Does Rafa lose on Robbie after the dust settles at Liverpool?

The school of thought says: Rafael Benitez must have faith in the abilities of David N’gog – the Liverpool striker he is left with as cover after the departure of Robbie Keane – else he has made the management error of the century and blown The Red’s best chance of a title in years.

Keane returned to Tottenham Hotspur to a captain’s welcome – although one wonders if the fans will have something to say on that, we know how they treat players they see as Judases – and Rafa was left with a striking problem that seemed symptomatic of a wider discontent off the field at Anfield. It is turmoil – we are told – and Benitez has failed sign a replacement losing between £8m and £5m on the player who is now Spurs’s gain.

Spurs are back tracking in a bid to avoid relegation. There is an irony in that Keane, Jermaine Defoe et al benefited from the North Londoners actually sticking with a manager for once in Martin Jol and moved forward towards the top of the Premiership but their attempts to stay in the division revolve around changing as many things as possible and they will be ignoring the desperate laughter that comes from Southampton when they talk about Harry Redknapp and avoiding relegation, and the second attempt at a last laugh that comes from Portsmouth’s Fratton Park.

In Keane they have (re)signed a player who spent most of the last few months trying and failing to fill the not inconsiderable boots of Ferndando Torres and seemed only to justify the idea that while Keane was good he was never worth the £20m paid for him. Keane was not a player without his advocates while at Spurs – especially in the National media who are often accused of being infatuated with all things White Hart Lane – and one can only suppose that Benitez took a chance that those advocates were correct. It was graduation day for the Liverpool number seven but unlike the “load of rubbish” signed from Scunthrope or the guy who came down from Celtic with the usual questions marks over differences in the English and Scots game he did not make that step up and this cost Benitez some £5m/£8m.

Has it cost his title aspirations? That is doubtful. Keane has proved – in so much as we assume he would get no better at Liverpool – that he is no replacement for Torres and that should the Spaniard get injured or require resting then the Irishman is no more able to replace him than N’gog and the title is lost. The £5m/£8m then is more of a damage limitation exercise with Benitez having bet on Keane making the grade and lost, but he only lost the £5m/£8m and not the £20.3m, nor the £12m/£15m which Spurs have paid.

Thus we have context for Keane: That he is not good enough for a team that aspires to the top of the Premiership. If we know he is not worth £20.3m, do we think he is worth £15m? Rafa has lost £5m/£8m by buying high but he has – in Harry – found the sucker to take on what he has found out is not fit for purpose and at a price which minimises the deficit Liverpool suffer. To give that a context Liverpool are Manchester United buying Juan Sebastian Veron for £28.1m and Spurs are Chelsea allowing them to minimise the loss by paying £15m for someone who goes on to prove that he was not good enough in the first place.

Benitez and Liverpool are left with egg on their faces after a transfer gamble went wrong, but Harry Redknapp and Spurs are left with the meal that does not taste quite right.

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