Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Benitez Challenges Babel And Riera

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has challenged troubled stars Ryan Babel and Albert Riera to prove they have a Liverpool future.

The pair have both expressed a disappointment that they have not had more chances to impress in the first team this season.

Babel has openly questioned the Liverpool manager's selection decisions, and suggested he wants to go on loan to Ajax in January to improve his chances of playing for Holland in the World Cup finals next summer.

Babel even went to the extent of claiming that promises had been broken by Liverpool over the amount of first-team opportunities he would have this season.

Babel was initially axed by Holland from the squad preparing to face Japan at the weekend and then Scotland on Wednesday.

He was only recalled after injury problems, and then expressed his fears that his inactivity at Liverpool would affect his chances of going to the finals with Holland - who qualified at the weekend - next summer.

But Benitez is unmoved by the pairs' concerns.

He said: "Albert and Ryan both want to play. They play in the same position and so have to compete with each other, which is good for us.

"The message is very simple. On the pitch all of the players have to prove something.

"Ryan knows he cannot go now, so he has to impress. He is a good player and we know he has talent. It's important for us to talk with him and see how he progresses over these months.

"With the World Cup at the end of the season the majority of our players will want to impress and if they do well in each training session they will have more chances."

Ryan Babel Must Play More For Liverpool - Bert van Marwijk

Liverpool forward Ryan Babel has to force himself into a regular first team spot at Anfield, according to Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk, or his chances of representing his country at next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa will disappear.

The powerful winger has only impressed fitfully during his time on Merseyside so far, though many feel that Reds manager Rafa Benitez has not necessarily given the Dutchman as much opportunity as he perhaps should have, and Van Marwijk has affirmed that he needs his international players to be performing as regularly as possible for their clubs in order to put themselves properly in the frame for Holland.

Babel was originally left out of the squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Hampden Park on Wednesday night, having only been called up as a late replacement, and more time on the pitch at Anfield is what is needed for the player to be a regular for the Oranje.

"You have to be top at every level. It's good when their players play at a level that is as high as possible," he told Sky Sports News. "When you play three games in half a year, you can't have your normal level."

As for whether Babel should perhaps look for another club, Van Marwijk dropped a broad hint that it would perhaps be a good idea, adding, laconically: "They [players] have to make their own decisions, but they know what I mean."

As for Wednesday night's game in Glasgow, when a Scotland victory would reignite improbable dreams of World Cup qualification for the men in dark blue, Van Marwijk asserted that his side would be giving it their best and not merely turning up despite having already confirmed their presence in South Africa next summer with a 100 per cent record to date in the qualifiers.

"I play always with my strongest team. When we come, we try to win," he concluded.

Torres: Lack Of Funds Could Hinder Liverpool's Title Chances

Fernando Torres admits he fears the spending power of Liverpool's Premier League rivals could scupper the Anfield club's title hopes.

Manchester City spent a massive £120million during the summer and, although Chelsea and champions Manchester United were more circumspect, Torres fears Liverpool could be left behind.

The Anfield club spent over £35million on Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani this summer but recouped most of that with the £30m sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

There were also regular rumours of friction between boss Rafael Benitez and the club's American owners over transfer budgets and Torres admits money is a major issue in the title race.

'I think we are close to getting a trophy but it's very difficult,' said the striker.

'In football at the moment, unfortunately money is really important.

'Clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City have a lot of money to spend on good players,' he told the Liverpool Echo.

'That's not the way at Liverpool so we have to try to improve.

'If we are going to get the opportunity to win a trophy we have to do things better than ever. We are ready for the challenge.'

Fernando Torres: Liverpool Fans Love Me Like Steven Gerrard

Fernando Torres could not be happier on Merseyside, citing the predominantly working-class background of the city of Liverpool as one of the reasons he feels so at home in the north west.

"The people are so nice and polite here, and have a lot of respect for players when you are away from the pitch,” he told The Liverpool Echo. “That is one of the main things for me. In Spain it was difficult for me to go to restaurants or just walk in the street with my friends.

“Now I can do these things and go to the park, walk my dogs and go out for dinner. It’s a really working-class city and I like that because I was born in a working-class part of Spain. The people work all week and they go to the ground each weekend to enjoy the team. On the Monday they are working hard again just so they can see their team on the weekend.

“It’s really special to see [Liverpool] supporters with my name on their shirt. I can understand why they would wear a Stevie G or Carra shirt because they are from Liverpool.

“I only came here two years ago as a foreign player but they love me like Stevie [Gerrard] or Carra [Jamie Carragher]. That’s amazing and I have to say thank you to them for that."

Torres also believes that it will not be long before Liverpool are picking up another trophy, and that the Premier League title is not far from their grasp.

Sammy Lee Sure Of Liverpool Success For Glen Johnson

Liverpool's assistant manager has spoken out in praise of full-back Glen Johnson, and believes the England international has made a great start to his Anfield career after his summer switch from Portsmouth.

The 25-year-old has bagged two goals in four games so far for the Reds and, despite some observers expressing reservations about the former Chelsea man's defensive capabilities, Lee thinks that he has definitely improved Rafa Benitez's team.

"Glen is a quality player in a quality team and I think he has added something to us," the coach told the club's official website.

"What we try to do in each and every area and department is recruit quality and we feel we have done with Glen.

"He has come here and has been willing to listen and learn. For someone who is already an established England international that's great and long may it continue."

The Reds are set to welcome Fabio Aurelio back from injury soon, adding further depth in the full-back positions, and Lee feels that the Brazilian's return will be almost like the arrival at the club of a new player.

"Fabio will be like a new signing for us," Lee added.

"He wasn't available for pre-season, but he's coming back and hopefully we'll have him chomping at the bit and competing for a place very shortly.

"Any team likes to have all of their players available. That brings its own problems of course because you have to pick a team from them, but we would prefer to have that problem than a situation where players are out injured

"Rafa has said on many occasions he is confident with the squad we have and we feel we can mount a challenge on all fronts."

Tom Hicks: Liverpool Won’t See A Penny Of Rangers Sale

American businessman Tom Hicks, the co-owner of English soccer club Liverpool, says the team will not receive increased investment after he sells his Texas Rangers Major League baseball franchise.

More specifically, the proceeds of the sale - certain to be over US$500 million - will not go towards the financing of the club's proposed new stadium in Stanley Park, which is unlikely to be ready much before 2018.

"Rangers and Liverpool are totally separate investments, so there is no connection," said Hicks. "Liverpool will obtain stadium financing when the financial market opens back up. We have all of our permits and will be ready when the market is ready."

Hicks' co-owner at Liverpool, George Gillett, is also set for a major windfall from the sale of one of his sports properties, the Montreal Canadiens.

Manchester City And Spurs Are No Threat To Us, Insists Liverpool Defender Jamie Carragher

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher insists the Anfield club are not worried about the threat posed by Manchester City and Spurs.

Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp have guided their side's to 100 percent starts - with many tipping the the early-season pacesetters to break into the top four.

But the Reds stalwart says Liverpool are not contemplating losing their Champions League spot - but fully focused on winning the Barclays Premier League title.

He said: 'There are other teams who could get into the top four this year – but hopefully not at our expense.

'We’re not thinking about that, though, we’re just thinking about the title and not about fourth place.

'A couple of teams have jumped out so far. We’ve already played Tottenham and Aston Villa and of course Manchester City are the side a lot of people are talking about, but if we start playing the way we can then I’m sure we’ll be right up there.

'We’ve only played four games and if we go on to have a successful season then we’ll play more than 60 matches, so it’s a long season and there’s still a long way to go.

'We’ve not had the best of starts but hopefully we’ll soon start coming into our own.

'We’ve got Burnley up next and they’ve been a great story so far, beating two of last year’s top five in Manchester United and Everton.

'Owen Coyle has done a great job with them so we know it’s going to be a difficult game.'

Xabi Alonso Reveals Frosty Relationship With Rafa Benitez

Xabi Alonso claims manager Rafa Benitez showed him little affection during his time at Liverpool.

The Spain midfielder left Anfield in the summer to join Real Madrid in a £30m deal despite an outstanding season in the Reds midfield last term.

Benitez came close to selling Alonso to Juventus last summer as the Liverpool boss tried to pave the way for long-term target Gareth Barry.

And the former Real Sociedad man told Champions Magazine: 'Every now and again a player would appreciate a bit more closeness, a pat on the back, but Rafa is not that kind of guy.'

Alonso married earlier this summer - but Benitez failed to make the guest list for his big day.

He explained: 'I invited friends, I guess it's fair to say. Rafa and I always had a very professional relationship, yet there are a lot of urban myths about what we went through. It wasn't so bad.'

Nevertheless, Alonso admits Benitez helped nurture his talents during his time on Merseyside.

'He told me to keep a balance. You are not a genius when things go very well but neither a disaster when things go wrong. His style is what has made him what he is.

'I am starting a new era and I will be eternally grateful to Liverpool because they are a very special institution. I jumped into the pool of their history and philosophy.

'I got involved in the city and loved living in the centre. I have grown as a person and as a player. When I joined it was a new project and I was also starting out in this game.

'I left Spain at 22 and became something of a sponge, absorbing everything and trying to find out about the new country, its society and daily lives.

'I listened to people, talked to strangers, looked around.

'You have to have an open mind to respect their traditions. That helped me understand what was expected of me and the team.

'Plus, the experience of playing among the elite of Europe, fighting for titles, that has matured me after five unforgettable years.'