Liverpool fans still hold Rafa Benitez in very high regard despite his sacking in 2010.
The Spaniard led the Reds to an incredible Champions League triumph in his debut season, before reaching the final of the same competition just two years later - although they couldn’t repeat their success.
Benitez also came close to winning Liverpool’s first Premier League trophy, but could only finish second to Manchester United in the 2008/09.
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Despite all of his success, Liverpool fans will always remember one terrible decision Benitez made whilst at the club. That was, of course, trying to sell Xabi Alonso to sign Gareth Barry.
Alonso arrived at Liverpool in 2004 and established himself as one of Europe’s best midfielders alongside Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano.
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However, in the summer of 2008, Benitez decided he wanted to sell his compatriot with the view of signing Barry to replace him. While a move didn’t go through that summer, Alonso did swap Liverpool for Real Madrid the following year and he’s explained how the move came about.
Alonso on his exit from Liverpool
“Rafa came to me and was very clear. He said, ‘Xabi, we need the money to sign other players that I want’. In order to make that money, my name was the first on the list to be sold,” he told the Guardian.
“I said, ‘OK, Rafa, no problem. I am a professional. I understand that’. There was interest from Juventus. There was interest from Arsenal. But the clubs could not agree terms.
"So the next year, the situation was different. I went to Rafa: ‘OK, a year ago you wanted me to leave and I accepted it. Now I want to leave . …’ In the end, there was an agreement but it was not easy because he wanted me to stay by that point.”
Alonso was so loved by Kopites that when they discovered he may be leaving the club to be replaced by Barry, they were heard chanting ‘you can shove your Gareth Barry up your arse’ during their pre-season friendly against Lazio in 2008.
While Liverpool supporters were obviously angry at Benitez for his decision on offloading Alonso, the midfielder admits that he too was upset.
“I was surprised,” Alonso admits. “I was disappointed too, because I was very happy in Liverpool. I could walk down the street and people would beep their car horns and wave. None of this would matter to Rafa, of course, but why should it? He was the manager. He has his way of doing things.”
Alonso went on to admit that his relationship with Benitez became strained and insisted that, although he doesn’t regret moving to Madrid, he regrets not winning the league with Liverpool.
“Yes, I can admit that my relationship with Rafa wasn’t as good as it had been in the first year,” he said.
“But I didn’t ask to leave because of that. I had been five years at Liverpool. I had the feeling it was the right thing to do.
“Moving from Liverpool to Madrid was the most difficult step to make in terms of the decision. But I felt that I had new things to learn, new challenges to take.
"The only thing I regret is not winning the Premier League with Liverpool. I’ll never know how that feels and experience the reaction of the city, as I did after Istanbul. It hurts because I know the people want the league title more than anything.”
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