Rafa: Fitness important for Reds strikers.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has sent a message to Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes that they shouldn’t lose heart despite the speculation surrounding Liverpool’s attempts at bringing in new strikers.

Both players struggled in one way or another last season – Cisse missing most of the season thanks to his broken leg, Morientes joining the Reds in January after not playing for the first half of the season when on the books at Real Madrid. Rafa wants both players to get pre-season training under their belt and to start the new season fully fit and raring to go. As Rafa says: "Cisse is a quick player. We need to see that when he is fit, and that hopefully will be next season. Morientes has not really been fit either because he went six months without playing at Real Madrid. But we have confidence in him because he is a skilful player, who is good in the air.
Fitness was more of a problem for Fernando because of the difference in how the game is played her compared to Spain: "Here in England it is more physical, and he needs to improve his physical level, but we will see the best of Fernando next season."

Rick Parry said earlier in the week that Liverpool are looking for players with the right attitude as well as the right skills, and this was confirmed by Rafa: "I want to go to the market thinking about players with passion, as well as ability, then I know that we will do better things in the future. My plan is to improve the reserve team for next season, and to have some more players ready for the first team."
The Spaniard continued: "As a big club you need to increase your level to look for the best players in the world, and we are trying to find some players for different positions. But the most important thing is to find skilful players, and players with character. If we want to increase our level away from home we need that type of player to suit our style of play."
Is there anyone that Rafa thinks he can use as an example? That’s obvious after last season: "You need players like Jamie Carragher, for example, with passion. We are trying to find, if possible, both."

No mention of another Liverpool striker, the Czech international Milan Baros, who’s public complaints have left him out in the cold, although he’s yet to find a new club.

Rafa’s plans to get a decent level of preparation in for his squad with pre-season training and pre-season friendlies took a hit last week after UEFA answered the FA’s errors by giving Liverpool a place in the first qualifying round of the Champions League. The FA had failed to do their duty and nominate Liverpool for the competition and UEFA’s decision means Liverpool have to change plans they’d made. First to go are two friendlies in Japan that were due to take place at the end of July, but by that time Liverpool will have already started playing their Champions League fixtures.

Liverpool’s Chief Executive made the announcement which is sure to disappoint Reds supporters in the country: "We are very sorry to have to announce the cancellation of our scheduled tour to Japan because it clashes with our possible involvement in the second round of qualifiers for the Champions League. We have explored various ways to fulfil our commitment to go to Japan but, following the decision of UEFA regarding our participation in the Champions League this season which has added potentially six competitive matches to our pre-season schedule, in the end we have had no choice but to cancel the Japan tour."
Parry continued: "We would like to express our sincere regret to all Japanese fans who would have enjoyed seeing the matches and we also express our special thanks to the organizers of the tour. We look forward to being able to visit Japan as soon as possible. And we can promise all our Japanese fans who had been looking forward to seeing us in July that we will be doing our best to make it up to them by defending our Champions League title."

Interesting was the fact that Rick Parry did not mention the new World Club Championship tournament that takes place in Japan in December. Liverpool are allowed to enter this FIFA competition as Europe’s representatives, although there is no obligation for them to do so. FIFA would be hoping that the inaugral tournament would feature the European Champions, but the additional games imposed by UEFA may prove to make Liverpool reconsider entry.