Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Benitez Insists Hicks Had The Funds To Bring Barry To Liverpool

Rafa Benitez has suggested Liverpool's American owners were split over his £18million pursuit of Gareth Barry.

Despite a recent club statement indicating that Liverpool felt Aston Villa's asking price was too high, Benitez claimed co-owner Tom Hicks had assured him funds were in place.

Liverpool manager Benitez said: 'He told me we had the money. We have sold players for more than £20million during the summer, and he told me: 'If you sell players, you can buy with that, too.'

'I have the support of at least one of the owners. I sent e-mails to all of them, but he was clear we had the money. If the manager has an idea, and it is not a question of money, we have to make the right decision in terms of who we bring in. That has to be the decision of the manager.

'We have to be quicker as well. I thought this four years ago, and I think it now. If you are quicker, it is easier to sign targets.'

Liverpool are still trying to off-load Jermaine Pennant and Andriy Voronin.

Liverpool FC To Concede Defeat Over Gareth Barry

Rafael Benitez will step up his efforts to bring in midfield reinforcements – and finally concede defeat in his pursuit of Gareth Barry.

The Liverpool manager is determined to strengthen his left side and is set to make this his priority in the remaining two weeks of the transfer window.

Although the Spaniard still holds out hope that he can complete Barry’s move from Aston Villa, there is no sign from owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett that they will buckle from their refusal to meet the £18m asking price.

And that is likely to remain the case even if Liverpool raise more transfer funds from selling players on.

Time is running out for the likes of Xabi Alonso, Andriy Voronin and Jermaine Pennant to complete moves away from Anfield, as no official bids have come in for the players.

A scenario which further limits Benitez’s spending power as he continues to search for a left-sided attacker at the end of a summer in which Valencia’s David Silva, Newcastle’s James Milner and Albert Riera from Espanyol have all been considered.

Ryan Babel’s imminent return from the Olympics after his Holland side were knocked out may provide one solution to the current lack of width, but he is not a natural midfielder.

Benitez has already revealed he will make one more signing with the cash he currently has available.

But his chances of landing his top target Barry have rapidly deteriorated in the past few weeks, with Liverpool’s hierarchy publicly stating that they are unwilling to match Villa’s asking price for their captain.

The Midlanders then ensured the would be cup-tied in Europe until the new year when they fielded him in their Uefa Cup game with FH Hafnarfjordur last week.

Barry hit the net in the game and played a major part in Villa’s 4-2 win over Manchester City in their opening Premier League game on Sunday.

Liverpool will be the next visitors to Villa Park on August 31, and despite opening their campaign with an away win at Sunderland, centre-back Sami Hyypia is demanding considerable improvement.

“The first half in particular was not good enough, we know that,” he said. “It was tough for us at the start of the game. They came out of the blocks really quickly and set a really high tempo, which you’d expect because it was their first home game of the season.

“They put us under a lot of pressure and maybe we were a little bit slow to get going.

“It was certainly not the best game we have played but the important thing was that we got better in the second half and at the end Fernando popped up with a goal and that was enough to win the game.

“The most important thing is that we got the win. We have had pre-season and that was our first game in the league so it was good to get three points on the board and keep a clean sheet.”

Benitez Still Demanding Barry Signing

Rafa Benitez is still pressing Liverpool's owners to approve his planned £18m purchase of Gareth Barry despite the insistence of George Gillett and Tom Hicks that the midfielder is overpriced.

Having sparked a public spat between Martin O'Neill and Benitez, the interminable saga has now taken a new direction to reveal precarious tensions within Anfield. Having specifically blamed Rick Parry for failing to secure Barry's signing in his press conference on Friday, Benitez has since bypassed the chief executive to plead directly with Gillett and Hicks to sanction the deal.

"I have the support of at least one of the owners. I sent e-mails to all of them, but he was clear we had the money," said Benitez on Saturday. "If the manager has an idea, and it is not a question of money, we have to make the right decision in terms of who we bring in. That has to be the decision of the manager."

The claim that one of the owners supports Benitez's attempts to sign Barry is likely to have been met with scepticism by Parry. It seems inconceivable that, having previously rebuffed Hicks' call for him to resign, Parry would have published a statement declaring that Liverpool's owners felt Barry's fee was "too high" unless it had been ratified by both Americans.

Nonetheless, Benitez is refusing to give up on signing Barry. As well as continuing to plead with Hicks and Gillett, Benitez is prepared to sell Xabi Alonso, as well as Jermaine Pennant and Andriy Voronin, in order to finance the purchase of the Aston Villa captain.

However, according to The Guardian, Liverpool are yet to receive a single firm offer for any of those players and 'even with success on that front, Benitez will need Hicks and Gillett to sign off an £18m deal that neither believes represents good value for the 27-year-old Villa captain. Without a U-turn from the Americans, and they are wary of another public spat with the popular Spaniard, or Villa reducing their valuation on a player who is now cup-tied for Europe until February, the damaging impasse will continue at Anfield.'

Rafa Refuses To Rule Out Alonso Departure

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has left the exit door ajar for Xabi Alonso, admitting there is business still to be done before the end of August.

Alonso's future has been up in the air all summer, as Benitez initially hoped to sacrifice his compatriot in order to raise funds for the purchase of Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

The Basque native was on the verge of joining Juventus earlier in the summer, but that move collapsed due to the Reds' refusal to lower their £16million asking price.

Despite lingering interest from Arsenal in particular, it appeared until recently that the 26-year-old would remain at Anfield given his impressive form during the summer, both at EURO 2008 and in pre-season.

However, the revelation that Liverpool's co-owners recently vetoed the Barry deal has put Alonso in the shop window once more, as it is understood there is room (or funds, perhaps) for only one or the other.

And while Benitez hinted that he would much rather keep hold of his chief playmaker, he admitted that the confusion over the club's monetary situation has complicated matters.

He said: "When I was first talking with Xabi (about a transfer) we needed money. After these months it is not a question of money. We would have to have a massive offer because Alonso is a great player.

"But if we sell one or two players we have enough money to bring in one more good player.

"Don't forget we will need eight British players - and the left-footer we were talking about can play in three positions too."

Hyypia Heaps Praise On Spanish Hotshot

Veteran Liverpool centre back Sami Hyypia has praised his teammate Fernando Torres for his winning strike in their opening Premier League match against Sunderland on Saturday.

Liverpool were finding it hard to break down the plucky Black Cats at the Stadium of Light, until Torres unleashed a pile driver from outside the area. The shot was perfectly struck, beating Craig Gordon in the Sunderland goal at his near post. This 83rd minute strike turned out to be the winning goal, and Hyypia has hailed his teammate for giving the team a perfect start to the season.

Speaking to Liverpool’s official club website, Hyypia commented, “It was a good finish from Fernando. I was just behind the shot and I could see exactly where it was going. It was a great strike and it gave the keeper no chance.

“The most important thing is that we got the win. We have had pre-season and that was our first game in the league so it was good to get three points on the board and keep a clean sheet.”

Torres joined the club last year from Atletico Madrid in a deal worth £20m, and has since scored an impressive 25 goals in 34 league starts for Liverpool.

Despite the win, Hyypia was insistent that the team must develop over the next couple of weeks, and look to improve on what in truth was a poor performance against Sunderland.

“We have to be happy with that but we have to look at what we can do better because there are many, many things that we can do better.

“The next game is at home against Middlesbrough on Saturday so hopefully we will do a lot better then.”

Hyypia was also quick to praise Sunderland’s performance, saying, “It was tough for us at the start of the game. They came out of the blocks really quickly and set a really high tempo, which you'd expect because it was their first home game of the season.

“They put us under a lot of pressure and maybe we were a little bit slow to get going.”

Finnan In Liverpool 'Limbo'

Liverpool defender Steve Finnan admits he is uncertain if he still has a future at Anfield.

Finnan was a regular in his first seasons on Merseyside after being signed by former Reds boss Gerard Houllier from Fulham in 2003.

The Republic of Ireland right-back was a part of the Liverpool side which won the UEFA Champions League in 2005, but he has since fallen behind Alvaro Arbeloa in current manager Rafa Benitez's pecking order.

Switzerland international Philipp Degen's arrival has added to the uncertainty and Finnan has been linked with a cash-plus-player move to Aston Villa in Benitez's summer-long pursuit of Gareth Barry.

And 32-year-old Finnan admits he is waiting to decide on his future, telling Sky Sports News when asked about his situation: "Limbo sounds about right.

"I haven't got a clue, to be honest with you. I haven't played many games recently, so I honestly can't say.

"There is a big squad there and everyone is fighting for their place, and I just have to train well and take the chance if I get it."

Finnan also hinted that he may seek a move away from Liverpool if he continues to fail to force a place in Benitez's first XI.

"I haven't played, but I will just wait and see and when the transfer window closes, we will know then," he added.

"I will wait and see if I can get into the team; if not, then obviously I want to play, so we will just have to take it from there."

Finnan also revealed he has spoken to Benitez about his situation, but was not elaborating.

"We have spoken about it, but at this time, I don't think I will say too much more," he concluded.

Mascherano Goes For Gold

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has high hopes of retaining the Olympic gold that he won with Argentina four years ago in Athens.

The Albiceleste have been in fine form in this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, and will face their biggest rivals Brazil in the semi-finals on Tuesday.

The energetic 24-year-old is out for revenge after Brazil beat Argentina in the final of the Copa America last summer, a tournament many believed Argentina should have won.

Speaking to RTE Sport, Mascherano said, “It will be a difficult match, but I think we’ll play much better than them.

“We will not make any mistake against them, or we may pay for that.

“We lost 0-3 in the Copa America final. Now there are some different players (in the Argentine team), but we still have four or five players who played that match in the team now.”

Benitez To Have Two Olympians Back For Next Match

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is pleased that two of his three Olympians are set to return from China in time for the Reds’ next game, against Middlesbrough.

Rafael Benitez will be welcoming back at least two of the club’s players who have been representing their countries at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Ryan Babel will definitely be available for selection for Saturday's game with Middlesbrough after Holland lost their quarter-final to Argentina, who have fellow-Red Javier Mascherano in their side.

Brazil, who have Liverpool midfielder Lucas in their squad, will play arch-rivals Argentina in the all-South American semi-final tomorrow, so either Lucas or Mascherano will be at Anfield ahead of the Boro game.

Benitez told the Mail Online: “It has been good for the three players to be involved in the Olympics and we are proud of them.

“But it is also good for Liverpool that Argentina and Brazil clash in the last four, because only one of our lads will be in the final.”

Liverpool’s season got off to winning start without their three Olympians, when the Reds won 1-0 away to Sunderland on Saturday, thanks to a late Fernando Torres goal.

Liverpool Desperate To Finalise Deal For Unsettled Villa Star Barry

Rafael Benitez remains desperate to complete his long-running pursuit of Gareth Barry before the end of the month, but has denied that complications in finalising the transfer brought him to the verge of quitting as Liverpool manager.

Benitez watched his side bounce back from their disappointing Champions League stalemate against Standard Liege with a somewhat fortunate 1-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday, but post-match talk immediately turned to off-field matters.

Reports over the weekend suggested the manager was considering his position after disagreements over the Barry move - Benitez is eager to add the England international but chief executive Rick Parry has questioned the reputed £18million asking price as well as the player's age - but the Spaniard moved decisively to quash such rumours.

He said: 'My commitment is 100% - with the fans, with the players and with the club in general. I say 100 times my family is happy here - we want to win trophies at this club because it is a massive club.'

He added: 'I will not talk about any player - but in April I was talking about this (behind the scenes).

'We tried to do things in confidentiality, but sometimes you cannot and you need to explain before the end of the transfer window. If the manager has an idea and it is not a question of money, then we have to make the right decisions in terms of whom we bring in. That has to be the decision of the manager.'