Monday, February 16, 2009

Rafa Benitez Ready To Seal New Liverpool Deal After Taking Care Of Backroom Men

The future of Rafa Benitez's coaching staff has added to the delay in the Liverpool manager finally signing a three-year extension to his contract.

The future of Rafa Benitez's coaching staff has added to the delay in the Liverpool manager finally signing a three-year extension to his contract.

The Spaniard is expected to put pen to paper before next week's Champions League tie with Real Madrid on a deal which will tie him to Anfield until 2013 after months of wrangling with the club's owners.

Personal terms were agreed months ago but it was thought Benitez's demands to have full control over his transfer budget and recruitment to the club's Academy had brought negotiations to a standstill.

But Benitez revealed on Sunday that securing long-term offers for his trusted lieutenants had been of more importance, issues that are thought to have been worked out with Tom Hicks and George Gillett in the last two weeks.

He said: "Here in England, having a year left on your contract is nothing at all. When people realise the manager only has a year and half left, he is dead. I've got 10 or 12 assistants whose contracts are up in June. How can a manager lead a project properly if the continuity of his staff is not secure for two or three years?

"I never asked for complete control [of transfer budgets]. I did ask for the power to be able to make my own decisions and run the team the way I see fit. That is not the same thing."

That is likely to mean a contract is signed which will see Benitez allowed to divide a budget set by the board, a liberty enjoyed by most Premier League managers but an issue close to Benitez's heart after a problem at Valencia.

Benitez: I'm 'Dead' Worried Over New Liverpool Deal

Rafael Benitez has warned he will be ‘dead’ as Liverpool manager if he does not close his Anfield contract saga soon.

Liverpool hope Benitez will sign a new four-and-a-half year deal worth £16million later this week after the club’s American owners agreed to give him greater power over transfer policy.

Benitez said: ‘If you have a one year contract you have nothing— and I only have 18 months left.

‘If people realise the manager only has that time left, he’s dead.

'I have between 10-12 assistants whose contracts run out in June.’

Benitez also denied he wants total control of transfers: ‘I never asked for absolute power.

Capacity to make decisions and to manoeuvre? Yes.’

The delay has led to fears he could be tempted back to Spain.

‘I hope I can stay here for a long time,’ he said.

‘Would Real Madrid be the icing on the cake in the career of any manager? No doubt about it.

'But that sounds like the final stages of someone’s career and that isn’t my case.’

Control Freak Benitez Will Leave Liverpool Rudderless, Hopeless And Staffless

Rafael Benitez's latest boring, self-important whine about his new contract demands has actually revealed something interesting.

The Liverpool manager, who seems determined to take charge of everything from the tea rota to the financial accounts at Anfield, claims he has up to 12 assistants whose deals are all tied to his.

The fact that he has so many people to do the donkey work at Anfield is a little startling in itself.

When Jose Mourinho left Chelsea he took his trusted lieutenants with him, and there were only four of them.

Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United have big backroom staffs but most of them are tied to the club rather than the future of the manager.

Benitez is different, and don't we know it. He seems to have created a mini-managerial republic at Liverpool which would leave the club without any continuity and hardly any staff if he ever were to leave.

But it is all about the club, isn't it Rafa - even if he has now gone on record as saying that being Real Madrid manager would be the crowning glory of anyone's career.

Pellegrino: Why Zonal Works For Us

First-team coach Mauricio Pellegrino today dismissed criticism of zonal marking - claiming Liverpool were among the best in the country at defending set pieces.

Some pundits question the zonal system employed by Rafa Benitez despite Pepe Reina winning three successive Golden Glove awards for most clean sheets in a Premier League season.

Pellegrino was at the heart of Valencia's defence when they won La Liga using zonal marking - and he insists it is serving Liverpool well despite lapses which led to goals against Portsmouth and Everton.

The Argentine told us: "My opinion is that people need to criticise the result, not the method. Before the last three games, we were among the best two teams at defending set pieces. Now, after these games, we are still among the top five teams at defending set pieces.

"At the end you have to choose one method - zonal or man marking. We chose this one because we trust it. Both methods can be good if you focus on your job and do it properly. The most important thing is not the method - it's the way you manage the method.

"We know we've made some mistakes and we are working on this to make sure we don't concede more goals, but we defend a lot of set plays - that's why the other teams will sometimes score goals."

Torres Reveals Secret To His Success

Fernando Torres believes he may never have fulfilled his full potential if he had stayed in La Liga.

The Spain international has proved a revelation in the Premier League, doubling his goals ratio from his time at Atletico Madrid.

A nomination for the prestigious Ballon d'Or in December cemented his reputation as one of the world's top players.

Torres admits the improvement is in no small part down to the fact his game is more suited to English football than the Spanish league.

The 24-year-old told FourFourTwo magazine: "English football has been good to me because of its characteristics: it's fast, direct and there are very few stoppages, and that suits my game more than Spanish football. My natural qualities - the speed, the power - fit the Premier League.

"I play as a number nine up alongside the centre-backs. If I played there in Spain, maybe it wouldn't suit me: I would hardly see the ball, I would feel like I wasn't in the game. But it is so quick in England, you know you're always going to get the chance to run in behind the defenders.

"Liverpool's game is based on the team, on strategy; it's a very strong, well-organised team. Hitting other teams on the counter-attack with space in front of us suits me perfectly."

Torres also thanks boss Rafa Benitez for opening his eyes to the tactical nuances of being a centre-forward.

"Rafa was looking for a striker with my characteristics - someone quick who could surprise defenders and get behind them - but I had to learn too," he said.

"For a lot of coaches the tactical side of the game doesn't matter that much but for Rafa it is fundamental; he is conscious of the way we set up, the movement, the organisation.

"I've learnt a lot. It's been a real pleasure for me to work with Rafa. At Atletico I played more on instinct, doing my own thing; here I have to learn about movement and positioning, about the team.

"One of the main reasons I arrived at the club was the desire to compete with the best and show that I was good enough to play for the club.

"The fact that the other Spaniards were here was great. The captains have been good too - Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and Steven Gerrard have helped me from day one. And having Rafa made it easier to grasp the tactical side of things."

Rafa Benitez Issues Challenge To Emiliano Insua

Rafael Benitez has challenged Emiliano Insua to again stake his claim for the left-back spot at Liverpool.

Insua made four consecutive starts over the festive period after both Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena were struck by injury.

But the 20-year-old’s first-team run was halted by a call-up for Argentina in the South American Under-20 Championships in early January.

The tournament ended in disappointment for Insua, with Argentina finishing bottom of the final group stage of the competition to miss out on a place at the FIFA U20 World Cup for the first time in 16 years.

And with both Aurelio and Dossena having regained fitness in Insua’s absence, Liverpool manager Benitez has called on the youngster to once more provide further competition for places in defence.

“He was playing really well before he went away,” said Benitez. “He played a few games for us and did a good job.

“He has played a lot of football with his country, but some games were at left-back and others at centre-back.

“Defenders don’t run as far when they play in the middle, so we’ll have to have a look at him when he gets back to see if he needs a little break.

“It’s good to have him back, though. At this stage of the season the more players you have competing for positions in the team the better the situation is.”

Liverpool & Manchester United Eyeing Middlesbrough's Adam Johnson

The England Under-21 international is attracting interest from the Premier League's top two teams, who could be willing to pay £10 million for his services.

According to a report in British tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror, Premier League table-toppers Liverpool and Manchester United are tracking Middlesbrough's Adam Johnson.

The England Under-21 international winger, who has scored twice in 11 caps, was linked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in the January transfer window.

Boro manager Gareth Southgate is eager to hold on to the club's top home-grown players, including Stewart Downing, David Wheater and Johnson.

However, with Middlesbrough two points from safety in the Premier League table, relegation is a real possibility. If they were to finish in the bottom three, the financial blow of demotion coupled with the ambition of their players would almost certainly force Boro to sell their stars.

It is claimed that Manchester United and Liverpool are willing to offer £10 million for the versatile winger, who can play on either side of the pitch. Meanwhile, Boro are reportedly holding out for at least £12m.

Fernando Torres Named Among Liverpool's 50 Greatest Players

'El Nino' may only have been a Red for less than two years, but already he has earned a place among the club's greats.

The Times, the British newspaper, has published a list of the 50 greatest players ever to don a Liverpool shirt. Most of the familiar names are there, but there are one or two surprises thrown in.

Fernando Torres slips in at No. 50, a testament to the Spanish striker's impact since joining the Merseyside giants from Atletico Madrid in 2007.

Steven Gerrard - rather predictably - ranks right in the upper bracket, while the only other current stars featured are veteran defenders Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher.

The 50 Greatest Liverpool Players:

50 Fernando Torres
49 Rob Jones
48 Peter Thompson
47 Jackie Balmer
46 Sami Hyypia
45 Matt Busby
44 Peter Beardsley
43 Elisha Scott
42 Jerzy Dudek
41 Bob Paisley
40 David Fairclough
39 Ray Clemence
38 Jan Molby
37 Phil Neal
36 Tommy Lawrence
35 Albert Stubbins
34 Chris Lawler
33 Steve McMahon
32 Steve Nicol
31 Sammy Lee
30 Gerry Byrne
29 Ronnie Whelan
28 John Toshack
27 John Aldridge
26 Dietmar Hamann
25 Steve Heighway
24 Mark Lawrenson
23 Joey Jones
22 Ray Kennedy
20 Ian Callaghan
19 Michael Owen
18 Jimmy Case
17 Emlyn Hughes
16 Phil Thompson
15 Alan Kennedy
14 Robbie Fowler
13 Ron Yeats
12 Ian St John
11 Ian Rush
10 Roger Hunt
9 Jamie Carragher
8 Billy Liddell
7 Alan Hansen
6 Kevin Keegan
5 Tommy Smith
4 Graeme Souness
3 John Barnes
2 Steven Gerrard
1 Kenny Dalglish