In my weaker moments, I find myself of a similar mind.
But there’s a reason that Benitez, who has never shied away from being ruthless (Nuñez, Josemi, Pelligrino, Morientes, Gonzalez, Kromkamp, and Paletta, among others) has kept the faith with Kewell. That he hasn’t cut ties, despite the fact that Kewell’s gone off injured in two cup finals and hasn’t been healthy aside from an extended run in 2005-06, shows that Rafa still thinks that Kewell can contribute to the team.
The quotes Benitez gives in the article linked above bear some clues.
"Harry is very important for us. A player with pace and ability who can score goals and who can also play as a second striker is always going to be important."He has the versatility to play in a number of positions (left wing, right wing, second striker), which is a quality Benitez clearly appreciates, having bought both Babel and Benayoun over the summer.
"It's clear he's someone with great quality and experience and we need these kind of players for the rest of the season," he said.
He can score and create goals from midfield, which Liverpool clearly needs (especially evident last season). He has massive experience in the Premiership. And he can be an excellent all-around player.
Because of the injury problems, people forget his one good season for Liverpool (although he played very well for the first few months under Houiller also), but I still believe that Kewell on the left was one of the main reasons for Gerrard’s success on the right in 05-06.
His pace opened up space on the left and drew defenders, making more room for Gerrard to cut in off the right, but Kewell was also a threat to cut in himself. Both Kewell and Gerrard have the passing ability to find the other making a run inside into space on the opposite side. Because of the two of them, Liverpool scored more goals from midfield in 05-06 than in any season under Benitez.
Kewell’s goals against Manchester City, Spurs, and Everton were crucial to Liverpool wins in those games. Both City and Spurs were 1-0 victories, while his goal against Everton capped one of Liverpool’s best displays that season, where they won 3-1 despite Gerrard being sent off after 18 minutes. Not to mention all the assists he put in from crosses and good work down the sidelines (I can’t find the requisite stats, but the work in creating the own goal for the sixth against Birmingham in the FA Cup in a perfect example of this).
Not to mention that it seems that Riise’s best form at left back coincidences with Kewell playing regularly on the left wing.
It was less than 6 months ago that I remember the majority of Liverpool fans clamoring for his inclusion in the Champions League final.
It’s somewhat taboo to admit these days, but I’ve been a big fan of Kewell’s ability since his Leeds heyday. He’s rarely shown that ability while at Liverpool, but Benitez has to have seen something in training and in Kewell’s work ethic to make him believe that Harry still has a future.
What annoys me the most is the constant slagging that Kewell receives from all corners. He’s not sitting on his ass on an Australian beach collecting a paycheck. If that were the case, I’ve no doubt that Benitez would ship him out sooner rather than later. Rafa does not suffer fools lightly.
But Kewell’s clearly been doing all he can to return to fitness, and Benitez believes that said fitness must be attainable. I don’t believe that Benitez has put all this time and effort into Kewell solely to re-inflate his price tag and ship him out at the first opportunity. The thought process seems to be that if Kewell can return to fitness, the wait will be worth it, which I’m in complete agreement with.
I personally can’t wait to see Harry Kewell in fine form in a Liverpool shirt, especially since Liverpool hasn’t gotten the most out of the left wing so far this season, despite the purchases of Babel, Benayoun and Leto and the return to fitness for Aurelio and Riise.