Liverpool’s Champions League success on May 25th is still being celebrated now by most Reds fans, but for the coach that brought us that trophy the celebrations were short-lived. Rafa Benitez enjoyed the victory, but was so disappointed with the league form that saw Liverpool finish fifth that he almost immediately went into planning mode for the new season.
Rafa spoke to the official Liverpool FC website about how he wants to ensure that the glory of Istanbul is just the start of a successful period for the Anfield club. He said: "I started thinking about the new season and what we must do to improve almost immediately after the Champions League final. I spent a day or so celebrating, visited my parents and then it was back to work and looking at how I could prepare the team better for the new season."
Rafa says he enjoyed the win, but the next task is to get the Reds back into contention fo the league title, to become English Champions for the nineteenth time. He said: "Winning the Champions League was fantastic for me, the club, the players and, most importantly, the supporters. I know the history of our club and I understand what winning the Champions League meant to our fans. But I also know we must do much better in the Premiership because this is also important to the fans. There will be more expectation on us to do better in the league and we must live up to that."
There’s no doubt that Liverpool played much better in Europe than domestically last season, as Rafa’s team seemed to struggle against teams like Southampton and Crystal Palace. He’s not promising a league title this season, but he is saying that Liverpool will move closer to one this season: "I still have things to prove to people in England. I came here to win trophies over five or even ten years, not just to win the Champions League. Part of my dream is one day to win the Premiership. I am not saying that we will win it this season because you can never say such things in football but I can promise the fans we will work even harder than we did last year and we will do better. I learned many things in my first season. The English league is very different to what I was used to and what a lot of the new players I brought in expected. As a result there were times when we did very well and times when we played poorly."
Rafa revealed that he is planning to work on how the team respond on days where things aren’t quite working out to ensure they still come away with the points: "My job is not only to make sure we play well more often than we did last season, but also to set the team up to get results when we aren’t playing so well. Last season if we played well there was a good chance we would win. The problem was that when we didn’t play well, we lost."
The expectations of Liverpool fans will be sky-high this coming season, and Rafa will be making some more signings before the transfer window closes in an attempt to ensure Liverpool have a depth of quality options in all positions.
* Some of the stories that might interest you from todays papers:
First up is Liverpool target Michael Owen. The News of the World says that Newcastle will bid £11m for the Real Madrid striker this week. Meanwhile the Sunday Express seems to think that Manchester United will be able to get hold of Owen by offering Ryan Giggs to Real as part of the deal.
The Mail on Sunday has our winger problem solved – they say that Bolton’s Greek midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos will join the Reds this week for £1million.
Liverpool are looking again at Helsingborg’s Swedish U21 defender Andreas Granquist, according to The People.