HEADLINES
1202: Benitez on the future of international...
0902: Benitez is too late to play his mind...
0902: Parry: Benitez can win title...
2501: I'm working for the present and future
2001: Rafa's boardroom warning
1801: Benitez on Shankly
2004
2612: Rafa: My wife and I love Liverpool
2612: Reds chief in positive mood
1410: Rafa builds from the bottom





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FEBRUARY 12
Benitez on the future of international football

By Mark Platt - LFC Official Website

Rafael Benitez has outlined his blueprint for the future of international football after another frustrating week of meaningless friendly games.

Benitez believes too many games are being played and that something should be done to protect the clubs and the players.

He says: "Everyone agrees there are too many games. Sometimes you have to decide to change things because it's impossible to carry on with so many matches in a season.

"I don't know what the solution is, but I think it would be better to break up the qualification process for the World Cup and European Championship so the stronger countries play less games.

"There's no point having groups of six where Spain must play San Marino twice, for example. The stronger team will always win, so it's not necessary.

"It's better to have the weaker teams play each other to qualify to play against the likes of England, Spain or Italy. If they raise their level in the future, okay, they can move into a higher group.

"In the World Cup you have 24 teams in groups of four and it should be organised to be the same in qualification.

"There will be less international matches then and more can be played at the end of the season. At this moment, I don't think it's necessary to play internationals all through the year because you lose time and players.

"If you have a lot of games for qualification, there is a lot of risk on the players.

"Two years ago they changed it a little to give more time to the national managers with two qualifying games in a week. That was better in Europe, but it doesn't solve the problem if you have players travelling to Argentina or Australia.

"I know Liverpool fans care more about their club's success than the national team. In Spain it's the same. People prefer the club football to the international team."


FEBRUARY 9
Benitez is too late to play his mind games

By Len Capeling - Daily Post

Psychological warfare from Rafael Benitez? Bit late for that, isn't it?

Maybe three months ago, when some of his own players needed their mindset changing, but not now when too much ground has been surrendered to sides who might as well be operating on a different planet so distant are they.

The only team within hailing distance happens to be Everton. But why bother?

Everton have stayed ahead of Liverpool all season, and have not looked in the least bit out of place thanks to a manager who says precious little about the opposition, preferring to concentrate on things Goodison.

Perhaps Benitez is worried that the family from across the park aren't going to step aside and allow Liverpool to overtake? If so, he has good reason to be concerned.

True, Everton were shocking at Southampton, yet someone up there clearly likes them, hence the welcome good fortune you need to hang on to the coat-tails of your supposed betters.

Of course, you need more than luck to stay in the top four so long.

Everton have ability. They also have an invaluable quality called togetherness that probably pleases their exacting manager more than anything else.

Oh yes, and lest we forget, David Moyes doesn't have 10s of millions to spend on his team. 33million may be coming into the club from the sale of Wayne Rooney, Thomas Gravesen and Tomasz Radzinski, but such has been the scale of mismanagement off the field that he's unlikely to see more than the trimmings of that treasure.

To answer Benitez's jibes about Liverpool having better players, Moyes, if he had a mind to, might say those so-called superstars haven't shown much to frighten the rest of the Premiership this season.

Yes, Moyes would like better players. But who wouldn't?

Benitez may be under some financial prohibitions at present, but they are nothing compared to the crippling constraints that Moyes has had to grit his teeth through since arriving on Mersey-side.

While I'm at it, let me mention in this context a manager whose deeds will never be bettered in this soccer hot-bed of ours. Or elsewhere for that matter.

Bob Paisley is legend. So much silverware it blinded you. League Championships, European Cups. Mountains of monuments to one of the greatest of the greats.

But what also made Bob special was that he never rubbished the opposition to gain cheap headlines.

In private, he'd describe less-favoured practitioners as rubbing rags, but Bob always preferred to let his magnificent teams do his talking. And few sides spoke more eloquently.

Rafael Benitez should put Bob on his reading list, along with The Beatles.

And, instead of telling us what Everton are not, share with us what his own team - 22 points behind Chelsea - are all about..

Better still, he could build on two league games unbeaten, by adding another 10 to the total.

Though here again, Everton may have something to say about that, especially if the combative Moyes cuts out Benitez's unworthy comments and gives a copy to every member of his first-team.

But not before the eve of the derby...


FEBRUARY 9
Parry: Benitez can win title without wealth

By Andy Hunter - Daily Post

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry believes Rafael Benitez will not require the extraordinary wealth of Chelsea to construct a championshipwinning team at Anfield.

The Anfield club have spent 43million on their squad since the end of last season in an attempt to close the gap on the title chasers.

And though Liverpool cannot compete with Roman Abramovich's riches and are currently 22 points behind Jose Mourinho's league leaders, Parry insists Benitez can still deliver the title in time.

Parry admits Liverpool had to appoint a coach with a track record of winning titles on limited resources when they sacked Gerard Houllier last summer.

"We have to be realistic," Anfield's chief executive said. "We don't have the resources of Chelsea, but we have a top class coach in Rafa. He's the best at getting the best out of the resources at his disposal.

"We never saw him as a gamble. It was about appointing a good manager and the prime target was winning the championship. I suppose you always take a gamble with someone who's not won one.

"But the prime criteria was having a proven track record and they don't come any tougher than winning La Liga. For someone to do that twice against the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona is very impressive.

"We had talks with senior players like Stevie, Carragher and Owen beforehand, because that makes sense. We asked them who was the best side we'd played in the last five years, and the answer was Valencia. There were no shortage of people interested. But we wanted someone young and ambitious, not someone looking for a pension plan.

"Rafa ticked every box but how lucky were we that he was available and looking for a new challenge."

Benitez signed a five-year contract when he swapped Spain for Anfield last summer. And Parry believes his instant success at Valencia, where he won the club's first league title for 31 years in his debut season, and also in improving Liverpool's style of play despite a lengthy injury list have increased expectations on the manager.

He added: "Rafa is terrific. Everything we said when we appointed him is being borne out. Ironically he is a victim of his own success in a way.

"We had some highs over the first half of the season - who'd forget Olympiakos and Arsenal?

"In August we said it was a transitional period. Then come January, it's Liverpool in crisis! You've got to get things in perspective.

"Our level of expectation is winning the title. It's a very, very high standard. Nothing less is good enough, and Gerard Houllier fell victim to that.

"It goes with the territory at Liverpool. But let's not judge Rafa on his first season, or others's last season. We had barren spells in the 1960s and you can't turn it around overnight. We are perfectly happy with his aspirations but you can't do it at once without a blank cheque."


JANUARY 25
I'm working for the present and future

By David Prior - Daily Post

Rafael Benitez has had to wait just two dozen league games to sample the kind of vitriol that inescapably follows a poor Liverpool performance these days.

"This is the worst Liverpool side in history," ran one critique yesterday. The worst in 40 years, reckoned another. Alan Hansen merely rated the performance at Southampton as the poorest for 14 years.

What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that the purveyors of such doom will have to wait a lot longer not only before the Spaniard actually reads it, but perhaps more importantly before he pays any attention to it whatsoever.

It's not that Benitez hasn't been shocked by the events of the past week. He's as dismayed as any fan and disarmingly honest when it comes to conceding his own role in the most dispiriting run of results Anfield has had to bear for years.

Benitez does however possess one vital tool no fan or critic can boast - an objectivity that comes with having had only a seven-month association with the club. Amid all the clamour of the past few days, his has remained the coollest voice. Through all the wailing and hand-wringing, he has retained a sense of perspective and detachment that is nothing if not admirable.

Ihave been a coach for 18 years," he says.. "I have won a lot of games, and I have lost a lot of them. I have won trophies, I have lost finals. We are here for winning now and for the future.

"I am the manager and it is my resposibility to decide things. I choose the XI that start every game. When we play very, very well against Arsenal and Olympiakos, everyone talks very well about me, so when you lose you need to accept that. It's not a problem.

"But if I am always thinking about these things, then I lose my concentration. I need to be focused on the next game and I am working with my players.

"We accept the critics, but we need to do our job as well as possible. I don't like it, but I accept it. If we win tomorrow, the supporters will be very, very happy. And then if we win against Charlton and Everton lose, then everything changes again.

"You need to look at the bigger picture - I am here working for the present and for the future."

He added: "We have 15 games left in the Premiership, we are in the Champions League and we are in the semi-final of the Carling Cup. It is not the worst situation in history.

"We know that we didn't play well, but we know that if you want to change something, you need to try. You can't say, oh it is impossible. You must try again."

Perhaps another manager could be accused of blind optimism, the kind of ill-placed hope that led the band to keep playing even as the Titanic sank to the ocean bed.

But Benitez espouses a fairly straightforward logic as justification for this optimism. It's based on injuries to vital players, of new players taking time to adjust, of unfortunate if crucial mistakes, of especially low confidence, and of his own settling-down period at the helm. As far as the manager is concerned, there's really no secret to the current demise.

That's not to say the performance at the St Mary's Stadium was not unacceptable; indeed, the Spaniard deemed it necessary to call an unscheduled meeting of his players on Sunday to discuss the debacle.

"You need to talk sometimes with individuals and sometimes with the team," he said.. "We needed to talk with the team this time to analyse the situation and to hear what they thought about the situation.

"The players are a fantastic group of professionals and they need to understand our ideas, but we also need to hear what they think about the situation at this moment. If we have mistakes, sometimes it is my mistake as a manager. As the manager I make decisions but sometimes they are bad decisions.

"We've analysed the performance and we know the solution - which is, as always, to work harder. We are very disappointed. We understand the supporters and we want to give the best for them."

As ever, his criticism of the team does not exclude himself. "Against Southampton, their wingers played better than our wingers, the full-backs played better than our full-backs, and the manager better than me," he adds.

"They played better than us - I tried many things, and if you can't change the situation then you need to analyse why. You cannot say as a manager that you always have a solution or that you always do the right thing.

If you see the second half against Southampton, we ran a lot, we shot about 12 times. We made lots of changes, we changed the front players, but if you are losing 2-0 and the other team are working hard and playing well, sometimes it is not possible. If Gerrard had scored when he hit the bar, we would be talking about another result I'm sure."

The result Benitez wants to be talking about now must come at Vicarage Road tonight. "For us it is so important to win this game because there are the possibilities to play in a final. How many players play finals in their life?"

The hip injury to Sami Hyypia has presented an untimely problem ahead of what, in terms of club morale, is a game that ranks up there with any Champions League clash or fourth-place decider in recent years.

There'll be no Turf Moor-style miscalculations tonight. For all his attempts to treat this game like any other, the consequences of defeat are dire, but they, like everything else that seems to come his way, do not faze Benitez.

"If people think we will go into the game afraid of the criticism we would get if we lost, they're wrong. If we win, that's normal because we're Liverpool Football Club. If you lose, we play again next week - you can't think about the criticism."


JANUARY 20
Rafa's boardroom warning

Kop Talk

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has reiterated his belief that he does not have a big enough squad to chase the honours that supporters crave.

Having to throw away the FA Cup was a prime example of how Liverpool have fallen from the top. Had the resources been there to call upon, Rafa insists he would have fielded a strong side against Burnley.

"I'm working to build a new team for the future. If you want the team rebuilt, you need money," said the manager. "You need to get into the Champions League and get as far as possible because that means more finances.

"I never want to be a manager who says we can't win this or that competition, but the reality is I know we don't have a squad which can compete for four trophies.

"In the future, I want to make a team that will be able to do so. We are not just working for one game. I want to build a squad which can fight in four competitions, but at this moment that is too difficult for us.

"We need 20 top class players in our first team squad and good players in the reserves. At the moment, we don't have this."

He added: "If I had Xabi Alonso, Josemi and Finnan available, maybe they would have played in the FA Cup. But because we don't have a big squad, we've had to use young players.

"Okay, we are out of the FA Cup, but we have seen a lot of these players now and know more about them. Potter, Whitbread and Raven have signed new contracts and Welsh and David Mannix will too."


JANUARY 18
Benitez on Shankly

By Kevin Smith - LFC Online

Rafael Benitez is learning from the late, great Bill Shankly, and his wife Montserat is also taking lessons in the history of Liverpool Football Club.

"Bill Shankly brought fresh air to Anfield," said Benitez. "They breathed ambition, discipline and success. So now what my wife and I do is learn about him every day.

"Montse spends some of her day reading books about the history of this great club and every day, when I finally get home from Melwood, she teaches me more and more about Liverpool FC and what made it great.

"Shankly changed Liverpool's mentality into the hungry one that fuelled their desire to win. That was the basis for the Liverpool teams that later, even without him, went on to win those four European Cups.

"My challenge is to find, teach and inspire the old Liverpool FC spirit, the mentality, the philosophy of respect and the original values of football that our club made famous over generations.

"Rather than try and mimic one individual era or team, the task now is to distil all these great qualities that made Liverpool FC successful and legendary and then base the new era around them - but with some of the modern ideas and discoveries adapted into the mix.

"It is true that I think too much about football, I always have. I spend ten hours or more every day in Melwood and when I come back to my house I still think about football.

"I'm on the sofa watching a video, maybe an old one from great Anfield nights in the 1970s or a scouting video or one taken of our next opponents, then I talk to my wife about my day at Melwood and all the things that are unresolved in my head. I fight hard to find some time for my daughters, but the rest...it's football."


DECEMBER 26
Rafa: My wife and I love Liverpool

By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website

Rafael Benitez has revealed he and his wife have already discussed staying at Liverpool for 'a lot longer than five years'.

If Rafa has been happy with his adaptation to English life and English football then it's in no small part due to his family also settling quickly into their new lives.

In fact, Benitez has admitted his wife is so happy in Liverpool that she is already planning a long stay on Merseyside.

He said: "Monserrat keeps telling me that we'll be here a lot longer than five years. She is a very clever woman. Much more clever than me and she has been getting to know everyone around the club.

"She talks to people, she listens, she makes her judgements and she says that we are going to be very happy here for a long time.

"When Liverpool first approached me I did not make the decision about whether to come or to stay alone. We talked and she not only insisted that we moved, but that all of us go because she believes, like me, that a man works better when he has his family around him and he is happy and contented.

"She does not see this as just a job for me. Anyone can understand how difficult it can be for a whole family to uproot to another country, to have to learn a new language, to get used to new cultures and new rules. But it has been easier for me because I have had her backing since the start.

"Now she is telling me: 'Rafa, if you work as hard as you always do, if you do the right things you did at Valencia, then Liverpool is going to be very good for us.'

"And I have to believe her. I have to believe in what she says because, so far, I am pleased with our progress.

"Montserrat senses things. She gets a feeling for them. It is just like when she sings the song with the fans. She wants to be part of this club, to be part of the family - that our family is part of Liverpool.

"Singing is her way of saying how much she believes in what we are doing here and we are together on that."


DECEMBER 26
Reds chief in positive mood

Sporting Life

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez remains confident his side can gain some consistency and clinch a Champions League spot for next season.

The Reds have struggled to put any sort of a winning run together this campaign, losing six games before Christmas to trail Premiership leaders Chelsea by 15 points.

They have particularly struggled away from Anfield, picking up just six points from nine matches on the road.

However, Benitez believes there have been signs of better things to come in the second half of the season.

"I think we have improved as the first half of the season has gone on and I know the supporters are pleased with the football we are playing," he told the club's website, www.liverpoolfc.tv.

"I am sure, as I have said before, that the level of the team will get higher over the second half of the season and I remain confident we will finish in the top four."

Liverpool have also made good progress in cup competitions as they seek to give captain Steven Gerrard the silverware he so desperately craves.

The Reds have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will play Bayer Leverkusen, and will face Watford in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.

"We are still in all four competitions and so we have a lot to look forward to as we go into the New Year," added Benitez, whose side travel to Burnley in the third round of the FA Cup.

"I'm not going to make any predictions but I've said many times that I didn't come to this country to learn English.

"I came here to be successful with this club and that's what we're all working towards.

"We'll need some time, but these players have confidence in themselves and I have confidence in them.

"The players have a great mentality, they all want to win trophies and I am confident we are going into a new year with many reasons to be positive about the future."


OCTOBER 14
Rafa builds from the bottom

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

It's often said turning a football club around resembles a marathon rather than a sprint.

For Rafael Benitez, transforming Liverpool into title contenders will be more of a steeplechase.

The Spanish coach has several hurdles to overcome before his vision for the club is realised.

The squad isn't as strong as the top three's and it's still unclear how much the manager will have to spend on recruitment in January.

"It will take time," may be a familiar observation, but it's the most honest one.

What changes have been made so far are subtle. Walk into the manager's office at Melwood today and the different approach is already evident.

The pictures with which Gerard Houllier once adorned the walls have been replaced by hundreds of videos of Liverpool's future opponents.

The Spanish coach has made no promises for this year, only that his preparation will be meticulous and the squad will improve tactically and technically during the course of the season.

And, just as significantly, Benitez says he's already put plans in place to ensure the scouting network, which failed to produce recruits of the necessary standard in recent years, won't fail again.

Expect more thorough scrutiny of potential signings in future - attitude as much as talent - as well as a more cordial relationship between the Liverpool manager and The Academy.

"I've been talking to Steve Heighway this week about how we will move forward in the future," said Benitez. "We know we need to change things. One of those areas is in the scouting department and we will be talking more with Steve and The Academy.

"We want to connect The Academy with Melwood far more. We're preparing to watch every player in The Academy very closely. We want to see if they have the high level for the first team.

"My assistant Paco Herrera is working alongside our scouting co-ordinator Frank McParland and the Academy's head of recruitment, Barry Whitbread. They will be scouting players for and from The Academy and for the first team.

"In the reserve team which played on Tuesday, there were five youngsters from The Academy. It's important for us to know what we have. After that, we can decide which direction to go.

"If we have three Owens or Gerrards coming through, okay, we can wait for them. If we don't, we'll need to work harder with the scouts to prepare the future.

"We will be meeting all of our scouts over the next month. After that, we will start deciding which players we want to think about."

It's inevitable Benitez will be linked with numerous players before now and January, but the manager is understandably cautious about making statements about potential arrivals. He wants to motivate the players he's got, not deflate their confidence by publicly demanding replacements.

"At this moment, we don't want to think about new players," insists Benitez.

"The players I have are training very well. I'm very happy with their attitude.

"You also have to understand my view that if I ever want to look at a player, I don't want to say it to a journalist.

"If you say to the Press you want to sign a player, he immediately becomes more expensive. You usually find it's the agents who want to talk more about the players."

That said, the manager is well aware of the limitations of his squad and will begin an ongoing search for fresh blood until his side is well equipped to challenge the top three.

Exactly how long that takes will depend on how much is available and how soon,

"Arsenal and Manchester United have had time to put their squad together," observed Benitez.

"People have said to me 'You're in the same position as Chelsea, because they have a new manager and new players'. But I say 'no' to this. They have put together an expensive team with some players the manager knew very well from Portugal.

"Carvalho and Ferreira played for the manager at Porto and when I spoke to him he told me how important they will be because they understand the way he works.

"We lost our last two away games in the league, but we know Manchester United and Chelsea are very good teams with top players. They are at a high level. I'm sure we will get better results against other teams. Now, we need to get the confidence which comes from results.

"In the ten weeks since the start of the season we've had a lot of international breaks which haven't helped us.

"I don't know if we have suffered more than all the other teams because of the international break, but this week, on one day I trained with just five first team players.

"When you have a new manager there are a lot of new things to learn but we haven't had a lot of time to train.

"Now is a time for my players to under-stand what I want and practice. I can't just tell them to do things the way I want without giving them time to train.

"We've also lost players like Smicer and Nunez who would have helped the balance of the squad, then we lost Steven Gerrard. When you arrive with a new team and you need time, it doesn't help to have these problems."

The mood at Melwood, where there is a noticeable change in atmosphere, is far from downbeat, however.

Benitez is merely in the warm-up when it comes to preparing his Liverpool. His first task is to make Liverpool the equal of the top three, and then he can think more realistically about approaching the starting line with a view to outright victory.

"I'm sure this team will improve and we will win many games this season," he insists.

"If we can put together a few wins, we'll go up the table. We also have a game more to play than the rest. If we had three points more, you'd see where we are in the table and I know the supporters would feel happier."


Thor Zakariassen