Monday, November 26, 2007

Liverpool FC Owners React To 'Rafa To Be Sacked' Claims

Liverpool owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have reacted to reports suggesting manager Rafael Benitez is facing the sack.

The Americans insist they expect to hold a scheduled meeting in mid-December with the present manager to discuss potential transfer deals for the January window.

However the statement stops short of categorically dismissing the speculation, which has been prompoted by a series of disagreements between the owners and Benitez over future transfers.

Benitez has been critical of the new owners' understanding of the workings of the European transfer market.

The statement, released last night, reads:

"Despite speculation in today's newspapers, there is nothing new to say.

"We had a good win yesterday and have got some very important games coming up starting with Porto on Wednesday, followed by Bolton and Reading, before Marseille and Manchester United in a few weeks.

"Both of us, together with Chief Executive Rick Parry, plan to meet with Rafa when we come over mid December to make decisions on the team's requirements at that time."

The behind the scenes disputes were brought sharply into the public domain when Benitez held a bizarre press conference ahead of the Newcastle match in which he repeatedly answered that he was concentrating on coaching the team in reply to a succession of questions.

Benitez showed no sign of backing down after the 3-0 win over Newcastle.

He said: "It's clear Mr Hicks wants the best for the club. So do I,"

"We have been here for a long time and we know what the passion of football means and what the transfer market in Europe means.

"It's not a draft system. We have free players available now. I'm not talking about players that cost money.

"We need to talk to the agents now, if not we will lose targets. In the summer, the players will be more expensive. I have not been talking about spending but doing the opposite. We have brought money back. We brought in £26m this year and you can see the value of the squad.

"We had a meeting on the day of the Arsenal game which was really positive. After this, something changed.

"They told me to be focused on coaching and training because Rick Parry will be looking after signing players."

Benitez is determined to stay put, and added: "I have passion for this club. The fans who were with me in Istanbul know what it means to me."

Benitez Bidding To Save Reds Job

Rafa Benitez "hopes to stay" at Liverpool but reportedly may still lose his job despite trying to make peace with Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The Liverpool Echo reports that Benitez is willing to make peace with Liverpool's American owners after repeatedly criticising their transfer policy over the weekend.

Benitez claimed that Hicks and Gillett didn't understand the European transfer system as he looks to add to his squad.

The owners refused to back Benitez in a statement issued on Sunday evening, leading to widespread reports that the Spaniard's sacking was a case of 'when' rather than 'if' on Monday morning.

However, the Echo reports that Benitez is 'ready to hold out an olive branch' to his superiors, but that may come too late to save his job.

The paper quotes a 'source close to Benitez' as saying: "Rafa loves it at Liverpool. He loves the people of the city, he loves the fans and he loves the club. All he wants is what's best for the fans - he gets frustrated when he feels he's not able to do that.

"But he is happy with Tom and George owning the club and he has enjoyed working with them since he came and he has no problem working with Rick (Parry) - all he wants is to be able to continue the job that he's started so he can continue improving the squad in a bid to deliver the title he knows Tom, George and Rick want just as badly as he does."

The source goes on to claim that the perceived reluctance of Liverpool to move on transfer targets has already cost the club at least one signing:

"The manager has got a few transfers that he wants to get done, one in January and two Bosmans in the summer but it looks like he is going to miss out on the first one now.

"That frustrated him because the first one was a centre half, a position he feels we really need back-up in. The frustration stems from the fact that communication has been so difficult with everyone being so far apart and in different time zones. But the fans should be reassured Rafa has no plans of walking away. He loves it here and his family are settled on Merseyside."

Reina: LiverpooL Will Progress

Jose Reina is convinced Liverpool can progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Rafael Benitez's side need to beat Porto at Anfield on Wednesday and Marseille in France in a fortnight if they are to keep their hopes alive.

But Spain goalkeeper Reina is confident they can succeed in those demanding games.

"We are third in the group now and need to register two more wins," he told

"That will not be easy but if we play our real game then we know it will be enough.

"We must win in Marseille but we must deal with Porto first. There is no point in looking further ahead than that."

Reina recalls that Liverpool struggled early on before winning the trophy in 2005.

"They managed to get to 10 points in the group stages and that was enough," he said.

"We must aim for that total again and that will also be enough.

"That run to the final should be a mirror for us. We can look at it as an example of how the situation can be resolved."

Reina was still at Villarreal when Liverpool defeated AC Milan in Turkey.

But he was around to share in the disappointment of last season against the same opposition in Athens.

It is an experience he does not want again.

"I have not really looked at that DVD, it is in the past, we lost it and we must forget it and keep going," he said.

"People say we were unlucky in Athens, but in the end Milan won. If we get to the final again we must make sure we do not finish with that same feeling.

"But before we can even think about things like that we must make sure we win these last two group games.

"We must reach the knockout rounds before thinking ahead to any more finals."