With Peter Crouch fast becoming England’s favourite player, it’s easy to forget that Rafael Benítez is still looking for two new strikers. He returned from holiday last week to sign the new deal Rick Parry had offered him, and it’s expected that the second batch of new signings will be announced this week. The first batch includes the likes of Aurelio and Paletta, who were signed during the season but won’t officially become players until sometime this month. The second batch will include players targeted by Rafa for some time, but it remains to be seen which deals actually get finalised this week. With the World Cup then kicking off, other signing may not be seen until after the tournament ends, or as individual players find their country’s participation ends.
Rafa is still hoping to bring Daniel Alves to Anfield, but his current club Sevilla are trying to see if Barcelona might make a bid so that Liverpool have to raise theirs. Reports vary, but Rafa is said to be prepared to pay up to £8million for a player he sees as his main target for the summer, but as he has proved time and again he’ll not pay more than what he considers a player to be worth. Craig Bellamy is someone linked tenuously with Liverpool towards the end of the season but he’s now been able to use that interest to engineer a better deal with Blackburn, so looks unlikely to move. Jermain Defoe is another name strongly linked with the Reds – and publicly by Rafa in response to some Spurs press manoeuvres earlier in the season. Defoe was overlooked by England boss Eriksson for the 23-man World Cup squad, as was another name linked to Anfield, Darren Bent of Charlton. With Fernando Morientes already gone and Djibril Cisse looking set to move back to France and either Lyon or Marseille, Rafa does need some striking options.
The move for Alves is Rafa’s priority, but a link to Fulham’s right-side midfielder Steed Malbranque has been gathering momentum this weekend. Liverpool were often linked with the Frenchman during Gerard Houllier’s reign. With Alves planned as a right-sided midfielder for Liverpool, it could just be that Rafa is setting up a back-up deal. The fee talked about is £4million. Rafa will certainly be looking for cover for the right side of the pitch, with Jan Kromkamp set to leave this summer.
Getting Rafa to put pen to paper on that new deal was no doubt Rick Parry’s number one priority on his return from holiday – he’ll not have forgotten about last summer in any hurry. Parry said after signing: “This contract is not about financial reward, but about Rafa’s belief that he can take the club even further forward. We have someone who shares the vision of everyone connected to Liverpool.” Rafa himself said, as he has been saying for some time now, that he’s happy: “I’m delighted to have now signed the contract. I’m very happy at Liverpool and hope we can enjoy more success.”