In his seminal work “Rafa Needs to Sign Unproven Small Names” the venerable Professor Gunther Ebren von Sauerkraut states empirically that “Rafael Benitez [the Liverpool manager] needs to sign unproven small names”. He goes on to support this astonishing assertion with reference to historical and contemporary European investment performance analyses and outlines a plausible comparative study which leads him inexorably to the fantastic and unfashionable conclusion that Liverpool, as a football club, would be better off if they signed unproven small names.
But was he right?
Upon reflection and with the benefit of hindsight it’s possible to look at the primary sources in context:
- Rafa’s scruffy torn out bit of notepad shopping list with the names of Torres, Voronin and Babel et al clearly crossed out, or smudged with a damp finger as in the case of Torres.
- The spreadsheet with the balance of payments, salaries and accumulative interest and other costs of the acquisition of chosen newbies.
- With 360 long minutes of Premiership football already completed, said team has had full opportunity to demonstrate their potential for success and provide (or not) collaborative data for von Sauerkraut’s bold claims.
As it happened Rafa elected to go his own way and turn his nose up at the hirsute Footologist’s considered advice; he spent an awful lot of money on signing proven big names who are doing very well so far, thank you.
That said, it’s clearly impossible to know what would have happened if the Reds had gone the other way so this shouldn’t detract from an assessment of Gunther Ebren’s proposal.
In fact it could be argued that shining examples of the perspicuity of that text has been on show at Wembley this week.
A manager who definitely has something to prove and has in no way already made any sort of a name for himself was forced into a position (at first) where he had to name a team of “Players with something to prove, not men who have already made a name” as the Lord of Dampness suggested for the scouzers.
This is of key importance for an England team who’ve been called many names individually and collectively in the recent past and it’s a welcome change of direction from compromised selection policy.
As many observers are reporting today; England looked hungry in the last two games but perhaps more importantly they looked humble.
For those who’ve lived off the fat of their ancestors (limited) success for far too long, humility is a powerful medicine, a panacea for arrogance, a remedy for vanity and a recipe for teambuilding.
Von Sauerkraut’s piece offers strategies too that could have been furiously tapped into McClaren’s PDA; “…the way to get world-class players seems to be to buy players that aren't world class yet.” Perhaps he mistyped ‘buy’ and put in ‘make’ instead. For the England national team it could be suggested that the success in the last two games was partly due to the truth of the statement that ‘the way to get world-class players is to make players world-class.’
Again, a radical and forward thinking position for a national manager who may well be relishing the idea of a similar career route. Although sadly, it seems that this added responsibility has yet to filter down to the FA or any of the youth teams or schools of excellence.
“Most would agree that the Galactico experiment was not a resounding success” for England or Real.
That the hundreds and thousands of Galactico topping on the Red ice-cream at Anfield is giving the appearance of efficacy so far is testament to the other truth that ‘you get’s what you pay’s for’. England, however, don’t have to worry about the price of their players, only the Galactico mentality, and that has been the overriding flavour of the resounding flop over the past decades.
”So my advice to Rafa - if you want the best you have to buy from the second-tier.” McClaren has selected from the second tier, with care, and fingers crossed, he looks like he’s getting the best from them.
This week’s performances have been as convincing as any England performance in living memory. The usual caveats apply about the length of the study, opposition, home territory and disallowed goals but over the two games England were consistent in style, balance, attitude and quality and it’s more than just the players.
So could Ebren have been right?
Yes, but about the wrong team.
Like going on an epic quest to the Oracle at Delphi for the winning lottery numbers and getting a map reference for Shangri La by mistake, or trawling through miles of ancient cuneiform for the real name of the one true Dog and coming out with an anagram of Hong Kong Phooey [Fr. Hong Kong Fou Fou].
In the immortal words of Professor Pakamambo “von Sauerkraut is nature’s red herring; a little smelly but full of protein.”