20 Mar 2012

Ex-Liverpool Star admits: Rafa made it 'very difficult' for me at the start...

At the start of his Liverpool career, Peter Crouch went 19 games without scoring a goal for the club. The big man went on to become Liverpool's top scorer the season after, before succumbing to the impact of the 'Benitez Effect', which effectively ended his Liverpool career. Crouch holds no ill-will towards Benitez, but acknowledges that the former Reds boss contributed to his initial barren spell.

At one point during his time at Anfield, Crouch had scored or created 36 goals in 43 starts, which is a fantastic return, but for some reason, Benitez ignored this positive impact and regularly kept him on the bench, most notably for the Champions League final in 2007.

At the time of the final, Crouch was Liverpool's top scorer in the Champions League, which makes the snub even more inexplicable.

Despite that disappointment, Crouch insisted in an interview with ITV Sport recently he has a 'great deal of respect' for his former Boss. That said, the Stoke striker admits that Benitez was partly responsible for his barren spell at Liverpool by playing him in an unfamiliar role. Crouch argued:

"I don't have anything bad to say about him [Benitez], but at first, I think he played me a little bit deeper that I liked, and I had to get used to it, and he had to get used to me.

"It was very difficult at the start...I was playing a different role at times, but I just tried to work hard and do what the manager asked, but I think that was a bit naive really. As I got more comfortable at Liverpool, I became a bit more selfish in front of goal, and that's what I had to do.


I vehemently defended Crouch during his time at Liverpool, and I genuinely believe that if he'd started the Champions League final against Milan - along with Craig Bellamy - Liverpool would have six European Cups right now instead of five.

I still can't understand how Rafa could regularly leave on the bench a player who - in his first two seasons - scored or created a goal in 83% of starts.

The mind boggles!

Jaimie Kanwar


58 comments:

  1. Pity we didn't go for him again, instead of Carroll, despite the age. Got a very good touch, even for a big guy and would have fitted in I reckon. Miss those 'spiderman-like agility' overhead kick goals!

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  2. For once I agree, still can't believe Crouch didn't start in Athens, he was top scorer in the competition going into the final.The favoured Kuyt started, he was bar the late goal hanging strike, hopeless as per the norm.

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  3. Fucking love Crouchie. His hatrick against arsenal was amazing

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  4. Wasn't the "but for some reason" because Torres was the preferred striker?

    I don't think a Torres - Crouch partnership was preferred or worked so well - (don't have stats on that) so don't know how often it was tried, or how effective it was.
    When a new player joins a team he usually has to alter his playing style in some way to fit in.  It sounds like that was the case here.  Whether that was a temporary plan until the the team could be re-jigged, or whether that was expected to be long term that then was changed, I suppose only Benitez knows.
    I liked Crouch a lot for us, and Benitez certainly stuck with him during
    the barren spell he had at the start of his Liverpool career, so I guess he liked him too.


    Because Torres was there, Crouch started to be used as an impact sub (which worked well, certainly in Europe).  That didn't suit Crouch so well with England tournaments coming up, so I think (and this is my assumption) he pressed for playing time preference/equality with Torres, or for a move.  I don't think he was going to get the former, so got the move.  It always sounded a bit reluctant on both sides.  Eventually he ended up being used in a very similar way for Spurs.

    I guess if Torres never played for Liverpool, Crouch would have been far more likely to be our number 1 striker.

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  5. Crouch is the kind of player that we could have kept all this time, saved ourselves a lot of money and he would still be able to do a job now. Torres and Crouch could have been an excellent partnership, but Benitez preferred, most of the time, to keep Gerrard near Torres. Crouch had England ambitions, though, so couldn't stay if he was going to be on the bench most of the time.

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  6. The 'Benitez effect'? Alienating people and not entertaining any other opinions, not getting any joy out of it even when we win? Surely that's the 'Kanwar effect'?

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  7. Crouch left LFC because Crouch was on £25k a week and he was about to become one of the players who bankrupt Portsmouth by signing for £80k a week thats why Crouch decided to go.How anybody on here can say rafa would have won the CL had he played this or that shows the nature of people.So basically you all know better than one of the greatest mangers ever in european football,winning european trophies as a manger in Spain Italy and england.Rafa had a better head to head than Mourinho in europe while in England and won 2 uefa european manager of the year awards in successive seasons.Rafa knowa europe, we were outplayed in Athens apart from the last 15 minutes by a legendary Milan side,Rafa knew to have any chance we needed to be compact and disciplined with everyone working hard and not giving the ball away,Kuyt apart from offering a goal threat runs the defenders ragged,Crounch doesnt.Zenden is disciplined,technically gifted ppicks the right pass and takes no chances.Bellamy then was indisciplined prone to losing the ball which would have been punished and was not to be trusted in a lot of ways.Some people need to wake up and realise Rafa getting us to the final beating Chelsea on the way was a great achievement and he did all he could against the odds.Same as coming 2nd in the league with 86pts having a wafer thin squad due to hicks and gillette was a momentous achievement.We  had Torres as our only real striker  Man Utd had Berbatov,Tevez,RooneyRonaldo,Giggs to choose from,the sooner people give Rafa credit for his unbelievable achievements for this club the sooner we can all remeber his great achievements at the club and stop criticising when theres nothing to criticise.

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  8. The media - including you - subjected Rafa to sustained criticism for buying and playing Crouch even though he did not score for some 17 games.   Rafa was proven right once again when Crouch became top scorer.   However, Crouch got too big for his boots in his private life and in the club demanding to be played in a role that was not helpful to the team. Rafa rightly began to transition from him to another style and brought in Torres. 

    You were usually wrong about Rafa before the fact so why would we believe you after the fact.  You could say the same about every defeat - if we had played X, as I said, we would have won.  Actually we might have lost by more.

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  9. Ah, the 'Kanwar effect' again. Difference of opinion - check! No joy in the game - check, criticising every Manager, but not offering an alternative - check!

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  10. Deep down JK is a Rafa supporter. after the recent weeks of criticism on just about everything, one must agree with me.

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  11. Theycallmemrburt4:34 pm, March 20, 2012

    We played our best with Crouchie up top with Garcia playing off him.  Loved that team.  Kewell on the left Xabi and Sissoko (shame on the liverpool fans for more or less forcing out a man who had been out for months with an eye injury) in the middle and Gerrard on the right.  The chemistry in this side was spot on.

    Rafa turned v good strikers into excellent International and world renowned strikers.  Crouchie respects Rafa because of this as does Torres.  With Kenny at the helm our other 6 foot plus striker will struggle to make the 1st team let lone the international side.  Rafa would always say he likes his center forward to occupy the two center backs.  Our problem is Kenny doesn't see things the same way.  What the heck is Carroll doing drifting out wide to put crosses in when he should be in the box battling to score goals.  When Crouch went on his run without scoring he was t the very least consistently missing chances.  Carroll on the hand struggles to get a chance to miss.

    Rafas biggest mistake was to start Kuyt in the lone center forward position in our CL loss to Milan.  Crouch was the man who had the skill and technical ability to bring others into play and scare the opposition.  If crouch started I think we would have won.

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  12. What you've written here is totally inaccurate. You should do some research before spouting such nonsense.

    * I never once criticised Benitez for buying and playing Crouch. There are 1500+ articles on this site - find one where I did that. You won't. I was in favour of the signing of Crouch, and I endlessly supported him.

    * I was wrong about Benitez? Provide examples. It doesn't matter anyway because it's all a matter of opinion.

    * Whether people believe me or not 'after the fact' is irrelevant to me - I don't write stuff to get people to believe me; I just write what I think, and people will make up their own minds, and whatever that is perfectly fine with me.

    I wish people would stop trying to make out I have some kind of desperate urge for people to agree with me. If that was the case, I would just write safe pro-LFC stuff all the time.

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  13. thats a silly argument to make, first of all Rafa stuck by crouchy during his barren spell and then when he adapted to the role went on to become liverpools top scorer. The big man left because he along with nando and gerrard did not link up well and therefore he got less game time. Nando and gerrard formed the best partnership the club had seen for years and the rest is history. Its typical of you Jamie to twist the article to back your anti Rafa stance yet within the same article i see a completely different angle. I was a big fan of Crouch still am but to say had he played in the final we would have another trophy is hypothetical in the extreme, remember we were much the better side in 2007 and lost who is to say that a different side would have altered that in any way? you can critisize him for loosing in 07 but cannot credit him for 05. 

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  14. I've given Benitez credit for winning the CL in '05 many times, so I'm not quite sure what you're on about there. Once again, you seem incapable of accepting facts; what club leaves their top CL scorer on the bench in a final? One manager would persistently bench a player with an 83% goal-creation rate? These are valid questions without credible answers.

    As for the 2007 final: playing Zenden and Kuyt instead of Bellamy and Crouch is negligence on a par with Houllier's decision to replace Dietmar Hamann with Vladimir Smicer in the 2002 CL Quarter final against Leverkusen.

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  15. jamie ur a idiot u no nothing about l f c

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  16. Would that be the Bellamy who played and scored in the Nou Camp ? Good enough to play against the reigning CL holders but not Milan?Crouch was our leading goal scorer in Europe in 07 but only saw 13 minutes of action. I can remember the game and it was even game 
    that is why most of us wanted Rafa to bring on Bellamy and Crouch a lot earlier then what he did, Pennant had a great game but we needed another forward on the pitch earlier.

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  17. I think Rafa stood by him when he couldn't hit a barn door let alone score. Everybody was complaining that he wasted money by buying him. But than Torres came along and the choice between El NiƱo or Crouch there is only one answer.

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  18. so why do you always reply to anyone who disagrees with you, and you try to justify things in a very detailed fashion. i have so much criticism about liverpool, but the things you say about rafa are unbelievabley biased and you really do sound morelike a man utd fan.

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  19. Maybe its time to move on!!!!!!!!!

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  20. Rafa was negligent in 2007?? What? Funny that I seem to recall he was good enough to get Liverpool to the FINAL of the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE that season. I wouldn't mind some of that negligence nowadays thank you very much. Best Euro manager we'll have for a while yet I think.

    Just look at his achievements in CL with Liverpool for a minute... No, I don't think you are qualified to so arrogantly dismiss him as negligent. Does he make mistakes? Sure, everyone does. Doesn't mean they are negligent.

    Having said all that I wouldn't have minded having Crouch back when he left Portsmouth or even when he left Spurs.

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  21. Don't get me wrong, I am a big Rafa fan, but he did screw up in the Champions League final. I am not saying I am knowledgeable in managing in Europe, but if he bought on those two players, who knows what could have happened. I don't think even Rafa can predict wonder goals, or moments of luck. Rafa should have gone with instinct and less brains when he saw that his side were still losing the game. But having said that, you are right, he is still a fantastic manager and there is more criticism than appreciation. A lot of people like to focus on negativity. 

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  22. Not playing Bellamy and Crouch in the final and try to replace Alonso with Barry !!Sorry Rafa but i lost the belive in you ..

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  23. I think its fair to say that Rafa made it difficult for quite a few players at the Club during his reign, Crouch most certainly was one of them. Certain decsions that Rafa made simply made no sense whatsoever, left you scratching your head and wondering whether he had developed a dislike of said player and therefore acted out of spite.

    My main criticism of Rafa's management was his handling of players, Rafa liked yes men IMO he liked players who looked up to him as something of an idol, obviously thats just my opinion but quite a few players have come out about Rafa and said similar comments to Crouch's.

    It comes as no surprise tbh, im sure there are others possibly still at the Club who'd have a few none too p[leasant comments to make re Rafa but  wisely choose to keep it to themselves and not risk upsetting Rafa's many adoring LFC fans....

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  24. that's the secret of Rafa! he makes u wonder so much! he is like just a puzzle need to be solved! otherwise u won't understand it, magnificent manager ;) play Kuyt in the right while everybody else questioned him! now when kuyt in the bench fans ask why not play kuyt in the right instead of henderson!? he is a hard working player.. puzzle solved!

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  25. How is this an example of the "Benitez Effect"? Did the player suffer from confidence issues? Did his form drop when he didn't get the playing time he wanted? It was the exact opposite. Crouch became a BETTER player under Rafa when, as he himself says, he finally settled into the team. His performances show that having irregular starts and not being rewarded for scoring goals made him more determined and improved his form. Has he maintained that 83% statistic anywhere else? Absolutely not. Only under Rafa's tactics and Rafa's selection did he produce this remarkable form that you're referring to. Can you not see that? Crouch's form and performance is a vindication of Rafa's tactics. If the player could show that he's that good for any other team, any other manager then it might be interesting, but it's not. Only under Rafa did Crouch reach his absolute peak as a player. It's just the same that you can say for Gerrard. Same for Torres. Same for Alonso. It's a long list of players that, perhaps YOU would claim accidentally, produced their best football when playing under Rafa's difficult to understand system. 

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  26. Somehow this notion that had Crouch started the game we would have won the 2007 Champions league final reminds me of United drawing for the same card that they only lost to Barcelona in the 2009 Champions league final because Fletcher was missing conveniently forgetting how they were outplayed all over the pitch.

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  27. Replying to people who disagree with you is a dialogue, a debate. It is clearly a good thing.

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  28. Bellamy should have played but back then he wasn't played in the wide role as often. His dislike for that was a big reason for his leaving Newcastle. I wouldn't have went 4-4-2 with Bellamy against Milan or we would have had the problem with Kaka (1st half) from 2005 all over again. Also, Kuyt has a good pedigree in big games. Crouch has played well in some (Arsenal hat-trick and Man U Fa Cup 2006, sping to mind) but not as consistently as Kuyt. He also scored and, as a man who loves stats, you can't really deny that output.

    As for Zenden, we didn't really have too many options for the left. Bearing in mind this was before either Kuyt or Bellamy's winger days, the only other choices were either Mark Gonzalez or Kewell. I would probably have gone for Riise at left mid and Arbeloa at left back. As I say, not great options.


    I'm glad to see that you've stopped singling out Pennant though, since he was the best player on the pitch that night.

    Thoughts?

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  29. Thoughts :Nesta and Maldini are midgets if you play them against Crouch ! So why give them a easy night and not win in the air (Crouch) or with Pace (Bellamy)?Kuyt scored in the 89 min with Crouch on the pitch !
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drlMmUvXhX4 

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  30. Beyond hopeless - the waster was scared to go anywhere near the box during open play! 

    His 'work rate' was vital though I guess(!)

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  31. We outplayed Milan though...?

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  32. People blame rafa for not winning two CL's in 6 years, not winning the prem with a points total which would have won it most other seasons. 

    5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 7 finishes under Rafa in the prem. Its not a coincidence there were ownership battles when we finished 7th.

    1CL, 2 CL finals , 3 CL semis , 4 quater finals in 6 seasons.

    So the manager makes a mistake (maybe) in some games however overall his record speaks for itself. 

    4 million net spend in his tenure. Last 3 seasons selling more that he was allowed to buy. Bad owners in last 3 seasons.

    The reason Crouch left was for money, and he wanted to be the main striker. I defended Rafa playing crouch because he used to set people up  and create space for everyone else even though he wasn't scoring. He improved immensely like other players under Rafa. I don't think he would have sold Crouch if he didn't want more money the club wasn't giving him. How many Clubs since Liverpool have sold Crouch on for a profit, kind of shows he played his best with us. Will Carrol, Henderson, Adams, Downing be sold on for a profit? 

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  33. We weren't out played like Man U!

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  34. He had a great reputation for creating / scroring when he was paired with Torres as well. Baffles me as to why he was dropped

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  35. I remember Crouchie coming on against AC Milan and I felt Rafa was vindicated for not starting him in that final after his performance.  Crouchie was called up regularly for fouls against experienced and quality non-English opposition allowing possession to be turned over.  So Maldini and Gattusso had a walk in the park against Crouchie.  Crouchie was out of his depth.  It was predictable.  That final also saw a tactical masterstroke of having Gerrard start, for the first time in his career, in the hole behind a top striker in Kuyt.  Liverpool played great in that game - even Pennannt - but his and Zenden's final ball were so woeful even Crouchie couldn't have made use of it.  So moreover, Rafa's tactics were spot on.   Pennant and Zenden's final ball however...

    So no Jamie, it does not boggle the mind if your ability to appreciate football tactics outweighed your disposition to crunch numbers, which never tells the full story.

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  36. Strange article. I'd say judging by the fact we out-played the best side in Europe at the time as proof that Rafa was spot-on. Do you think Rafa didn't play him out of spite or something? Rafa would be close to the most shrewd European manager in history. I'd argue that he probably had a dozen reasons not to play Crouch and our performance probably demonstrated that. Personally, I blame Alonso for that stupid, needless free kick he gave away to provide Milan with the first goal against the run of play. It was a Charlie Adam like foul - and Alonso made plenty of them (but he is another sacred cow for the Rafa haters).

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  37. He wanted players to idolise him? Thanks for the pop psych but I'd say that Rafa was always pretty clear on his philosophy and that players were to play to the system and not for themselves, like his Valencia machine. The disgruntled players are the ones with the ego problems. 

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  38. Maybe I was dreaming, but the team that started the 2007 Champions League final outplayed Milan up until a fluke goal bang on half-time. Zenden had a pretty good first half, and was probably picked for his experience in big games. Second-half we were still well in the game but for Gerrard missed a one-on-one. Masch was immense that game and had Kaka in his pocket, until Pennant fucked about when he could have got a cross in, gave the ball away, they broke, and we had suddenly lost the game.

    I think it was more down to fate than team selection.

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  39.  Ac Milan players and coach before the 2007 final "THE PLAYER WE FEAR THE MOST IS CROUCH" So what did the genius known as Benitez do? Drop him to the bench.Way to go Rafa,I'm still gobsmacked over that decision.

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  40. Totally agree, Snowraven. It's as if Benitez decided to drop Crouch just because the Milan coach said that, in some kind of misguided attempt to prove that Liverpool could win without him.

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  41. Thats why I hope Rafa takes over from Bacon Face - when he leaves OT

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  42. Why did Bellamy start in Barcelona and Zenden was a sub then?Think you  need to watch the goal again Kewell  who had come on for Zenden cut the ball out stopped the break away then lost out in the tackle went down, opening up the left side the goal didn't come directly from Pennant not crossing. Would Bellamy have been down or would he have turned and gave chase?

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  43. I wish Jamie had been our manager instead of Rafa

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  44. Quick question Jamie... How do you get all your stats? I think they are brilliant. I was going to argue against Crouch but after seeing your stat regarding his involvement in 83% of goals in games he has started, I thought twice! That is a phenomenal stat if true, makes you wonder why we sold him and Bellamy to begin with

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  45. Chi Bai lu, why did you buy him in the first place, Benitez?

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  46. one the left, on the right, on the head son get innnn!!! was an amazing hat trick!!!!

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  47. Jay and j75j both seem to have missed my point totally.
    Liverpool has also won some games the opposing team could have claimed themselves, by the nature of your argument, Milan should have won the champions league in 2005 having outplayed us but as fate would have it we won.
    The win in 2005 spurred us on to another final two years later by the very nature of champions league because over the last 20 years or so, a team that reaches or wins a final is back in the final the following season or 2 seasons after. 
    This was the case with Juventus being finalists 3 years in a row from 1995-98, Bayern finalists in 1999 and 2001, Liverpool and Mlan 2005 and 2007, United in the years 2008, 2009 and 2011 while Barcelona were in the 2009 and 2011 finals.
    My main point with the above examples is inertia/momentum of recent final appearances or wins in the champions league seem to propel teams to repeating the cycle but does not guarantee winning the final.
    Its time people accepted results whether positive or negative because the very act of  looking back and theorising how things could have been can also work against us and take away results we treasure if opposing fans do the same.
    How many times have we heard opposing  fans and  managers such as Lawrie Sanchez who have not tasted champions league let alone the glory of winning disparage us by claiming it was won by default simply because a three goal deficit was overturned. Milan won the first half and we won the second half by an identical scoreline and the resultant penalties.
    Any other team overturning such a scoreline would be eulogised for an epic performance as United was back in 1999 in beating Bayen in injury time after being outperformed in the whole of normal time and Chelsea doing likewise to Napoli over 2 legs and it may also be worth mentioning Arsenal's pyrrhic victory against Milan over 2 legs as well.
    We should take our victories as such and resolve to come back from setbacks by backing our team to do better rather than dwell on pointing out what could have been while the world around us moves on.

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  48. Pretty petty supposition. No need to besmirch the man like this, even though, as we all know, you weren't a fan of his reign. I'm willing to hear you criticise him, but is there any need to denigrate him like this in a way that implicates his integrity?

    Certainly less evidence of Rafa's self interest than there was for Hodgson.

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  49. That is what football is partly about talking about what we would have done! Especially in a game where we matched the opposition, Rafa got the tactics right in the middle with Alonso,Mascherano and Gerrard it stopped them playing, just like when Rafa brought on Didi in 05. Our team was better then 05 and we had players 
    that could have made a difference from the bench. 05 and 07 games were poles apart if Rafa had shown more faith in the players that got us to the final my be we would have won.
    Rafa said we lacked quality after the game but we more then matched them and should have been more adventurous with his subs.You don't get to European Finals if you are lacking quality it is an insult to the competition,our players and the other teams.

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  50. How exactly have I 'denigrated' him?

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  51. You suggest that Rafa put some sort of personal point ('some kind of misguided attempt to prove that Liverpool could win without him') ahead of the best interests of the club.

    I know you're not saying it outright ('it's as if') but the implication is a serious one if you care for the welfare of the club. I just can't see you saying this about another manager. Not really fair.

    Rafa was stubborn, no argument there, but I don't believe he would wilfully damage the prospects of the club to prove a point and I think it is a little bit disrespectful to do so.

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  52. Crouch wanted to leave so that is why we sold him. We got an impressive £11,000,000 for him which was a good price.

    Bellamy wasn't as mature as he is now (many people may dispute his maturity now!) and had legal problems in addition to the whole Riise thing. His fitness record may also have been a factor. Considering all this, £9,000,000 for a player who would play only 8 games in the next season for West Ham was good business. You've got remember that Rafa had to sell to buy.

    For the record I'd have liked to see us keep Crouch and whilst I've always been a big fan of Bellamy, I think it was the right decision to sell him then.

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  53. It's always easier with hindsight isn't it Jamie?  How you can claim that your team selection would have won a 6th european cup shows you need to let go of your hatred for all things Benitez.  I liked Crouch but he wasn't a particularly mobile player....... AND if you know the story about his other half not wanting to be in Liverpool anymore, you will know why he moved south.

    Interesting that you say Crouch was involved with 83% of goals because you like him, but when talking about Downing you are very quick to trot out his assist rate...... and NOT HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE BUILD UP TO GOALS.

    Interesting........ lies, damned lies and statistics eh?

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  54. Nonsense. Crouch's 'involvement' with 83% of goals is based on goals and assists, not 'almost' scoring or assisting.

    If Downing scored or created 83% of LFC's goals I would be championing him too.

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  55. I stand corrected. Sorry.

    Gerrard still missed a good chance though....

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  56. We are becoming the masters at missing good chances!

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