Book Review: A Season On The Brink by Guillem Balague

Posted by RAWK Editor on November 15, 2005, 02:03:49 PM

A Season On The Brink: Rafael Benitez, Liverpool and the Path to European Glory by Guillem Balague
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK)
November 2005
Hardcover: 192 Pages
ISBN: 0297852442
RRP £16.99

Closely following the fortunes of Rafa Benitez’s extraordinary first season in charge, Spanish pundit and self-declared Liverpool fan Guillem Balague relives the drama of Liverpool’s remarkable Champions League triumph.

Through the eyes of some key contributors, A Season On The Brink provides a fascinating look into the Spanish influence that has swept through the corridors of Anfield. It overlaps well with Paco Lloret's recent authorised biography, (which focussed mostly on Benitez’s time in Spain), by instead detailing the significant changes Benitez has already introduced to the historic bootroom.

The long list of those who contributed to the book is certainly impressive, with comments from players past and present; backroom staff; the board of directors; supporters; and even Benitez himself. The view from the Milan camp is heard through the input of both Carlo Ancelotti and Gattuso, with the latter being refreshingly honest in his appraisal of the final, admitting that “maybe it is not our fate to win this. Then, when I saw Dudek’s save, the ‘maybe’ disappeared from that thought seriously, I knew we were going to lose in the penalties”.

It was also interesting to hear Pako Ayestaran speak about his role and love for the club, as he is generally someone who is rarely heard from. “Let’s go to Liverpool, let’s go to Liverpool” he apparently nagged Rafa, who at the time was considering several other offers after electing to sever his ties with Valencia.

Whilst undoubtedly being one of the books main strengths, certain contributor’s unfortunately only serve to tarnish the book, with Chris Bascombe the chief culprit. Barely hiding his disdain for all things Houllier, he depicts the former manager as some sort of egotistical dictator and Benitez the benevolent saviour. Another accusation that could be labelled at the book is that it did come across a touch propagandist at times – and with the Liverpool hierarchy having a considerable input, it can only be assumed that it received Liverpool FC’s official seal of approval.

Still, the book is a must read for any fan wanting to live through the excitement of the Champions League Final again, and to hear from many of the key personalities involved. Xabi Alonso for example, somewhat embarrassingly explains an infamous moment from that night – “Ah that ‘peck’. We were all in the team group and he took my face and planted a great big smacker on me. And the way things were, I just thought, “OK, I’ll give him a kiss on the lips!” We were all just letting our joy, everything we has inside ourselves, flood out”.

© ianjaig 2005

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