Rafa speculation is wide of the mark

All the newspapers are trying hard to put their own little angles on the stories over the weekend linking Rafael Benitez with a move away from Anfield in the summer. According to most newspapers, the Liverpool is demanding a certain amount of money for transfer fees, otherwise he’ll be off to Italy or Spain. Unsurprisingly, the newspapers are quite wide of the mark.

The amount Rafa was ‘demanding’ has gone up by £10million overnight – yesterday’s £30million is now £40million in the Guardian. Perhaps the papers heard Liverpool have got between £15m and £20m available for Rafa this summer without taking player sales and possible investment into consideration. Liverpool’s poor scoring record this season has been defended by Benitez, but he clearly needs another striker – that striker could be Michael Owen – and he’s still looking for a right-winger. He certainly isn’t demanding £40million.

This week sees the Reds play host to Benfica in the Champions League. It’s a tough but not impossible task they’ve got to overcome in beating the Portuguese side who are already ahead 1-0 from the first leg. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the invention of this story, although it seems unlikely that Benfica would have the influence over the press to plant this story.

Once again we have agents in the mix, with their conflict of interests
between getting what’s best for their client and getting what’s best
for their own bank balance. Rafa’s agent is Manuel García Quilón and
according to reports he’ll be at Anfield this week for the Champions
League game and also to speak to Rick Parry about ‘Rafa’s concerns’.
Unless Rafa has changed his ideas completely on what he wants, Rafa’s
concerns are minor not major.

Liverpool have been looking for investment now for three years (not two
as widely reported in the press over the weekend) and at the recent AGM
the board revealed that investment was extremely close to being tied
up. An announcement had been hoped to have been made, but matters
hadn’t quite progressed far enough.

Rafa don’t forget has arranged the signing of Palletta, an Argentinean
centre-back, for the summer, and the Chilean left-winger Mark Gonzales
will be at Anfield once his work-permit and passport issues are sorted.
Rafa has also spoken this week of his attempts to persuade Pako Herrera
to stay on board at the end of his contract in June. Rafa had money to
spend last summer, money that was to go on a centre-back and a
right-winger, not to mention the £12million maximum he was prepared to
spend on Michael Owen. The centre-back money was ultimately spent in
January when Daniel Agger joined the club, but the rest of that money
has not been spent as Rafa won’t buy for the sake of it.

Liverpool’s task on Wednesday looks tough on paper – they need to score
twice with conceding. Keeping the opposition out is the easier part if
recent results are anything to go by, but on Saturday Liverpool created
chances and on another day would have won 3-0. If the strikers go into
Wednesday’s game with belief that this goals shortage is due to end
soon then it shouldn’t really be a problem. At least at the back Sami
Hyypia is fit after limping out at half-time on Saturday. According to
the Liverpool press officer Ian Cotton, Sami’s scan showed he had
nothing to worry about: ‘The scan did not show up anything serious and
Sami will be fit to train with the rest of the squad on Tuesday.’

If Liverpool don’t make it through on Wednesday then the newspapers
will up the ante in their links to Rafa leaving. If they do make it
through then it won’t stop the stories – there’s just a different angle
to take then for a while. Rafa is likely to leave for Real in the
future, the club where his heart lies, but he’s only just started on
this challenge and he’s always been told honestly just how much he has
to spend. In Spain he wouldn’t even be able to choose who to spend the
money on, that would be done for him.