Only in an industry as insane as football could a club be pilloried for stopping for a moment and taking a breath. Liverpool have been mocked mercilessly for inviting Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Frank de Boer, Roy Evans, John Gregory, Sir Clive Woodward and Pudsey the gay dancing dog to interview, but the club have every right to be cautious. It’s the most important decision they’ll ever make.
I still think that Kenny Dalglish should have been given at least the first half of next season to prove that he was taking the club in the right direction. Granted, the league form was abysmal in 2012 and, you know, there was the whole Stewart Downing thing, but you can’t expect instant results in modern football. Even with limitless resources, it still took Manchester City four years to win the title. Three trips to Wembley and one League Cup should have been enough to spare Dalglish the axe. Nevertheless, it’s done now and Liverpool have to move on.
It’s sweet that there are still supporters who believe that Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp might be interested in the job. It reminds me of the days when I genuinely believed that with the right circumstances, the right haircut and enough gin, I could absolutely definitely doink Kylie Minogue. Sadly, Kylie confiscated my night vision goggles and slapped me with a restraining order, and the same thing is likely to happen to Liverpool if they push their luck.
I hate to be the one to put a strong coffee on the bedside table, open the curtains and stick the radio on, but Liverpool have finished seventh, sixth and eighth in the last three seasons and haven’t played a Champions League game since 2009. For all their history, they are now very much in the second division of European football. They also play in a league dominated by money. Recovery will be neither cheap nor easy and the shortlist for this job will reflect that.
While I’ve never been of those people who disliked Rafa Benitez on account of him being a bit foreign and a devotee of zonal marking, I’m still something of a Rafa-sceptic. Yes, there was Istanbul and the title push of 2009, but there were also long periods with him at the helm where Liverpool were a bit rubbish. However, when you look at the competition, it’s rather hard to make the case that Martinez is a significantly better choice. Benitez should at least be invited into the boardroom to give the Powerpoint presentation that I suspect he’s been feverishly working on since early March.
The Fenway Sports Group are still, for the most part, insulated by a heavy layer of goodwill and the fact that they’re not Hicks and Gillett. That warmth won’t last if they cock this decision up. They have now sacked two managers in less than 18 months. If the next man is gone within two years, they’ll be stumbling into Abramovich-territory. They need someone who will last. Someone who can act as a public figurehead for the club with rather more success than Dalglish. Someone who can win football matches while playing attractive football and operating within whatever framework they decide to set down. It’s a tall order. Frankly, FSG should stick their fingers in their ears and take as much time as they want.