If Liverpool fans are looking for a transfer that can act as an effective comparison for this dreadful season, then the signing of Fernando Morientes could well be the perfect example. Before he played a game much was expected and great fanfare was given for what could be achieved and in the end, despite the occasional moment of class, it ended in bitter disappointment all around.
To be fair to Rafa Benitez, in January 2005, there were not many better strikers around available for £6.3m. This was a player who averaged nearly a goal a game for Spanish giants Real Madrid, despite being forced to play as a substitute in many games due to Real signing Brazilian striker Ronaldo. On loan at Monaco the previous season, the Spaniard had netted 10 goals in 28 games and had terrorised Chelsea’s defence in the semi final, scoring home and away to send Monaco through to the final (where they would eventually lose to Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto side). Very few people at the time thought that this deal could be anything less than a success and certainly everyone had high hopes of the transfer being one of the best of Benitez new reign at Anfield.
Sadly for Morientes and Benitez it never worked out that way. Although Liverpool fans were given glimpses of the quality that Morientes possessed, such as his brace against Middlesbrough at Anfield in a 2-0 victory, Morientes form at Anfield was never consistent. Too often he was on the fringes of game and seldom involved. His confidence seemed to be at a low ebb and he struggled to convince the Anfield crowd, so desperate for him to be a success, that he could take on the goalscoring mantle at the club. More worryingly, he was not convincing his manager either, despite being given plenty of playing time. 18 months after signign, Morientes had played a grand total of 61 games for Liverpool, but only scored 12 goals and his form was so poor that Rafa Benitez deemed him surplus to requirements, letting the striker leave the club for an undisclosed fee (believed to be less than half what the club paid for him) to go back to Spain and join up with Benitez’s former charges Valencia.
It is difficult to ascertain why Morientes wasn’t a success at Anfield. He certainly had all the attributes to be as much of a success at the club as any striker Liverpool have had in recent times, including Fernando Torres. His lack of pace is sometimes cited as a reason for his failure in England, but that is perhaps an unfair judgement as his lack of pace never influence his performances for Real Madrid or Monaco. Morientes seems to have been the victim of a clash of cultures more than anything else. His languid, loose, fluid style of play is perhaps more typical of someone like Dimitar Berbatov, another player who has had his struggles, and a player like that needs a team to play a certain way to bring the best out of them. Like United and Berbatov, Liverpool and Morientes didn’t quite suit each other and as the Spaniard’s confidence deserted him, the problem just compounded itself.
So don’t believe the hype, Morientes transfer wasn’t the worst in the world by any means. It made perfect sense at the time and he was a fantastic player. It just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and factors which is a great shame as he could well have been the perfect predecessor before Liverpool signed Fernando Torres.
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