20 November 2007

Rafael Benitez in for long haul at Liverpool after Bayern snub

Oliver Kay

Rafael BenÍtez, the Liverpool manager, has outlined his ambitions for long-term success with the club after rejecting a discreet inquiry from Bayern Munich about his services. The Spaniard was approached last week by a third party claiming to represent Bayern, but he has made clear his desire to stay at Anfield, where he is plotting more significant moves during the January transfer window.
“It is always flattering to be linked with other big clubs because it must mean you are doing something right,” BenÍtez said. “But even if I was approached, I would tell whichever club it was that I am really happy with my club, my squad, my supporters and my city. There are still many things I want to do here, so I am planning on being here for a long time.”
BenÍtez’s willingness to reject Bayern is not a surprise, given that he had rejected overtures from Real Madrid, but it is encouraging for Liverpool supporters to hear the former Valencia coach speaking so warmly of his present club and life on Merseyside. Twice since joining Liverpool in 2004 BenÍtez has caused concern among the Liverpool hierarchy by hinting at a future in Italy or Spain, but he appears more eager than ever to stay long term.
BenÍtez’s main ambition is to lead Liverpool to their first league title since 1990, a goal that he feels could yet be attained this season. He plans to make some fundamental changes to his squad in January and is eager to sell Scott Carson, the England goalkeeper, to Aston Villa, where he is on loan, and is prepared to offload at least one of John Arne Riise, Mohamed Sissoko and Peter Crouch to raise funds for top-class reinforcements.
Part of the proceeds would be used to fund a £17 million permanent deal to buy Javier Mascherano, whose 18-month lease arrangement expires at the end of the season. The Argentina midfield player, whose economic rights are owned by Media Sports Investments, is keen to make a long-term commitment to Liverpool, despite firm interest from Barcelona.
With Crouch available for more than £10 million after falling from favour at Anfield, BenÍtez also plans to sign a left winger and a centre forward, but the greater priority is to sign more defensive cover, with the club’s scouts having spent the past month scrutinising the form of Ezequiel Garay, of Racing Santander and Argentina, who could offer the back four much-needed depth.

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