Rafael Benitez today confirmed the reports about Liverpool's bid for Italian under-21 international keeper Daniele Padelli, but at the same fired a warning about how a lack of funds means Liverpool could end up well behind Arsenal in terms of quality.
Rafa was speaking in the aftermath of the 3-6 defeat to Arsenal last night. Although Jerzy Dudek – hero of Istanbul – was clearly to blame for the first three goals which left the Reds chasing the rest of the match, Rafa held back from blaming him. He wanted to apologise to the fans, who once again showed the quality support that other teams would love to be able to buy: "The first thing we must do is say sorry to our supporters. They were magnificent and deserved better, secondly, although we made mistakes in the game my players worked hard and I must recognise this."
Rafa, speaking to the Liverpool Echo, said that Arsenal have quality in depth, and this worries him: "When you analyse the situation, the conclusion which worries me is Arsenal could pick nine reserves and score six goals at Anfield. We had seven players of the first team and could not win."
And so came the warning to Dubai International Capital. Liverpool need money to spend on players if they are to keep up with their rivals: "There is a lesson in this for the whole of our club. If you want to compete at the top level, you must be able to spend a lot of money not only on your first team, but on the young players and reserves. Arsenal spent £4 million on Diaby, £4 million on Denilson, £8 million on Walcott and Baptista is a £22 million player. They have been working for ten years to build a strong squad, and we have been working for two years."
And then came perhaps a warning to Rick Parry: "My scout department has done an excellent job, but sometimes we go too slow as a club to make signings we need, and when we do there is not a lot of money. Today, for example, we are signing a young Italian keeper (Padelli) on loan with an option for later. We've also been working for many weeks to sign the young Scottish player James McCarthy. These are the deals we are doing because we want to build a squad of similar quality in the future, but without spending big money it's difficult."
Clearly frustrated, Rafa says that he's only just managing to get the players he needs for the first team, never mind the youngsters he wants to bring in for the future: "The money we sign is for the first team, and when you look at the quality of Reina, Sissoko, Alonso, Bellamy and Crouch it's clear all are worth more now than when we bought them."
Some say Rafa doesn't care enough about the English cup competitions, but he was clearly hurt in the aftermath of being knocked out of both in the space of a few days. One criticism that came from the quite frankly unprofessional Sky pundits and other last night was that Rafa didn't pick a strong enough team. He feels the team was strong enough, but also felt it important to point out the consequences of picking the best players for the cups: "I used Momo Sissoko in the Carling Cup against Birmingham and lost him for four months. Last night we believe we've lost Luis for the rest of the season and Gonzalez and Warnock were injured. Steven Gerrard has a dead leg and Xabi Alonso a tight hamstring. What is more important: the Premiership, the Champions League or the Carling Cup?"
Rafa's been struggling to bring in Lucas Neill as cover for Steven Finnan at right-back, the deal is said to be currently held up because Blackburn think a player with six months left on his contract is worth more than any sensible manager would pay. Rafa thought he'd get Neill in the summer, hence his decision to let Jan Kromkamp leave, but it wasn't to be and now Finnan is being given little rest. Rafa, still sounding exasperated, said: "Do people expect me to play Finnan every week? He has had to play in every fixture this season. The players I used were good players."