Platini and UEFA face legal action

Michel Platini seems to have assumed he'd be welcomed to UEFA
with open arms and be given the mandate to do pretty much as he pleases. That's
not quite how it looks like turning out for the new president of Europe's
current football governing body.

Yesterday he was assuming that the members of the powerful
G14 group – 18 of Europe's biggest clubs – would ditch their organisation. Platini
got into his position of power at UEFA by promising the smaller nations they
would be guaranteed a place in the group stages rather than having to qualify.
Of course that causes some of the bigger teams to risk missing out, with
countries currently getting four places being cut back to three or less. G14
are more likely to close ranks and ditch UEFA than they are to ditch the G14

Today he is reading about a threat of legal action against
his poorly-run organisation. Rather than sitting back and accepting UEFA's view
that it's ok to be locked out of a game he'd paid for and that it should all be
blamed on a minority of fans, Paul Gregory is angry and looking for
compensation. Platini is getting a warning to wake up. If Platini has any sense
he'll do all he can to compensate those who missed out, at least this year he
can blame the errors on the actions of his predecessors. He isn't a popular
choice as president; he needs to avoid sitting back and assuming people
actually like his ideas.

Mr Gregory, and two friends, spent £2370 on flights, hotel
and match tickets for the final last week. Not only did they fail to get in to
see what they'd paid all that money to see, they suffered an ordeal that
Platini should be ashamed of.

Rather than sit back and let UEFA off the hook, he decided
to write to them, in fact he wrote to Platini: "I would like this to be
reimbursed by UEFA,'' he wrote, in reference to the money he'd spent, "It's the
least you can do for putting our lives at risk. If this is not forthcoming we
intend to take action against UEFA through the British judicial system, and
through the European Courts if necessary. It was only through good luck that UEFA
avoided deaths."

He explained what the ordeal was: "As a former shareholder
in Liverpool FC I am the recipient of three €140 tickets for the Champions
League final. All are still unused as we were refused entry into the stadium. I
was herded, tear-gassed, kicked and baton-charged by riot police outside the
stadium for the hour leading up to kick-off and way beyond. As the organising
body, UEFA has a duty of care towards its legitimate ticket-holders in just the
same way as any corporate body has towards its customers. This duty of care
extends to having systems in place to deny entry to the stadium to non-ticket
holders. Demonstrably these systems were not in place."

Mr Gregory is aware that some Liverpool fans should be
ashamed of themselves for their actions, but rightly points out that UEFA
should have ensured that a few idiots couldn't spoil the enjoyment of the
majority: "While unsavoury elements of the Liverpool fans must take
responsibility for their actions, so must UEFA take responsibility for its
shortcomings. UEFA appears to have planned for a genteel corporate networking
event. It took its eye off the ball and forgot about a football match between
two of Europe's largest and most passionately supported football clubs, despite
warnings weeks ahead forged tickets were likely to be in circulation."

As Mr Gregory explains, forged tickets weren't even
necessary for fans to use to con their way in: "Not only did thousands gain
entry to the stadium with amateurish, photo-copied forgeries (some not even
bothering to print the reverse side of the ticket!) but, incredibly, some fans
simply walked into the stadium with no ticket at all – forged or legitimate!
Others waved a stadium map and gained entry. One fan gained entry to the press
box with a photo-copied press pass."

Ensuring all bases are covered, Mr Gregory has also written
to Brian Barwick, the FA's Chief Executive (who should be fighting for the
refunds too) along with officials at Anfield: Rick Parry (current CEO), Foster
Gillett (George Gillett Jnr's son), Tom Hicks Jnr and manager Rafael Benítez.

The game kicked off at 9.45pm Greek time, and Gregory went
over what happened from his arrival at the area where the ground was: "I can't
even be accused of naivety as this was my sixth European Cup final and I
arrived at the stadium an hour and a half before kick-off. Plenty of time to
negotiate ‘security', I thought.

"8.15pm: Arrived at stadium complex entrance arch. Everyone
relaxed. Fans funnelled by railings into several entry points. It became
apparent fairly quickly very few people were being let through. It also became
apparent this was a holding operation.

"8.45: Crushing begins as fans see little progress. Panic
beginning. Children lifted up and crying. Pushing from behind. Police respond
by pushing back and forming an impenetrable barrier.

"9.00: I finally make it to the front. Extruded like
toothpaste out of a tube into police line; 100m further on, a line of police
buses with a bus-sized gap and riot police blocking it. Fans backing up here.
It becomes apparent this is a similar holding operation. It looks like one or
two are allowed through at a time to give the appearance of a checkpoint.
Totally inadequate again. We hold up our tickets, to no avail.

"9.30: No one is getting through now. Police drive a bus in
to close gap off completely. Crowd of 2,000-5,000 backing up. Panic, crushing.
My feet aren't touching the ground. Kids crying. Pressure increases to
dangerous levels. This prompts police to let crowd know over hand-held tannoy
that ‘the stadium is full! You can't get in'. No one can believe it. The
charade is over. The crowd realise they haven't been policed; they've been
conned, corralled, herded and contained for the last hour. A surge from the
back and now it's confrontational. The police get more vocal and counter-surge
with shields, batons, helmets, visors and boots, pushing us back a few metres. The
police fire a huge cloud of tear gas and panic ensues. Police batter their way
forward. Crowd retreats, choking and eyes streaming.

"9.45: We assume the match will not kick off. Surprised to
find it has.

"10.00: Some fans regroup and storm staircases to our right.
Running skirmishes. Beaten back by police. Tear gas again, kickings. Some fans
try to crawl under parked buses. This goes on until about 10.30. We make our
way back.''

In particular Gregory wants to know the answer to these three

"1) At what time was the stadium declared closed? And by

"2) What security arrangements did you have in place,
particularly in regard to forged tickets that UEFA had been warned about weeks
in advance?

"3) Why are corporate ‘partners' allowed to sell tickets at
hugely inflated rates to fans?'

He has a solution that he believes would perhaps help: "Finally,
if you want a solution to this perennial problem the answer (apart from
security that actually works) is easy: license clubs to show the match live on
screens at their home stadium when the live venue is sold out.''

Will Michel Platini have the decency to look at this matter
without the need for legal action? If he doesn't then he really ought to step
down from his new role. Yes, the minority shouldn't have done what they did,
but that's what happens in life unfortunately. It's up to those in charge of
organising events such as these that they ensure a minority aren't able to carry
out actions that endanger others.  

Continue reading Platini and UEFA face legal action

Report: Malouda set to sign for Reds

Reports this morning claim that French winger Florent Malouda is to arrive on Merseyside later today to discuss a move the European Cup finalists from Lyon.

Malouda, who will be 27 next month, has 28 caps for France, scoring three goals on the way. He was started all but the first game of the 2006 World Cup for his country, including the final, where he won a penalty. The figure quoted for his transfer fee varies but is believed to be somewhere above £8m.

He has picked up four winners' medals in a row in the French league, where Lyon have just won their sixth title in a row.

If the reports – on Sky Sports News – does turn out to be true, and the player is here to talk about a deal, it will show that Rafa's outburst last week about the lethargy around going getting his signings has worked to a certain extent. However, Rafa still wants the contracts of existing players sorted out, and still has other targets in mind.

One of those is another winger, Simao Sabrosa from Benfica, who was confirmed as a target by Chief Executive Rick Parry at the weekend.

With two wingers coming in Harry Kewell is left wondering where his future lies. Rafa Benitez has spoken to most of his squad about where he sees their futures, and those who had contracts expiring this summer have been told they are leaving. Former captain Sami Hyypia, like Kewell, has a year left on his deal and was given a choice by Rafa that he could either leave or stay – but on the understanding that he will be no more than a squad player. Kewell is one of the highest earners at Anfield and it seems has yet to be told whether Rafa sees him as an important member of the squad nxt season.

One of Kewell's friends has spoken to the press about how the player feels: "Anfield is the only place Harry wants to be," said the unnamed pal (or agent or relative), "He takes the view that there aren't many players who can say they are good enough to pull on a Liverpool shirt. He believes he is, and he wants to prove it to the fans and manager. He is not one to shy away from a challenge."

Rafa is an admirer of Kewell, but has rarely been able to use him due to the Aussie player's wretched luck with injuries.

One club said to be interested in Kewell are Aston Villa, who are also said to be interested in £12m Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy.

Rafa Benitez is taking a quick holiday at the moment, but if past form is anything to go off his mobile phone will rarely be quiet during the family break. Whether that is because he's getting told the names on his list are being ticked off one-by-one remains to be seen.

Continue reading Report: Malouda set to sign for Reds

Parry confirms Reds want Simao

The talk of big signings continues at Anfield – with chief
executive Rick Parry telling the Portuguese media that the club are looking to
try once more for the signature of Benfica's winger Simao Sabrosa.

Parry spoke to the Portuguese daily newspaper A Bola, saying
Simao is one of two players Rafa is hoping to bring into the squad this summer.
But Parry also confirmed that nothing had actually been done about it yet,
which is exactly what is driving the Spanish boss up the wall! Rafa feels
Liverpool are missing out on players because they aren't getting in quickly to
put bids in.

The under-fire Chief Executive was quoted in the newspaper
as saying: "There are players we are interested in and Simao is one. But we
have made no contact with Benfica. A swap with Cisse could be a possibility."

Djibril Cissé's year on-loan in France has now come to an
end and his performances were not good enough for Marseilles to take up the
original option agreed with Liverpool to sign him on a permanent deal.
Marseilles do want him, but not at the price originally agreed. But Rafa doesn't
want him, so Liverpool are working hard to get some kind of money back for a
player who cost a ridiculous £14m in 2004. He was signed for Gerard Houllier by
Rick Parry, and Liverpool couldn't get out of the deal despite sacking Houllier
prior to Cissé actually joining.

Cissé is understandably holding out for a move that suits
him, and his agent – Ranko Stojic – says Cissé would almost certainly be
unwilling to move to Benfica: "Anything is possible;" said Stojic, to the same
newspaper, "but Djibril's priority is to move to a club in either England or
Spain who are in the Champions League. Liverpool will not be able to decide
Cisse's future without the authorisation of the player."

What Stojic says is true; Cissé can dig his heels in and
refuse any move he doesn't like. But at the same time Rafa can tell Cissé he's
spending the whole of next season playing at the Academy if he doesn't accept a
move that also suits Liverpool.  

Meanwhile Liverpool need to start actually speaking to the
clubs that their targets play for, before other clubs sneak in and take those
players from under our noses. We don't want to see Rafael Benítez leaving the
club in disgust at the incompetence he can clearly see going on in front of him;
we want Rafa's verbal prompts to have the desired effect.

Continue reading Parry confirms Reds want Simao

Carra and Stevie want Owen back

According to Henry Winter from the Telegraph, there's a
mini-campaign going on at Anfield to bring back Michael Owen. In his
column today
, Winter says: "Liverpool's two most important players,
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, have asked the club's American owners to
bring Michael Owen back to Anfield. George Gillett and Tom Hicks are keen but
Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, is less enthusiastic and any deal is
unlikely." Carra and Gerrard are with the England squad at the moment.

Owen's buy-out clause is said to be on a sliding scale, and
after being set at £12m last summer it has now dropped down to just £9m. If a
fully-fit Michael Owen had been on the field in Athens in that first-half it's
almost certain that Liverpool fans would now be wearing t-shirts with six stars
on, but the words "fully-fit" and "Michael Owen" are rarely
seen together these days.

Bringing Owen back would be controversial, with a lot of
supporters still upset about the way he left in 2004, then the way he wouldn't
"sit tight" and wait for Real Madrid to give in and accept
Liverpool's offer in 2005. A year ago there were strong rumours that Owen would
be signed again, if he could prove his fitness in the World Cup. Of course he
broke down again, with an injury that kept him out for most of the following
season. If Liverpool can negotiate a deal to bring him back for £9m with some
of that fee held back against appearance, insurance against injuries, Owen
would be a good buy. Many of those who are still dead set against him would
adopt the usual line of Liverpool fans, that once a player is a in a Red shirt
he deserves our support. And if Owen started banging the goals in his support
would increase quickly.

It's no surprise to hear Carra and Gerrard talking about
bringing Michael home again. They all knew each other as kids back their LFC
academy days. But with the turmoil currently going on behind the scenes at
Anfield there is a question mark as to what Tom and George are thinking of if
they want Owen back. Is Rafa not keen because of the two effective snubs from
Owen in 2004 and 2005? Or is it for footballing reasons? If Liverpool can
negotiate Owen's signature for as low as £8m that is, when all other off-field
issues are removed, a bargain. Owen is a proven top-flight English striker.
Liverpool almost got £8m for Djibril Cisse last summer, until his broken leg
brought the deal to an early end. As hard as Cisse tried, and as much as he
professed his love for Liverpool FC (something Owen never really was all that
good at doing publicly), Djibs just wasn't a top-quality Premiership striker.

It's unlikely that Tom and George realise any of this, so
why are they allegedly keen on bringing the little striker back? The more
cynical view is that they have seen the reports from when Robbie Fowler came
back and now assume that the excitement will be the same if Owen returns. It
won't be. A lot of fans will be happy, and if he returns to his best form a few
more will be happy, but Owen's return will not be treated in the same way as
Robbie's was.

If he does come back, I would recommend he has a quiet word
with Carra about how to talk the talk when it comes to press conferences.
Whether he means it or not, he would need to start giving Liverpool fans the
impression that Liverpool FC were his priority, not England. And perhaps he
ought to start off that way if any talks between his people and LFC do take
place this summer.

Owen is not going to be popular on Tyneside at all if he
leaves this summer. He's barely played for Newcastle since he joined them, and
the Toon Army are demanding loyalty. But Owen is, as strikers should be,
extremely single-minded. If he feels a better option is there for him
personally he will take it. And spending the next season as part of Sam
Allardyce's new Wimbledon isn't exactly right for Owen.

One tale that barely got off the ground towards the tail-end
of last week was that Allardyce was looking to swap Owen for Peter Crouch.
Newcastle have been linked with Crouch since about six months after he arrived
at Anfield. The speculation will never end, but Crouch himself is happy with
what Rafa has told him. "He told me I'm part of his plans and that's good
enough for me. I'll relax over the summer and come back hungry for more. At
Liverpool there's going to be competition for places, especially as the manager
likes to chop and change."

Crouch is also currently with the England squad alongside
Carra, Gerrard and Scott Carson preparing for the matches against Brazil and
Estonia. With Fowler already gone as his contract came to an end, and Bellamy
certain to go if the right offer comes in, it's no secret that Rafa is changing
his striking options for the new season. Crouch accepts that there is never
likely to be a "first choice" forward while he's there. He just knows
he's got to keep doing his best: "He is going to bring top class players
in so you always have to be on your toes."

Meanwhile Sami Hyypia has told the media in Finland that he's
going to remain at Anfield next season. He's dismissed tales that he'd turned
down a move to Fulham over money, saying he never actually spoke to Fulham, and
says that like Crouch he has had a meeting with Rafa to find out his future.
Sami said he had a two-minute meeting with Rafa before the final in Athens in
which Rafa got straight to the point. According to Sami, "Rafa said, 'We
are happy with you and you are not for sale'. I will go back to Liverpool again
in July for pre-season training. Next season will be my ninth at Liverpool and
I still have one year left on my contract."

Rafa is said to be frustrated at the lack of action so far
from the new owners and the chief executive Rick Parry in terms of sorting out
the contract extensions for the star names. There are echoes of 2005 all over
again when Steven Gerrard nearly left the club after getting the impression the
club weren't all that bothered about keeping him. The club need to get key
players to commit themselves to long-term deals to prevent them buying
themselves out of contracts under new UEFA rules. Pepe Reina is one of those
players, a vital member of Rafa's plans, and although he wants to stay he's not
getting any signs from anyone other than Rafa that the club actually want him
to stay. Considering he was the subject of rumours he and his wife were feeling
homesick earlier in the season Rafa is said to be fuming at the lack of action
from above.

The words Rafa heard over the past few months from the
owners were like music to his ears, but the time for words is now over. Rafa
wants action, and doesn't seem to be getting it. Rafa is said to feel that the
new owners are stalling, and that's beginning to both worry and annoy him. His
outburst after the Champions League final, where he said those above him have
to stop delaying, was said to have been planned regardless of the result.

Continue reading Carra and Stevie want Owen back

Two Hungarian youngsters join Reds

Liverpool's first signings of the close-season are of two youth players from Hungary.

The players in question are MTK Hungaria's Krisztian Nemeth, 18 and Andras Simon, 17.

The news was announced on the official LFC website, which says the pair are to go into the reserve squad. Both players are strikers, although Nemeth is also amble to play in midfield.

Continue reading Two Hungarian youngsters join Reds

FSF want to hear Athens experiences

You may have missed this article on the Football Supporters'
Federation website from last week. UEFA's poor organisation saw a stadium with
a relatively low capacity for modern football and a stadium without turnstiles
being used to host the biggest game in European football. Police were,
reportedly, disorganised. Tickets were so poor quality that forgeries were easy
to produce, and with so few tickets actually being allocated to fans the demand
was off the scale.

Some Liverpool fans, a small minority it has to be said,
acted in a way that they should be ashamed of. But the reports of these "fans"
trying to burst through into the stadium tell a tale of something that should
never have been allowed to happen.

There are idiots in every walk of life. Pick any decent
group of people and you will find some idiots amongst them. Liverpool fans are
renowned the world over for their good behaviour.  What happened in Belgium in 1985 wasn't a
reflection of how Liverpool fans were at the time. As a collective, Liverpool
fans are deeply sorry for what happened in that awful stadium that evening, but
there were other factors that seem to be glossed over far too easily. UEFA made
errors in their choice of stadium for that game, and they never suffered for those
errors themselves.

Last week UEFA proved they have learned very little indeed.

Imagine of Milan had been beaten by Manchester United in the
semi-final, and faced Liverpool. Or Chelsea for that matter. Imagine if Real
Madrid had got through to the final against Barcelona. Manchester United fans
had clashes with Roma fans earlier this year in both legs of their Champions League
knockout tie. Every club has a minority of idiots, some more idiots than
others. UEFA's policy on preventing trouble is to do nothing, then condemn the
idiots afterwards.

As football fans, if we can actually get tickets, we are
surely entitled to know that our safety has been given careful consideration.
UEFA don't seem to care. The idiot minority can cause trouble for the rest of
us – and UEFA wash their hands.

There's been much said about the forgeries, the touts, the
low capacity, the lack of checking tickets, the indifference of the police, the
fact UEFA even managed to stage this even in a city that was also hosting a
major conference at the same time.

The FSF want to know how it affected you. The details are
below, and they are inviting you to email them at with
your experiences.

FSF to Collate Champions League Evidence Dossier

Thursday 24th May 2007

The Football
Supporters' Federation (FSF) is collating a dossier of supporters' experiences
at the Champions League final in Athens in an effort to ensure that the voice
of fans is heard and to learn the lessons for future finals.

The FSF, who provided
a "Fans' Embassy" advice and information service for Liverpool supporters
attending the game, has rejected the conclusions of UEFA spokesperson William
Gaillard. Gaillard blamed the behaviour of Liverpool fans for the problems at
the stadium, which included the use of batons and tear gas by police, and
numbers of fans with genuine tickets being denied access to the stadium.

Kevin Miles,
International Co-ordinator for the FSF said: "Blaming Liverpool fans' behaviour
is not only a premature sweeping generalisation, it's also well wide of the

"The issue of
forged tickets was a significant contributory factor, but it was one identified
well in advance and it should have been possible to have dealt with it. We
would condem anyone who produces forged tickets, but it's impossible to judge
whether anyone in possession of one has bought it in good faith or not.

"A well-organised
admission system prevents entry with a forgery – look at the World Cup in
Germany; but what use are holograms and bar codes on genuine tickets if these
aren't checked on entry?

"Why was a game of
this importance held in a stadium without turnstiles? The authorities in Athens
had no way of measuring how many people had entered the stadium at any stage;
this led to dangerous over-crowding inside, and fans with genuine tickets being
locked out.

"Of course, the
pressure on Liverpool fans to buy tickets on the black market in the first
place was exacerbated by the allocation system which gives so many tickets to
sponsors and the like."

Many Liverpool fans
faced rough treatment at the hands of the Greek police, including children
affected by that least discriminating of police measures, tear gas. Problems
involving inadequate stewarding, flight delays and cancellations were also
reported to the FSF's fans' embassy.

The FSF is appealing
to fans to come forward with their own first-hand witness testimony to build up
a comprehensive picture of events in Athens in the form of a dossier which will
be presented to UEFA and governmental authorities in an attempt to influence
big match arrangements in the future.

All supporters are
asked to email the FSF here with
details of their experiences in Athens.

Read the FSF Press
Release on events in Athens here.

(Taken from

Continue reading FSF want to hear Athens experiences

Two new Liverpool kits revealed

Last season Liverpool began with three brand-new kits, thanks to the newly-signed shirt deal with Adidas.

LFC Euro Away Kit 2007-08 This season will begin with two new kits, both the yellow away and white European-away kit now retired. In their place comes a red-trimmed white away shirt, with black shorts, and an all-black European away kit.

Just to ensure it will be an expensive summer for Liverpool supporters wanting to keep up-to-date with all the kits, the Red home kit worn by the players – although unchanged in itself – will feature new-style names and numbers issued by the Premier League.

LFC Away Kit 2007-08
Liverpool and Adidas were planning to reveal the new kits bit-by-bit prior to each launch, but images of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher wearing them have leaked out.

(Click images to enlarge).

Continue reading Two new Liverpool kits revealed

Rafa: Bola and Gonzalez to go

It's been well-documented that Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has been given the green light to go after new players this summer, and today came some information from the horse's mouth about who'll actually be leaving.

Bolo Zenden got a starting role on the left-wing last night, a position that has been difficult to fill for Rafa for various reasons since he joined. Fabio Aurelio took a little time to settle in, but as soon as he did he got an injury. Harry Kewell missed all but the last two games of the season through injury, even then only able to come on as a substitute. John Arne Riise has been used there, but Rafa prefers to see him further back. Bolo is an excellent professional but is getting towards the end of his career, and it seems that in the new squad Rafa has planned he has no room for Zenden. His contract is up this summer anyway, and Rafa has told him he should look elsewhere: "I was talking with him before and I said he could talk with other teams. He knows the situation."
Rafa doesn't have to sell before he can buy this summer, a situation he's never been in since he joined the club in the summer of 2004. Although he's been given funds, he's not previously been given enough to buy who he wants, and has generally had to try and scrape up odd millions by letting some players leave.

It doesn't mean that he won't be selling players however, and it's another of those left-wingers that will be going first. Rafa said: "It's clear some players will leave. We almost have an agreement with Real Betis for Mark Gonzalez." The Chilean international didn't fulfill his promise, despite some excellent performances on loan in Spain during the year Liverpool waited for his work permit. Going back to Spain seems to be the best option for the player, who knows he can do well in that country.
Gonzalez knew he was likely to move on, saying recently: "This is football and if I have to go somewhere else then I will have to deal with that. I would like to stay at Liverpool. But it has not been the best year for me and I know I can do more."

Despite having a lot of faith in Harry Kewell, Rafa knows that his bad luck with injuries prevents him from being a player to rely on for a full season. With that in mind expect a new left-winger to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Robbie Fowler played his last game for Liverpool when he captained the side in the last league game of the season, and his fellow striker Craig Bellamy is all but certain to leave too, as Rafa looks to improve the side's cutting edge. Jerzy Dudek's bench appearance last night was his last one for the club too.

Continue reading Rafa: Bola and Gonzalez to go

Gerrard rues bad luck against “class” Milan

A dejected Steven Gerrard reflected on a night of
disappointment against AC Milan in the Champions League final. Liverpool had
dominated the first half, until a soft free-kick saw the Italian side given a
chance against the run of play. Pepe Reina had no chance when the ball was
deflected in off Inzaghi's hand. Liverpool fought in the second half, but never
had the same flair as they'd shown in that first half. When two teams are close
in ability, sometimes it's the small things that make a difference: "I think the
first goal was massive – I think the timing of it, the bit of luck that AC
Milan got for that goal… I said before the game that the first goal would be very

"After controlling the
first half it was a big disappointment to go in down at half time."

It wasn't sour grapes from Gerrard; he recognised how good a
team the Reds had just lost to: "Milan are a class side. You've got to take
your hat off to them. They've got tremendous players throughout and it was
there tonight"

Milan got their revenge for the way Liverpool mugged them
two years ago. That night saw six goals conceded in all, but last night chances
were limited – Milan scored from both of theirs, Liverpool having time only to
score one from their handful of chances. This didn't surprise Gerrard: "There's
two excellent defences out there, and in a Champions League final…" He paused. "Last
time there were a lot of chance but this time we knew it would be tighter, and
it was all going to be down to small details, and I think Milan got that little
bit of luck tonight."

Liverpool didn't give up. The heads never went down, not
even at 2-0 down: "I think people know with this team we're never down and out,
we kept fighting to the end. The boys can be very proud how they approached the
game tonight and we'll be back. We've got to take it on the chin as men and we've
got to bounce back next season, simple as that."

Last time Liverpool thought that they faced a momentous
task, and a defeat would have been difficult to take but not exactly unexpected
– Rafa's team was still in its early stages of development. This time around
and nobody could really call it in advance, and as a result the Liverpool
players really did feel it was theirs to take. They didn't, and that was a
gutting feeling: "Obviously It's difficult to take at the moment," said the
captain. "It's heartbreaking to lose a Champions League final. As a player you have
ups and down it's all about bouncing back."

Rafa Benítez would have been making ruthless changes to his
squad even if they'd been successful. New owners Gillett and Hicks saw with
their own eyes that we need a few improvements to what is a great squad, just
not quite a good enough squad. They've already promised to support Rafa in his
plans, and that gives so much hope for next season: "We look forward to next
season now and I'm sure the manager will strengthen this team and take us to
the next level. I think the future's bright. Obviously it's sickening at the
moment but we've got to take it on the chin."

Continue reading Gerrard rues bad luck against “class” Milan

CL Reaction: Rafa, Gerrard, Kuyt

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was clearly angry with the
referee at the end of the Champions League final, with the German official
making a strange decision not to play until the end of the stoppage time he'd
said would be played. By the time Sky interviewed Rafa he was more
philosophical about it. It was annoying, but that wasn't why the Reds lost:
"It's not a reason, we lost against a good team with top-class players. The
first half we played really well but conceded a goal, a deflection, through bad
luck." At that stage Rafa wouldn't have seen the fact it was a hand that
deflected it in – but even if he had, he probably wouldn't have blamed it for
the defeat.

For the second half Liverpool tried and tried to create
chances, but the more you try the more you leave an opening for your opponent:
"We were pushing and pushing and you leave a space and they have quality and it
was the difference. We were trying to keep the ball and press high but you need
to take your chances."

Captain Steven Gerrard was devastated, a feeling quite
unlike those he felt in Istanbul two years ago: "It's the complete opposite.
It's difficult to take but that's football. You've got to take it on the chin,
move on and try to pick yourself up but at the moment it's heartbreaking."

The midfielder was pushed forward for tonight's match, a
system that was working until the deflected goal just before half time: "I
thought we started well," said Gerrard. "We were in control just how we like to
be but when you do that you've got to score. They got the first goal, with a
bit of luck, but it was a big lift for them. We gave everything but it wasn't
to be tonight."

Striker Dirk Kuyt felt luck was against the Reds: "We were
in control. We had a few little chances and you have be lucky to score a goal.
They were really lucky one minute before half-time, one of their players
touched the ball in the area. We tried it for 90 minutes but unfortunately it
didn't happen."

The trio were speaking to Sky Sports.

Continue reading CL Reaction: Rafa, Gerrard, Kuyt