it was the first night for a coach who would re-establish the football order of the eighties, defending the kopites interests as if he were one of them. And it wasn’t easy. Firstly because the easy thing to do for a newcomer would have been to put up with the whims of an exploding star for a year and not take the decision to sell him which would be misunderstood by those outside. Secondly because it usually takes time to get used to the culture of a club’s fans but in this case it took only a few days. This is how it all began. With a 0-2 away result in a qualifying match and Michael Owen packing his bags.

07/10/11 at 13:25:35 #1
Chris Gollop
Michael's injuries meant he never reached the same heights as earlier in his career. It was the right move for both parties, plus at that time Rafa was able to secure Reina and Alonso, two of the finest players to ever play for LFC. All for less than £15m! Had NESV been the owners at that time I've no doubt Rafa would have delivered LFC at least one premier league title and still be there. Here's hoping when King Kenny decides to call it a day Rafa is reappointed in the Anfield hot seat. Nobody deserves a second shot at it more than Rafa. YNWA!
07/10/11 at 18:01:36 #2
Football gives you lies on the day and the truth on the anniversary.
Intelligent people recognise the situation and recognise that Rafa had no say in the situation. The England manager at the time had more influence over Owen than the Liverpool manager.

The smartest thing with regards to Owen was not re-hiring him when he left Newcastle. He was an aging player whose best days were well behind him, he had a terrible injury record and would prevent others from flourishing, his priority was self, country then club.

mr fe***s*n was applauded by the media for the pay as you go deal but if he had been at Liverpool, we would never have heard the end of the "experts" demanding he start all the time. No-one dares to say anything against frog*s*n. How many games has he played?!

Some people only understand years later, some people understand at the time, and some ... just never understand at all ....
07/10/11 at 19:07:56 #3
girl from austria
nice article, but it was GAK (Grazer Athletiksport-Klub) not Sturm Graz! ;)
GAK is the local rival from Sturm Graz.

15/10/11 at 05:32:45 #4
YNWA Ipoh Malaysia
Say what you like.... Michael's departure to Real Madrid seeking Champions League football was blessing in disguise to Liverpool! Credit to Rafa, with an average squad inherited from Houllier, he outfoxed Capello, Mourinho and Ancelotti along the way in bringing back glory to us !