Gerrard frustrated after his Chelsea gift.
Rafael Benítez demands answers amid
uncertainty over Liverpool's future
Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benítez, has
called on officials at the club to "answer a lot of
questions" about the future direction things will take.
The Spaniard has a meeting scheduled this week with the
chairman, Martin Broughton, in which he expects to be given
detailed information about what plans are being put in place
for next season and beyond.
Broughton, also the chairman of British Airways, has been
brought in by the co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to
oversee the sale of Liverpool but it has taken him nearly
three weeks to schedule a meeting with Benítez.
That has not pleased the manager, who would like to stay at
Anfield despite strong interest from Juventus.
Benítez, 14 months into a five-year contract, wants an
enhanced transfer budget in order to bring in the five
players he feels they need to get back into Champions League
contention, never mind a title challenge.
"We have plenty of time in this season, I still have four
years of my contract left and I still I have to talk to the
new chairman," said the Spaniard. "It [the meeting] is to
talk about the future. Everyone is asking about my future
but the future of the club is more important.
"Still I do not know what is going on in the club. I don't
know if we will have any investors so there are a lot of
questions – not just, for me, one question. For me the club
has to answer a lot of questions. It is very clear: we have
to wait and see what is going on. The future is maybe
tomorrow or maybe one week; at this moment it is something
we don't know."
Benítez refused to clarify his future plans after Sunday's
2-0 home defeat to Chelsea, which ended their hopes of
Champions League football for next season. But he expressed
his frustration at the campaign which appears to be going on
around him concerning his future. He is unhappy about the
way Juventus have publicly targeted him but also hinted
there were may be factors at work within Liverpool to try to
force his hand.
"If I have a conversation with him [Broughton] we will try
to keep it private," said Benítez in his now-familiar
cryptic style. "At this point we have to concentrate on next
Sunday's game at Hull. There are too many rumours in the
press and I know some people are just trying to create a
"To be fair we were trying our best last week, signing
[Charlton's two-footed midfielder] Jonjo Shelvey because
still we have the same mentality – to improve the club and
do the best for the club. I try to do my best every day."
Benítez has received the backing of Yossi Benayoun, although
the Israel international added to the uncertainty by stating
he did not know whether he would be around for the start of
next season. "When you are at a big club and things go bad,
it is normal for the pressure to be put on the manager,"
said Benayoun, who was linked with a move away in January.
"Rafa has done a great job and we are trying not to look at
what has happened in the past. Rafa has proven himself, he
is a big manager. The people above will make the right
Benayoun admitted the squad are disappointed with the way
the season had turned out, with early exits from the
Champions League and FA Cup compounded by a failure to
finish fourth. But he stressed the off-field situation needs
to be sorted sooner rather than later.
"We have tried to do our best but it hasn't been good
enough," said the midfielder, 30 on Wednesday and who has
yet to decide his future. "Liverpool are a great club and I
enjoy it but a lot of things are happening in this moment
and we will have to see it. A club like Liverpool must do
everything they can to keep players like Steven Gerrard and
Fernando Torres but a lot of things can change and in a few
weeks we will know better."
Liverpool are facing an uncertain
future and need an overhaul
Comment by Alan Hansen - Telegraph.co.uk
A title race may never be over until it is
mathematically decided, but Chelsea can certainly head into
the final game of the season knowing they have done all of
the hard work.
Carlo Ancelotti's side have faced the toughest test of their
run-in and emerged as convincing winners.
The question, in reality, was never likely to be whether
Liverpool had the right attitude to beat Chelsea, but
whether they had the right attributes.
In the end, they offered as bad a performance as they have
produced this season.
That should not detract from the fact that Chelsea played
extremely well at Anfield, inspired by the two players who
have added to their squad most this season, Florent Malouda
and Salomon Kalou. Both excelled on Sunday. Malouda has had
an excellent season and Kalou has had a great four or five
weeks as the campaign reaches its climax.
There was a stage when neither looked like they would be a
Premier League player, when you assumed both would be
shipped out, judged to be of insufficient quality. Malouda,
though, has blossomed this year, and Kalou's recent
contribution towards Chelsea's title push has been hugely
Manchester United had a similar situation at the start of
their run of three league championships in as many years
with Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic.
They struggled to impose themselves on the side when they
arrived, but with time they have developed into great
players. Both were awesome at Sunderland, as Sir Alex
Ferguson's team secured the win which takes the title race
to the final weekend.
Whatever happens next week, the differences between Chelsea
and Manchester United are not vast by any means. While it
has been a terrific campaign in terms of the interest and
intrigue across the league, it has not been a great one for
quality, as has been proved in the performance of the
English teams in the Champions League.
United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been a lot easier to
beat this season than in previous years, as their defeat
tallies show. It is among Europe's elite that such a
weakness is truly exposed, though. If you are easy to beat
in the Champions League, then you will get beaten.
That is why, regardless of whether Chelsea maintain their
lead on Sunday to win the title or United manage to overhaul
them, both need a considerable revamp in the summer.
Chelsea will no doubt look to strengthen their midfield, but
it is their squad that has been weakened most noticeably
over the years.
Under Jose Mourinho, it was always said that Chelsea's
second string would finish in the top six in the Premier
League, but that is simply not the case any more. They
require four or five players to return them to that sort of
level. Winning titles and, particularly, winning the
Champions League is not about 11 players, it is about 20,
and there is no question both sides need new personnel if
they are to continue to be successful.
At least Ancelotti and Ferguson will only have to look to
buy a handful of players this summer. Liverpool, on the
other hand, may need to go into double figures before they
have a squad worthy of returning them to where everyone at
the club feels they deserve to be.
The worry now that their exclusion from next season's
Champions League has been confirmed is whether they will be
able to attract the right players to help rebuild the club.
Liverpool's supporters are the best in the world, but
players do not join clubs because of the fans. They come
first for money, and then for what is on offer. Without the
lure of the world's biggest club competition, Liverpool
simply cannot compete.
The only solace is that Liverpool are still Liverpool; they
still have the history and tradition to attract players.
That will only last so long, though. Should they go three or
four seasons without Champions League football, even that
lustre will fade.
That is why this is the most crucial period in the club's
history. At the end of last season, it would have seemed
impossible that they would be in the position they are now.
That is the nature of football, though. It is easy to fall
from grace, but extremely difficult to rise to prominence
Benayoun: Liverpool FC board
must get big decisions right
By Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Yossi Benayoun today urged Liverpool’s
board to “make the right decisions” as he lifted the lid on
the uncertainty in the dressing room surrounding the club’s
The Reds were beaten for the 19th time this season yesterday
when they lost their final home game 2-0 to Chelsea, a
result that finally ended their hopes of a top four finish.
Speculation continues to swirl around Rafa Benitez’s
position, while the fact Liverpool have no substantial
transfer kitty and are unable to offer Champions League
football means some players might have to consider their
Benayoun is not actively looking to leave Anfield, nor does
have a desire to uproot his family, but he is unsure whether
there will be wholesale changes this summer that mean he
will have no choice to move.
That’s why he hopes the board can complete the sale of the
club in order to give Liverpool the best chance of leaving
the inadequacies of this campaign behind.
“It is difficult to speak about next season, as we don’t
know what changes there will be with the players and the
staff – it is too early,” said Benayoun.
“Personally I don’t know whether I will be here or if I
won’t. A lot of things can happen. We will have to wait and
“When you are at a big club and things go bad, it is normal
for the pressure to be put on the manager.
“Rafa has done a great job and we are trying not to look at
what has happened in the past (this season).
“We have tried to do our best but it hasn’t been good
enough. Rafa has proven himself, he is a big manager. The
people above will make the right decisions.”
When pressed on the ambiguity of what his thoughts for next
season are, Benayoun replied: “Liverpool is a great club and
I enjoy it.
“But a lot of things are happening in this moment and we
will have to see it.
“A club like Liverpool must do everything they can to keep
players like Stevie (Gerrard) and Fernando (Torres) but a
lot of things can change and in a few weeks we will know
“If it depended on me, I would stay here and retire in
Liverpool. The fans are the best in the world but it depends
on a lot of things.
“It will be very clear soon.”
Surrender proves Rafa is
hindrance to Reds' recovery
Comment by Kevin Garside - Irish Independent
The urgent changes required at Liverpool
might start with the message over the tunnel steps: this is
not Anfield. Championships have been decided in favour of
Liverpool and others in front of the Kop but never like
this. Anfield was on its back having its tummy tickled by a
Chelsea team playing the game at exhibition pace.
The stubborn defiance of Manchester United means Carlo
Ancelotti must wait until Sunday to celebrate a championship
in England. He will. Wigan would struggle to spoil that
party were they to bring their rugby team with them. The
undeniable conclusion hammered out here was of one team
being led and another abandoned.
In his moment of crisis following the Champions League
defeat to Inter Milan in March, Ancelotti looked first to
himself for an explanation and then to everybody else for a
response. His counterpart, Rafael Benitez, inverts that
process. The fault for Liverpool's demise lies not with him
but the owners, the bankers, the chairmen, the board, the
stewards, the ball boys, blah, blah.
The damning verdict on Liverpool's season was given by the
steward at the gate. And that was on the way in. Well, what
do you reckon today? "I don't care," he said. "There is
nothing doing for this team any more."
The indifference of those with Liverpool in their hearts
condemns Benitez to his bootstraps. He walked into the
post-match press conference with a smile on his face after
parading around the pitch with the Liverpool family. Maybe
he knows something we don't. At least Jamie Carragher had
the decency to look embarrassed as he limped across the
field in his sandals and suit.
Benitez resisted all questions about his future, saying only
that in the past two years the responsibility for running
this club had been his alone. "That is not normal," he said.
He awaits a meeting with the chairman this week. He could
not name which day club chairman Martin Broughton would
designate for Liverpool duty. He is busy in his main role
with British Airways for most of the week, apparently.
Benitez has become one of the structural impediments to
recovery at Liverpool. He plays cat and mouse with the
emotions of the fans for reasons known only to himself,
while leaving a trail of dubious clues as to what the future
might hold. Meanwhile, as England's most decorated club
shrink from view, Tottenham and Manchester City gather at
the gates to fight for the ground Liverpool have
Chelsea were not even made to fight here, which shames the
club that Bill Shankly built. And to think that on that
insane night five years ago in Istanbul, Benitez allowed the
idea to pollinate that he might be the man to fill Shanks'
boots. He couldn't lick them now.
Ancelotti is a different matter. Managing in the house of
Abramovich requires tact as well as well as daring. He was
told by expert opinion that his tenure would be short after
the Jose Mourinho show blew through Stamford Bridge in
Ancelotti impressed in the immediacy of the Mourinho
eclipse. He accepted with grace a result earned deservedly
by his nemesis. Chelsea looked like a team who had reached
the limit of their potential that night, or perhaps worse, a
team who were in decline. The draw at Blackburn five days
later was not the emphatic response which Abramovich was
seeking. The phone-ins groaned with calls for Ancelotti's
Those same constituents were screaming his name at Anfield,
though it took the intervention of Ray Wilkins to help their
voice get through. "Carlo, they are asking for a wave,"
Wilkins said, interpreting English football culture from the
dugout. Wave he did. It was that kind of afternoon.
This has not been a vintage season. Liverpool were never
contenders. United tried their best not to be before
Christmas and Arsenal showed their glass jaw too many times.
Chelsea's win at Anfield completed the double over
Liverpool, the same medicine handed out to Arsenal and
United. On those grounds alone Chelsea deserve the major
It does not mean they start favourites next year. United
will not be so vulnerable again and Arsenal will be stronger
for the additions planned over the summer. The future for
Liverpool is not so clear. The mood around Anfield yesterday
was surreal, as if the occasion were loaded with
significance but all were sworn to secrecy.
Benitez did not look interested. Perhaps wife Montse has
spotted something nice in the Juventus brochure. Steven
Gerrard looked fed up before he passed the ball to Didier
Drogba for Chelsea's opening goal. Was he playing his last
game in front of the Kop? Nothing can be discounted. This
was not Anfield.
a dark future ahead
Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo
As the World Cup approaches, a debate will
be rekindled as to whether Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard
can play together.
With a goal and an assist between them yesterday, Franco
Baldini will report back to FA headquarters with differing
Fabio Capello’s number two was at Anfield to see Chelsea
move to within a whisker of their fourth league title.
It is this very accolade that is said to have turned
Gerrard’s head southwards a few years ago.
For a boyhood Liverpool fan, though, winning the league with
Chelsea would probably be tantamount to an Italian winning
the World Cup with England.
But in keeping with the conspiracy theories emanating from
the other end of the East Lancs Road last week, there can be
no question Gerrard did his bit for their title bid here.
Gerrard’s defence splitting pass that found Didier Drogba
instead of his intended target, Pepe Reina, evoked memories
of a similar gaffe that gifted Thierry Henry the winner at
Highbury four years ago.
While the difference between Gerrard’s couple of
uncharacteristic mistakes is that the first left Liverpool
little time to respond whereas yesterday’s indiscretion came
in the 33rd minute, they are similar in that they both
effectively killed each game.
Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez, and Drogba himself all
admitted afterwards that this was the turning point in what,
until then, had been a closely contested match.
Once the ball hit the back of the net, though, it was like
sticking a pin in a balloon.
Shattered mentally from a damning season; and physically
from the energy sapping demands of extra-time in the Europa
League semi-final less than 72 hours before, Drogba’s sucker
punch exhaled the last breath from Liverpool’s terminal
Champions League hopes.
The half-time announcement that Liverpool ladies have won
the Premier League Northern Division was greeted with ironic
And yet Benitez’s side can claim to have been involved in
the title race with just two games remaining.
Only this wasn’t what anyone had in mind back in August.
In was on the penultimate day of last season that Liverpool
finally gave up the chase and Manchester United were crowned
That the best Liverpool can now hope for is to come some 21
points behind last season’s record points haul highlights
how far the Reds have fallen.
Like it or not, the bottom line is that Liverpool are simply
no longer good enough to compete with the likes of Chelsea,
Arsenal and Manchester United.
It was as clear yesterday as it has been all season.
If this season is a blip, perhaps last year was an anomaly,
when certain players exceeded expectations to produce the
club’s closest title challenge for the best part of two
Liverpool were unbeaten among the top four clubs last
season, taking 14 points in the process.
Twelve months on and they’ve taken just three, from
October’s win over Manchester United.
The absence of Fernando Torres can’t be blamed either given
how he’s figured in four of these matches this season while
missing last season’s wins at Stamford Bridge and over
United at Anfield.
Of course, having him fit and available increases your
chances demonstrably but, as Benitez alluded to following
what was an 11th Premier League defeat of the campaign
yesterday, Liverpool don’t have the strength-in-depth to
compete in the top four anymore.
After six years at the club, there are those that will point
the finger at the manager for that. Apart from Gerrard and
Jamie Carragher, they are all his players.
There are others who will nod to a lack of appropriate
investment from the club’s American owners.
In truth, it’s a bit of both.
But as the political manoeuvring continues at Anfield deep
into general election week, it remains nigh on impossible to
determine who is counting the votes anymore let alone
Regardless, the deficiencies within the squad are as glaring
as Joe Cole’s bald patch that was evident as he warmed up in
front of the Main Stand yesterday.
That is why, instead of wondering how Chelsea, Arsenal and
United are doing, Liverpool must now concern themselves with
the likes of Aston Villa, Tottenham, Manchester City and
perhaps Everton next season.
Although the club’s interest in fourth place has finally
been extinguished, Liverpool must still keep a watchful eye
on the situation and hope beyond hope that Spurs clinch it.
Their game at Eastlands on Wednesday has been billed as the
£100 million match.
Should the Abu Dhabi backed billionaires take the Champions
League place vacated by the Reds, there is a real danger
they won’t be surrendering it for some time.
Rafa refuses to commit to Reds
Rafa Benitez has again refused to commit
his future to Liverpool amid mounting speculation that his
days in the Anfield hotseat are numbered.
Benitez watched his side suffer a 2-0 home defeat by Chelsea
on Sunday to finally extinguish any lingering hopes they had
of achieving the fourth-place finish which was 'guaranteed'
by the Spaniard earlier in the season.
The Reds have endured a dismal campaign by their own high
standards, with Thursday's Europa League semi-final exit at
the hands of Atletico Madrid cutting off their final route
to possible silverware in the continent's second-tier
Benitez, who has completed just 12 months of the five-year
deal he signed in 2009, has been strongly linked with a move
to Juventus this summer.
But the former Valencia boss has consistently evaded
questions over his future and again passed up the
opportunity when asked after the Blues defeat if he would
still be at Anfield next season.
"Now we have to talk about the game, it is better than to be
talking about the speculation," he told Sky Sports.
"I understand really well [fans' concerns over his future],
but the speculation is something we cannot control. So we
have to talk about the games, the football and what happened
today on the pitch."
And when pressed again, he responded: "Don't carry on, don't
carry on. Finish."
The clash with Chelsea turned on an error by captain Steven
Gerrard in the 33rd minute when his attempted backpass to
Jose Reina was seized upon by Didier Drogba to slot home,
with Frank Lampard adding a second after the break.
Not the best
Benitez admitted the blunder was the turning point in the
clash and was prepared to accept that Liverpool's season has
not reached the levels they would expect.
He said: "These things can happen in football. It is a pity
because we were more or less in control. It changed the game
and it changed the result at the end.
"It is not the best, that is clear. We were expecting to be
higher in the table, we have had too many problems.
"I have shown my commitment with the fans and the club in
the past and this year. We still have one game to play so we
will try and be ready for this game.
"I have four years on my contract and we have to carry on."
gave us momentum
Didier Drogba admitted Steven Gerrard's
mistake gave Premier League leaders Chelsea the momentum
they needed to claim victory at Anfield.
Drogba nipped in to intercept Gerrard's back pass to put
Chelsea ahead and Frank Lampard added a second after the
Drogba told Sky Sports 1: "He made a big mistake. I was
lucky to be there and score. It was good because this goal
gave us a lot of confidence to play well."
The Ivory Coast striker claimed referee Alan Wiley should
have given the visitors a penalty when Salomon Kalou
appeared to be fouled.
Drogba added: "It's not easy to make a decision like this
but when it is a penalty you have to give it."
Man-of-the-match Lampard was pleased to get a difficult
match out of the way.
He said: "This was a huge game for us, if we had dropped
points today we would have given the advantage to Man U."
Lampard also had some sympathy for Liverpool, who were
knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by
Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
"It's been a difficult week for them, getting knocked out of
the cup, and they gave everything they had."
Gerrard gift lifts Chelsea
Steven Gerrard's astonishing blunder
allowed Chelsea to take a giant stride towards the Premier
League crown with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
Gerrard was left with his head in his hands in the 33rd
minute after his attempted backpass to Jose Reina was seized
upon by Didier Drogba, with the Ivory Coast international
rounding the goalkeeper before slotting home.
Chelsea felt they should have had a penalty moments before
the interval with Salomon Kalou going down after tangling
with Lucas, but referee Alan Wiley was uninterested, much to
the Blues' fury.
But they did not have to wait long to double their advantage
after the interval with Frank Lampard sliding the ball home
from close range after Nicolas Anelka's low cross from the
Carlo Ancelotti's men now boast a four-point cushion over
nearest challengers Manchester United, who must beat
Sunderland at the Stadium of Light later on Sunday to keep
the title race alive, given the Blues' superior goal
Liverpool, who had more than matched their opponents until
the opener, rarely looked like getting back into the match
from that point and saw their faint UEFA Champions League
hopes finally extinguished.
Chelsea were undoubtedly the better side in the end but the
match may have turned out differently had they not been
gifted a 33rd-minute lead in a moment which will allow the
conspiracy theorists to have a field day.
Some fans had been suggesting all week they would rather
Chelsea win at Anfield than beat the Stamford Bridge side
and hand United the chance to eclipse the club's tally of 18
However, even they could not have prophesied the manner of
Chelsea's goal as Gerrard failed to notice Drogba when he
passed back to Reina and the Ivory Coast international
nipped in to score.
Prior to that, the early exchanges had been open. Lampard
shot wide and Anelka forced Reina into a low save while
Liverpool's Maxi Rodriguez and Javier Mascherano, standing
in at right-back because of Glen Johnson's calf injury, saw
shots deflected wide.
There were also three penalty claims in what was a bustling
first half, with the two for Chelsea involving Kalou.
His first looked to be a dive in the ninth minute under
Mascherano's challenge but referee Wiley allowed that to go
unpunished, and the official was again unimpressed after the
tangle with Lucas just before the interval.
Alberto Aquilani had a 26th-minute penalty shout rejected as
he went down under Branislav Ivanovic's challenge as he
raced on to Rodriguez's chipped pass.
The loss of Rodriguez to injury just before half-time, when
he was replaced by Ryan Babel, was a blow to Liverpool as
the January signing had looked lively.
Six minutes into the second half Kalou muscled his way past
Mascherano to drill a cross into the six-yard area, where
Anelka failed to get the touch which would certainly have
brought a second Chelsea goal.
But the Frenchman played a more influential role in the 54th
minute when his cross picked out Lampard who bundled home
from close range.
If that was not bad enough for Liverpool, they then lost
Carragher to injury which meant 19-year-old Daniel Ayala was
thrust into the action.
It would have been 3-0 in the 67th minute had it not been
for Reina's excellent one-handed save from Florent Malouda's
well-struck low shot.
David Ngog replaced Aquilani for the final 15 minutes but
Liverpool were a spent force with only Reina keeping Chelsea
at bay, punching away Michael Ballack's 25-yard free-kick
and then producing a smart double save from Anelka and then
The defeat meant Liverpool will finish the season with their
lowest points total in five years, since accruing 58 in Rafa
Benitez's first campaign in charge back in 2004-05.
Whether the Spaniard, strongly linked with Juventus, is
around next season to rectify that remains in doubt.