The future of Rafa Benitez dominates the British press this morning, as Liverpool slumped to their sixth defeat in seven games and fingers are being jabbed once again: former Liverpool star Ronnie Whelan suggests Rafa does not care about the Premier League; Sam Wallace concludes that Rafa is too clever for his own good; John Ley looks at the facts unnecessarily needed to prove Liverpool have had a poor start; and David Hytner looks at the club’s growing injury crisis, the one mitigating factor that seems to be saving Rafa.
But the most pertinent and balanced piece comes from Rory Smith in the Telegraph, getting to the heart of the issue: money, which Liverpool do not have to throw away. “Liverpool have neither the mechanism nor the means to effect a dismissal, requiring as it would a majority vote in a boardroom fractured beyond repair and up to £20 million to pay off Benítez and his staff (if they were not to be re-employed elsewhere),” Smith writes. “That money, it is fair to say, would be better spent backing Benítez in the January bring-and-buy sale.”
As ever, for all the ink spilled, that serious sum of cash is likely to ensure Rafa will stay come what may until at least the end of the season.
- Following up on Saturday’s post on the debacle in Australia, where a record-low crowd showed up to see A-League expansion team Gold Coast United following anger at their billionaire owner’s decision to cut the capacity to 5,000, Football Federation Australia is stepping in to deal with a recalcitrant and short-sighted owner.
- League titles were decided in a couple of places you might not have noticed. In Lithuania, Ekranas faced the only team who could pip them to the title, sealing the deal with a 2-1 win over Vtra. And in China, fears of rioting proved unfounded as Beijing Guoan won their first ever Chinese Super League Title.
- I’m delighted to see that after a long hiatus, one of the blogs that inspired me to start Pitch Invasion a couple of years ago is back: the Culture of Soccer returns with a typically smart look at whether the United States is an importer or an exporter of talent. And the soccer blogosphere is a little wiser again.
- “Fan dressed as sheep set alight” is one of those headlines that sounds comedic at first glance, but the story here is pretty horrific on a train carrying Aberdeen fans home.
- Bulgarian football is in a state of disarray, as Botev Plovdiv’s 1-0 derby win over Lokomotiv was marred by fighting that involved pretty much everyone: players, staff and fans. CSKA Sofia, meanwhile, have suspended nine players for unspecified reasons, always the best ones to set-off wild speculation.
- Wembley Stadium’s owners announced they were pleased to only have lost £31m in 2008, which must be a nice position to be in. Expect more NFL and Coldplay there.
- The Table Football World Cup is underway in South Africa — why did no-one tell me about this before?
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.