A group of militant Liverpool fans yesterday gave Rafael Benitez the clearest sign yet that parts of the club's support are falling out of love with their manager just hours before his side's epic victory over Internazionale. "Rafa out" was painted on the walls of the Melwood training ground.
The main graffiti called for Benitez to be sacked and to take "[John Arne] Riise, [Harry] Kewell and [Dirk] Kuyt with you". Kuyt scored the first of the two goals last night and it was not clear whether the players, who were at Melwood before the game, saw the graffiti, which was quickly painted over.
Gerrard later said that the 2-0 win was significant for everyone at Liverpool, not just Benitez. "It was a big night, but it means nothing unless we finish the job off. We are not getting carried away. It was a good performance and we are happy, but it is half-time."
Asked whether it was a big result for Benitez, he said: "For everyone connected with the club, it is big. It is not fair to single people out for praise."
In a separate, obscene message, Benitez was urged to "pick his best team" – a reference to Saturday's shock 2-1 home defeat to Barnsley in the FA Cup, when Benitez left out Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. There was also graffiti attacking David Moores, who sold his shares in the club to the Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr in 2006. The two Americans have been the subject of most supporters' ire up to this point.
Although the fans in attendance last night did sing the manager's name once Kuyt and Gerrard had secured a precious first-leg lead, the graffiti was telling at a club known for its loyalty. Liverpool fans marched in support of Benitez before the Champions League victory over Porto in November, when he was involved in a stand-off with the owners over transfer funds for the January window.Reuse content