Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are ‘Senior Sources’ Undermining Rafael Benitez At Anfield?

Rafa Benitez often apologises for a faltering command of the English language. Utterly unnecessarily. Because his use of rhetorical irony in a cutting post-match press conference at Hull City last Sunday was almost Shakespearean.

Six times the Reds boss used the phrase ‘senior sources’.

That’s one more than Mark Antony used in turning a Roman crowd against the noble Brutus – his buzz phrase was “an honourable man” – and it was enough to give Reds fans even more cause for concern.

Despite dispensing with one chief executive he couldn’t work with, Rafa still appears unable to form an open, trusting relationship with the Reds board.

That was painfully transparent at the KC Stadium last Sunday.

“If I stay, I am not thinking about selling Gerrard and Torres – just in case ‘senior sources’ say different things,” he muttered.

He went on: “It depends. ‘Senior sources’ maybe will say different, but it has been the same in the history of football.”

And there was more.

Six separate references to ‘senior sources’ in fact, all of them heavily ironic.

The inference is clear. The Liverpool manager thinks ‘senior sources’ at Liverpool are briefing the media against him.

So is Rafa paranoid?

Does he see shadows on grassy knolls?

Or are there ‘senior sources’ out to get him?

Of course Rafa himself could be the problem.

His track record for falling out with senior executives at football clubs is impressive.

Jesus Pitarch at Valencia, Rick Parry at Liverpool, George Gillett (although few would criticise him for picking that particular fight), and now un-named ‘senior sources.’

Maybe he’s a manager who thrives on creative tension.

Or perhaps he is being undermined.

As Rafa might say, let’s examine the ‘facts’.

A story was ‘broken’ by the BBC on Tuesday May 4.

“Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has cancelled two scheduled face-to-face meetings with the club’s new chairman, Martin Broughton,” ran the report.

It inferred that Benitez was stalling for time while Juventus courted him.

It certainly painted the Reds boss in a poor light.

If Benitez was irritated so were we, because it appeared we’d ‘missed’ a juicy tale. Except it seems there was no ‘story’ to miss.

A first meeting, scheduled for April 20, was called off because an unexpected cloud of volcanic ash spreading across Europe meant that Rafa Benitez had to spend 48 hours on a train with his players rather than two hours on a plane.

No problem. No-one could have foreseen Mount Eyjafjallajökull erupting.

The next meeting was scheduled for 24 hours before the visit of Chelsea – until Martin Broughton decided he wouldn’t be coming back to Merseyside for the Chelsea game because of his already publicised footballing allegiances.

So no opportunity to squeeze a meeting in there then.

Still no major problem, until the story on the BBC website, which spread in this internet age like a particularly vicious virus.

Forgive me if I’m seeing shadows on grassy knolls now, but it looks like someone was briefing the Beeb against the Liverpool manager.

And further scrutiny of the article shows it was someone inside the Anfield boardroom.

“There is some surprise inside the Anfield boardroom at the timing of Benitez’s call on Tuesday for an urgent meeting with Broughton to discuss the future,” added the BBC story.

There have been other ‘leaks.’

“It is known around Anfield that Christian Purslow has talked to Benítez about his style of management, notably his cold detachment from the players,” wrote the Daily Telegraph last November, adding: “Liverpool can afford to sack Benítez. Compensation would be less than £5 million under the ‘mitigating the loss’ principle if he found employment.”

It doesn’t take a huge leap to work out where the Telegraph might have got their compensation figure from.

That story and the BBC ‘revelation’ may not be linked. Liverpool board members have always spoken to the media – and even after foul-mouthed Tom junior’s resignation there are still several board members remaining.

But board members who brief against a manager should beware.

Remember Noel White?

He spent 21 years at Anfield before falling on his sword for criticising Benitez in a newspaper article.

At the time Benitez said: “The important thing is the club, and such things as this do not normally happen here. This is a big club and there is a way of doing things here.”

That was four years ago. Has that way of doing things gone for good?

It was Bill Shankly who effectively labelled Anfield directors as simply men who sign the cheques.

Rightly or wrongly, that’s an image which has persisted.

Even those Reds fans who want Rafa Benitez out have a huge well of emotion for the man, largely inspired by one emotional night in Istanbul.

Any ‘senior sources’ inside Anfield who try to take him on will do so at their peril.

Javier Mascherano's Liverpool Contract Talks Delayed Until After 2010 World Cup

Javier Mascherano's contract negotiations with Liverpool have been delayed until after he returns from the World Cup, according to a report from Press Association.

The Argentinian midfielder has been in talks with the club for three months over a new deal, with progress believed to have been encouraging. But with the club having released players for the summer and Mascherano scheduled to join the Albicelestes' World Cup preparations, the club have been forced to suspend further negotiations until after he returns from the tournament in South Africa.

Last summer Mascherano was heavily linked with a move to Spanish side Barcelona, with the enforcer seemingly receptive to the rumours. But after re-affirming his commitment to the club this season Liverpool were hopeful that he would follow in the footsteps of goalkeeper Jose Reina — who signed a new six-year deal at Anfield last month — and secure his long-term future at the club. Now they are set for an anxious wait for Mascherano to return to the bargaining table ahead of next season.

The news will be another blow to manager Rafael Benitez, who is already concerned that his squad will struggle at the beginning of next season. Liverpool's seventh place finish in the Premier League means they will be entered in the third qualifying round of the Europa League next season, which kicks off at the end of July — just 18 days of the World Cup final, which might involve one or more Reds players.

"We have to prepare. We have pre-season more or less organised and we now have to analyse carefully the schedule and see if we can organise the fixtures properly," Benitez said.

"Last year we had too many players away with the Confederations Cup (also in South Africa) so the teams are suffering with these tournaments and every year it is more and more so it is not easy."

Liverpool Ready Move for £8m Bundesliga Starlet: Rafa Shows Interest In Mesut Ozil

Liverpool are hoping to make a successful move for German international starlet Mesut Ozil this summer. Rafa Benitez is a big fan of the Werder Bremen attacker and hopes that he can convince the Bundesliga club to accept an offer in the region of £8m for the 21 year old.

The former Schalke man reportedly has just one year left on his contract and may well be interested in a move to the Premier League and would no doubt be excited by interest shown in him by the Anfield outfit.

Rafa Benitez is looking for more creativity in his midfield and is apparently most interested in Ozil’s ability to play in a number of different positions. The well built Bremen man can play across the midfield as well as effectively on both wings but perhaps most interestingly can be used in the hole behind the strikers.

A number of sides are reportedly interested in Ozil with Arsenal being one side who has repeatedly linked with a move for his services and has been in sparkling form this term weighing in with nine goals and 17 assists which have helped his side to a third placed finish and a coveted Champions League spot.

Roma Like Yossi Benayoun, But He Has A Contract With Liverpool

Yossi Benayoun is likely to stay at Liverpool, despite growing interest from Roma, says agent Ronen Katzav.

Reports have linked the Israeli midfielder with an end of season move to the Scudetto hopefuls. And while the agent is aware of Roma's interest, he says a move there is not in the offing.

"We have not been contacted by Roma," Katzav told forzaromainfo.

"We know about an interest from Roma, and there has been plenty of talk about this, but we have not had any contact with the directors.

"Roma would be nice, but my client has a contract with Liverpool and he is fine in England."

Real Madrid And Inter To Battle It Out For Steven Gerrard

Real Madrid and Inter are hot on the trail of Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, according to El Mundo Deportivo.

Inter are keen to bring in the English international as Nerazzurri boss coach Jose Mourinho has reportedly been a long time admirer of the Reds star and he could be a good fit alongside the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso.

Meanwhile, the report suggests that Real Madrid have already set aside a bid of €26 million for the 29-year-old after their disappointing Champions League campaign.

Should he join Real Madrid it would throw Kaka's future at the Santiago Bernabeu in doubt, but also give Gerrard the chance to link up with former team-mate Xabi Alonso in the centre of the pitch.

Whether the England star will indeed be leaving Anfield is another question, but several members of the press feel that it is a possibility after the team's disappointing season.

Liverpool Close On Deal To Sign Rangers Defender Danny Wilson

Liverpool are closing in on a £2.5million deal for Danny Wilson - and his Rangers defensive partner Madjid Bougherra hopes to follow him to Anfield

Wilson, 18, has only one year remaining on his contract with the Scottish Premier League champions. Rangers boss Walter Smith has admitted defeat in getting the centre-back to put pen to paper and has sanctioned his sale which will go through in June, The Liverpool Echo has reported.

Wilson has enjoyed a breakthrough season and recently claimed both the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' Association Young Player awards.

Bougherra enjoyed a spell in the Premier League with Charlton Athletic and has targeted Liverpool as the outfit he wants to return to. He is currently training with Algeria's World Cup squad in Switzerland.

His agent Farid Raayad claims Liverpool have expressed an interest in his services.

Bougherra added: “If a big team comes in and Rangers accept an offer for me that is destiny."

Dalla Valle Scoops Award

Lauri Dalla Valle's Sunderland stunner has been named as the Reserves' Goal of the Season following a fans' vote on

The Finnish starlet netted our second-string's final strike of 2009-10 with the only goal of the game against the Black Cats earlier this month.

His effort claimed 31 per cent of the vote to secure the accolade.

Dalla Valle saw off competition from Daniel Pacheco, whose perfectly executed free-kick against Burnley clinched second with 14 per cent.

The Spaniard's Manchester City volley came joint third along with Nathan Eccleston's curler against Blackburn on the opening day of the campaign. Both goals claimed 11 per cent of the vote.

‘No-one Is Bigger Than Liverpool FC' - Robbie Fowler's Message To Rafa Benitez

Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler has warned Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez that “no-one is bigger than the club.”

Benitez brought Fowler back to Anfield for an emotional second spell four years ago, but his own position has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks.

And Fowler, now playing for Perth Glory in Australia, said: “I was always grateful to him (Benitez) for bringing me back, so I always have a bit of a soft spot for him, but at the end of the day it’s a big club and no one is bigger than the club.

“First and foremost we want to be winning trophies and to be the top dogs. It’s a tricky situation. I don’t want to be sat here saying he has got to go, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

“I just want Liverpool to do well, whether it’s Rafa there or someone else there I don’t really mind.

“First and foremost Liverpool is Liverpool and I think we deserve to be top of the table every year. Whoever is in charge has a big job on their hands.”

With his own playing days coming to a close, Fowler revealed he is looking to turn to coaching himself and has ambitiously pointed to the top job at Anfield as his dream appointment.

The 35-year-old striker is currently playing in Australia’s domestic league where he is contracted for at least one more season with Perth Glory, so any move into coaching is still some way off.

Fowler is also yet to earn his coaching badges and while he admits his dream to manage Liverpool is “a million miles away” should it one day happen it would not be the first time he has made a shock return to a club where he is revered.