If you don’t follow Rafa Benitez’s English language blog, you should. It’s a curious mixture of candid coaching opinions, mixed with analytics, tactics, and, above all, self-promotion. The blog could simply be a hobby, or a way to bridge the football and media worlds (thereby giving him a few extra-football sources of income), or, my preferred theory, a means of carefully laying the groundwork for the former Liverpool manager’s triumphant return to the English top flight.
His latest piece is a marvellous example. It’s an interesting read, in part because it’s warning that the Premier League may be absorbing both the good and bad elements of Spain’s tiki-taka approach—lovely possession football that waits, often interminably, for the other side to make mistakes. Benitez makes some pretty liberal conclusions with the data, but his arguments are reasonable enough.
The fun part though is the subtle underlining of Benitez’s expertise. He reminds readers (club presidents) of his eight years in the Premier League. He is careful to mention his “personal experience as player and coach in Spain for more than 30 years.” But this is my personal favourite. In discussing the growing influence of tiki-taka in England, Benitez writes,
One of the players from my time at Liverpool FC, who has played in various Premier League teams and is still playing in England, commented about a manager that he’s had: “he trains very similar to the way we used to with you, always with the ball”.
Because Benitez is on the right side of history, and brought possession football to England first. So much so that he knows tiki-taka’s primary weakness. I hope Benitez does get another job in England sooner than later, but I’ll miss this blog.