There has been a lot of talk today about Liverpool striker Milan Baros being left out of tomorrow’s opening game in Liverpool’s defence of their European title. Baros was reported to be set to join Valencia in the summer, but the deal fell through when Valencia changed president.
Liverpool play TNS at Anfield in tomorrow’s game, and Baros would be cup-tied if he came onto the pitch in the game. Last season Michael Owen was in a similar situation when his move to Real Madrid was about to happen – he was on the bench for Liverpool’s opening Champions League qualifier, but did not actually play.
Baros played in Liverpool’s friendly against Wrexham on Saturday, scoring twice in the 45 minutes he played. Baros criticised Rafa Benitez more than once last season, out of frustration at either not being selected or for being substituted. Baros will face more competition this season than last though. Fernando Morientes was out of condition last season after missing the first half, Djibril Cisse missed a large part of the season after breaking his leg. Neil Mellor and Florence Sinama-Pongolle were the players that brought Liverpool back into the Champions League with a goal-apiece in the game against Olympiakos at Anfield. Both of those suffered injuries shortly after and haven’t played since – but are due back at any time. Add to that the admission from Rafa Benitez that he is trying to sign Peter Crouch, and all of a sudden Baros may start to regret his words last season.
When it was suggested to Baros that he might not play against TNS so that he won’t be cup-tied, he said he was surprised and he was in the squad for the game: "I know nothing about the fact that I will not play on Wednesday. I am among the 18 players selected for the match and for me that is essential at this time. Of course anything can happen on Wednesday, but I don’t think if I don’t play it’ll mean I’m being sold."
Baros claims he’s ready to turn his sulking from last season into determination to do well this season: "I am at a big club and I know there is competition. I know that from now on I will have to fight hard for my spot."
One of those players he’s competing with, Fernando Morientes, is itching to get into European action for the Reds for the first time. Nando also scored two goals against Wrexham at the weekend and told the official Liverpool website that the Champions League is a special competition for him: "It will be an honour for me to finally play for Liverpool in Europe. For me it means a lot because I love playing in the Champions League. It was a pity for me I could not play for Liverpool last season because I was involved for Real Madrid. Now I can begin right from the beginning with my new team so I’m going to feel a lot happier being on the pitch with my team-mates instead of having to watch."
Morientes felt the run-out on Saturday against the Welsh side was vital to get the team ready for the new season. Morientes played the first half of the match and said today: "Saturday was very important for us because we need to make sure we’re fully prepared for the Champions League qualifiers."
Whether Baros stays or goes remains to be seen, but Rafa Benitez today told the world that Antonio Nunez is available for transfer. Nunez arrived at Anfield a year ago in the deal that saw Michael Owen go to Real Madrid, but after starting the season late with injury he failed to make enough of an impression. Benitez revealed that Celta Vigo have been talking to the Reds about signing the player, but are just one club that Liverpool are speaking to about him: "I’ve spoken to Nunez and explained we’ve tried to find a club for him, but at the moment we haven’t had the right offer. Celta Vigo are interested but there are other options."
The willingness of Benitez to let the right-winger Nunez go could be a sign that the move for Luis Figo is back on. Benitez said that Figo was just one option for the right side of midfield. Nunez appeared in 27 games for the Reds last season, scoring his only goal in the Carling Cup Final.