Apr 18, 2013, 5:21 AM EDT
When Rafa Benitez takes his Chelsea side to Anfield on Sunday, he will actually get a better reception from the Liverpool fans than his own.
Benitez’s lack of popularity at Stamford Bridge stems from his Liverpool days, and while he has slowly won the Chelsea fans over after a decent run of form, there is still plenty of animosity towards him from some unforgiving supporters.
At Liverpool, however, the 53-year-old is held is very high regard, after a largely excellent spell as coach between 2004 and 2010. He inherited a side that was struggling to make the top four, and turned them into near Premier League champions in 2008-09.
He also unforgettably won the Champions League in his first season at Anfield, after one of the greatest European Cup finals in history, and in the following few years his team became one of the most respected in Europe. He reached another final in 2007, which they lost to Milan, and reached three semi-finals too. He also won the FA Cup in 2006.
Admittedly his last season was disastrous, and his decision to sell Xabi Alonso was a baffling moment, but the club was being run terribly by Tom Hicks and George Gillett and Rafa’s influence decreased. Many wanted him to stay, but his exit was inevitable.
You just have to look at the signings he made to appreciate what a good job he did at Anfield:
Alonso, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt, Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva, Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, among others.
Of course he made some poor buys too but every coach does. Many of the above are now either world-class players or key men at Liverpool.
Sunday will be an emotional occasion for Benitez, and his love for Liverpool is still obvious. He recently said he believes he will definitely return to the club one day, and the reception he will get from his former fans will only make him want to return more.
Jul 25, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT
It can be the soccer tournament that changes Russia forever (so implies FIFA)
Jul 25, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT
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Jul 24, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
Reds’ owner does not want a repeat of last year’s weaknesses.
Jul 24, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT
NBC Sports and Fathom Events are taking Premier League soccer to the big screen.
Jul 24, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT
Balotelli, Honda, Muntari, and more from the Rossoneri’s N.Y. training.
Jul 24, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT
Pinto will depart after failing to come to new terms with the federation.
Jul 24, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT
After appearing three times at Brazil 2014, Besic is set to add depth behind Gareth Barry and James McCarthy.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT
Adu close to joining the 10th club in his 11-year career.
Jul 24, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT
After seeing time with the senior squad, 18-year-old prospect will be sidelined indefinitely.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
The Colombian striker takes a few hacks before AS Monaco’s friendly in Miami against Atletico National.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
Limited to just 16 matches last year after his big transfer from Liverpool to West Ham, Carroll is battling another ailment this season.
Jul 24, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT
The rags-to-riches defender steps away from the pitch, at least as a player, while reflecting on his career journey from North America to Europe and back.
Jul 24, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT
Herrera chats exclusively to PST: “If we are a humble team and we work hard, we will achieve our objectives and we will win trophies.”
Jul 24, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT
His dad played for El Tri, but California-born Fernando Arce Jr says his U-20 bow with the States makes him an American player “forever”
Jul 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Aston Villa, Manchester United and Manchester City all cruised, while Spurs had to find a late winner after coughing up a two-goal lead.
Jul 24, 2014, 12:47 PM EDT
What about the Premier League? Bundesliga? Serie A?
Jul 24, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Goran Milanovic is hoping the former American prodigy chooses to revitalize his career with FK Jagodina in the Serbian top flight.
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