There is currently no such thing as Liverpool FC’s official newspaper, but if they had one it would probably be the Liverpool Echo. Their main writer for all things Liverpool is Chris Bascombe. It always worth reading what Chris has to say, but sometimes you need to also read between the lines. Today the Echo were granted an exclusive interview with Rafael Benitez.
First up is a little message from Benitez to Mourinho. The Portuguese boss has spent his whole time in England stirring up trouble in one way or another. Eventually he got on the nerves of the London media enough for them to actually see him for what he really is. So, ensuring he stayed the centre of attention rather than his players, Mourinho threw his winners’ medals into the crowd after Chelsea received their Premiership Trophy. Afterwards he complained about how he had been treated, saying he expected more credit for spending and complaining his way to the title. Rafa isn’t too impressed.
The Spaniard says, “I hear some people say they never get the credit they deserve when they win trophies, but there are some achievements which are more valuable than others. I congratulate teams like Wigan and West Ham who have done very well with no money to spend, and I think there is more value in our success in the last two years because we’ve done it without being able to go out and buy the most expensive players in the world. That’s harder.”
In Alan Pardew and Paul Jewell the Premiership has two English managers
who are actually able to combine being successful with being nice,
honest genuine people. Pardew in particular after the cup final was a
credit to his club, he took the defeat on penalties so well. Rafa is
very much the same type of person.
Rafa isn’t demanding credit for his achievements, but he does say that
any credit coming the way of the club would be deserved: “I won’t be
going away this summer saying we are the best club or that I am the
best manager, but it’s important people understand how hard my staff
and players have had to work for this success because it’s not been
easy for us. If we get a lot of credit, it’s because as a club we
Rafa of course isn’t going to reveal in public who is on his summer
shopping list, and says that the guessing being done could turn out to
be correct, but only because there have been so many names guessed at:
“We have a saying in Spain if you shoot enough bullets at all the
targets, you might get lucky and hit the right one eventually.”
Rafa’s immediate plans are to travel to France and then away for a
well-deserved break: “I will be going to the Champions League Final and
then enjoying a holiday with my family. I’d prefer to bring in new
players before the World Cup, but it’s not always possible. We may have
to wait, but my staff are working hard. We’ve been thinking about the
future throughout the season and now we will do so even more because
the season is over.”
Liverpool have certainly made great strides under Rafael Benítez, and
of course the next step is to bring the league title home, but that in
itself is still a big step. Rafa wants to take it though: “It’s clear
to everyone we’ve made a lot of progress, and now the idea is to take
the next step.”
Rafa was also delighted and amazed at the turn-out for the latest
Liverpool victory parade: “Considering the bad weather it was even more
amazing to see so many of our supporters come to see us. There was one
youngster who must have run alongside the bus for 15 minutes singing
‘Rafa Benitez’. When you see this, you realise what it means to our
supporters. When I joined Liverpool from Valencia, I knew how special
our fans were, but since I’ve been here I’ve realised it even more.”
He has seen this kind of thing before, but on a smaller scale: “The
last time I saw fans like this was in Tenerife when we won promotion,
and everyone was so happy. I told one of my friends from Tenerife this
was exactly the same only on a bigger scale. Now we want to win a lot
more for them, for the club and for ourselves.”
Away from the interview, Bascombe talks about what he sees as Rafa’s
plans. Some of this will be from information he’s been given, some from
educated guesses and reading between the lines. First of all he
mentions that a board meeting planned for Thursday has not been
scheduled purely to discuss transfers, but that will certainly be an
item on the agenda.
He mentions that Mark Gonzalez, Gabriel Paletta and Fabio Aurelio are
all expected to be unveiled officially as Liverpool players during the
close-season. He says that two of the three have actually already been
confirmed officially, and that the other is still awaiting some
formalities to be completed.
Bascombe claims Cissé’s departure this summer is certain to happen, the
only questions still not answered are where to and for how much.
Morientes’ failure to settle means he missed out on a place in Spain’s
World Cup squad, and Bascombe claims Rafa is ready to listen to offers
for the former Real Madrid star. In the place of those two will come
two new strikers, and Rafa’s also still looking for a right winger.
Bascombe says Rafa isn’t fully convinced about “the likes of Craig
Bellamy, Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe”. Rafa feels he can buy better
quality at a lower price abroad. For Bascombe, there’s no way Rafa is
going to pay £12m for Bent.
In fact the way that Bascombe uses Bent as an example, including
mentioning that price, could well be a message to Charlton from
Liverpool. It’s all a big part of silly season, and it wouldn’t be the
first time the Echo had been used indirectly in negotiations. Stories
coming from other sources certainly confirm Rafa is interested in Bent
and Defoe, but the asking prices will be out of the reach of what Rafa
wants to spend.
Bascombe says much the same thing about Shaun Wright-Phillips – first
of all Liverpool doubt Chelsea would want to sell to them, and also
that Benítez has his eyes on a player currently plying his trade in
Europe for the right-wing position. No names mentioned, and it wouldn’t
take long to reel off a long list of right wingers from a computer game
as possible candidates.