Another frustrating summer looms for Rafa

Now that word is out Liverpool probably won't be bidding for
Samuel Eto'o or Carlos Tevez after all, the silly season talk for Reds fans
revolves around strikers in the sub-£20m region. If we'd been told a year ago
we'd be looking for strikers in that kind of price bracket we'd have been
pleased – but not this summer.

The new owners paid an absolute fortune to buy Liverpool FC
– former Chairman David Moores made something close to £90m out of the deal,
and all shareholders got the same price per share as he did, representing a
decent profit for all. The new stadium is said – by the new owners – to be
planned as something special, unique even, which is an improvement on the
previous plans which were of effectively an off-the-shelf stadium. They've also
forked out money – or at least have committed to forking out money – to keep
hold of players who would cost an absolute fortune to replace.

Unfortunately that outlay isn't enough. Our expectations
have been raised. As well as the billionaires' money, we all know that the new
TV deal was extremely lucrative. All the clubs in the relegation battle were
talking about the £30m they'd lose if they dropped out of the top flight, so we
expect Rafa to be handed that much before the new owners have put their hands
in their pockets. And all the talk of "we'll support Rafa" meant to us that
we'd be seeing Rafa getting the money for the players on his list.

We aren't being greedy – we just want what we were told we
would get.  And if we can't have that, or
if we misunderstood that, we aren't the only ones: Rafa Benítez thought he was
getting the green light to buy the world class names that will take us those
extra steps.

Nobody expects the club to actually reveal the budget
publicly, but it is extremely alarming that Rafa doesn't know the budget
himself. He needs to know what he has at his disposal so he can improve the
current squad. At the moment he's assuming he's got to look for strikers
costing somewhere around the £15m mark – but that's based on him raising the
majority from player sales, from the likes of Craig Bellamy, Djibril Cisse,
Florent Sinama Pongolle, Harry Kewell and Mark Gonzalez. It's a situation he
never expected to be in, but if the owners want him to work that way then they
at least need to let him know.

The list of names linked to Liverpool will now change in the
coming days as more and more players are discovered to fall into the price
range Rafa is said to be thinking of. Michael Owen may prove to be a good buy
at a reported £9m if the boss wants to include some decent players for
elsewhere on the park. With Craig Bellamy's asking price said to be around
£10m, and the new Newcastle regime said to be interested in taking him back to
the North East, it's certainly a possibility. Terry McDermott may have an issue
with the move, given his row with Bellamy at Anfield after the two sides met in
the league, but there's no saying that McDermott will survive the change of
ownership and change of manager.

Another name linked is Charlton's Darren Bent. Wanted by West
Ham during the January transfer window, Charlton were unwilling to sell to
fellow relegation candidates and turned down a reported bid in the region of
£15m. Now relegated, Charlton know they can't hold onto the player, who is
still wanted by West Ham (who are also linked with Bellamy) and Spurs, amongst
others. The upshot of this is that figures up to £18m are being reported for
Bent. Even if Rafa is given a blank chequebook by the new owners it seems
unlikely he would spend that kind of money on that kind of player.

On Saturday came a renewed link between Liverpool and Villarreal's
Diego Forlan. It's not the first time that Rafa has been linked with the
Uruguayan former Manchester United player, although again his reported fee
seems to be on the high side. In his case the reported fee, of around £16m,
comes from his contract's release clause and so it's possible this can be
negotiated down. For the moment though there seems to have been no contact from
Liverpool. The player's agent, Daniel Bolotnicoff, told the UK's Times
newspaper: "There has not been any offer from Liverpool and it's very difficult
to talk about what might happen when there isn't an offer there, but things can
change every day. If he received a very good offer then he will think about it,
but it will also depend on whether Villarreal are happy."

Diego Milito was another striker linked at the weekend. He's
the older brother and team-mate of Gabriel Milito, the Real Zaragoza defender
who himself was linked with the Reds on many an occasion. He scored twice
against Real Madrid on Saturday.

Then there's David Trezeguet of Juventus who has told made
it clear he doesn't want to hang around with the disgraced club any longer.
Juve have now been promoted back to the top flight, after being relegated a
year ago as part of another Italian soccer scandal. He says he's not happy with
the offer he was made for a contract renewal: "I did what they asked me to do: I
scored 15 goals in the league and I think I gave my contribution to the
promotion to Serie A and also in all of these years that I have been at Juve. I
scored 140 goals with this shirt and the rest does not matter."

He was quite bitter in his condemnation of the current Juve
board: "In seven years I had the respect of the fans and my team-mates. Unfortunately
this new club up until today thought otherwise. I always gave my best and I'm
sorry – I'm the first one to be sorry for this situation – but I feel there is
little trust in me. From what I heard from the Directors and President, the
offer made for my contract renewal made me see the club has made other choices.
I'm sorry for the fans, I also explained my feelings to some of my team-mates
and they understand me." He says he has no idea what team he'll play for next,
but insists it won't be Juve: "Now I don't even know what I will do, even my
father is very sorry for how the club behaved with me." His father is also his
agent, and Trezeguet has been linked with numerous clubs throughout Europe.

As well as strikers there is a long list of wingers that
Rafa is looking at, again unable to do too much work on securing them without
an indication of his budget.

As for the players for sale, Harry Kewell's fee with just a
year left on his contract won't be too high, but demand for Craig Bellamy is
strong, with Villa and Blackburn two other clubs looking to sign him. Djibril
Cisse's move to Marseilles is up in the air. The French side decided in January
they weren't ready to take up their option to make his loan move permanent, and
are now trying to get another year's loan out of him. That's unlikely to work
though – Rafa wants the cash and knows there is interest from Bolton and
Manchester City amongst others.

Rafa doesn't intend giving any of his players away for a
price below their true worth, but unless the owners can come clean about his
budget and actually put some funds in front of him, targets are going to be
missed as deals to sell players drag on through the summer. I'm sure few Reds
would be upset if Diego Forlan was the target missed out on, but there will be
disappointment all round if we are off the pace as we get into the new season.
If Rick Parry is aware of his manager's frustrations over transfer funds he
needs to start working on getting the owners to commit to a figure.