Rafa refuses to deny Fowler interest

Rafael Benítez made comments today about the possible return of Robbie Fowler to Anfield that harked back to his Michael Owen comments throughout last summer. When he was asked about the player being given a chance to play in his favourite Red shirt again he said simply: “I cannot say it will never happen. I cannot say no, I cannot say yes.” Normally if Rafa denies a piece of speculation he does so firmly with a straightforward no. With Fowler he seemed to sit on the fence, which adds weight to all the rumours. The latest whispers say that Fowler will be back in a Red shirt next week as long as Manchester City agree to it. City know he fancies a move back to Anfield, and they will be glad to let him go and reduce their wage bill just as long as they can secure some cover for him. Fowler himself is said to be willing to move after being informed that he will be used regularly if he signs.

Rafa also spoke about the situation involving winger Mark González if his work permit doesn’t get sorted soon. The move to secure a work permit under rules normally used to allow talented individuals from other professionals still hasn’t reached a conclusion, and time is now running out for the Chilean winger before the transfer window closes so, as explained earlier in the week, Rafa is arranging for him to go out on loan.

To get even more value out of the loan move than just ensuring González keeps up his fitness levels, the Reds boss explained that a swap deal may be done on a temporary basis. Claiming the Reds are close to using up their transfer budget, Rafa says a swap deal would be the best way to get something positive from the situation: “We don’t have a lot of money, so we need to use our imagination. And we will try to use our imagination to bring in players. We are trying to do something with Mark Gonzalez, because we cannot wait forever for a work permit. Right now I am thinking about another player in Spain, maybe in a swap if it’s possible.”

Rafa wouldn’t go into too much detail about who he had in mind: “A
right-winger, but we cannot say names because then we have problems.”

Rafa’s said it before – the kind of players available aren’t
necessarily the type that he wants to sign. The ones he does want to
sign are unavailable at this time of year because of the importance of
their current club’s needs for the remainder of this season: “It’s
difficult because the big clubs and the big players are fighting to be
in the top four and in European competition, and clubs won’t sell those
players. In this situation, I say again, we must use our imagination.”

Rafa acknowledges the need to strengthen the right side of midfield is
still there, but the rest of the squad is strong: “We still have
problems on the right-hand side, but we have a lot of good players in
the middle. It’s the same on the left, and now we have another
centre-back. The problem will be in the Champions League because Daniel
Agger and Kromkamp cannot play, but they can in the Premiership. But if
we don’t have serious problems with injuries we should be able to
manage it.”

A return for Robbie Fowler would add even more strength, but Rafa feels
his squad is much better equipped to deal with the upcoming fixture
list regardless: “The fixture list is very busy again – but we have two
more players now and I need to ensure that all the players are fit.
This year I can rotate a different way to last season. Last year if I
decided to rotate players the difference was big. This year you can use
Morientes, Cisse, Crouch or Sinama up front. It’s the same on the left
with Harry Kewell or Riise, or in the middle we have Gerrard, Sissoko,
Alonso or Hamann.”

Rafa also claimed that maybe he hasn’t got a “strongest eleven”,
meaning that he is all the more equipped to deal with so many games:
“We can approach each game with a very strong team and sometimes you
can change things and not know which is the stronger team – for example
we can play with Xabi or Gerrard and the team would be the same.”

As for the two extra players Rafa mentioned, new defenders Daniel Agger
and Jan Kromkamp could both be set to make their first starts for the
Reds on Sunday. Kromkamp has played for a few minutes at the end of
recent Reds fixtures, Agger has yet to appear at all, but Rafa says
they are options for Sunday: “It’s a possibility – I need to check
because Sami Hyypia was sick for one or two days. The new boys are not
100 per cent physically fit, but they will have enough physical
condition to play in this game. The question will be to see how we can
use different players and still have a strong team.”