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Rafa Exclusive in The Times

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From The Times

November 17, 2009

Rafael Benitez: sell Fernando Torres and I will quit Liverpool

 

Tony Evans, Football Editor

 

Rafael Benítez reassured Liverpool supporters last night that he would never sanction the sale of Fernando Torres to pay part of the club’s debt.

 

Asked whether an offer of £100 million or more would tempt Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr to sell their superstar striker, the Liverpool manager smiled and said: "It won’t happen. I’d quit."

 

In a wide-ranging interview with The Times — his first with a British national newspaper — Benítez strenuously defended his record in the transfer market, but admitted that he had taken gambles and made mistakes.

 

He explained why Alberto Aquilani is a bargain buy, spoke with pride about the transformation he has overseen at Liverpool and talked of his desire to leave a winning legacy at the club.

 

The former Valencia manager believes that he has overseen huge changes since arriving at Anfield in 2004. "There is a massive difference between five years ago and now," Benítez said. "The name of the club round the world is at the same level as it was in the 1980s. It’s a fantastic achievement. Everybody talks about Liverpool in a good way. And we will get better."

 

More worrying for Liverpool is that while Benítez underlines his commitment at every opportunity — "I want to leave a winning legacy," he said — Real Madrid may come calling.

 

The second galáctico era is stalling and Manuel Pellegrini, the Real coach, may be on his way out. Real made a huge offer to Benítez at the beginning of the year — their third — and sources in Madrid say they are preparing another. For the moment, though, Benítez is concentrating on one team.

 

The Spaniard, 49, signed a new five-year contract in February but has been under pressure this season after a poor start. Liverpool have suffered five defeats in 12 Barclays Premier League matches and are on the verge of elimination from the Champions League. To make matters worse, Torres and Steven Gerrard have suffered groin problems and Aquilani, their big summer signing, has been sidelined through injury, only making his league debut eight days ago.

 

"People are worried," Benítez said. "But the team will improve. When we have key players on the pitch we are as good as anyone. We have proved this in the past."

 

Signing Aquilani for £17 million from Roma to replace Xabi Alonso was great business, he insisted. "We can only buy one or two big, £20 million players a year," Benítez said. "If we want to have money available, then we have to sell some players. We have to sell expensive and buy as cheaply as possible.

 

"Aquilani fit would be £20-30 million. We checked with doctors and they said he would be out one, maybe two months. We have lost some time, but I signed the player for five years, not five weeks. We needed to take the risk."

 

What will not happen, though, Benítez insisted, is the departure of Torres.

 

Even with the club’s debts at £245 million, he laughed off the prospect of having to sell him. "I’m confident it will never happen," he said. "If it did, I’d resign."

 

The relative lack of cash at the club has made risk-taking essential for Liverpool and Benítez admits to making mistakes in the market.

 

"When we have spent big, normally it’s been very good business," he said. "Torres, Mascherano, Reina, Alonso. Keane is a good player but we had to sell him because he was not playing at the level we knew he could play. Ryan [babel] was signed for the future and we are waiting for his improvement. He has to be more consistent.

 

"With the fringe players, we needed to take a gamble on Bosmans and one, two million-pound players. Some of these players have not been good enough for us. It is a risk you have to accept when there is not too much money about."

 

When Aquilani arrived, Alonso, a crowd favourite, left. In a bitter parting, there were suggestions that the relationship between Benítez and Alonso — who was sold for £20 million profit — had broken down. The manager dismissed the theory.

 

"He put in a transfer request," Benítez said. "We had a professional and good relationship. Some people say the manager must put his arm around the player’s shoulder. I don’t know too many managers who do this. Some managers here in England don’t even see the training sessions. How can you put your arm around the shoulders of the players if you are not there?"

 

Benítez’s relationships with the co-owners and Rick Parry, the former chief executive, have sometimes been frosty, but the manager is quick to praise Christian Purslow, Parry’s successor. "Since Christian’s first day I know I’ve had his support, inside and outside the club," he said.

 

Manager and chief executive may face a difficult transfer window, with the priority being to lower the wage bill. Three or four players may head out of the Anfield exit door, with none of the cash heading back to Benítez, but there will be no civil war behind the scenes. "We are progressing," he said. "I’m happy and want to do the best for this club."

 

Rafael Benitez: I can walk through Anfield storm

 

Tony Evans, Football Editor

 

November can be grim on Merseyside. It is barely past lunchtime and darkness is falling nearly as heavily as the rain. There is a gloom around Liverpool’s academy in Kirkby that mirrors the state of the club.

 

The team are seventh in the Barclays Premier League after five defeats in 12 games — they lost just twice last season — and on the verge of an exit from the Champions League. The mood is downbeat.

 

Enter Rafael Benítez and in an instant the academy staff are bathing in a little Spanish sunshine. Beaming a huge smile, he sweeps out of the rain in a flurry of backslaps, handshakes and hugs. This is no icy analyst. He is relaxed, in casual trousers and a V-necked pullover, and at ease with his world.

 

The acres of critical newsprint, the hours of Rafa-bashing on the phone-ins, have not shaken his confidence. He sits in an office, with its balcony overlooking the windswept training pitches, like a man secure about his domain.

 

“In 2004 the squad was worth, what, £100 million? Now perhaps we have one player worth that,” he says. “The whole squad? Maybe £250 million.

 

“The club was nearly sold for £85 million five years ago. Now the price is £500 million. We must be doing something right.

 

“We are much better now than we were three or four years ago in every single thing — in the commercial department, the marketing department, in football.

 

“The majority of the fans, especially the ones who go to the stadium, realise the team is working and improving, and is better than before. To achieve 86 points in the league last season is part of the progression. The direction of the club is right. But everyone wants to win and we are disappointed when we don’t win any game or any trophy.”

 

The poor start to the season has brought a maelstrom of criticism, but Benítez feels that few observers understand the full scale of the job at Anfield.

 

His tenure in the manager’s chair has been played out against a backdrop of behind-the-scenes turmoil. Financial problems and a lack of support from senior club officials have hampered his efforts. The irony is that the recent blip in form has come during the most stable period of his 5½-year term.

 

A new five-year contract, signed in February, gave the Spaniard control over the academy and the appointment of Christian Purslow as chief executive in the summer provided backup in the boardroom.

 

This has not always been the case. Two years ago, George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks, the owners, approached Jürgen Klinsmann about the possibility of replacing Benítez. Even before that, the manager’s relationship with Rick Parry, the former chief executive, was uneasy. Parry’s conservative nature clashed with Benítez’s aggressive attitude in the transfer market and many of the top targets went unsigned.

 

“You prepare your list of players and have No 1 target, No 2, then the third one,” Benítez says. “If you lose the first one, normally they’ve signed for another English club. If you lose them to your rivals, it’s worse. Every year you have to work very hard to be ready and sometimes another team gets there first. It is frustrating.”

 

That frustration is underlined every time Gareth Barry, Florent Malouda or Nemanja Vidic turn out against Liverpool, but the loss of Aaron Ramsey to Arsenal is particularly galling.

 

Benítez had agreed a deal to sign the talented young midfield player from Cardiff City for a £1.5m initial fee, with a similar amount to follow, but the transaction stalled at board level before Arsenal came in with a £5m bid.

 

The emphasis on youthful talent is no surprise. “When I arrived we had a lot of players we needed to change,” Benítez says. “We had to replace these players year on year. The first team were bad and it was the worse for the reserves.

 

“So we had to buy fringe players and take a gamble. Some of these players have been good and some not good enough for us. It’s a risk you have to accept when you have not got too much money available. The problem started at the academy. We weren’t producing players.”

 

The production line that served up Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher had ground to a halt. Steve Heighway, the academy director, was replaced by Frank McParland and Benítez took a hands-on role.

 

“This is the first year of my second five years and the first time I can have some influence in the academy,” he says. “We are trying to build something and leave a legacy for the future.

 

“When we talk about the young players we’ve brought in, the cost for them is about £5m. Players like Gulacsi, Pacheco, Ayala, Ngog, Insúa. The value of Insúa in the marketplace now would pay for all the signing of the young players in the last five years. We had to build foundations so we can win in the future.” The shortage of young Scousers coming through the ranks aggravates the manager, however.

 

“I want to see the academy producing local players,” Benítez says. “We didn’t produce too many so we had to look elsewhere to be able to find the new generation of players that will be at the heart of the team and the club. We need local players.”

 

A shrew move was to bring back Kenny Dalglish to assist at Kirkby. The iconic former player and manager is performing a number of roles and the manager is delighted to have him involved. “He was a good signing, no?” Benítez says with a twinkle.

 

“He is someone who knows the club, has a very good mentality and is strong enough mentally to defend the club as an ambassador. With his role in the academy, he attracts players.”

 

But Benítez knows how important it is to start winning soon. Will his team bounce back and earn a Champions League place at the end of the season? “I have a lot of confidence we will finish in the top four,” he says. “But my target is the next game. It is easier for me to give confidence to the players if we get three points against Manchester City [on Saturday].”

 

Benítez is notorious for his long working hours and attention to detail, so how does he cope with defeat? “When you lose or draw you go home disappointed,” he says. “But you can’t get too low because it is important to me to go to Melwood, be strong and pick up the players.

 

“I have a lot of confidence and that gets bigger when I talk to fans. They say, ‘Keep going, keep smiling’. Can we be better? Yes. We will be better.”

 

And then he is ready to go. In the foyer, one of the boys’ teams are coming in from the rain. They hold back a little, nervous to approach the boss, but he beckons them over, asking the name of each.

 

One is from Brazil and Benítez addresses him in Portuguese and begins a conversation about the beach in Rio. The boys all laugh and the mood is lifted. It’s a knack Benítez has. Imagine how much fun everyone will have when his side start winning.

 

 

Sir Alex Ferguson is finally forced to face facts ten months after Rafael Benitez attack

Tony Evans

 

Last season came in January when Rafael Benítez launched his attack on Sir Alex Ferguson.

 

Liverpool needed to win away to Stoke City to go top of the Barclays Premier League and before the game Benítez produced a list of things that irritated him about the Manchester United manager’s actions, focusing on the Scot’s complaints about fixtures and his perceived bullying of referees.

 

It became known as “Rafa’s Rant”, despite the calmness of delivery and considered preparation. Liverpool drew with Stoke and it was widely considered to be a failed attempt to take on Ferguson in mind games.

 

Fast forward ten months and Ferguson appears to be on the retreat in his battle with referees, and the FA has handed the United manager an unprecedented touchline ban after his post-match complaints about Alan Wiley’s fitness.

 

Does Benítez allow himself a wry smile of satisfaction? “No,” he said. “I thought it was the best way to put things across and that people would see something that everybody knew and maybe no one could say. I said it. I was talking about facts.

 

“Now the situation is different, but you still see things that you could say . . .” He stops, laughs and changes tack. “It’s better to leave it and focus on my team and try to improve our performance. That’s the best way to help my team.”

 

Like Ferguson, Benítez has strong views on referees. “I’ve supported them,” he said. “It is really difficult to be a referee, so I have to support them.” How? “With technology and by trying not to create too much controversy after games.”

 

Benítez, of course, was warned by the FA last month for a mild brush with the officials. The Liverpool manager had been asked about Phil Dowd’s performance in the match against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the season.

 

His response was to take out his glasses and study them, implying the referee could borrow them. It was a rare blemish on Benítez’s record. “We are managers and you cannot guarantee you will not be in a situation where you have to complain,” he said.

 

What sort of technology would Benítez like to see used? “One thing would be television for disciplinary issues — bad tackles, aggression,” he said. “It would help referees because the players would know they are being watched and be more careful.”

 

One bugbear is the offside rule, which he believes has become too complex and too open to interpretation. “If we do not change this rule, we will have problems every game,” he said. “Before, if a player was offside, everybody knew. Now it depends on position, interfering with play. You could see this with the goal by Chelsea against Manchester United. You can talk about it for a month and still have different opinions. If they don’t change the rule, it will be a mess.”

 

Rafael Benitez: sell Fernando Torres and I will quit Liverpool | Liverpool - Times Online

 

Rafael Benitez: I can walk through Anfield storm | Liverpool - Times Online

 

Sir Alex Ferguson is finally forced to face facts ten months after Rafael Benitez attack | Liverpool - Times Online

 

liverpool_bank_mana_646301a.jpg

 

 

He's the right man for this club and will turn it around, don't care what anyone says

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And if he doesn't?

 

EDIT: They've already been posted, byt the way. In the Mascherano to Barca thread.

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How long do we give it though, Randy?

 

Do we wait until we're sitting in ninth in March?

 

You know things are a million miles away from getting better when we play like we did last monday.

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Did Real really make a huge offer to benitez earlier in the year? Or is it just more spin and bullshit?

 

Him, Wenger, Mourinho, Ancelotti and Pellegrini.

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How long do we give it though, Randy?

 

Do we wait until we're sitting in ninth in March?

 

You know things are a million miles away from getting better when we play like we did last monday.

 

I don't think we will be sitting 9th in March though, I have faith that things are going to pick up. You don't go from a side absolutely flying in the second part of last season, literally swatting aside the likes of Utd and Madrid, to mid table Europa League fodder. I believe a whole host of reasons, including some poor decisions by the manager, have lead to us being in the state we are in now. But things will pick up, they have to. There are too many world class players in the mix to keep this going much longer. I thought we played actualy quite well against Brum in the main, just defensive errors and lack of clinical finishing cost us (again). 1 win and clean sheet is all we need to set us off, Im sure of that. The confidence is rock bottom, you can see that in their play. One game can change that.

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But that's the point, mate.

 

surely a game against Birmingham is the type of game that can act as a catilyst for a run? And yet we're bailed out of another defeat by a player basically cheating.

 

But for Ngog doing his best Drogba impression we'd it'd be even worse, and it's already pretty fucking bad now.

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But that's the point, mate.

 

surely a game against Birmingham is the type of game that can act as a catilyst for a run? And yet we're bailed out of another defeat by a player basically cheating.

 

But for Ngog doing his best Drogba impression we'd it'd be even worse, and it's already pretty fucking bad now.

 

I know mate, times are bad and walking out the ground was one of the lowest points I remember in a long time with us. But I still think things are going to turn around. For once I believe the break will have done us the world of good, it's what we needed. We'll beat City Saturday and push on from there.

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"The club was nearly sold for £85 million five years ago. Now the price is £500 million. We must be doing something right. "

 

“We are much better now than we were three or four years ago in every single thing — in the commercial department, the marketing department, in football."[/Quote]

 

"Manager and chief executive may face a difficult transfer window, with the priority being to lower the wage bill. Three or four players may head out of the Anfield exit door, with none of the cash heading back to Benítez, but there will be no civil war behind the scenes. "We are progressing," he said. "I’m happy and want to do the best for this club." [/Quote]

 

Makes for uneasy reading.

 

Does Benítez allow himself a wry smile of satisfaction? “No,” he said. “I thought it was the best way to put things across and that people would see something that everybody knew and maybe no one could say. I said it. I was talking about facts.[/Quote]

 

Ace

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I've said it in the other thread and I'll say it in here too: Macia was the one who advised Benitez that Ramsay wasn't worth £5m. Parry was pushing to get him.

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I reckon that's just one in a list of many to be honest

 

Wouldn't be a surprise would it. When people are wasting their time fighting each other the ball is bound to get dropped at some point.

 

It just seems a shame that a player that everyone in world football knew was going to be a star gets missed because we can't shuffle the paper quickly enough.

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I still like Rafa and hope he can turn things around this season - but that's a pretty sycophantic article and makes for a bit squeamish reading for me.

Fair enough to let Rafa put forward his reasoning, etc. But it reads like a piece written before the season started. Where are any tough questions about how we've actually been, like pretty shit?

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How do you know?

 

Why?

 

If I'd said "Oh yeah, it all happened that way for sure"

 

Would you ask me that?

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Why?

 

If I'd said "Oh yeah, it all happened that way for sure"

 

Would you ask me that?

 

Well I said it because Id imagine there are only a hand full of people that would know why the deal really didnt happen, so for you to write what you did then you must be one of them?

I wasnt being funny but when your making statements like that surely you expect to be called on them?

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I still like Rafa and hope he can turn things around this season - but that's a pretty sycophantic article and makes for a bit squeamish reading for me.

Fair enough to let Rafa put forward his reasoning, etc. But it reads like a piece written before the season started. Where are any tough questions about how we've actually been, like pretty shit?

 

This press doesn't do tough questions and even if they did you would get the rote answers anyway. The press seem to be split into two camps; those stabbing Rafa up the ass and those giving him a reach around.

 

Wouldn't it be nice to see some middle ground for a change.

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Actions Mr. Benitez, actions.

 

It's all a bit contrived to me this whole media thing he's doing lately. But at the same time i can understand him wanting to come out fighting his corner given how unfair a press he gets. But these articles aren't going to change anyone's mind, certainly not those who have it out for him, it only does the opposite, gives them more ammunition.

 

He can whine and cry about missing out on whatever players he has. Bottom line, we've lost games this season not because of a lack of money, but because we've been shit, and he, the manager, is the one in charge.

 

Win games Rafa, it's that simple.

Edited by The Dude Abides

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Guest Ulysses Everett McGill
I've said it in the other thread and I'll say it in here too: Macia was the one who advised Benitez that Ramsay wasn't worth £5m. Parry was pushing to get him.

 

If that's the case then would you not expect Parry to sue, given he's not shy of that sort of thing?

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