Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rafa Confident about the Current Squad and Bringing in Some New Faces

Rafa Benitez believes he has assembled the spine of a title-winning side - and claims the club is working tirelessly behind the scenes to find any missing links this summer.

Benitez has made retaining current stars a priority over the last two months, with new deals agreed for Daniel Agger, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt.

The Anfield boss now hopes to add to his talented squad over the coming months.

"We are working very hard to keep the spine of the team - that was always the idea," Benitez told LFC Magazine.

"We have Pepe Reina as the number one goalkeeper with Diego Cavalieri behind him, another good goalkeeper. Then we have Skrtel, Carragher and Agger - three good centre-backs.

"Then you go to the midfield with Alonso, Mascherano, Lucas and Gerrard, with Torres up front and Ngog, who is a very good prospect. We have a good squad that is still young, so hopefully we can improve further.

"We know we still need to improve in some specific areas. We will be working very hard to do that over the summer."

This month marks the fifth anniversary of Benitez's arrival in England.

His brief back in June 2004 was to repeat the trick he performed with Valencia in La Liga - breaking the stranglehold of two dominant and high-spending teams using less resource.

Five years on, Benitez has taken the Reds closer to the league title than at any time since 1990 - but he admits transforming Liverpool from top four also-rans to genuine championship contenders has been a tall order.

"We didn't know everything when we first arrived here," said the boss. "Now we can see little things that can make a massive difference.

"Now we know these things we can be more precise, sign players in a better way, approach games and different competitions in a better way. We know the rules and the style of the game in England much better now.

"Maybe sometimes you don't need as long to start challenging as it has taken us. But when the other teams are so strong it becomes much more difficult. You can try to move fast, but if they go as fast as you, you have to go faster.

"The only way to do that is to try to sign the right players every single time.

"With Sami Hyypia leaving we have just two players left at the club from when I took over - Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

"Coming to a club that needs a lot of work is a massive difference to arriving at a club without too many changes to make. From my time here, Chelsea and United already had big squads with top-class players. They have both spent big money since and improved a lot.

"We could not spend that kind of money, but look at the level of the squad now compared to five years ago. We have had to work hard rebuilding the whole squad.

"It's not just a case of saying, 'Oh, Liverpool should win because they are spending.' The other clubs are spending too but had better squads from the beginning. That is why if we are to reduce the gap we have to do things almost perfectly.

"We have learned together what it means to stay close to the top of the table from the beginning to the end. I am sure that will help us in the future."

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