Benitez says Irish win will restore faith
FORMER LIVERPOOL manager Rafa Benitez believes that a win in Kazakhstan for the Republic of Ireland next week will restore confidence to the team and in the manager after both took a mauling from vastly superior opponents at Euro 2012.
The Spaniard insists that Giovanni Trapattoni is simply paying the price now for the level of expectation he generated before the summer. It is, of course, a phenomenon he is somewhat familiar with.
“Yes,” he says, “I was watching the team and I always say the same: before the Euros everything about Trapattoni was positive; people were saying it was a fantastic team and achievement by the manager. Now, after the Euros, everything is bad and he should be sacked!
“I think it’s important to think about the big picture and try to be calm. You have to avoid getting too excited; you cannot be the best beforehand and the worst after. You have to find the balance. I think you will do well. If they win the first game everyone will be happy again; it will be a boost for everyone.”
He acknowledges, of course, that things went badly for the team in Poland but is rather dismissive of the idea that the blame can be laid at the door of Trapattoni because of the tactics employed.
“Obviously it’s not the system,” says the 52-year-old who will be appearing at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on September 13th in a sort of one-man show, Get In To the Mind Of Rafa Benitez, that coincides with the launch of his new book, Champions League Dreams. “Sure, you have to start with a system, a shape for the team but the main thing is the movement of the players on the pitch; what they want to do and what you allow them to do.
“I don’t see the system as a problem; I think that’s a very simplistic analysis. I can only say in the most polite way possible, that Spain were really good: that was Ireland’s problem.”
Benitez, meanwhile, is upbeat about his own prospects of bouncing back with a top level club despite having been out of work now for longer than he probably expected to be after leaving Inter Milan.
He is not, he makes clear, prepared to darken just any old dugout and his achievements at Valencia and Liverpool, he clearly believes, provide an enduring marketability at the very top end of the market. Still, even he accepts that when you are pitching yourself at clubs that can compete almost immediately for the Champions League title, “maybe five clubs maximum”, he estimates, you had better be prepared to be patient.
It seems, in reality, a rather bold gamble. “We will see what will happen and we will make sure we are ready.”
It might, one suspects, have been interesting to speak with him in the aftermath of Liverpool’s rather less impressive first league game of the season against West Brom but as he reflected on Sunday’s draw with Manchester City yesterday, the Spaniard is only too happy to dwell on what he describes as his Anfield “legacy”.
“I think they are doing well and I’m really pleased,” he says of his former club and the start they have made to the season under new manager Brendan Rodgers. “And everybody’s talking about Raheem (Sterling). That’s good; we were trying to leave a legacy when we were improving the academy, we were trying to create something that would be the future of the club; again I would use the word legacy and we are really pleased to see (Jack) Robinson and (Jon) Flanagan and Sterling now, that means that we were doing something right.
“We signed Raheem, Robinson made his debut with us, afterwards you had (Martin) Kelly, you had (Jay) Spearing (who looked set to leave the club for almost €4 million yesterday) . . . we were trying to bring young players through from the youth system, from the academy and so we brought coaches from Spain; these coaches, they were coaching the coaches and that was the key.”
They brought an increasingly number of players from abroad too but Benitez believes that this was a short-term measure and that the Irish might have their day again at the likes of Anfield.
“The foreign players have improved the Premier League but it is understandable that people there say that they need more English players or Irish players because they want to improve the national team.
“But their players improve too thanks to the foreign players and managers.
“And Spain is ahead of all the other countries at the moment, the coaching philosophy at any level. I think that the English are starting to see this now; hopefully the Irish will too. I hope that they will try to copy the good things.”