Thursday, May 24, 2007

The LiverpooL Revolution Begins

Rafael Benitez today called for a summer of revolution at Anfield to ensure he leads a stronger Liverpool back to Champions League and Premiership glory season.

In a clear message to the club’s new owners, Benitez stressed how a significant improvement – and investment – will be required for the team to challenge for top honours.

And he’s already confirmed the departure of Mark Gonzelez to Real Betis this summer, while Bolo Zenden will also leave the club.

Benitez also doesn’t expect Craig Bellamy to be at Anfield next season.

“This morning I feel tired and disappointed,” said Benitez.

“We are in the same situation as two years ago. Our supporters are clever and they know where we need to improve. They know we need to do the right things to improve things on the pitch and to strengthen the club. The new owners say they will support us but now is not the time to talk but to take decisions.

“It’s not just about new faces, it’s about the structure of the club.

“We need to spend money and we also need to work on other things. We can’t be working looking for players in August, because then you end up with the second or third choice on your list. We must start to work now.

“We have to make the improvements as soon as possible. In the cups we can beat anyone but when you are 21 points behind in the Premiership it’s clear you need more quality. If we don’t improve we will be fighting only for the top four again next season and be 21 points behind the champions again.”

Benitez was quick to praise AC Milan for claiming their seventh European Cup, although he also criticised the officials who failed to add on the full three minutes of added time.

“The referee was the only one who did not look at his watch,” he said.

The manager conceded that had little bearing on the outcome. He accepted missed chances cost his side, but Benitez has also put the pressure on the club’s hierarchy, calling for the necessary steps to be taken to keep the club competitive.

“My first idea is to support my players because they worked hard,” said Benitez.

“But then we need to think about the future. We know we need to improve and then we can move forward more than one step at a time. It’s not going to be easy to do the right things to catch Chelsea and Manchester United. We need to go at least two steps at a time to do this.

“We need to analyse how to improve the squad if we want to be contenders next season. We want to come back and fight again for the Champions League, but when you look at the other teams and see their qualities, you can see it’s difficult.

“We need to buy players, but they must be the right players. You see Manchester United has already spent £20m on Owen Hargreaves, so you can see the situation in the transfer market. We need to find the right people and right players.”

Benitez’s hopes of securing top targets have already been affected by the likely departure of his chief scout, Frank McParland, who having been without a full-time contract at Anfield is on the verge of joining Bolton.

American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks are expected to make significant funds available, and Benitez will want a review of many areas of the club.

But he’s confirmed Gonzalez’s imminent departure. “We have an agreement with Betis,” said Benitez.

“I have also told Bolo Zenden he can talk to other clubs.”

The Spanish boss could only lament what might have been in assessing the 2-1 defeat.

“We deserved more from the game, but we conceded a goal at a bad time from a deflection,” he said.

“We needed to start well in the second half but we gave away chances on the counter attack.

“Harry Kewell couldn’t play 90 minutes, but we needed to change something in the second. Then we took a risk in substituting Mascherano, but we needed fresher legs in the second half. They had players with the quality to keep the ball and it made it difficult for us.

“You need to take your chances and that’s the key. We can improve in some areas. I was disappointed with the number of minutes played at the end, but I don’t want to make excuses. I congratulate Milan. They are a good team with a good manager.”