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The Method In Benitez's Madness

  • Times, Monday, February 2, 2009 2:45 PM
The stories that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has somehow "lost the plot" over the past few weeks are a misinterpretation of the Spaniard's methods, writes Oliver Kay. He says that the manager is a thinker, and that his attack on his Manchester United counterpart Alex Ferguson last month, his decision to substitute Steven Gerrard during last week's tie with Wigan Athletic, and dropping striker Robbie Keane on Sunday for the game against Chelsea are all the actions of a man who carefully calculates his moves and doesn't act on emotion.
Kay deploys regal Shakespearian analogies to best describe the manager's way of operating. "The Liverpool manager is no Hamlet, driven to madness by a desire for revenge," Kay writes. "He is no King Lear, stripped of his dignity as he descends slowly into insanity. Benítez would probably prefer to regard himself as King Henry V, a man notable for military genius, a powerful leader whose air of nobility concealed a devilish, scheming side to his character."
He also says that "the perception of a manager 'cracking up' in the heat of the title race is too much for some to resist, particularly when Ferguson is on the other end of the equation." The handling of Keane, for example, is "not the sign of a manager who has taken leave of his senses. Benítez simply does not view him as a player deserving of a starting place at present or as a player who can change a game as a substitute, so he prefers David Ngog, a raw French teenager of 19, who is perceived to have the pace to stretch opposition defenses in the closing stages of matches."
Benítez has never been like Ferguson and never will be. "Asking him to manage by instinct, rather than by analysis, would be like asking Ferguson to do the reverse," Kay concludes.

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