All things considered, Rafa Benitez’s exit from Liverpool was not too surprising. With the club being put up for sale, the current owners had to put things in order to attract potential buyers.What is surprising is how fast Benitez has fallen from grace. In his six seasons at Liverpool, Benitez brought the club to two Champions League finals, winning one, captured the FA Cup and finished 2nd in 2008-2009, 4 points adrift of Man Utd.

The manner in which Liverpool had gone from that achievement to 7th place (only securing a Europa League spot due to Portsmouth’s ineligibility) has been shocking. In hindsight, failing to keep Xavi Alonso, not having competent backups for Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard, the stubborn refusal to play the likes of Aquilani, Benayoun and Babel was Benitez’s undoing. Benitez departs Liverpool with £6 million compensation package and no shortage of job opportunities on the horizon (Champions League winners Inter Milan appears likely future employer).

But will this decision create more problems than it solves? Without Champions League football next season, the futures of Torres, Gerrard and Mascherano with Liverpool are in doubt. Also, with a severely limited transfer kitty (the payment to Benitez would not have helped), Liverpool will not be in a position to challenge the top five financially and the chances of a quick return to Champions League football will be lessened.

Thus, much will depend on who Liverpool will appoint to succeed Benitez. So far the likes of Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill and even Kenny Dalglish have been proposed and if this is the scope of Liverpool’s search then fans are going to be in for a rough ride. Fact is neither Hodgson or O’Neill have ever brought an English club to Champions League qualification and Dalglish is a total non-starter. In my view, the appointment of Hodgson or O’Neill would be a stepdown from Benitez as both are untested at a “top” English club. Unless, of course, Liverpool’s target in 2010-2011 is to finish in the top six and no higher…

What do Liverpool fans make of all this?

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