Benitez: Gonzales deserves work permit but Fowler must wait for decision

Liverpool’s winger Mark González is currently out on loan at Real Sociedad, unable to play for the Reds because of red tape. On Sunday he played for his temporary team against the mighty Real Madrid on their own patch – and scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw. His performance impressed the Spanish media, but Rafael Benitez obviously wants him playing in the Red shirt next season. Inconsistent rules in European law mean that Gonzalez will qualify as a Spanish citizen this summer, after living and working in Spain long enough to do so. Meanwhile English rules are different and he can’t play in England because he wasn’t granted a work permit. Once he gets his Spanish citizenship he becomes eligible to live and work in England, but Liverpool will reapply for a work permit too to ensure he’s eligible for next season’s title challenge. Rafa explained why he’s so keen on getting his signing into his team: “We are hopeful he will come in the summer because he can be an important player for us. He has pace, quality and can score, and he works very hard for the team – all qualities which will help him settle in quickly here. He works very hard for the whole 90 minutes for his team-mates. He was the best player on the pitch for Sociedad against Real at the Bernabéu, and that’s three goals he has scored now since he joined the club.”

Rafa was astounded at the decision to refuse Liverpool’s first application for a work permit. One of the reasons the application was refused was because those who make the decisions – probably not even football fans – said he was too inexperienced, not a big enough name. Rafa says Mark has proved them wrong in his recent time in Spain: “I said at the time that I was surprised by the decision not to allow him to join us. When you see the level at which he is playing now, I think it shows we had a good case and what a good player he actually is. You have to remember he was injured for six months and so he is improving with every game he plays, recovering his fitness and raising his level. I think he can make an impact on the Premiership. He will be a good addition to the team and we are all looking forward to him finally joining us.”

To whom Gonzalez will be providing crosses remains to be seen, Rafa is still not going to show his hand in public over Robbie Fowler’s future: “We are really happy with Robbie and he is working really hard, but you need to know exactly how many top-class strikers you need to win trophies or if Robbie is that type of top-class striker. There is no doubt that Robbie is a top-class player, but you also need qualities in the team like pace and stamina if you want to win trophies. If you have a player like Robbie then you know what his qualities are, but you need to know what his performances will be like all season.”

Benitez conceded that Robbie is a player of high quality, but says that improvements are still needed from him: “It is not easy to find better players than Robbie. And it is difficult to find anyone with the passion he has for this club. But maybe you could find three top-class strikers who are 23 years of age and can score goals and have pace, and then you have to think. I have been talking to Robbie and we are not in a hurry, and he knows why. He knows he needs to improve and in which areas.”