Furious Benitez threatens to quit Anfield over Barry bid fiasco
Last updated at 6:21 AM on 16th August 2008
Rafa Benitez threatened to quit as Liverpool manager in a furious response to being denied the chance to sign Gareth Barry.
Believing his judgment in the transfer market had been called into question by American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Benitez was on the point of walking away from Anfield, until being talked out of it by friends.
Opening up on the Barry saga, Benitez absolved himself of blame for failing to land the England midfielder but still found himself saddled with another unhappy player over Liverpool’s summer-long transfer stand-off with Aston Villa.
Already at loggerheads with full-back Steve Finnan over attempts to include him as a makeweight for Barry, Benitez has now been informed that Xabi Alonso is considering his future after being made available to Juventus and Arsenal.
Both clubs viewed a Â£16million asking price as excessive, and decided against following up their interest, but the Spain midfielder is unhappy at attempts to squeeze him out to make way for Barry.
As Alonso weighed up his options, ahead of the Barclays Premier League opener at Sunderland, Benitez risked more friction behind the scenes by distancing himself from the wrangle over Barry’s Â£18m valuation and seeming to point the finger at chief executive Rick Parry.
‘Some people seem to blame me for everything, from global warming to petrol prices,’ said the Liverpool manager, who has also tried to offload Jermaine Pennant to raise funds for Villa’s England midfielder.
‘So I want to make things clear over what has happened between us and Aston Villa.
‘I talked to Martin O’Neill about Barry in April but have not spoken to anyone at Aston Villa since.
'In the intervening months, all the talks have been between Rick Parry and Aston Villa’s owner and chief executive.
'The talks have been pretty good, but they are the ones involved, not me.
‘I was not conducting any talks with Villa about Gareth Barry or with Arsenal about Xabi Alonso.
'If you want to know about negotiations over players, you must contact Rick Parry.
'If it is about football, ask me.
‘I am not irritated or angry, and I want to stress that I have no problems with Liverpool’s owners.
'None at all. It is just that I want to clarify what has happened.’
While Benitez refuses to give upon eventually prising Barry away from Villa, he confirmed his main focus has switched to providing creativity on the left flank.
I am happy with my squad and will continue trying to improve and move forward with the players already here,’ he said.
‘But we do need to do something about the left of midfield.
'The owners have told me there is some money available,so I think we can progress.’
Benitez insisted he was heartened by his players’ response to their midweek Champions’ League woes against Standard Liege.
‘I was as surprised as anyone by how poorly we played, but the reaction was exactly what I was looking for,’ he said.
‘Maybe it was a wake-up call in Belgium, because the mood has been very positive and determined ever since we got back.
‘One or two players were below par on Wednesday, and it seemed to become contagious.
But what I have seen since tells me it hasn’t affected the confidence that built up during the pre-season games.
They seem to have got it out of their systems, and I am very optimistic we will start the season well.’
If Liverpool do not start the season well, Villa striker John Carew believes their top-four slot could be vulnerable, and says his side could be the surprise package.
‘Our goal is to even better than sixth this season,’ he said, ‘it looks as though the squad is being bigger than last year.
‘At one point last year, we were close to Liverpool, so there is no reason for us not to believe that we can't reach the top four.
'To do that we are going to have to do better than Liverpool.
'That’s my belief and I hope it is the belief of everyone at the club.'
‘I see the young players getting better and better.
'The way Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young handle everything — on and off the pitch — it’s like they have been playing the game for years.
‘They cope with the pressure and the fuss.
'It's not always easy for young players. They are so relaxed, clear and what they are doing and they are able to focus. They are good at that age.'
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