Rumours continue to flow around Anfield – as always seems to be the case before a big game. Robbie Fowler was linked with Arsenal an uncountable number of times over the years – and when he went to Leeds there was no prior warning. Michael Owen spent his whole Anfield senior career on the verge of a move somewhere – yet his move to Real was all carried out at the last minute. Even going back a good few years, John Barnes was constantly linked with a move abroad, yet stayed at Anfield for best years of his career, moving infield from the wing as his career was nearing an end.
Steven Gerrard will be linked with Chelsea until he moves to another club, or until another club replaces Chelsea as the richest club in the country. Whether he wants to join them or not, he’ll be linked. If he signs a new contract, there’ll be talk about "get-out clauses" being inserted.
Rafael Benitez doesn’t want Gerrard to leave. And he points something
out to the rumour-mongers that perhaps they’ve forgotten. Gerrard can’t
leave Liverpool unless they release him from his contract, for an
acceptable fee. Whether his personal management and agent have been
speaking to Chelsea or not, Gerrard can only move if Liverpool agree.
If Benitez gets his own way, Liverpool won’t agree: "I have four more
years here and I want him to stay for that time. And, if it is possible
and I stay for five more after that, I would want him to stay too
because he is a great player.
Rafa is tiring of answering questions about Stevie’s future: "I have
said before it is easier for me to have English players and Steve is
our captain, a key player, a fantastic player. I do not want to talk
about him leaving. I want to see him scoring hat-tricks for us against
Everton and in the games after that."
Today’s match against Liverpool’s bitter rivals, Everton, has an extra
edge to it this time round. Liverpool and Everton are alongside Bolton
in the race for the final Champions League qualifying place. Everton
have the upper hand though – they’ve more points than the others. If
Liverpool fail to qualify, will Liverpool be saying goodbye to
Gerrard? No says Benitez: "Champions League football is not essential
to keep Gerrard because he has two years of his contract to run and is
our player, so we do not have to change the situation."
Benitez himself has been linked with a move away from Anfield this
week, again a rumour met with a denial. He also doesn’t believe that if
a player is unhappy he should necessarily leave: "I only want to do the
best for this club and that means keeping your best players. If players
are not happy, then maybe you need to make them happy. Michael Owen had
only one more year, but Gerrard’s case is different. He is our player
for the next two years and I have told him many times we want to build
a team around him."
None of this will stop the press and the rumour-mongers from creating new rumours about Liverpool’s better players.