As a combination, Liverpool and Rafa Benitez enjoyed a fairly happy six-year union, a period best remembered for the club’s heroic 2005 Champions League title. There’s still a lot of affection between the club and their former boss, although they find themselves in completely contrasting situations right now.
Following another ambitious transfer window, Liverpool look like a really good team, and they fancy their chances of having a good crack at both the Premier League and Champions League this season. Benitez, meanwhile, is languishing down at the foot of the Premier League table with Newcastle United.
Eight years on from the Spaniard’s Anfield departure, here are Rafa Benitez’s last 7 Liverpool signings: Where are they now?
7. Alberto Aquilani - Free Agent
Now, there’s a blast from the past. Rafa Benitez brought Alberto Aquilani to Anfield as a direct replacement for Xabi Alonso, who left for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. Aquilani had developed an excellent reputation for himself in Italy with Roma as a hard working, versatile and intelligent playmaker. However, the Italian international failed to transpose that form into his time on Merseyside, where he spent just one season, followed by two loan moves away and eventually a permanent transfer to Fiorentina. Now aged 34, Aquilani is currently a free agent, having been relegated from La Liga with Las Palmas last season.
6. Glen Johnson - Free Agent
Glen Johnson of Stoke City during the Pre Season Friendly match between Burton Albion and Stoke City at the Pirelli Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Burton upon Albion, England.
The second of Rafa Benitez’s two big money signings in his final summer in charge of the Reds, Glen Johnson arrived at Anfield for £17.5 million from Portsmouth. The former Chelsea full-back had impressed on the south coast, establishing himself as an England regular under Fabio Capello. He went on to rack up exactly 200 appearances over the next six years with Liverpool, where he often earnt praise for his athleticism down the right flank but drew criticism for his occasional defensive lapses. Having left the club to join Stoke City in 2015, Johnson has been a free agent since the Potters were relegated from the Premier League last season.
5. Sotirios Kyrgiakos - Retired
A title winner in both Greece and Scotland, Sotirios Kyrgiakos was brought in at Anfield to act as defensive cover for the likes of Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher. A hard working and determined character who always gave his all, Kyrgiakos ended up playing a fair amount of football in his two seasons with the club, and although his defensive nouse could occasionally be found a little wanting, no-one could question his attitude. Now aged 39, Kyrgiakos retired in 2014, following a brief stint with semi-professional Australian outfit Sydney Olympic.
4. Maxi Rodriguez - Penarol
Maximiliano Rodriguez, of Newell's Old Boys, looks on during a match between Racing Club and Newell's Old Boys as part of Torneo Primera Division 2016
A player synonymous with a sumptuous volley in extra-time of Argentina’s 2006 World Cup quarter-final vs Mexico, Maxi Rodriguez endeared himself to Liverpool fans during his three seasons in England. He was a smart addition by Benitez from Atletico Madrid on a free transfer, and he bagged 15 goals in 57 games for the club, as well as chipping in with a fair few assists. Following five years back in his native Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys, the 37-year-old 2014 World Cup finalist has been playing for Penarol in Uruguay since 2017.
3. Albert Riera - Retired
One of only two retired players in this seven, which I have to say I was a bit surprised by, Albert Riera last played in 2016 during a very brief stint in Slovenia. A quick and industrious left-sided player who was good on the ball, Riera was capable of playing as either a left-back or as a left winger. He was a fairly regular fixture in the Spain squad during his time at Anfield, joining the club from Espanyol for £8 million in September 2008. He played 55 games during two seasons on Merseyside, before playing for six different clubs over the next six years.
2. Peter Gulacsi - RB Leipzig
Goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi of Leipzig looks on after the Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Fortuna Duesseldorf at Red Bull Arena on September 2, 2018 in Leipzig, Germany.
The surprise package of this seven, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for not even knowing Peter Gulacsi ever played for their club. The Hungarian international arrived at Anfield as a youngster, spending five years with the club, failing to register a first team appearance and failing to impress during loan moves to Hereford, Tranmere and Hull City. He left for good in a move to Red Bull Salzburg in 2013, joining their sister club RB Leipzig two years later. Gulacsi has made a big impression in the Bundesliga, much to the surprise of anyone who watched him in England.
1. Robbie Keane - Free Agent
At the age of 38, most recently having played for ATK in the Indian Super League as a player-manager, one could speculate that Robbie Keane may well have retired. We have a rule of not retiring players for them though, so until the Irishman confirms that he’s hung up his boots, he’s a free agent for us.
Keane said it was his boyhood dream to play for Liverpool as a fan of the club when he signed for the Reds in a £19 million deal in 2008, although he did say the same thing when he joined Celtic on-loan. Things didn’t quite work out for Keane on Merseyside, and he returned to Tottenham the following season. As well as being the Republic of Ireland’s all time record scorer, Keane ranks 14th in the Premier League’s list of top scorers since 1992 and he’s LA Galaxy’s second highest scorer of all time.
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