Comment - Rafa survival is all about money
After Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League last night many would have expected Rafa Benitez to be out of a job this morning.
And who could blame then? Liverpool have won just two of their last 11 games in all competitions and that includes last night's scrappy 1-0 win over Hungarians Debrecen.
Currently sitting seventh in the league, having lost five games already this season, they are 13 points off leaders Chelsea and five points off fourth-placed Spurs.
But after Fiorentina's victory over Lyon last night eliminated the Reds from Europe's most prestigious competition, the club's managing director Christian Purslow was surprisingly upbeat.
He said: 'This (exit) has no bearing on Rafa whatsoever. He signed a new five-year deal four months ago and in those terms he is four months into a five-year journey.'
We all know that what a club says to the media and what it's actually thinking can be two different things entirely.
Take Paul Hart for example. Given a vote of confidence three weeks ago by the Portsmouth board, he now finds himself on the managerial scrapheap after being sacked yesterday evening.
But if what Purslow said last night is indeed the truth, it is a surprising admission that mediocrity is now accepted on the red half of Merseyside.
For a club that almost snatched the Premier League title from Manchester United last season and has reached the Champions League final twice in the last five years, their current predicament is nothing short of unthinkable.
So why do George Gillett, Tom Hicks and the rest of the board continue to persist with a manager who appears to be losing the dressing room as well games?
The answer is simple – it's all about money.
Purslow almost admitted as much last night when he mentioned that Rafa had signed 'a new five-year deal four months ago'.
The Spaniard's new deal is believed to be worth around £4 million a year, £20m total over the duration of the contract.
So with Benitez just four months into his deal, Liverpool would reportedly have to pay out the remainder of his contract – a whopping £18.7m, if they choose to get rid of him.
Add on top of this the cost of hiring a new manager on similar wages plus any compensation should they poach their new man from another club and the overall cost of getting rid of Benitez is between £40 -50m.
For a club whose financial problems are well-documented, £40-50m is simply not affordable.
With large debts to manage and money for their new stadium urgently needed, on-field success looks like taking a backseat at Anfield - at least until finances become stable or a new owner comes in.
Champions League revenue is an absolute must for the club next year so as long as Benitez can finish in the top four this season his job looks surprisingly safe.
He might have been frustrated as a lack of transfer funds in the summer, but strangely enough Rafa looks like being a beneficiary of Liverpool's very own credit crunch.
- Joe Strange
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