Friday, May 25, 2007


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What Rafa Benitez has achieved at Liverpool in just 3 years, is really quite phenomenal: the Holy grail of the Champions League title, the FA Cup, Super Cup, Charity Shield and a second lost Champions League Final against Milan a few days ago. All supporters of the club should be celebrating. Yet somehow we're not. Defeat in the crucial last game of the season has left a bitter taste in the mouth and precipitated a few skeletons clattering out of the cupboard. Put simply, another CL success would have taken supporters' minds off the fact that we haven't won the English Premier League for 17 years (and all that time ago, it even went by a different name!). Failure, on the other hand, means that Rafa (and the fans) won't be able to claim for the next year that while Manchester might be the champions of England, his (our) team are the champions of Europe. It was a part well scripted against Mourinho in the season following that famous victory in Istanbul. It's easy to see why Ferguson at United was so blatantly in the "Rossoneri" camp.

After the defeat against Milan, Rafa was guilty of an egotistical tantrum. The new owners, he insisted, must back him in signing new players with massive price tags; otherwise, Liverpool would always be trailing behind in the PL in 3rd or 4th place. Now I really wonder if his vehemence on this score would have been so great had Liverpool won the final? It could have happened--and Milan definitely had whatever luck was going when Inzaghi fortuitously put away his first of the night. With Liverpool crowned as Champions of Europe for the second time in 3 years, everything would have been seen as being rosy. Of course there would have still been changes, but the emphasis would have been on Liverpool being about to translate their European form into domestic dominance. Now, intead of that, Rafa has to face the next year without having won anything in 2006--2007, while his two major rivals shared out the domestic honours. And that's why he got mad and made the comment about needing immediate financial backing. The European card can no longer be played and Rafa is faced with the stark reality of needing to win the PL for the first time in 17 years.

What is conveniently forgotten in all this is the fact that Rafa himself is the man who has made a habit out of signing average quality squad players. Indeed, it is often said that Rafa is uncomfortable with big stars, preferring to play his tactical game and request the individuals to lose themselves in the team plan. The problem is that at the highest level, this approach is not really working. Quality DOES make a difference and faceless craftsmen will never match the sublime skills of a Ronaldinho, a Kaka, a Drogba--or an Inzaghi. Perhaps Benitez' ouburst after the final was so vehement because he had himself just realised this fact for the first time: there could be no more papering over the cracks!

Personally, I am sure that RB is still the right man for the job even if he, like the rest of us, remains on a learning curve in his professional life. Perhaps now he will ally that profound tactical knowledge with the acceptance that at the highest level, quality will make the difference--and also that quality needs to be paid for!

Friday, May 18, 2007


It is customary to rubbish this latest instalment of the web-clinger's adventures, but I think the real problem is not that the movie is weak, but that the plot is rather long and perhaps too demanding for most kids--and kids at heart-- to follow. There are 3 main story lines and I would think that they're woven together pretty well and finally arrive at a convincing enough conclusion. Maybe the scene towards the end where Peter Parker forgives the Sandman for killing his Uncle Ben comes perilously close to gooeyness, but this a minor blemish. The principal characters are played convincingly enough by the usual cast--and Tobey Maguire has really made the Spidey role his own: he is exactly the likeable nerd of the comic book and during this outing he gets to play Spider-Man without his mask more than ever before. It was great to see him swanking into a night club dressed all in black, humiliating both Mary Jane and Gwen Stacey before beating up the bouncers! Of course this happened while Peter was under the influence of an alien entity--but it was nice to see him shed his nerdy image for a while.

The first issues of "spider-man" coincided with my early childhood and I can easily remember the excitement I felt waiting for my father to return from work with the latest issue straight from New York and the "Marvellous Marvel Bullpen". Spider-man was so successful because of the unique idea of making the alter-ego of a super hero a nerdy teen ager who lived with his elderly Aunt and never had any money nor--in the early days at least--any success with girls. This was brilliantly contrasted with the genuine creepiness of a character whose body was as supple as a cat's ( or a spider's!) and who had two blank whooshes for eyes so you never knew what he was thinking or feeling. The idea of putting the cobweb on the top of the cover page, supporting the words: "the amazing spider-man" was a stroke of genius from Steve Ditko the original artist who co-created spidey with writer Stan Lee.