Thursday, June 25, 2009

Benitez Defends Big Money Move for Johnson

Liverpool's decision to splash out around £17.5m on Portsmouth wing-back Glen Johnson has raised a few eyebrows, and now Rafael Benitez has defended spending over the odds in order to "compete in the top four".

The 24-year-old England international agreed terms with the Anfield club on Monday, meaning only formalities remain before he completes a move.

The financial hit will be softened by the fact Portsmouth still owe the Reds around £7m from the deal which took Peter Crouch to Fratton Park 12 months ago and it is believed the two clubs have agreed to merge this into the deal leaving a £10m fee.

Even so, Liverpool will be paying a huge fee for a player who cost Pompey just £4m two summers ago.

"Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more,'' said Benitez. "You can't compete in the top four of the Premier League unless you spend some money.

"We were looking for a player of quality and also somebody who is British because of the new Champions League rules. Glen Johnson fits both categories.''

Johnson's stock has risen considerably over the last 12 months, from a player getting into scrapes off the pitch, to a firm regular in Fabio Capello's England plans.

As Liverpool have endured problems in the full-back areas throughout Benitez's tenure, this time the manager will hope he has a right-back for the long-term.

Benitez is also confident he will make other signings while securing the long-term futures of his best players.

"We have a plan. We can sign one more player if necessary, but that's without any players leaving,'' he told the Liverpool Echo. "Alvaro Arbeloa has had a very good season but he has one year left on his contract.

"If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition, but if we get a good offer we will have to consider it.''

Benitez is also hoping to offload Sebastien Leto, Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena.

Leto is expected to sign for Panathinaikos shortly.

"I think that the possibilities to play at Panathinaikos next season right now are more than 90%,'' said the Argentinian winger. "I have been waiting for something from Olympiakos all these weeks but they didn't make a move to buy me so far.''

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