Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rafael Benitez Sets Out His Stall to Challenge Manchester Utd Next Year

Rafael Benitez has indicated that Liverpool are now poised to challenge Manchester United's dominance for the Premier League over the coming seasons...

With Liverpool enjoying their best season in some time as they breathe down Manchester United's neck in the final run in, the Reds manager now feels the time is right to launch a concentrated attack on the title.

Having brought in 45 players during his time in charge, the Spaniard now feels that a few key signings will mean that Liverpool will be ready next season. With Chelsea expecting a massive clearout in the summer and with Arsenal still struggling through a transitional period, Benitez feels that Liverpool are United's only viable challengers.

Only one of Rafa's signings has been allowed to leave the club over the last two seasons, and that player was Robbie Keane. Unfortunately for the Irishman, Rafa chose him as the battleground in which to wage his war with Rick Parry.

And with Parry gone and Rafa in full charge of transfers for the first time, he will look to add to his settled squad this summer.

"Stability is good for any club and because the squad is better it means you don't need to change many players.

"I think we are better placed than the others for challenging United in the long term," Benitez said.

He then added that the "spine of the team" was in place and just a couple more players were needed to take the team to a higher level.

Gareth Barry is expected to join as Rafa emphasises his control and the Robbie Keane point to the board. Glen Johnson has also been targeted to fill in the problem right full position.

The Portsmouth defender has seen his stock rise massively this season, and he has put in a high number of eye catching performances while Pompey flirted with relegation.

One point to note on the proposed Johnson signing is that Jose Mourinho felt the player was tactically inadequate, and dispensed of his services. How he would make the transition to playing under Benitez would be very interesting, but he has grown as a player during his time on the south coast.

Brede Hangeland has also been targeted, the Fulham giant has been one the EPL's best defenders since he joined Roy Hodgson at Craven Cottage 18 months ago.

While Antonio Valencia has also been tipped to join Liverpool from Wigan as Rafa looks to put the finishing touches on his team.

Ironically, Valencia's addition to the club would mean that Dirk Kuyt's appearances would be limited, the Dutch player has just seen his best season in the famous red shirt of Liverpool and now faces being utilised as a squad player.

Overall, it would most probably be the best move for the team. While being a whole hearted player, Kuyt lacks the nous and guile to trouble teams at the highest level.

"Now it will be easier. We can say to players 'come to Liverpool as you will win trophies in the future' and I think they will come," he said.

"We need some quality players to take us forward. If we can keep the consistency of this year then one or two players could make a massive difference."

Liverpool fans hope so.

twitter / WillieGannon