Monday, July 13, 2009

Liverpool Legend Ian Rush: Rafael Benitez Can Bring Title To Anfield

Liverpool's all-time leading goalscorer Ian Rush is fully confident that manager Rafael Benitez can bring the Premier League title to the club this season.

The ex-Wales striker feels the Spanish manager has now assembled a squad capable of making a real push for the club's first ever Premier league trophy.

The Reds finished just four points behind eventual winners Manchester United last season, and Rush feels that this season could be their big chance.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Rush said, "I think every football supporter begins the season hoping his team will do well and I was exactly the same last year.

"But the difference is this year I believe Liverpool will do well, rather than hope they will.

"The hope has been replaced by a genuine belief and I cannot wait for the season to start.

"The way we finished the last campaign was fantastic and Liverpool will know they can beat anyone.

"I'm very optimistic about our Premier League chances."

The Reds won 10 of their last 11 games during the 2008/9 season, to take the title race to the wire, and Rush feels these results can be taken and repeated over the course of the whole season

"Teams were coming to Anfield, putting 11 men behind the ball and frustrating us.

"But beating Real Madrid injected real belief into the players and from then on we went out to win games right from the very start.

"If we can beat Real Madrid 4-0, then we can beat any team in the world at Anfield and we embarked on a fantastic run after that.

"It's important we carry the excellent form we showed at the end of last season into the new campaign and if we can turn those draws into wins this year, I think Liverpool will win the league."

Benitez has made just one main addition to his squad this summer, with the £17 million purchase of right-back Glen Johnson from Portsmouth.

Liverpool Bid To Keep Want-Away Stars Javier Mascherano And Xabi Alonso

Liverpool will make a last-ditch plea to want-away stars Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso: "Stay one more year and we'll Kop the title."

Boss Rafa Benitez plans to tell the midfielders if they pledge their future to the club - even for just this season - he is confident they will be rewarded with the Premier League crown.

And Liverpool are feeling upbeat about their chances. Manchester United have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, while Chelsea are having to adapt to another new manager for the third straight season.

Mascherano and Alonso are coming under mounting pressure from Liverpool fans to state their intentions.

Real Madrid have already had a £25million bid for Alonso, 27, knocked back, while Argentinian Mascherano, 25, is keen to join Barcelona for family reasons.

But Benitez is determined to bring the lingering transfer worries to an end with clear-the-air talks next week.

Real Madrid Still Interested In Liverpool's Mascherano

Not content with chasing Xabi Alonso, Real Madrid are set to submit a bid for Liverpool's other defensive midfielder, Javier Mascherano.

According to El Mundo Deportivo, Los Merengues have been keeping the Mascherano option throughout their negotiations for Alonso, and could now be set to turn to the Argentine.

Alonso remains their first choice, but Madrid believe they can get Mascherano for a smaller fee. In addition, a deal for Mascherano would scupper Barca's hopes of landing the Argentina captain, thus dealing another blow to their eternal rivals in the transfer market.

Apparently, Madrid are ready to offer Mascherano a similar five year deal to that which is being proposed for Alonso, with greater financial terms than Barcelona have presented.

Therefore, if the Xabi Alonso deal is not finalized in the near future, his team-mate could be the one on his way to the Bernabeu.

Rafael Benitez Considered Michael Owen Signing For Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has revealed he had considered the possibility of taking Michael Owen back to Anfield this summer.

Owen, a youth product of the club, joined Real Madrid during Benitez's reign and now arrives at Manchester United via Newcastle United on a free transfer, after his contract at St James' Park expired.

The Spanish boss has admitted to monitoring the situation regarding Owen's transfer but decided to opt out of a deal similar to the previous signing of returning Anfield legend Robbie Fowler.

"We had contact with different people and were analysing the situation. But if you want to play Torres and Gerrard there is not always a lot of space for other players." Benitez said, according to the Sunday People.

"When I brought back Robbie Fowler it was a different situation. We were looking for someone who could understand his role clearly and he was a good finisher.

"But we have a World Cup coming up and all the top players want to play. In his position it would be hard for Owen to play every week at Liverpool.

Benitez also believes there is enough strength in Liverpool's current strike force to leave them fully equipped for the 2009/10 Premier League campaign.

He continued: "We are confident in Kuyt, Babel, Ngog and Voronin for next season. We have players with quality."

Rafael Benitez Looks To Liverpool Defence For Added Firepower

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is looking to his defence to help add to the club's goal tally this season.

The Reds finished second in the Premier League in 2008-09 despite being unbeaten at Anfield in the competition.

Teams such as Stoke City, West Ham United and Fulham left Merseyside with a point, and Benitez is keen to see some members of his back four join the attack in such situations.

"We want to improve our power in attack, this is our idea," Benitez told the club's official website.

"We were talking last season about the draws we had at home and when teams play really deep against you, you need quality in the full-back and central defensive positions.

"When we talk about Daniel Agger scoring goals and using the ball well it is because we know that these qualities are necessary if you want to turn the draws into wins."

The signing of Glen Johnson could give Liverpool an extra attacking edge from the back next season, as the right-back likes to get forward in support and chipped in with his fair share of goals for Portsmouth last season.

The Reds start their Premier League campaign away at Tottenham Hotspur.

Alonso Not Indispendable - Pellegrini

Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini is adamant the Spanish giants will cope if they cannot bring in Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Although they have already spent close to £200million on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Raul Albiol this summer, Madrid are still looking to bring in more new faces and Alonso is near the top of their wanted list.

However, Madrid are not finding it straightforward to cut a deal for the Spain international, with the big-spending La Liga outfit admitting this week that they are some way short of Liverpool's valuation of the Euro 2008 winner.

Madrid have not given up on Alonso yet, but Pellegrini has dismissed any suggestion that the 27-year-old is "indispensable" to the team.

"Indispensable players do not exist. He's an important player as he has shown with the Spanish team. It's no mystery that Real Madrid are interested in his services, but it will not be easy," said Pellegrini.

The Chilean coach believes Madrid are not far away from finishing their summer rebuilding, with just a few more additions needed, and hopes everything can be settled sooner rather than later.

"We are looking at some alternatives in a few positions. The attacking part is complete, and maybe we lack a player in the middle of the pitch and a full-back, but the rest of the positions are covered," he said.

Rafa Benitez Snubs £65M Real Madrid Bid For Fernando Torres

Rafa Benitez put a stop to Real Madrid's incredible spending spree - by rejecting a massive £65million bid for Anfield idol Fernando Torres.

Madrid swooped for Torres AFTER sealing deals for £80m Cristiano Ronaldo and £56m Kaka. It was an astonishing move from the Spaniards, given that Torres made his name at their bitter rivals Atletico Madrid and is as important to Liverpool as skipper Steven Gerrard.

But Bernabeu president Florentino Perez reckoned the cash-strapped Merseysiders would be vulnerable to a big-money raid and agreed the offer for Spain's No.1 striker.

And he was prepared to win a bidding war with Chelsea and Manchester City, who also sniffed around Torres.

Liverpool boss Benitez, who is trying to keep Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano from Spanish clutches, said last night there was never a chance of accepting Madrid's millions.

Benitez said: "We always knew when a bid came we'd say no because the main thing was the player wanted to stay.

"People know the player wanted to stay here but it did not stop them trying. Football has changed and there is big, big money around - but we still have the same idea to keep the spine of the team and work hard for next season.

"We wanted to send a message that we are strong and want to improve. We don't want to lose any of our big players."

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is also believed to have put Torres at the top of his wish-list. But even though Roman Abramovich would have bankrolled the deal, Torres would not have moved to another Premier League club.

That also scuppered City's plans after they had lined up a third move for Torres following initial enquiries a year ago and further interest in January.

Johnson Couldn't Trust Mourinho

England defender Glen Johnson has claimed he knew his career at former club Chelsea was over because of the breakdown of trust with then coach Jose Mourinho.

Johnson, who this week completed a £17million move from Portsmouth to Liverpool, has accused Mourinho of breaking promises when they were both at Stamford Bridge.

Johnson revealed he realised he would have to continue his career elsewhere when he did not feature against Barcelona in the Champions League before later moving on to Pompey for £4million.

Johnson said: "I remember the lowest point was when Chelsea were set to play Barcelona in the Champions League.

"We had a couple of Premier League games to play before we played Barca, and Mourinho picked me for one of those games and told me in front of five witnesses that if I played well I would keep the shirt.

"I immediately told my agent that it didn't matter how well I played I would be dropped - because Mourinho wouldn't want me anywhere near the team for the Barcelona game.

"Sure enough, I was voted man of the match - and I was dropped from the squad."

Johnson remains puzzled over the reasons why he did not figure in the Portuguese coach's plans.

"You would have to ask Jose Mourinho what his reasons were, but I know it was because he didn't want to see me play well again and be forced to pick me for the Barcelona game.

"That was the day I knew I had to leave Chelsea. Managers have to stick to their word. You have to be able to trust them."