Liverpool's Current Affairs: A Fan's Perspective
Like it or not, a massive club like Liverpool FC is always under immense pressure.
But somehow, Liverpool have always been the subject of criticism as well as being in the middle of negative rumors more than any other club—such as 'unhappy' players seeking for the exit door etc.
As a Liverpool fan, I will attempt to voice my opinions regarding some of the issues the club is facing at the moment.
Yes, current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have put Liverpool up for sale, and have appointed Martin Broughton as the new Chairman that will oversee the sale process.
Personally, I don't see him (Broughton) as a Chelsea fan, I see him a credible man with a big reputation.
He will therefore make sure that Liverpool Football Club is sold to the right person, as he has told that kick-starting the new stadium project as one of the main criteria in accepting a bid from any bidder.
Apart from that, he has reiterated that there is no need for Liverpool to sell any of their current big names. In fact, money will be made available for manager Rafa Benitez to bring in new faces, although the actual amount is not stated nor promised.
When a club like Liverpool goes up for sale, there will definitely be many interested parties. So, I'm pretty convinced that Liverpool will be sold sooner rather than later.
Although Hicks and Gillett might be demanding for more than the club's worth, I don't think they can hold on to the club any longer.
Therefore, I expect a new owner to step in, and invest in the new stadium project this summer. With a new stadium, it will benefit Liverpool in the long run, making the club a self-sustaining one, for many many years to come.
No one in the club is lifting a heavier 'load' than Rafa Benitez.
When he wins, he still loses. When he was rotating the squad four years back, it was said to be the reason behind Liverpool's poor form, when he began sticking with the spine of the team, he was said to have forced the likes of Peter Crouch and Jermaine Pennant out.
In almost every occasion do the Reds create enough opportunities to win the particular game. That means that Rafa's tactics do not just emphasize on the defence, but also creating chances at the same time.
As for transfers, I've debated that many times. I'm not going more on that here, if you disagree with me that Rafa is not a poor shopper, leave your comment below.
Unless the new owner is mad, I don't see a reason why anyone wouldn't want to have a manager like Rafa Benitez to manage his team. Juventus and Real Madrid's continuous pursuit of Rafa is a concrete proof to the tactician's abilities.
Besides, I think that his Liverpool shaping has just begun. People can go on and on telling that he is not a good manager because he hasn't won the league in six years, but people don't understand that it takes time to build a squad that can conquer for many years, especially in these times which are getting more competitive by season.
He, along with Kenny Dalglish have just taken full control of the Academy last summer. In my opinion, he (Rafa) had only begun his Liverpool career then.
I'm sure fans will be sad to see him leave should he stays on until his contract expires, because he will have done exactly what Bill Shankly did in the past, building a strong foundation for his successor.
Rafa is already beginning to show his ambition of producing and nurturing own players by signing the likes of Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey. And I believe that Academy stars Michael Ngoo and Jack Robinson are all part of his long term plan.
Imagine having a massive stadium that brings in higher revenue, and not needing to spend money buying players as Liverpool are capable of producing top talents themselves.
With such a big project in his mind, I don't think Rafa Benitez would want to leave at the moment, unless being forced to—which would be a bad decision!
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres
The two star players heavily linked with moves away by the media—obviously an attempt to panic us Liverpool fans.
Let me remind again that Martin Broughton has told that Liverpool do not need to sell any big name.
Rafa Benitez has also said that the spine of the team is not for sale.
So, I don't see any of the duo to be sold for financial purposes.
As for the 'unhappy' issue, are they even unhappy?
If I was asked by a reporter whether I'd like to play in the Champions League, obviously my answer is going to be 'Yes, I prefer playing in the Champions League.'
But has any of them (Gerrard and Torres) declared that he would leave if Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League. Never.
Definitely the lads will be upset for failing to qualify for the biggest competition in Europe, but they are professional enough to know that no team can qualify for the Champions League every single season forever, especially in the Premiership which is getting more competitive by day.
Steven Gerrard's loyalty, for one can never be questioned. Yes, he was seen sulking on the pitch a couple of months back but that showed nothing but his commitment to the club. It takes a person who carries the blood of the club in his veins to show that kind of frustration when things don't go right, something non-Liverpool fans can ever understand.
But the positive thing is fans are beginning to see the smile on his face again. He always says: 'I want to win the league title WITH Liverpool before I retire from football.' I'm pretty sure he'll retire with Liverpool the only club he has ever represented, and hopefully with a few league medals under his belt as well.
As for Fernando Torres, what else can I say? He loves the city, the club, and he for one is eager to learn from Rafa Benitez, and has also reiterated his desire to win things WITH Liverpool.
When players don't want to leave and when the club doesn't want to sell, the media can go on linking players with the riches of Real Madrid and Manchester City but nothing will happen.
The Young Ones
Jonjo Shelvey—Liverpool's latest recruit. The signing was announced on Wednesday and the player is set to join on the 10th of May 2010.
Apart from Shelvey, Liverpool have also snapped up youngster Raheem Sterling from QPR two months back, and are also setting their eyes on another young British talent, Danny Wilson of Rangers.
All these tell you one thing. No, Liverpool have not lost their competence in the transfer market. But instead, Rafa Benitez and his fellow scouts are building the future of Liverpool.
As mentioned earlier, Rafa Benitez has just taken full control of the youth development last summer, and is working closely with Kenny Dalglish to nurture local talents from the Academy.
This season has seen the likes of Daniel Ayala, Nathan Eccleston, and Dani Pacheco making their first team debuts. I'm sure more will follow next season. I'm tipping Reserves captain Steven Irwin, David Amoo, Lauri Dalla Valle, and Michael Ngoo to be among the ones who will feature in the pre-season this summer and may make their senior bow when the season starts in August.
But what pleases me is not the fact that so many young talents are coming up the ranks, but it's the timing of their emergence which could be the key to the success of this whole project.
Some have ridiculously suggested that Shelvey is a replacement for Steven Gerrard, which is absolutely absurd. Yes, Shelvey could replace Gerrard someday, but no way is he an immediate replacement for the talismanic skipper.
Arsenal might have struggled initially with the introduction of the youngsters into the first team, but I believe that Rafa will not force such a drastic change. He has been exposing the youngsters slowly when the time is right, while keeping the squad around the spine of the team.
First, Damien Plessis and Nabil el Zhar. Then, Martin Kelly, Stephen Darby, and Jay Spearing. Followed by, Daniel Ayala, Nathan Eccleston, and Dani Pacheco.
Rafa Benitez is obviously not rushing the youngsters to make their debuts at the age of 16, but he is the type who times their debuts perfectly, without affecting the overall look of the squad greatly.
Not to mention that the presence of the likes of Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard, and Fernando Torres in the training ground will only aid the youngsters' development.
Squad depth is always said to be the primary reason to Liverpool's inconsistent form, but is this problem finally ending?
I believe so.
Rafa Benitez has always stressed the importance of keeping the spine of the team, and building the squad around it.
That plan suffered a setback last season as Xabi Alonso departed.
However, I don't see any key starters in the team to depart this summer.
Pepe Reina has signed an extension that will keep him at Liverpool for another six years, and Javier Mascherano is also positive that he will soon pen a contract extension that will immediately rubbish rumours linking him with a move to Spain.
I'm sure that tying the two key players with new contract will convince both Torres and Gerrard to stay as well.
Regular starters Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson also have many years in their respective contracts.
With the key players remain, Liverpool do not need to buy too many players in the summer and with that, the squad will have better depth after the inclusion of several first-teamers.
Albert Riera looks set to leave, as Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel could also be on their way out. Fabio Aurelio's contract runs out this summer and he doesn't look like anywhere near signing a new one.
Less important members of the first team Charles Itandje, Nabil el Zhar, and Philipp Degen could be sold to raise some funds as well.
Therefore, Liverpool need to (at least) sign a left back, a couple of wingers, and a striker. Liverpool have already secured the signing of striker Milan Jovanovic on a free in the summer but in my opinion, Liverpool still need a better alternative for star striker Fernando Torres.
Youngsters like Daniel Ayala, Martin Kelly, Stephen Darby, Jay Spearing, and Dani Pacheco should be featured in first team matches more regularly next season, providing Rafa some decent options on the bench.
A bright future for Liverpool Football Club... What else?