Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Liverpool Boss Benitez Admits He Is At No Fault For Having Interest In Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry

Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez is adamant that he is at no fault for showing interest in Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

The Reds are said to have placed a £10 million bid for the England international.

Benitez said: "I think the right approach when you want to sign a player is to talk to the manager.

"I was talking to Martin O'Neill. I said we would like to sign Gareth Barry and asked what the situation was.

"He just said he needed to talk to the owner and I said okay. He will not have any problems with his supporters because he never said to me he wanted to sell Barry.

"We were also talking about Scott Carson because they have the option to sign him. We were just talking about football so why he was so angry I do not know.

"I've been very clear. The player had said before he wanted to play Champions League football. We knew that and so tried to sign a good player. It's that simple.

"If your captain wants to leave, it's a problem but that's football."

Benítez Waits On Fifa Before Making Market Moves

Rafael Benítez last night admitted that he will not finalise his summer transfer plans until Fifa has taken its decision over introducing the 6+5 rule.

The Liverpool manager has put Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch up for sale during the transfer window as he seeks to raise funds for team strengthening. But the values of both players could soar overnight as Fifa takes a vote that could change the face of football across the globe.

Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, has proposed to his organisation's congress a regulation stipulating that every team must field six starting players eligible to represent the country they play in. The matter will be put to a vote on May 29 and 30.

If Blatter's plan is passed then Englishmen such as Pennant and Crouch - as well as Benítez's England-international targets Gareth Barry, of Aston Villa, and Blackburn Rovers' David Bentley - would become even more coveted commodities.

"We know what are the rules and we will try to do things whatever happens with Fifa," said Benítez. "Crouch and Pennant are under contract and they are our players. We are waiting now. We know they have been playing well and a lot of clubs are interested in them so we will wait and see. But they are under contract."

Both Crouch and Pennant were left out of Liverpool's 2-0 last-day win at Tottenham Hotspur, with Benítez describing the move as "a tactical decision". But Liverpool would be among the most heavily affected teams in the Premier League if the move is passed by Fifa. Liverpool started 42 matches with either only one or two English-qualified players this season, starting with three 17 times and with four on only one occasion.

"I feel the key is for the fans to see the best players on the pitch," said Benítez. "It is clear - in the past you would talk about a lot of local players but all the teams want to sign players and the best players come from all over the world."

Report Card: Liverpool

On-pitch moment of the season:

John Arne Riise's own-goal against Chelsea - and the audible gasp that followed.

Off-pitch moment of the season:

Not a moment but the ownership feud between Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Player who must not be sold:

Fernando Torres. A record 24 Premier League goals in his debut season shattered the myth of foreigners requiring time to settle.

Greatest goal:

Torres' dummy and finish against Newcastle was outstanding, but the importance of his Champions League strike against Arsenal tips the balance.

Most embarrassing moment:

Alfie Potter putting Havant & Waterloo-ville ahead at Anfield for the second time in the FA Cup.

Effect of manager's shopping:

Attracting a striker of Torres' calibre was a masterstroke. Martin Skrtel, signed in January, will bolster an already impressive central defence. Failed to address weaknesses on flanks and at full-back.

The season in five words:

Thank heavens for European football.

Five-point action plan for the summer:

Resolve the Hicks-Gillett stand-off; Convince Benítez there is money and stability for title challenge; Start work on new stadium; Signings on the Torres, rather than Voronin, level; Refrain from title predictions in August.

Chelsea Make £40million Bid For Liverpool Striker Torres, Reports Spanish Radio Station

Chelsea have made an audacious £40million bid for Fernando Torres which Liverpool have turned down, according to reports in Spain.

The Spanish striker has enjoyed a fantastic first season in the Premier League and his 24th goal of the season at Tottenham on Sunday saw him beat Ruud van Nistelrooy's previous record of 23 goals scored by a foreign player in their first season in England.

Radio Marca in Spain has claimed that Chelsea manager Avram Grant used his friendship with Liverpool's Israeli midfield ace Yossi Benayoun to inform Torres of his admiration.

However the subsequent concrete offer was turned down out of hand by Liverpool, who it is claimed would not even discuss the possibility of allowing Torres to leave Anfield.

The report also claims Torres, who is now preparing for next month's European Championships, is more than happy at the club and has no intentions of leaving after just one season.

Gerrard Convinced Rafa Can Deliver The Title To Liverpool Next Season

Steven Gerrard has revealed he is desperate to be involved in a genuine title challenge.

And he insists he has the belief that manager Rafael Benitez can deliver the championship to Liverpool for the first time since 1990.

But the Liverpool skipper maintains that Benitez must have help from the board in the transfer market to make Liverpool stronger.

Gerrard has just witnessed Manchester United win their 10th Premier League crown and take their overall title haul to 17, just one short of Liverpool's all-time record.

Liverpool finished 11 points adrift of United, and have just completed their second successive trophy-less season under Benitez.

Gerrard told "Other teams are going to strengthen and become better sides, so it is important we do the same.

"There is a lot of money in the league - teams and squads will become stronger in the summer. It's important we do not fall away, we want to stay up there with the best.

"To keep doing well in the league and Europe we need to strengthen the squad, there is no doubt about that."

Liverpool were forced last week to dismiss as "fantasy" that there had been a bid from Inter Milan for their captain, and likewise have dismissed out of hand claims from a Spanish radio station that Chelsea had tried to sign Fernando Torres for £40million.

Gerrard is more concerned with Benitez's transfer market activity, saying: "I don't know much about Rafa's transfer plans. He doesn't call me in and tell me names.

"But he does assure me and the other players that if anyone becomes available who would strengthen the side, then he will go out and buy them. It's important Rafa gets the right backing above him as well.

"Obviously I have to be careful that I don't send expectations through the roof again, but for me I am desperate for a title challenge. I believe in this team and this manager, and believe we can make it happen.

"We need help and new players, and the manager needs help from the board to make these signings happen and make us stronger. I do expect us to be involved next season."

He added: "This is a tough league to win. We are strengthening all the time, working as hard as any other team.

"But sometimes you have to realise there are other sides that are as good as us who are strengthening and working hard as well. They want it just as much as us.

"But it has been a long time for this club (since winning the league), so we all maybe need to give that extra five or 10%.

"It's difficult to say how many world-class players we need. You look at the points difference and over the last few years we have made it smaller.

"Playing against the Arsenals and Chelsea, it has been close. We are giving them good games which are tight and get decided on small details.

"If we can make the team a little bit stronger, have a few more options and match-winners, and make the team a tiny bit better defensively, we can do it."

And Gerrard has revealed his bitter disappointment that Liverpool fell away in the title race in the recently completed season.

He said: "Silly results against teams we should be beating cost us. Look at Reading away, where we were beaten 3-1. There were a couple of silly draws at home against sides you need to perform perfectly against and take maximum points from.

"You can be involved in the title race and even win it without beating the top three home and away. You don't have to take maximum points from them as long as you perform perfectly against the others, but we haven't done that. We dropped stupid points.

"We know we are capable of going on consistent runs and beating anyone. We started off that way, expectations were high. We thought this season we were going to be a lot closer, so now we need to learn from our mistakes.

"I thought we would have been involved in a title race come March or April but unfortunately we were out of it."

On his own future, Gerrard said: "I'm happy here and enjoying my football. Obviously I am not happy ending the season without a trophy because I am a winner and that is what I play the game for.

"I like finishing the season having a trophy or cup final to look back on and seeing I've achieved something.

"The experiences I've had at this club in Istanbul, Cardiff and so on - I want these again because I've enjoyed them so much."