Ok, I’ve given the Spaniard a bit of stick this season, and deservedly so in my opinion regardless of what the feverishly devout, blindly loyal section of Liverpool fans feel, but for today, against the snowy backdrop of an icy Anfield, lets look at some of the shrewdest moves he has made as Liverpool manager looking at the five best signings he has made for the club.
5. Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord to Liverpool for an Undisclosed fee)
Fifth place in this list was the most fiercely contested with Yossi Benayoun and Glen Johnson both very close to the list. However Kuyt just edges them out given the time he has been at the club and the fact he has played in many positions for the team and become a firm favourite of Benitez with his workrate and attitude. He’s popped up with several important goals too on occasion and Benitez is under no illusions as to the importance of Kuyt to the team.
4. Javier Mascherano (West Ham & Media Sports Ltd to Liverpool for a total fee of £18.6m)
After a long drawn out saga, Javier Mascherano finally made his move from West Ham and Kia Joorabchian’s Media Sports company, to Liverpool permanent in February 2007 and since then the “little chief” has become one of the most important players in Benitez team. A combative midfielder who has a tireless workrate, he was a perfect addition to the Liverpool midfield of Alonso and Gerrard and it was this triumvirate which played a big part in Liverpool finishing second in the 2008-2009 season. Benitez himself has labelled Mascherano “A monster of a player”. Barcelona are said to be very keen on acquiring the midfielder in the Summer.
3. Xabi Alonso (Real Sociedad to Liverpool for £10.5m)
He may no longer be at Anfield but Xabi Alonso was certainly one of the best buys Benitez made for Liverpool. Alonso had a huge initial impact and was immense in his first season at the club. His form tailed off in his second year however and Benitez was linked with selling the player to Juventus in 2008. Something which eventually led to Alonso leaving the club in the summer of 2009. However in season 2008-2009, Alonso was back to his best and gave Liverpool fans a final year of his pinpoint accurate passing and intelligent use of the ball before Real Madrid added him to their growing crop of Galactico’s. He has been sorely missed at Anfield this season.
2. Pepe Reina (Villarreal to Liverpool for an Undisclosed sum, believed to be around £6m)
It’s been mooted for some time now that Pepe Reina is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and certainly one of the best in Europe. Although he had an inconsistent start and made a few “Grobbelaar-esque” mistakes at times, Reina has since matured into a model of consistency at Anfield. Time and time again his saves have kept Liverpool in games or ahead. As he has grown in confidence, so his performances have improved. Certainly the best in the Premiership at the moment and the best goalkeeper have had at Anfield in a very long time.
1. Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid to Liverpool for £20m)
Didier Drogba has his fans, David Villa is a fantastic player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic may cost a great deal more money, but I’d not swap any of them for Fernando Torres. On his day Torres is unplayable. Equally adroit on the deck or with his head, the Spanish striker has no weaknesses in his game. £20m for a striker who scored 50 league goals more quickly than Kenny Dalglish or Ian Rush, in today’s transfer climate, is arguably the deal of the decade for Liverpool fans. He, along with Steven Gerrard, is the embodiment of Benitez Liverpool and he and Gerrard dictate whether the club enjoys success or failure. He isn’t ‘arguably’ the best striker in the world. He is the best striker in the world.