Gerard Houllier - RIP :-(

28 Mar 2009

Oh dear. Some very bad news regarding Liverpool's summer transfer plans...

I think most honest fans would accept that last summer was pretty catastrophic for Liverpool FC when it came to transfers. Now that Rafa has almost dictatorial control at Anfield, is he going to make the right choices this summer? After what I’ve just read, I really don't think so.

The one thing Rafa *did* do right last summer was buy experience. Robbie Keane was 28 and long established in the top-flight when he signed for Liverpool. Okay, Rafa messed Keane about and completely wasted his talent, but he got the basics right by choosing experience over inexperience.

If Rafa had allowed Keane to actually play regularly - as opposed to subbing/benching him for 28 out of 33 games - perhaps Liverpool would be shoo-ins for the title right now.

I think it's a given that in order to progress to the next level, Liverpool once again need proven, experienced players who will slot straight in and enhance the the team's attacking options.

But can we trust Rafa to buy the right kind of player? Based on Guillem Balague’s latest inside info, I really don’t think so.

On his site today, Balague – who is Rafa's closest ally in the press – stated the following:

“...What I can confirm is that, in contrast with players like Arjen Robben, Rafa is looking at players who are still in the process of developing and who can improve, while being able to adapt to different systems and tactics”.

Note Balague’s words – he states ‘I can confirm’. This means he has this info from Rafa himself, or someone close to him.

How supremely disheartening.

At first glance, the above seems pretty harmless, but allow me to translate:

“Rafa is not interested in skilful, exciting, experienced players like Arjen Robben, or experienced specialists who excel in one position, as they do not give him the ‘options’ he so desires. He is, however, interested in young, inexperienced players with potential, who will take 3 years to settle into the team and will not have the seniority or confidence to argue when they’re repeatedly played out of position, dropped after scoring or endlessly dumped on the subs bench”.

Liverpool *do not need* any more developing players or players who will achieve their potential in five years time. The club needs the finished article: older, experienced players who know what it’s all about; specialists who will slot into their position and immediately enhance the team.

It’s not as if Rafa has an amazing record for nurturing developing talent, is it?! Below is a list (not exhaustive) of young players who are (or have been) on the books at Liverpool during Rafa’s reign:

Ryan Babel
Lucas Leiva
Sebastian Leto
Gabriel Palletta
Mark Gonzalez
Neil Mellor
Darren Potter
Momo Sissoko
Emiliano Insua
David Ngog
Damien Plessis.
Jay Spearing.
Krisztian Nemeth
Charles Itandje
Nabil El Zhar
Stephen Darby
Martin Kelly
Ryan Flynn
Steven Irwin
Craig Lindfield
Nathan Eccleston
Martin Hansen
Peter Gulacsi
Godwin Antwi
Daniel Sanchez Ayala
Vincent Lucas Weijl
Vitor Coutinho Flora
Victor Palsson
Dean Bouzanis
Emmanuel Mendy
Nikola Saric
Paul Anderson
Gerardo Alfredo Bruna Blanco
Daniel Pacheco
Mikel San Jose Dominguez
Jordy Brouwer
Ryan Crowther
Sebastian Leto
Gary Mackay-Steven
Andras Simon
Ray Putterill
Francisco Duran
Robbie Threlfall
Miki Roque
Jack Hobbs
Ronald Huth
David Martin
Adam Hammill

All of the above are – or were – part of Liverpool’s first team squad; all could be described as ‘in the process of developing and who can improve’; and many of these players were brought to the club by Rafa.

Having seen the list, consider these questions:

1. How many of these players have actually improved whilst at Liverpool?
2. How many have been given a fair chance in the first team?
3. Realistically, how many are actually *going to be given* the chance to make it an Anfield?

If you’re honest, the answers are depressingly obvious.

The plain fact is, over the last 5 years, Rafa has abjectly failed at nurturing ‘players who are still in the process of developing and who can improve’.

Where is the evidence that this all magically going to change?

Conversely, the players who *have* been integral to the team over the last few years are, for the most part, older and/or experienced players, i.e.

Fernando Torres
Albert Riera
Peter Crouch
Yossi Benayoun
Steven Gerrard
Jamie Carragher
Pepe Reina
Javier Mascherano
Dirk Kuyt
Fabio Aurelio
Xabi Alonso
Luis Garcia

The only young (ish) players who *have* established themselves in the team are Fernando Torres, Martin Skrtl, and the previously established Daniel Agger, who is seemingly on the way out after somehow falling foul of Benitez.

I have nothing against buying ‘developing’ players, as long as the players bought have real potential and are, crucially, *allowed to develop that potential*.

However, far too often under Benitez, money has been wasted on young players who are never given the chance to get into their stride, irrespective of how great their potential.

A prime example of this is the £11m wasted on Ryan Babel. Despite his apparent weak-mindedness, Babel has tremendous potential; alas, Benitez has steadfastly refused to allow him to flourish. And you just know that if Babel was at Arsenal he’d probably be a world-beater by now.

To say Balague’s words fill me with dread is an understatement. Liverpool cannot afford another woeful transfer window performance. Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal will all strengthen again in the summer, and Liverpool have to keep up.

And that, in my view, means getting it RIGHT and buying confident, experienced, specialist players who excel in their positions, not 'developing' players who will fulfill their potential at some indefinable point in the future.

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48 comments:

  1. I agree that Liverpool need to use the bulk of the transfer funds to buy experienced/established players, but I don't think you can completely condemn Rafa's development of younger players yet. I can tell you're not a huge Rafa fan, and I'm not exactly president of the fan club. But he's in his fifth season, and while it's completely anecdotal, I don't think that Wenger or Fergie had developed a knack for buying young talent and "allowing" it to flourish by that point. I'd also imagine that for every Fabregas there's a list about as long as the one you've got above of players who didn't pan out at those clubs. Rafa hasn't bought well, particularly with youngish talent, but immediate results also aren't always realistic. I also think Rafa is stubborn as shit, which doesn't help anything. And there's no telling how Babel would do at Arsenal--I guess you were likely being facetious, but Walcott hasn't exactly been lighting it up since he's been there, with about three to four "he just needs more time, he's still young, blah blah blah" articles per season.

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  2. You're going over the top here, you may be stating the facts but so did Rafa back in January. Talk about a rant.

    A large number of the players you have listed above obviously didn't develop into the type of players capable of performing at the highest level of the Premier League, it happens, some of them simply aren't good enough. There are equally as many that have left the gates of Highbury/Emirates, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge etc.

    So you are now Balague's personal 'translator'???

    I wouldn't get too worried about Balague's comments, especially as Rafa will not exactly have a treasure chest to spend from anyway. If he had the proper funds the likes of Alves, Villa and Silva probably would be at the club now but its no as easy as that. We all know the Keane saga but it didn't work out, leave it be. "Shoo-ins for the title now"? You cannot predict in hindsight what might have been. If Benitez was allowed to buy what he wanted we'd have had both Barry and Keane and there wouldn't have been the shenannigans behind the scenes which affected everything this season. It's remarkable that we are still in the position that we are with what's gone on. The title race is far from over, let's deal with the speculation of the summer when the season is over.

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  3. Ed - I agree that Rafa is ridiculously stubborn, and that's 90% of the problem. I have to disagree about Ferguson and Wenger's success with youngsters. Fergie's early success was underpinned by nurturing young talent, and even in the first few years of his arrival, young payers were always given a chance at Old Trafford, and that continues to be the case today.

    Both Wenger and Ferguson are clearly miles ahead of Benitez when it comes to identifying/nurturing/developing young players.

    There are 48 players (!) in the list in my post. 48! And that is not an exhaustive list. This is the ultimate indictment of Rafa's supposed 'youth policy'. What is the point of having all these players on the books if practically *none of them* are ever given a fair chance?

    Liverpool produced and developed the likes of McManaman, Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, Carragher etc in the past, and the club reaped the benefits.

    Where is the next generation of *successful* LFC youth coming from?

    Rafa's youth failure is even worse than Houllier's, and that's saying something, considering the amount of dross he brought in.

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  4. Gaffer73 - If, as you suggest, most of the 48 players I list are not good enough to make it at the highest level, then why is Rafa wasting time and money signing them in the first place? Is this mass failure not another indictment of Rafa's failure in transfer market and preference for quantity over quality?

    Re Balague's comments - I'm simply reading between the lines - my 'translation' is tongue-in-cheek, but based on the last 5 years, I don't think it's far from the truth.

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  5. Its been proven time and time again, that ballague talks as much crap as you do. so pinch of salt there please.

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  6. The talking of crap notwithstanding, Balague is closer to Rafa than any journo and has written books about the man with his full cooperation.

    As a journalist, he would not say "I can confirm' unless he had a source, so in this case, I am willing to put some stock in what he says.

    And the fact that Liverpool are linked with Albiol of Valencia for £10m - a 23 year old defender who can also play in midfield (options, options!) - would seem to back up what Balague is contending.

    Like Liverpool really *need* another central defender...

    Going back to the point of my post - are none of the 10 or so young central defenders on LFC's books good enough to be developed? if not, why not?

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  7. I think it's unrealistic to expect that, in a five year period, any manager will have tremendous success in buying and identifying young talent. I can't imagine that for every player signed there is the expectation that he will develop into first-team talent. What's the point, then? The hope that he might. Obviously the player needs chances, and I agree that Rafa has been markedly inconsistent in giving those chances, but I still think that five years is a relatively quick trigger finger when it comes to developing talent--many of the 48 you list are still under the age of 20. As I said, for every Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, etc. there's got to be leagues of players that inevitably fade away on every team. I'm much more inclined to believe that managers like Arsene Wenger are an anomaly. It would be fantastic if this was immediately the case with Rafa, but it doesn't seem to be. That doesn't mean that I'm complacent--obviously I want Rafa to do better--but I am willing to be patient. For how long, I'm not sure.

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  8. i dunno, Albiol, if true, looks a good signing to me particularly, if this Agger situation isnt resolved soon. Could very soon become first choice spanish centre half where his price would soar and be out of our reach completely. [its an obvious lazy looking transfer rumour to me tho]

    Rafa was also interested in the likes of a younger Simao and Dani Alves at a time they hadnt become the superstars they are now, and missed out on them because of dallying at board level.

    Torres only became the superstar he is now while at Liverpool.

    A lot of the young players Rafa has signed over the past couple of years still arent ready for first team action. i realise there seems a bit of scattergun approach in operation at youth level but if even 3 or 3 go on to be great players, then youve saved the club 10s of millions.

    Its really too early too judge Rafas youth development approach as its only been operation the last 2 or so years and he only assumes full control this summer.

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  9. "Liverpool produced and developed the likes of McManaman, Owen, Fowler, Gerrard, Carragher etc in the past, and the club reaped the benefits"...if that's the case then Liverpool can produce and develop the 48 players you listed above - come on, gimme a break!

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  10. Gaffer73 -It's been 9-10 years since Gerrard, Carragher and Owen broke into the first team. Since then, who else has been developed by the club and become a first team regular? Who else looks *likely* right now to break into the first team and stay there?

    With that in mind, how can there be optimism any of the current crop of young players making it an Anfield?

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  11. Chris Broome:

    I think your missing the Point Rafa did not want Kean so that why he never played him to prove his point and i stand by him he wants full rights over who he buys not the clubs picks, so now he has got that give him a chance then if he does by some one for 23 Mil and it don't work out you can use that but allot of what you have said is wrong, you should look at what he has done this seasons and season gone by as a very good job fighting against 2 - 3 Top premier clubs and i have no dought in my mind that he will sooner rather than later win the prem

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  12. Chris - I have to disagree with you re Rafa not wanting Keane. What evidence is there for this? Are you suggesting that Rick Parry - a Chief Executive - has the power to sign players by himself?

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  13. Well it all kicked off around the time he bought Kean that he was not happy and he wanted full control and from the word go he never played kean when he had many chances to, Even loft on the bench with Bable and Ngog starting up top, and i do Remember reading allot at the time were papers was saying Rafa never wanted Kean, You don't Buy a player for that Money then after he Singed the paper work you Drop him sorry just would not happen

    so if the fight was not about full control to Rafa from the club who did he want full control off then ??

    And when it come down to Buying Barry from Villa they would not give him the money even when Freeing money up for Alonso, then they stomp up More for Kean sorry mate but that tells a story it's self.

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  14. I watch all the reserve games and the only two players that stand out above the rest, week in week out! is Emiliano Insua this kid is the real deal, made a few apperances but was called away on international duty. Im sure he will be a strong squad player from now on in. Stephen Darby a mystery to me way this local lad has not been given more of a go??? Why push Carra over to the right??

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  15. I totally agree with your views on rafa's inability to buy and develop youth at lfc. although i also agree that insua looks pretty handy, and what little i've seen of spearing was also quite impressive. i hope these two players are allowed/persuaded to stay, get a good few games, and develop into true reds before they get added to the needlessly long list of failures that rafa's responsible for!

    and i think that the top two players on your long list, JK, are in danger of being very EXPENSIVE failures, due to benitez's tendency to consistently play people in a position they aren't used to or suitable to (babel has no left foot and plays left wing; and from what i've heard, in the pub, admittedly!, lucas was a free box-to-box man back in brazil, and tends to hold here). I can definitely see both these players being sold at a loss at an age when they should be reaching full, sexy, maturity!

    but, yes, quality (and experience), not quantity, is what we need.

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  16. Well who out of that list of players would you play in the first team against Fulham next week JK and bear in mind not all of them have got squad numbers

    Do you actually know anything about running a football club or are you just another cut n paste stat man that continually spews out confusing bile and nonsensesical "Look at Me" type articles?

    I've read a few peices you've put your name to now, i'm not impressed at all

    Rushback

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  17. if you believe robbie keane is the difference between winning and not winning the league, well.. that is disheartening

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  18. What impact could Robbie Keane have? He was substituted or on the bench in 28 of his 33 Liverpool appearances. He was played out position frequently. Every time he scored, he was dropped for the next game.

    Considering Liverpool are only 1 point behind UNited now, is it not possible that if Keane had been allowed to have a proper run in the team, he could've at least been worth a minimum of 3 more points to Liverpool at this stage?

    And let's not forget that many of Keane's substitutions came around the 60-65 minute mark. Since many goals are scored in the last 3rd of games, is it not possible Keane could have scored some vital goals, turning draws into wins, if he ws allowed to stay on the pitch?

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  19. What an awful article, based on, well, nothing. You're taking Balague's comments totally wrong. He is speaking about players like Torres who are young and can come into the side, adapt to the league and such. He isn't saying we're going to be a bunch of 19/20-year-olds. Where the hell did you get that from? He means we will be buying players with their future ahead of them, like Torres, like Mascherano, like Alonso etc. and not players like Dossena and Keane who are so lacking in versatility and stuck in their ways that they could not adapt to our team.

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  20. Oh, and please shut up about Keane. Are you Irish by any chance? He started nearly every game and was our 6th most appeared player up until January - he was woeful in the games he started, fluffing sitters and attempting the audacious when we needed a goal and the simplistic would have been so much better. He then huffed and puffed when, amazingly, he was the one who came off each game. The guy didn't take his chance and proved, like with Inter Milan, that he cannot make the grade at a club of elite stature.

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  21. It's all about interpretation - you view it that way - fine. I view it a different way. Let's agree to disagree.

    I think you're missing the underlying point of the article, which is Rafa's failure to properly develop/bring through/provide chances for, young talent at the club.

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  22. Your comments about Babel are ridiculous. A potential world-beater? How?! He has the first touch of a pub player. Wenger was interested in him but declined the chance to take him on because he is technically NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He would never have played for Arsenal because you have to have superb technique, superb passing and touch, to be in their side. Babel is unbelievably hyped. All you ever here is "yeah but he definitely has the potential to be world class". What misconceived rubbish.

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  23. Fergie's first youngster came through after his fifth season (giggs) before that he spent double (net) that Liverpool was spending at the time Bruce, Pallister, Hughes, Ince, Webb, Wallace the youngters took time.
    Also regarding Keane would anyone have paid 15m for him in the summer when hes going to hit 30 I don't think so also we scored more goals in the last quarter then anyone else in the league....so is Rafa right to sub Keane I thought not but the stats say otherwise.
    Now to the editor of the acticle when Rafa came the only assets Liverpool had was Gerrard and Owen all the rest was hitting 30+, Carrager was a average right back till Rafa made him 1 of the best Centre backs in the premier league the youngsters on the list whom Rafa brought won the Reserves last year with an average age of 19 many players that is not at the club went for a profit or to finance buying better players example Bellamy and Garcia for Torres.

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  24. Anonymous - Keane did NOT start nearly every game. Why don't you acknowledge the fact that if a player is repeatedly substituted early in games, repeatedly on the bench and repeatedly dropped after playing well and scoring goals, his confidence will be shattered and he will be unable to get into any kind of rhythm.

    Keane was not given a proper chance. On a couple of occasions, he was not even in the squad and was dumped in favour of no-experience players like Ngog.

    Given Keane's history as a model pro and status as the highest scoring striker in the premier league throughout 2008, he deserved better.

    I have no dount that if players you favour were treated in the same manner, you would have something to say about it.

    And no, I am not Irish, not that this should be relevent. And I was opposed to the Keane signing from the start for exactly this reason; I knew he would be messed around by Rafa and that's what happened.

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  25. Re Babel - if he was such a poor player then why did Benitez sign him for £11m?! Surely if we go by your interpretation of events, this is yet another indictment of Benitez's transfer market ability?

    I imagine Benitez bought Babel because he saw potential in the player. The question is, has that potential been *allowed* to flourish? Has Benitez given Babel any kind of chance to improve as a player?

    NO.

    Whether Babel was rejected by Arsenal is irrlevent - I said *IF* he was at Arsenal he'd probably be a world beater i.e., he would have been given a consistent chance in the first because Arsenal's policy is clearly to give young players a chance, whereas Benitez's policy seems to be the opposite.

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  26. Compared to who? The difference is Benitez, like Mourinho and Scolari, does not have the foundations that Ferguson and Wenger have - he does not have the history and the unconditional backing of those two. He HAS to provide success or he is sacked - that means he is not going to risk games for the good of our youth. He is not going to bring players flooding through because it is a risk, and he cannot afford to take risks like Mourinho and Wenger can. Look at Wenger! He's been doing it for five years now just bringing through young players and developing them, having no success: he can do that because of what he's already achieved, Benitez cannot. When he has had the chance (PSV away) he has included players but the simple fact is that because success is his main goal, squad players who need games take preference to youngsters who may or may not make it.

    It isn't as though it's disastrous either. Insua has arguably come through this season, Spearing you could say is beginning to knock at the door, N'Gog has done okay when he's played, Nemeth will likely make the grade up as a squad player if he comes back next season fully fit. Pacheco maybe in a season or two could also.

    What you have to keep in mind is that, also, the level is so much higher now than 10 years ago. Carragher would not have made it now-a-days because he wouldn't have had the time to find himself in the team - he would've been sold off to a lower end team at a young age. Less players will make the grade because they have to get beyond international players to do so. They don't have the same time in todays game to show what they can do - unless they are exceptional talents. And that goes for most teams not simply Benitez-led ones.

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  27. You can't argue that he should buy just experienced players with one breath and then complain that young players don't get a run out with the other. And to say that Keane would have won the league for us is illogical. I'm Irish and Keane has been maganificent for Ireland but he showed he can't adapt to our system with Torres and Gerard playing as the central strike force in a 4-2-3-1 system, If we lose the league it will because we wasted time dabbling with 4.4.2 because we had Keane, even though Rafa already discovered in the second half of last year that the current system works best. So while we might need a top class winger to compete with Riera and Kuyt, perhaps in place of Babel who has underperformed, we also need some more young developing players in the squad who will accept not being first choice but will challenge hard for first team places like Insua.By definition, because they developing you don't know how good they will get, so you give them a year or two and if they don't make it you ship them out.

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  28. Good points, and whilst I agree it may be harder for younger players to burst through nowadays, this doesn't change the fact that Benitez is not doing enough to give the MANY young players on Liverpool's books a chance.

    Why can't he follow Wenger's example and use the Carling Cup as way of blooding youngsters? Why can't players like Nemeth, Pacheco et al get more regular places on the subs bench? Why can't meaningless games (i.e. games played in the CL when qualification for the next stage is already assured) be used for young players to show their stuff? When Liverpool are winning a game easily and there is still 35+ minutes to go, why can't Benitez bring on a young player for the remainder of the game? Instead of wasting wages/money on the likes of Degen, why not promote someone like Stepehn Darby to the first team and give him a chance?

    There is plenty more Benitez could be doing, but as he himself has said, 'I don't like taking risks; I prefer to be sure'.

    You mention Spearing and Ngog, but you can count the muber of appearances they've made this season on one hand.

    And Nemeth/Pacheco? Full of promise and have been playing well for the reserves for ages, but do they even get a sniff of the first team?

    I don't see blooding young players as taking a risk - I see it as laying the foundations for Liverpool's future success.

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  29. Anonymous - Whose fault is it that Keane could adapt to Liverpool's system? It is not his fault, it is Rafa's. After having so much success playing 4231 last season (1 upfront and Gerrard in behind), it was ridiculous to spend £20 on another striker and change to 442. I argued this very point here:

    http://www.liverpool-kop.com/2008/04/why-steven-gerrard-is-reason-liverpool.html

    When Benitez realised his mistake, Keane was dumped, but he should never have bought Keane in the first place as it is obvious playing 442 would not be effective.

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  30. Seeing as Jamie is answering questions, which is awfully refreshing to be able to talk to the author. I would like to add my two pence. You're obviously not a big fan of Rafa. But lets look at your list of players that you believe were 'experienced' and thus would always obviously flourish.

    Fernando Torres

    Wasn't considered a 20-goal a season player. Man u looked at him for3-4 years and Fergie still didn't go for him!

    Albert Riera

    Don't think you can make jusgment on him as he hasn't played enough. Needs another season.

    Peter Crouch

    Everyone including me was thinking what the heck have we done. Made a 5 mil profit on the lad, made him an England International!!!

    Yossi Benayoun

    I think Yossi was playing the best i've ever seen just before his injury and this includes his time at WHU.

    Steven Gerrard

    Was considered a DM was only scoring 5-8 goals a season. I think he's currently on 21 this season, and of course it was always obvious that he should play just behind the striker, isn't that what the press have been saying for the last 4 years ;)

    Jamie Carragher

    Was a RB, wasn't loved by the LFC fans, Rafa converted him into a CB and now we all want a team of Carra's

    Pepe Reina

    who??? Exactly thats what everyone said and now he punts it 50 yards and we score! 100 Clean sheets baby!

    Javier Mascherano

    After his time at WHU no one wanted to touch him with a barge pole, now is putting in impressive performances.

    Dirk Kuyt

    I'm not the biggest fan of Kuyt, but i see what he provides the team and look at the stats of how well the team does when he plays and when he doesn't. Oh was untried from Holland was supposed to be a CF.

    Xabi Alonso

    Wanted by a host of clubs guranteed to make a profit on!

    Luis Garcia

    Made a profit on the lad and won us the CL.

    I think Balague is saying that the obove players none of which were playing to their best potential are exactly what Rafa is looking to buy. The players in your other list were often bought aged 16,17,18 and need some years to develop not just football wise but physically before they can dislodge the above players. I think it is unfair to expect all of them to become great players straightaway. We made a profit on Momo. Nabil and spearing have come off the bench and provided some flashes of their talents. leto was doing great in Greece until he kicked balls at his coach :). Hammil has been great for a number of lower division teams and is expected to challenge for a place next year. Many of the above players were at the club prior to Rafa arriving i.e Darren Potter etc. Also Rafa was a youth coach at Real Madrid! He brought in Raul (quoted from Raul himself)! He knows what he's doing! Just wait and keep the faith.

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  31. Hi JD - thanks for your thoughts.

    Re the list of 'experienced' players:

    TORRES - huge experience in La Liga, one of the best leagues in the world *and* a Spanish international.

    RIERA - Experienced in La Liga

    CROUCH - Older and bags of experience in the English leagues.

    BENAYOUN - Older and bags of experience in the premiership plus on the international scene for Israel.

    GERRARD/CARRAGHER - Bags of European/England/Prem experience

    ALONSO/GARCIA - Lots of experience in La Liga

    MASCH - Prem experience and international experience with Argentina from a very young age

    KUYT - Top scorer in Holland for 5 seasons running or something like that. (I'll double check that).

    Players with this type of experience in respective leagues/Europe/International stage are far more likley to flourish at Liverpool than repeatedly buying dozens of inexperienced young players.

    The players in my other list are indeed very young, but my point is, where is the evidence over the last 5 years that Rafa has been properly developing these players? The trends seems to be, bring these players in en masse, keep them langushing in the reserves for a while, then sell them/loan them out.

    How does this benefit the club?

    If the majority of these young players are not good enough to make it, then there surely is a serious problem with the scouting/youth system that needs to be addressed.

    The disturbing thing for me is the fact that not ONE single young player from Liverpool's youth set-up has come anywhere near to being established in the first team, and that is because - in my view - Benitez has not given any of these players a proper chance.

    And the younger players that Benitez has brought in to go into the first team have also invariably failed, for the same reasons.

    It's good that you're optimistic - I hope you're right and things change :-)

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  32. Mr. Kanwar. Greetings from Norway. I don`t think you like Benitez that much, do you? Remember Liverpool were going downhill befor The Spanish Matadore entered the stage. Since then, we`ve been moving in the right direction, DESPITE less money than our main rivals and the stupidity behind the scenes. He deserves our respect and support.

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  33. Rafa's policy is that crap that we are challenging for the prem and the champions league. I wish I was as clueless as you make him out to be. The man is a football genius and always said that it was going to be a 4 - 5 year plan. As long as he keeps signing duffers like skrtel, torres, riera, reina, masc, alonso he'll do for me. Again its been a frustrating season but good progress HAS been made. This side is on the verge of great things.

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  34. You’re complaining about our new signings before they’ve even been made known? Seriously? It was bad enough with the hysteria over Riera and how bad he supposedly was, according to the various experts amongst our fans (who probably watched Espanyol every week, I’m sure…) – it was bad enough moaning about a signing before he’d even played. But to moan about signings before they are even known… Why do you unbelievably negative fans get off bleating incessantly like this?

    Let me remind you, to your disappointment I’m sure, Benitez signed a contract until 2014 the other week; he will not be going anywhere. I’m sure that won’t stop boring souls like yourself trying to dismantle anything he does. Even when we’re interested in a player most fans were desperate for us to sign last summer, David Silva, there is always negativity. He isn’t old enough? Please. Get over yourself. Your arguments are based on nothing.

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  35. Thanks for the response Jaimie, but the point i was making was that despite all those players having bags of experience and in some cases international caps, none were guranteed successes, just look at Shevchenko, Veron and many more examples that would be too numerous to note. most of the players listed are playing/played better for us than they did for their previous club or management. Rafa has improved them, his job isn't just to improve the youngsters at the club. Also some would say some of these players (xabi,skrtel,agger,masch) wers all young players that needed to be developed.

    The reason i'm more optimistic about the future is that Rafa has more control, over the academy etc and hopefully we will see more talent being produced.

    I don't agree that you say they haven't been given a chance. Rafa has tried several of them in league cups etc and if they deserve to play in the pl they need to perform in such tournaments, just look how well arsenal do every year in the league cup by comparison. Also babel, lucas, insua have all appeared for spells during the season. The problem with the younger players is that their form is inconsistent and have to be nurtured correctly. He can't play all the youngsters otherwise we'll be no where near the PL and he'l be sackedit has to be a gradual process and asking for more than 3 of these guys to be in the first 11 tbh is asking for too much. Hopefully the future will prove me right but until then I just hope we can all get behind what Rafa is doing for the rest of the season before passing any more jusgement on the guy.

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  36. How does this benefit the club?
    ------------------------------------
    Seeing as most of these youngsters cost next to nothing I guess the answer would be profits. Also their are a fair few 'youngsters' who aren't ready yet to be in and around the first team, they need to devleop first but I am sure that Benitez will aim to bring through more youngsters which could mean less signings.

    It doesn't happen over night and as mentioned by Ed (a brilliant point) - for every Fabregas their is a dozen of players that didn't work out.

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  37. Oh and I also agree with the blog though - we do need a good summer this year. I feel quality over quantity is needed for us.

    I'm not too sure on the Babel situation, I'd much rather see him played upfront though. On the left wing he is for the majority of the time far too obvious. He has a lot to prove but there is no guarantee that at Arsenal he would have been a success.

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  38. JD - I appreciate that some of the players in the list were not guaranteed successes, but the point is they were far more likely to have a positive impact on the team thant 70+ young players Rafa has brought to the team during his tenure, none of which have been a success or look like being successes.

    And is there any such thing as a guaranteed success in football these days? I would argue not. Therefore surely it is a good idea to buy players who have the biggest possibility of achieving success, and in choosing, one of the things you look at is their experience.

    I think it's fair to say that the players Rafa has bought that *have* been successes are those with experience and age on their side. Of course, there is the odd exception - Fernando Morientes for example.

    And I also think it's fair to say that the players who have not made it, or not been given the chance to make it, are the youngsters.

    I mean, there are about 30-40 young players in the first team squad at the moment (according to LFC.tv), and there have been a huge number that have been and gone. What exactly is the point of having *so many* young players hanging around?! Shouldn't it be quality over quantity? Rafa's pot-luck policy seems to be buy everything in sight and hope and the law of averages will dictate one or two of them will come good.

    I'm not saying Rafa should play all the youngsters, but those that show real promise, i.e. the likes of Nemeth, Pacheco et al, should be given more chances, not just 10 minutes at the end of game and then never hear from them again.

    And as for Babel and Lucas - both are in their second seasons now, and *still* neither player gets a regular run in the team. Rafa's lack of faith in these players - who he paid a large sum of money for I might add - has (IMHO) affected their progress, and it shows in their performances, which are characterised by lack of confidence.

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  39. Anonymous - Yes, we are challenging for the league and the CL, but it's not as if Liverpool have been scintillating all season. The last 3 games aside, the team has stuttered at crucial parts of the campaign

    Three games do not make a season!

    The reason many people, me included, are so dissatisfied is because this season the league was there for the taking. Chelsea and Arsenal are currently not the forces they used to be; Man U started badly in the league. All three have been dropping points allover the shop and Liverpool have *failed to capitalise*, principally because of Benitez.

    Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U practicallyn laid out the red carpet for Liverpool and said 'There - take the title!', and we couldn't stay consistent and do it.

    Liverpool should be out of sight now; the league should be all sown up! Instead, everyone is ecstatic because we're only 1 point (potentially 4) behind United, when we should be about 10 points ahead.

    Once again, too many draws will kill us this season. It's 10 so far, and there will undoubtedly be more.

    Having said that, if Liverpool do somehow manage to win every remaining game and beat United to the title, it will indeed be a magnificent achievement, and I really hop that happens.

    I just can't see it though.

    The players are all slapping each on the back and shooting their mouths off to the press about how much they love each other and how Man U are on the rack and blah blah blah - they just need to drop the cockiness, shut the hell up and let their football do the talking on the pitch.

    Win something, then bask in the glory.

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  40. Ryan Babel talent, gets a few games, but inconsistent.
    Lucas Leiva talent, actually starts to look descent. guess because of rafa...
    Sebastian Leto hard to say, cant even get workpermission, so kinda hard to show your stuff then
    Gabriel Palletta actually looked good, but lost his head 5 times a match...
    Mark Gonzalez just not good enough
    Neil Mellor do you remember that goal... too slow
    Darren Potter not rafas buy
    Momo Sissoko good bussiness deal, masch is better
    Emiliano Insua starting to look really good, can be a real gem
    David Ngog work rate is getting better, gets chances
    Damien Plessis suprised he doesnt get more matches, but then again he is fighting against masch, lucas, alonso and skipper....
    Jay Spearing impressive against real, really strts looking good, but as with plessis, hard competiton. still not masch, alonso class, but are gonne get chances hopefully
    Krisztian Nemeth looked amazing last term, might get his debut this season...
    Charles Itandje terrible....
    Nabil El Zhar has been involved quite a bit
    Stephen Darby real gem!
    Martin Kelly has gotten debut, still young
    Ryan Flynn youngster
    Steven Irwin youngster
    Craig Lindfield loan
    Nathan Eccleston looks really good, but we are talking academy, not CL material for now...
    Martin Hansen looks descent, but we have reina...
    Peter Gulacsi reina again... cavalieri too..
    Godwin Antwi should make another step soon, but think hes off to pastures new soon, might make a buck on him though...
    Daniel Sanchez Ayalayoungster
    Vincent Lucas Weijl academy
    Vitor Coutinho Flora youngster
    Victor Palsson just arrived
    Dean Bouzanis reina, cavalieri
    Emmanuel Mendy youngster
    Nikola Saric still injured isnt he..
    Paul Anderson really had hopes for thus guy, but should make the step soon, one of the few i would like rafa to give a couple of more chances
    Gerardo Alfridedo Bruna Blanco youngster
    Daniel Pacheco looks really exciting, but is about 3 pounds, so needs a bit of porridge before getting vidic sent off...
    Mikel San Jose Dominguez youngster, but according to ablett seems to get really good, debut in mickey cup next year perhaps...
    Jordy Brouwer just not my type of player, but obviously still young, so who knows
    Ryan Crowther had some injuries, but mjght be good enough, still young
    Sebastian Leto work permit might help...
    Gary Mackay-Steven talent, young
    Andras Simon young, havent seen much og him yet
    Ray Putterill seems talented, on loan
    Francisco Duran should soon show something in reserves hopefully..
    Robbie Threlfall youngster, seems like a good prospect
    Miki Roque still young
    Jack Hobbs had high hopes, but not there yet. on loan, doing well
    Ronald Huth youngster
    David Martinon loan, stiff competition in 1st team. has had debut
    adam hammil on loan, have impressed quite a few, hopefully gets a try in preseason and deliveres

    I agree we might have a bit to many players. But you cant judge rafa on 17 year olds not breaking into the team... that is just messed up.

    I can agree i would have liked to see babel more upfront, but as long as gerrard and torres are upfront you will not hear me complain cause that is 50 goals a season...

    Insua played regularly before he went to argentina for some under 12 competition, will make the step i hope. looks hella good. good job rafa---

    spearing, plessis, lucas has a hard task in getting into the team. But that is more a sign of strenght in the first team than their lack of talent. all other clubs would have given everything to have so many intresting, young talents in central midfield. looks really promising for the future.

    nemeth, pacheco, eccelstons, dalla valle. looks like intresting buys, but we must give them time, hopefully nemeth can take the step up sooner rather than later. That would also leave a spot in reserves for dalla valle for example...

    darby, kelly, has gotten debuts and are improving. might be regulars together with insua and spearing and nemeth in 1 to 5 years. remember they are insanely young. A couple of seasons ago you never saw central defenders under 27 in the PL, now we have dagger and skrtel on about 23 playing like seasoned veterans... fantastic stuff rafa.

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  41. The league should be "all sown up"? Do you actually have a clue about anything to do with football? It's not that simple!

    Principally because of Rafa? Or maybe it is that we aren't actually good enough to win the league?

    3 games don't make a season, no, but being 1 point behind the leaders in April does not constitute a bad season.

    It's unbelievable how simplistic and lacking of independent thought people can be. Go on, write an article lambasting rotation, maybe zonal marking too if you have the time...

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  42. Yes, the league should be all sown up. Before Rafa's rant against Ferguson, Liverpool were top of the league; post rant, we dropped 15 points. Just imagine if we had just 10 of those points now, we'd be 9 points ahead of United right now and the title would be in our hands.

    And yes, I blame Rafa for letting the league slip away this season, for the following reasons:

    1. Pointless publlic rant

    2. Unwillingness to let the team off the leash until it was too late, resulting in 10 league draws.

    3. The usual bout of strange formations, misuse of players and empahsis on 'not losing' rather than winning.

    Being 1 point behind the leaders in April does not define a season. Why has it taken 7 months of the season to truly see what the team is capable of?

    The lkast 3 games have been great, but it's too little too late.

    Of course, I hope I'm proved wrong.

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  43. At the risk of appearing pedantic, I'd just like to point out that the correct phrase is "sewn up", and not "sown up".

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  44. He's hardly had 5 years. 04-05 season he obviously had no control over the youth department because he had yet to have the chance to send the scouts out. Then he's had the summers of 05-06, 06-07 and 07-08, that's 3 seasons to bring through youth players AND HE HAD DONE. Insua, Spearing, Nemeth, Pachenco and El Zhar are all making strides in the reserves and are slowly getting integrated into the first team.
    Also you forget to mention the likes of Sissoko and Mascherano who have flourished under Benitez them being young players and all, not exactly *youth* but young.
    You also forget that 'trading in youth' can be highly profitable for the club. Buy a young player for buttons who shows promise, develop their ability, if they're good enough to go the distance keep, if not get rid at a profit, do this 100 times over and you end up with massive profits and a few gems as a bonus.
    Arsenal has been doing this for the last couple decades and they have the highest success rate for youth in the Premier League and they're one of the most financially secure.

    And by buying young I'm sure GB means 22-24 year olds like Silva, Fernandez, Downing, all of which have been linked to us.
    Also we'll probably be going in for Barry again so it's not ALL youth.

    Your lack of knowledge about our youth system is baffling considering you have written an article on it.

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  45. The team Benitez took on in 2004 was a disgrace for liverpool football club.Money was missing and Rafa has done a great job of transforming us into a team that can beat anybody(last few weeks go to show). You honestly cant expect him to get it right every time. He now has a team that he can finetune and I personally think we have a great future in store for us.....

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  46. I understand your fears, but what you dont know is that Mr Balague was just talking about one player when he made this statement. This player is Kerrison and will command a huge transfer fee for one so young. He is a special talent who Rafa will push the boat out for. Fingers crossed.

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  47. Anyone who can list the 17 year old Victor Palsson who arrived in Jan 2009 amongst a list of "All of the above are – or were – part of Liverpool’s first team squad;" and criticise his lack of development is not really making that good a point.

    I could go on about your list which just seems a pretty poor attempt.

    Perhaps if you had listed shorter list including the likes of Mark Gonzales, Antonio Barragan, Gabriel Palletta, Godwin Antwi - these were signed earlier in Rafa's reign and have either left already because they failed or will shortly be leaving.

    On the flip side I wondered if you have a lovely long list of the players that Man Utd or Chelsea have brought through in the last five years?

    Regular first team starters?

    Chelsea -
    Terry

    And err that's it?

    Man Utd -
    Jonny Evans
    Da Silva who got a chance because of long term injuries to Neville and Brown
    Fletcher - being generous as he is 25ish now so not a recent introduction.

    For Liverpool you could argue Insua has made as many appearnaces as Da Silva.

    But let's face it despite the media suggestion that Ferguson based everything on bringing through youth players he hasn't done that for a while really. Why bother when you can spend £30m willy nilly on Berbatov etc.

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  48. Jaimie Kanwar
    who are you?
    When have you ever won a la liga title or a champions league?
    If you have then fair enough tell rafa what to do but i doubt it.

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