Make no mistake, I'm a homer.
As a Liverpool fan, I see the world through red-tinted shades. I regularly sip the cherry Kool-Aid. Without many exceptions, my rear end can be found parked squarely behind LFC whenever an issue that requires side-taking is raised.
That isn't to say, however, that I possess an utterly blind faith, lack reason or operate within a reality-distortion sphere. I enjoy thinking for myself and am rather capable of it, thank you very much.
Now, I genuinely like Rafa Benitez. I fully trust in his ability to lead Liverpool and shape its future for the better. I also believe he can and will lead us to the Premier League title. Yet, when Rafa Benitez starts sounding off, I have to take whatever words come out of his mouth with a sizable pinch of salt.
His out-of-the-blue (but ultimately, dead-on) attack on Sir Alex Ferguson this past winter is well documented. There have also been more than a few dust-ups with Gillett and Hicks. If you've ever listened to a Rafa Benitez press conference, its obvious he's not afraid to make his feelings known, although often in a passive-aggressive manner.
Like an uncle you know is going to get drunk and take his pants off at any given family event, I've come to expect this petulant behavior from Rafa. While I won't make excuses for it, I'm not embarrassed -- it's just part and parcel, a small price to pay for the greater good.
One of my favorite Rafa Benetiz press conference 'moves' comes when a reporter asks a question Rafa doesn't want to answer; He'll just answer with a non-sequitar.
"Rafa, what do have you say about Manager X's comments about your possible pursuit of Player Y?"
"Yes, I am very happy with the way the team is training. We look forward to the opportunity to get three points tomorrow."
So, it's not shocking that Rafa has struck out once again, this time focusing on a former transfer target, Gareth Barry. (seriously, we all thought that story was done and buried.... please?)
Like a lover still scorned, Rafa hit out at the England international for choosing Man City over Liverpool this summer:
At this level everyone earns big money. The question is do you make the right decisions and do what is best for your career? If it's just for money sometimes you will make mistakes and I've been surprised by some decisions this summer – like Barry. I won't say too much but it was clearly 100% for money. The most important thing for me, though, is the passion of the players.
Then, in practically the same breath, Rafa does his best Clint Eastwood Squint of Warning towards the summer's most coveted central midfield pair, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano:
Don't forget we signed Alonso from Real Sociedad when nobody knew about him and we renewed his contract two years ago, so he was happy then, and you know what happened with Mascherano at West Ham before we brought him here. Both players owe a lot to Liverpool. They owe Liverpool some loyalty and they both know that.
Sounds a lot like "I took you into this world, I sure as hell can take you out!" Thanks, Mom.
There are those who will say Rafa's propensity for foaming at the mouth hurts his team, but I'm not buying. While the recent spat with SAF coincided nicely with Liverpool's surrender at the summit, the mental make-up of a top-notch professional squad has to be stronger than that. Especially when they should be used to hearing this song & dance by now.
Quite honestly, I'd like to see Rafa press conferences expanded to include topics completely unrelated to the footballing world.
"Rafa, do you think about the global attention devoted to the death of Michael Jackson?"
"For me, the most important thing is having a well-rounded breakfast. You cannot find success throughout the day if you do not start that day off correctly, no?"
"Rafa, your thoughts on the recent elections and unrest in Iran?
"In my home, we have the satelitte television. I am very happy with the package we have subscribed to. It gives us options, which is good. Maybe too many options?"
Friday, July 10, 2009
Make no mistake, I'm a homer.