Rafael Benitez seems to be the favourite to take over at Juventus this summer, but is he the right man to guide this illustrious team back to glory? As promised, over the next few weeks these Club Focus pages will be analysing different Tacticians linked with the Old Lady, from Rafa to Carlos Dunga, to see who is best suited to the role on Juventus’ bench.
Many have argued that Rafa is better suited to coaching sides that are already established and want to push on to the next level and start winning trophies. He inherited a great Valencia side that was well balanced, filled with blossoming stars and hungry for success, and he was able to deliver what they had been striving for. At Liverpool, he also inherited a decent squad and drove them to achieve greater things, taking them to Istanbul where they won the 2005 Champions League. Juventus, on the other hand, is rebuilding, and, should Benitez get the job, he would not be pushing a good team to be great but rather starting them off from scratch. Taking all this into consideration, would he be the right choice? Now remember this, despite the criticisms frequently aimed at the squad and the alarming need of a wholesale overhaul, Juve are still Juve and they still possess both the name and brand to intimidate opponents. As for the players, whilst they need to offload a large portion of the squad, the Old Lady still boasts some of the world’s greatest stars and others like Diego who, with the right management and tactics, may finally be able to fulfil their potential.
What Rafa also brings to the plate is the confidence and arrogance that the Old Lady has sorely missed for several years now. With an inept and inexperienced Board, it is vital that a proven big name Coach is hired who has a personality big enough to cope with the pressure. This is a Coach who truly understands football, a man who will put the Management in their place and who has the qualifications necessary to demand the likes of Gaetano D’Agostino and not make do with Felipe Melo. He also has the expertise to play his own way without buckling under the pressure to change formations in order to allow a certain Alessandro Del Piero to feature. No, this would be a Tactician who would give Juventus an identity.
The Italian league was made for brilliant Tacticians such as Rafa who, like him, strive to outsmart the opponent. He is best known for exploiting the opposition’s weakness and playing to the strengths of his team. In the Premier League, where pace and bullish tactics are preferred to meticulous play and exquisite technical abilities, the Spaniard has done remarkably well. But his love for the latter attributes were what ensured him victory in Europe’s most elite competition. You could almost say that he plays traditional Juventus football – efficient, organised and winning. That is not to say that his love of tactics makes him a boring Coach. On the contrary, last season Liverpool had a +50 goal difference, higher than any other side and were only defeated twice. The only problem Rafa may have is in tallying up too many draws sometimes brought about by unusual substitutions.
Benitez may be an impersonal Coach, but he is capable of bringing out the best in his players, transforming the likes of Fernando Torres into world class footballers. As for the youngsters, the Spaniard has taken over Liverpool’s youth academy in hopes of producing new talent who can take the step up and has already incorporated several youngsters into the team this year. Meanwhile, Juve has yet to really take a chance on their youth this season despite them winning the Viareggio tournament and with the first team suffering so many injuries.
One of the biggest complaints made against the Liverpool Manager is his poorly conducted transfer campaigns. Alongside the inexperience and ineptitude of Alessio Secco, the Juve fans shudder to think what disasters might be brought to the Olimpico. Whilst Rafa may not be an expert at negotiating prices, to a certain extent it does not matter as the problem in the equation is Secco and not the Coach. The problem with Juventus is undoubtedly the personnel upstairs and, if new football experts are not employed, the club will have problems regardless of whether they hire Fabio Capello or Benitez. Building the Juve project means assigning roles to men who are experts in their field, so, if Rafa is brought in as a Tactician alongside a knowledgeable Sporting Director, would the fans still be worried?
As long as Juve is still reshuffling its Board then it makes sense that no risks should be taken on up-and-coming Coaches. Here is a man who has a cabinet filled with trophies and tactics made for Calcio, why not Rafa?