Sunday 16 June 2013
Premierleague.com rifles through the annals of the Barclays Premier League to find significant events.
Liverpool announced they had found a successor to Gerard Houllier in appointing Rafael Benitez as their new manager.
The arrival of the Spaniard from Valencia ushered in a new era for a club who had ended Houllier's six-year reign at Anfield the previous month.
“I am very proud to be joining one of the most important clubs in the world in one of the best leagues in the world – and I want to win”
Benitez, who in his three seasons at Valencia had guided the side to two Liga titles and the 2004 UEFA Cup, was delighted to sign a five-year deal with the Barclays Premier League club. "It is like a dream to be here,” said the 44-year-old. "I am very, very proud to be joining one of the most important clubs in the world in one of the best leagues in the world – and I want to win."
The Spaniard made it clear, however, that he had a specific footballing philosophy and highlighted his determination to instil a winning mentality in a side who had gone 14 seasons without a title.
"The work of Gerard Houllier was very good but each manager has his own ideas,” he added. “I can teach something different. I have come here to win, and my players have to have the same mentality.
“I am young; I want to win lots of matches and in the right way. I hope the players think like us that it is possible to win titles. I want the supporters to be proud of the team, of the manager, of the players, of the club."
Benitez signed several players from La Liga including Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia and, although the Reds did not challenge in the Barclays Premier League title race – finishing fifth – it did not take long for him to make himself popular with the Liverpool faithful, as he guided the Reds to a dramatic UEFA Champions League triumph in his first season in charge. After overcoming Chelsea in the semi-finals, Liverpool staged a remarkable recovery in the final in Istanbul rallying from a 3-0 half-time deficit to beat AC Milan on penalties.
The following season Liverpool’s League fortunes improved, the Reds coming third and winning the FA Cup against West Ham United with the help of another penalty shoot-out. Benitez thus achieved the distinction of becoming the only Liverpool manager to win major trophies in his first two seasons in charge.
In the 2006/07 season Liverpool again finished third in the top flight and reached another UEFA Champions league final, overcoming Chelsea once more in the last four, on penalties, before losing to Milan.
In summer 2007 the Spaniard lured striker Fernando Torres to Anfield in a bid to claim the Barclays Premier League title but although the signing from Atletico Madrid thrived at Anfield, the closest the Reds came was in the 2009/10 campaign when they finished runners-up, four points behind Manchester United.
The next season, when Liverpool finished seventh, was Benitez’s last at the club. He went on to coach Inter Milan, helping them lift the FIFA Club World Cup in his brief six-month spell in charge, before returning to English football in November 2012 as interim manager of Chelsea. Under Benitez, Torres, who had since moved to Stamford Bridge from Anfield, rediscovered his form and Chelsea finished third in the Barclays Premier League as well as lifting the UEFA Europa League.
Benitez returned to Italy to take over as head coach of Serie A club Napoli in May 2013.