So, it looks increasingly like Benitez is leaving Anfield. ‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘And I suppose you’ve just realised Michael Jackson’s dead!’
Well, I’m going to predict something. Here it comes… Benitez to Inter. Mark Hughes to Liverpool. I just sat down this morning and it came to me. Instinct, see. Why, I’ve no idea, but it adds up if you think about it – or at least if you can string a few unrelated incidents together in half-convincing fashion. I also predict you’ll shoot me down in flames pretty quickly, or the facts will do it for you, but hey.
Hughes has had a nice long holiday after the City funfair. Peer managers and big club boards know he was doing a good job at Eastlands under a lot of pressure and with a ragtaggle squad – and before it became clear Cook shouldn’t have quite so much involvement with a) transfers, and b) the media. Benitez, too, is a great manager whose time ran out at a club oscillating between glory and disappointment. Get behind either of them and you’ll reap the rewards.
I think Hughes would have been interested in the West Ham position had Grant not been their obvious choice, but he likes the north west. And perhaps he’s simply been enjoying his free time, family life and massive pay-off. I think Hughes can prove himself in the top half of the Premiership, and this could be his path to the credit he never got to claim at City. There are fewer difficult characters at Anfield, fewer interfering nobheads on the board, and less sense of precariousness despite the financial wobbles. I’d be just as surprised to see him there as anyone. But I wouldn’t be surprised, if you see what I mean.
Benitez simply lost faith in his own ability at the club. And he lost the fans a season or two ago, which became clear to the players, in whom you could almost detect embarrassment on occasion last season – heads down and just waiting for it to be over. But with Inter, Benitez could rebound. Despite his evident frailty in high seas, I think Raf is a shrewd, misunderstood manager, and with better resources and a fresh start, I think he could prove that Liverpool’s underachievement was hardly his fault. I think it’s unfair in some ways that the buck stops with the manager when there’s so much crap going on behind the scenes they can’t focus on what they’re good at. I expect him to be in the frame for Inter, I really do. Stranger things have happened.
‘But what about Hodgson?’ Maybe, but I think he’s found a home at Craven Cottage for another season or two. There’s more to come from Fulham and I think he knows it. Plus, he’s an advocate of stability and consistency in squad and management.
So there we are. Am I wildly off the mark? Have I missed something while enjoying the sunshine? Is what miniscule credibility I had completely out the window? Or will my gut feelings do me proud?
I wouldn’t go to the bookies with it, but it’s an interesting thought.
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