Perhaps the greatest challenge for a beloved player or manager who has left the club he loves most is to find a way to return to it without things going incredibly pear-shaped in the end. There are ultimately only two ways his return can play out: he either wins major silverware and quits while he's ahead, or, as is the usual case, things do not go at all to plan and the club must replace a highly regarded club personality.
Kenny Dalglish was the most recent club legend to experience this, and earlier this week Rafa Benitez threw his hat into the ring as a former manager waiting with bated breath to be the club's future manager once again. Since public declarations of intent towards a job someone else is already holding are generally frowned upon in the football world, Rafa was quick to clarify that he meant he'd like to return to Liverpool, the city, not Liverpool, the club.
"My family is in Liverpool, and that is my home," he said. "So hopefully I can come back to Liverpool any time. That is sure. Just to clarify: I'm talking about my home and my family, not the club. I have to go back there next week because we play against Liverpool."
In case matches against Chelsea didn't have enough inherent drama, Rafa's first visit as an opposition manager in just over a week's time now brings an extra bit of awkwardness on top of the regular scheduled proceedings. Brendan Rodgers, to his credit, diplomatically claims not to have read Rafa's earlier quotes and is sympathetic to Rafa's affection for and ongoing interest in the club.
"Rafa had a successful time here in the period he was here and I think he will join a list of probably many managers throughout the world who would love to manage a great club - especially having been here before," said Rodgers.
"Obviously that opportunity was there in the summer if the owners wanted to go down that route as Rafa was unemployed and not working. But they felt it best to go in a different direction and develop the club in a different way."
All staking of his territory aside, Rodgers isn't wrong. The non-appointment of Rafa after Dalglish was sacked remains a highly divisive topic, but FSG clearly had an opportunity to bring Rafa back and, for whatever reason, passed. Having a highly respected former manager consistently reaffirming his interest in your job could be distracting or even disconcerting for some, but Rodgers disagrees.
"It is not a hindrance to me," Rodgers said. "Before I came here I had seen comments about Rafa wanting to be manager and I’ve seen comments while I’ve been here. But it doesn’t affect me in my work or my job. My relationship is very strong with the players, we work very closely together on improving our football."
Rafa's love for the club is not a shocking revelation to anyone, least of all Brendan Rodgers. The latter's confidence may come across as a put on for the press, but Rodgers took on the position knowing that Rafa had a lingering legacy at Anfield that came with the terrain. As far as he's concerned, Rafa can talk as much as he likes about how much he loves both the city and the club, as it doesn't change which one of them gives his team talk from the home dressing room on April 21.