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Rafa Benitez 'worst ever' signing went from £1.5m controversy to Champions League glory

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Despite the Spanish attacking midfielder already having been on then-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's radar, it is technically correct to describe him as a makeweight as his transfer to Anfield - valued at £1.5m - was part of the deal which took Michael Owen to Real Madrid in August 2004.

One of the biggest initial tasks in his in-tray was to deal with the ongoing situation regarding star striker Michael Owen's future.

After an undistinguished playing career and inauspicious start to management with Real Madrid Castilla, Valladolid, Osasuna and Extremadura, Rafael Benitez had taken Tenerife into the top flight before moving to Valencia and temporarily breaking the hegemony of Real Madrid and Barcelona, bringing two La Liga titles to the Estadio Mestalla in 2002 and 2004 as well as the UEFA Cup in 2004.

It’s fair to say that is how a sizeable proportion of Liverpool supporters would regard Antonio Nunez, if they can remember him at all that is with his name usually only mentioned in ‘worst Liverpool XIs’.

Meanwhile a year on from Roman Abramovich’s takeover at Chelsea, the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge demonstrated the scale of the task the Reds were now facing to get back on their fabled perch as the mid point of a second decade without an Anfield league title approached.

The Portuguese coach, whose stock was rapidly rising after leading FC Porto to UEFA Cup and Champions League triumphs in successive seasons, was reportedly considered by the Liverpool hierarchy as Houllier’s replacement but they ultimately plumped for the other top young coach who had also been making serious waves across Europe in recent seasons.

Tensions with the Valencia board caused him to quit his job despite the offer a new contract barely a week after Houllier left Anfield and just over a fortnight later he had been unveiled as Liverpool’s first ever Spanish coach.
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