Rafa Benitez’s 12 most expensive Liverpool signings – and how they fared
Rafa Benitez built one of Liverpool’s greatest sides of the Premier League era and took his side to two European Cup finals in three years.
The manager signed 44 first-team players for Liverpool but had to work on a tight budget for much of his six years on Merseyside.
However, he was still allowed to make a few big-money deals and here’s how his 12 most expensive signings fared at Anfield.
Fernando Torres (£20.2million)
Liverpool broke their club transfer record to sign Torres from Atletico Madrid in 2007 and the striker was worth every penny.
He developed into one of the most lethal goalscorers in world football and had a fantastic return of 81 goals in just 142 appearances for Liverpool.
But a series of hamstring and knee injuries led to a loss of form and the Spaniard joined Chelsea in January 2011.
Robbie Keane (£19million)
Keane was signed from Tottenham in 2008 to ease the burden on Torres, but the lifelong Liverpool fan managed just seven goals in 28 appearances for the club.
Benitez soon lost patience in the striker, and he was sold back to Spurs in February 2009 at a significant loss.
Javier Mascherano (£18.6million)
Mascherano originally joined Liverpool on a loan deal in January 2007 despite only making five Premier League appearances for West Ham.
“Rafa Benitez wanted me and believed in me at the lowest point of my career and he was asking me to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world – Liverpool,” Mascherano told Panenka Magazine in 2015.
“He lifted me out of a dark hole, which at the time made me feel like I was 20 metres underground, and he put me in a positive frame of mind.”
The Argentine formed a sensational midfield trio alongside Steven Gerrard and Alonso at Anfield and signed a permanent deal 12 months later.
A few months after Benitez’s departure in 2010, Mascherano decided to join Barcelona and went on to win the lot in Spain.
Glen Johnson (£17.5million)
Benitez fought off competition from both Chelsea and Manchester City to land Johnson’s signature in 2009 but the pair only spent one season together.
The right-back eventually established himself in the team under Brendan Rodgers and made a total of 200 appearances during his six years at the club.
Glen Johnson with an absolute beauty for Liverpool 🚀pic.twitter.com/Nh64mcZIEy
— Goal (@goal) March 27, 2020
Alberto Aquilani (£17.1million)
Aquilani arrived at Anfield early in 2009 in the wake of Xabi Alonso’s transfer to Real Madrid, but he was never able to fill the Spaniard’s boots.
The midfielder was hampered by injuries and made just 28 appearances for the club, eventually departing in 2012 after loan spells with both Juventus and AC Milan.
Ryan Babel (£11.5million)
Babel was regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Europe when he joined Liverpool from Ajax in 2007.
The forward failed to fulfil that potential at Anfield and joined Hoffenheim in 2011 after scoring just 22 goals in 146 appearances for the Reds.
Xabi Alonso (£10.7million)
Alonso was one of Benitez’s first signings as Liverpool manager and he was also one of his best.
The midfielder arrived from Real Sociedad in 2004 and played an instrumental role as Liverpool won the Champions League and FA Cup in his first two years at the club.
However, Alonso felt unwanted and left for Real Madrid in 2009 after Benitez had tried to sign fellow midfielder Gareth Barry.
“The pursuit of Gareth Barry took some time for me to accept and, in all honesty, it changed the course of my future,” Alonso told The People in 2010.
“Leaving Liverpool was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but after what happened with Barry I knew in my heart I had to tell Rafa that I wanted to go to Madrid when they came knocking at the door.”
Dirk Kuyt (£9million)
Kuyt joined Liverpool from Feyenoord in 2006 and his work-rate and enthusiasm made him an instant fan favourite at Anfield.
The Dutchman scored 71 goals during his six years at the club, and he also had a handy habit of finding the back of the net in the big games.
Not many can claim to have scored a hat-trick against Manchester United.
— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) March 6, 2017
Albert Riera (£8million)
Riera had a promising debut campaign at Liverpool and made 28 Premier League appearances as the Reds finished second in 2008-09.
The winger then fell out of favour in his second season after publicly criticising Benitez and was subsequently sold to Olympiacos in 2010.
Peter Crouch (£7million)
Crouch had a slow start to his Liverpool career after signing from Southampton in 2005 and failed to score in his first 19 games for the club.
The striker went on to score another 41 goals for the club before joining Portsmouth in 2008, and he is fondly remembered by Liverpool fans
“The best period of my career came at Liverpool under Rafa Benitez,” Crouch told us in 2018.
“I was scoring goals regularly in a side that was challenging in the Champions League and we had real chances to be crowned as European champions in the 2007 final against AC Milan.”
Andrea Dossena (£7million)
Dossena was shipped off to Napoli after only a year and a half in Merseyside, but he’ll always have those goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Jermaine Pennant (£6.7million)
Pennant played a key role in Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final in 2007 and was arguably their best player in the defeat to AC Milan.
The winger eventually fell down the pecking order under Benitez and joined Spanish side Real Zaragoza at the expiration of his contract.
“There were times when I would get so angry about how boring and repetitive training was that I would just lose it and shout, ‘For fuck’s sake – just give us a bit of a five-a-side,” Pennant wrote in his 2018 autobiography.
“As a player, you just want a bit of fun, to make training good and lively. But, with Rafa, the training was so boring that you’d come in and all you’d want to do was slit your wrists! The amount of time in training that we’d do shape, tactics and nothing else!”