Carragher: 'Rafa was not the same'

Liverpool veteran Jamie Carragher has said he saw the transformation in Rafa Benitez as his Liverpool spell wore on.

Everybody assumed Jamie Carragher would become a manager after his playing career ends, but they were proved slightly wrong as he follows former Manchester United rival Gary Neville into the Sky Studio next season.

He has laid his reasons for dodging jumping straight into the hotseat, in a fascinating interview with the Telegraph where he says he has seen first-hand how football 'eats up managers.'

There is no doubt he is right; a boss is the focal point for pressure from board, players, fans and press - and that is something you need to be ready for, especially with the chance to ruin his reputation in an instant.

Carragher said he saw how Rafa Benitez, along with Gerard Houllier, saw their enthusiasm for the game worn down as their tenures went on.

He said: "I have so much respect for the two of them. But the fella who walked in was not the same fella who walked out. A lot of that has to do with the job."

In Benitez' case it's fascinating, because the Spaniard is a bolshy character who would now take great pleasure in telling you that he is an even better coach at present than he was when he left the Reds.

But Carragher is spot on. Benitez' triumphs came early on in his Liverpool career in 2005 in Istanbul and 2006 with the FA Cup, and while you would think the shine of winning both of those trophies enhanced his reputation, it actually dropped.

When he arrived at Liverpool, Benitez was seen as the answer to their problems, a man who had won La Liga with Valencia who would be able to finally lead the Reds back to the top of the English game.

Now mostly, Benitez is remembered when it comes to his exploits in English football along with Houllier as being another manager who tried, and failed.

Istanbul can't be wiped away, it was amazing, but when it came to the Premier League, he got close, but so far, and his superb 2008/09 side began to disintegrate a season later.

Benitez' spell was overshadowed by bad buys, mixed with some excellent ones, and darkened late on by the disastrous Hicks and Gillett regime.

With fan pressure and media going overboard about his failure to deliver, it's easy to see why Rafa would have lost some of that enthusiasm and drive he arrived with, it's only natural.

He jumped in too quick at Inter Milan and got it wrong, and wisely took time out of the game to find his spark, and at Chelsea he is showing the fight he has always had.

Is he the same as he was at Liverpool when he began? No, he is older, more battle-worn, and wiser. Has his career in English football taken it's toll? 

You bet. And it's not surprising Carragher wants to take a step back for a moment before setting himself up for that.

Is Carragher right to take a step back? Was Benitez worn down by time he left?

image: © thesportreview

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