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Rumour Mongering: Managerial Soap Opera Edition

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rafa benitez liverpool manager

FSG are genius saviours returning the club to glory, they have a plan in place, and the slightest doubt or skepticism means you're a fool for daring to question them. Just never mind they've been at the club for eighteen months now and are currently looking to sort their second managerial and director of football hires, while the man presumed to have the most sway in the matter will be overseeing a move to his fourth manager in two years. So just pipe down about that and have faith they'll get it right and it'll be nothing but glory from here on out.

But no, FSG are foreign devils barely discernible from the men who came before them. They've knowingly ripped the heart from the club and are pissing all over the Liverpool Way in favour of brand value, market share in Asia, and an approach that sees victory only in dollars and pounds with any footballing success a negotiable byproduct. Never mind that at the very least they saved the club from administration and haven't show the slightest signs of strip-mining it to line their own pockets, because the evil is there for anyone with eyes to see.

There can be no middle ground; no room for hope to co-exist with patient skepticism. And so, with the club's supporters and fanbase as violently divided as they ever have been, the not so new anymore owners are tasked with finding a man who might just bring the club success in the long term but who will also be able to bring some semblance of calm to the mess at a time when some, still wounded from the Hicks and Gillett years, are fully prepared to treat them as though they are the enemy.

It's a mess, to say the very least, and no matter if Fenway Sports Group's decision to move on from Kenny Dalglish will turn out to have been the right one it has been an entirely foreseeable mess. In all likelihood, with the exception of tenuously linked (or perhaps only wished for by some) names like Jose Mourinho or Harry Redknapp—managers who have histories of public enmity with significant portions of Liverpool's support—whoever the man is who gets the job in the end will be backed. In the begining, at least. If it isn't, however, the kind of name that inspires a deep and widespread belief that FSG have greatly improved the club's prospects despite firing the club's greatest living legend, then they will run the risk of having fans turn on their new man—and them along with him—more quickly than if his name was Roy Hodgson.

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It seems at times as though every day since last Wednesday has seen at least a name or three added to the list of potential new managers for Liverpool, and just as often they have been crossed off the list as quickly as they've been suggested. Latest to both be rumoured as a serious target and to then be removed from contention is Frank de Boer, who in an interview with De Telegraaf today let it be known that while he was honoured by the Liverpool links, he has every intention to remain loyal to Ajax, the club where he spent most of his playing career and where he has won his second league title in his second season as manager after spending two years as the club's youth coach and two as the Netherlands national team's assistant manager.

This came come close on the heels of Swansea's Brendan Rodgers and Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp publicly stating they have no interest in even considering the job after widespread suggestion that both where near the top of what to some could seem long and scattershot list of possible hires. In Rodgers' case, he was reportedly approached soon after Dalglish's firing, around the time Wigan owner Dave Whelan was telling everybody who would listen about his magnanimous decision to allow his coach, Roberto Martinez, to interview for the Liverpool job.

For both Rodgers and Martinez there would be legitimate concern that any backing from the fans should they become Liverpool's manager would be of an exceptionally shallow variety, quickly discarded at the first signs of difficulty. In any case, Rodgers has taken himself out of the running to continue his project at Swansea, though Martinez appears to remain a legitimate candidate. Jurgen Klopp, fresh off back to back Bundesliga titles and a 5-2 drubbing of Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal cup, though, seems one of the few rumoured targets whose track record demands the kind of respect that would unite Liverpool fans in the wake of Dalglish's sacking even were there stumbles in the coming season.

After previously turning down Chelsea, however, Klopp shows every intention of continuing to build his dynasty at Dortmund:

I have been made aware of interest from England, and it is an honour to be linked with big clubs in the Premier League, but I have a contract with Dortmund until 2016 and am going nowhere. I love it here and have no intention of changing clubs.

Meanwhile, nobody considers Pep Guardiola a legitimate option despite talk of him being FSG's first choice for the role. Given his loyalties to Barcelona and his clear desire for a break from football, that he would choose to manage another club immediately after leaving the Catalans seems unlikely, and though it perhaps doesn't hurt to ask, there is concern in some quarters that letting it be known that a man widely considered unobtainable is FSG's dream target is little but an attempt to placate fans hoping for a big name hire.

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All of which leaves a rather short list of managers widely speculated to be in the running, with Roberto Martinez the one currently employed candidate who has survived as a possibility since he was first linked to the job late last week. At present, it is only Martinez left alongside unemployed former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas as presumptive front-runners, with the Portuguese manager the clear favourite amongst Liverpool fans. When it comes to Villas-Boas, though, having already been labelled a failure for his time at Chelsea by many in the English press there is reason to fear that in his case, too, stumbles in the league would see any semblance of support and unity amongst Liverpool fans disappear almost instantly, despite that a year ago he was considered the brightest up and coming manager in all of football.

Then, too, there is the elephant in the room: Rafa Benitez. By most accounts, FSG have no intention of even considering the former Liverpool manager, and given that Ian Ayre was part of the triumvirate that oversaw his firing there is perhaps little reason to be surprised by this. Still, despite that a vocal minority of fans may not think well of the man who took the club to two of its three highest points totals in history and a pair of Champions League finals on a shoestring while fighting the despised former owners, there is a much larger group who will see a refusal to even consider a return for Liverpool's winningest manager in the Premier League era as a severe error in judgement.

FSG may understandably fear hiring another manager who demands far more loyalty from Liverpool fans than they have earned, yet if they are not seen to at least give him serious consideration it could become another reason for support to sour should the manager they do choose find returning the club to the top four difficult. For now, though, the list of candidates that everybody seems to agree the club intends to interview—and who have not subsequently rebuffed this interest—is short, amounting only really to Martinez and Villas-Boas. Unless one of those two is hugely convincing, then—or unless there exists some other serious candidate or candidates whose presence has been kept a secret—this could end up taking quite a while longer than might be hoped.

Meanwhile, the fighting amongst Liverpool fans around the subject has already become rather ugly. And it is only likely to get worse. Enjoy the soap opera.