Rafael Benitez spent six seasons at Liverpool and made plenty of history as the club’s manager. His time started red-hot thanks to a Champions League and FA Cup win in his first two seasons at the helm. However, things cooled overtime despite having quality players under his management throughout his time in charge of the Reds.
Recently, we looked at the 5 Worst transfer signings by Rafael Benitez at Liverpool 2004-2010.
Benitez signed a total of 64 players via transfers and free agency signings during his managerial reign. Many of the players to join Liverpool were hit or miss. Some signings left supporters scratching their heads.
Benitez was always looking for a bargain and being hamstrung by ownership in terms of finances, it forced him to look for players that were under the radar.
He averaged over 10 transfers per Anfield per season and it is safe to say, quantity over quality is what Liverpool got during that time. It is crazy to read all of the names of players Benitez signed and to remember most of their little to no impact at the club. Many seemed to be signed and discarded after just a few matches.
Here, we weigh up Benitez’s 5 best transfer signings, which may not be as easy to assess as first thought.
5 Best transfer signings by Rafael Benitez at Liverpool
5. Luis Garcia – 30 goals, 121 appearances
Luis Garcia played under Benitez at Tenerife in the 2000-01 season. On loan from Barcelona, Garcia was brilliant scoring 16 times in 40 appearances. When Benitez took over Liverpool in 2004, he reunited with Garcia making him the fourth Spanish bought player that summer.
The centre-forward cost £6 million as he signed a five-year deal. It didn’t take Garcia long to get off the mark for Liverpool as he scored shortly after signing in a 3-0 romp of West Brom.
Garcia’s most famous moment at Anfield came in the 2004-05 Champions League semifinal second leg. His shot just crept over Petr Cech’s line. It was the goal that sent Liverpool through to the final and it still haunts Jose Mourinho at night.
Garcia regularly scored important goals for the Reds which solidified him as a cult hero. He played his last match for Liverpool in a 6-3 FA Cup loss to Arsenal in January 2007. He ruptured his ACL during the game and was sold to Atletico Madrid once fit.
In 2019, Garcia appeared for Liverpool Legends.
4. Dirk Kuyt – 71 goals, 285 appearances
Dirk Kuyt could arguably be higher on this list but there are some very good players ahead of him. Kuyt arrived at Liverpool for £16.2m after developing a reputation as a top goalscorer in the Netherlands. There, he scored 149 goals across eight seasons with Utrecht and Feyenoord.
Although Kuty never hit the same goalscoring heights at Anfield, his hard running, never-say-die attitude and work ethic made him a beloved player.
Kuyt’s first season at Anfield saw him score the decisive goal in the Champions League semifinal second leg shootout against Chelsea. He would go on to score in the final against AC Milan despite Liverpool losing 2-1.
Following Liverpool’s League Cup success in 2011-12, the Dutchman departed the following summer for Fenerbahce.
3. Pepe Reina – 153 clean sheets, 330 appearances
Benitez claimed Pepe Reina was the best goalkeeper in Spain when the shot-stopper signed in the summer of 2005. At the time, the signing of Reina was controversial as it saw Champions League shootout hero Jerzy Dudek marginalised by the manager.
Reina soon showed why Benitez had signed him from Villarreal for £9m. The goalkeeper was a big part of the Reds’ success between 2005 and 2013. He averaged nearly one clean sheet every other match in all competitions. After his departure, the Reds failed to find a solid player to fill the gloves until Alisson Becker’s arrival.
In the summer of 2019, it was rumoured that Liverpool considered re-signing Reina as Alisson’s back-up.
2. Xabi Alonso – 19 goals, 210 appearances
Xabi Alonso joined the Reds in the summer of 2004 as part of Benitez’s Spanish revolution. He would go on to spend five seasons at Liverpool before Benitez sold him and replaced him with Alberto Aquilani.
It was during Alonso’s five seasons at Anfield that Steven Gerrard truly shone. The Liverpool captain benefitted greatly from Alonso’s ability to play deep and make expert passes.
Alonso only scored 19 times, but he had some memorable, dramatic goals while wearing a red shirt. The midfielder was one of the key performers in Liverpool’s amazing Champions League Final win in 2005.
1. Fernando Torres – 81 goals, 142 appearances
Fernando Torres’ arrival at Anfield feels like a lifetime ago now. However, when he arrived in 2007, it was the dawn of a new era at Anfield. Torres was a mercurial talent at Atletico Madrid with bags of potential.
It wasn’t until he arrived at Anfield and under Benitez’s guidance, that he began to show himself as a world-class striker. Torres was strong, fast, and precise with his shooting.
Torres’ first season saw him score 24 Premier League goals and 33 in all competitions. Injuries and form would prevent him from reaching those same heights. The next season saw 17 goals followed by a third season with 22 strikes.
The striker’s time at Liverpool ended in January 2011. Despite Liverpool stating they wouldn’t sell him earlier in the season, Torres’ form was increasingly inconsistent. He also looked like a shell of his former self as Liverpool’s No. 9.
The Reds cashed in on Torres to the tune of £40m as Chelsea signed him away from Anfield. Liverpool fans were disgusted with Torres as he sought a move away. Shirts were burned and enemies made when the former Kop idol declared he wanted to leave.
In the end, it turned out to be the best move for both parties. Still, many Liverpool supporters wonder what could have been with Torres at his best.