Rafa on Dirk, Dan and the new owners

Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez has been speaking about how well Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger have settled into the game, why he still wants to improve his squad and how he feels about the new owners of the most successful side in English history.

He explained how he could tell before signing him that Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt would be ideally-suited to life in the Premiership: “We had confidence because of watching him working during the games but also training and how he could score goals, we knew that he could be a good player for English football. The physical approach that he has to each game is really important for him.”

Rafa also spoke of how one of Dirk’s dreams came true when he was signed by the Reds: “When I was talking with him trying to bring him here he always said the same to me, that he was a Liverpool supporter. I have a friend of mine who was his team mate and he said to me that Kuyt was always watching the Premiership and Liverpool was his target.”

Rafa was asked why he felt that players from Scandinavia, such as Daniel Agger, manage to adapt so quickly to the English game: “I think that the mentality is similar, the weather and daily life is similar. I know from experience that Spanish people have more problems, the Latinos because of the sun, the weather. We for example go to bed at midnight whereas here you maybe go to bed at 10pm. So I think because day to day life is similar that is a reason, but also because Daniel Agger is very, professional he’s very, very focused in his career, very well prepared for every game. These things help because if you have a player who is 21 years old thinking about girls and cars and things like that then maybe it would be more difficult for him to settle down, but he’s very, very focused on football.”

Perhaps that “girls and cars” comment was a warning to any of the current crop of youngsters that are hoping for a chance to break into the first team. Rafa expects a professional attitude at pretty much all times.

The boss also confirmed that he is still not happy with his squad. He says it’s better than last season’s squad, but still some way short of being at the level he wants: “I said before when we started this season that I was happy because we had a better squad than last season. I think that it is true that you always want to improve; maybe you think you are better but also the other teams are improving. We are close but I think we need to do more things if we want to be closer and if we want to be contenders.”

Rafa is fairly confident that the new owners, George Gillette Jr and Tom Hicks, will help him to achieve those improvements and help put the Reds back into contention finally for league title number 19. He likes their approach so far: “I think it’s very positive. I hope that they will try to do the best for the club because when you want to buy a club and you want to invest big money it means that you want to be successful and that you want to win everything. It’s very positive, I think that can be really good for us.”

Rafa’s recent confirmation that he’s sticking around was a huge relief to worried Liverpool supporters who were concerned Real Madrid’s overtures would be too hard to ignore. Now Rafa’s thinking that with new ownership there’s a possibility of becoming an even bigger part of Liverpool’s history: “If everything is going in the right direction I think it can be a very good time for all of the people involved. I am really happy here and everything is okay. And I think it can be a very good opportunity for doing something for the history.”

Football, or soccer as they like to call it, has always been a minority sport in the USA, but with Gillett and Hicks becoming the latest US owners of a premiership side it does seem that the game is gathering pace across the pond. For many Americans it has been seen as a game for girls or younger children but there are signs it is changing. Rafa believes it is possible for it to become a much bigger game over there than it is now: “I’m sure that football in America will improve if they decide to improve and they have everything they need for improving. Some years ago I was in America for ten days at Davis University at a camp giving some football lessons and you could see 100 kids playing football with passion. I think that it will be better. Also they have a lot of Latin Americans and they like football and I think each year they will have more people playing football because they also have this influence.”