Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gerrard key to England's success at world cup

Rafa Benitez believes Steven Gerrard has matured into a multi-tasking maestro who can prosper for both club and country.

And the Liverpool manager is convinced his skipper will be a key performer for England no matter where he plays.

Gerrard returned to Melwood yesterday after scoring twice to help his country secure qualification to next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa with a 5-1 thrashing of Croatia on Wednesday.

While usually operating as an attacking midfielder behind lone striker Fernando Torres at club level, Fabio Capello has chosen to use Gerrard on the left flank.

However, both roles give the 29-year-old the freedom to roam to devastating effect as in midweek.

And Benitez is convinced Gerrard’s talent and experience is such that he can prove a threat from anywhere on the pitch.

“When Stevie plays, his position is not the main thing,” said the Anfield boss.

“He has freedom and freedom in many positions.

“We have been talking for three years about him playing on the right or as a second striker, so when he has freedom he is a very good player, very influential player and he can win games.

“When the player has more experience and is playing in different positions then he can understand the game in a

different way. Stevie is doing this now and it is good

for us and good for the country – 100%. I have been here for years talking about Gerrard’s best position. He is playing on the left for England and that is not a problem.

“It was not a problem when he played on the left for Liverpool, despite what people said.

“But he can play in the centre of midfield or as a second striker. It does not matter where he plays because he is a key man for England anywhere.”

By his own admission, Gerrard endured an indifferent start to the campaign with Liverpool losing two of their opening three Premier League games.

But a late winner against Bolton Wanderers in his last club outing has proven the spark for his return to form.

Benitez believes England’s success can now also benefit Liverpool with Glen Johnson also influential for Capello’s men.

“Stevie will be coming back on a real high, it will be very positive for his confidence to score two goals and play well,” added the Liverpool manager.

“We need the best from him. This game after the international break will always be difficult but hopefully he can do well and have the same confidence as always.

“Stevie and Glen did well for England so that is good for them and us. It could be positive for Gerrard to score two goals for England and to qualify means they can approach the next games without pressure, so that can help their games.”

Liverpool return to action tomorrow with the visit of promoted Burnley. Benitez faces a late decision on Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva, with both midfielders due back from international duty in South America later today.

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