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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
In an ideal world, Rafa Benitez would have flown back to England with the rest of us on Monday, tingling with excitement after watching one of the finest international tournaments in decades and clutching a notepad full of potential summer signings. In an ideal world, as manager of one of the largest and most respected teams in the world, he would have his pick of the talent on display. In an ideal world, he might be considering the services of the rampant Russian right-back, Aleksandr Anyukov from Zenit St Petersburg, who enjoyed such success this summer. He would surely be interested in David Silva, a two-footed wide man of exceptional talent. And what about David Villa, the jewel in the Spanish crown? He'd be at the top of the shopping list.

In the real world, things are rather different. Given the way that Benitez is having to desperately offer up his players as makeweights, it seems apparent that the long-awaited riches of the Americans are still under lock and key. It wouldn't be so bad if his targets were of the highest quality, but is there any Liverpool fan out there who seriously thinks that a triple whammy of Robbie Keane, Gareth Barry and Philipp Degen will finally deliver that long awaited title? Last summer's signing of Fernando Torres proved that what this team needs are genuinely world class footballers. You can have all the efficient competence in the world, but over the course of a long Premier League season, there must be those special players who can crack a game wide open with one moment of genius.

Keane, who has apparently bitten Benitez's arm off at the first glimmer of a move to Anfield, is a very good footballer. He's quick, skilful and he has a ferocious shot on him, but any Tottenham fan will tell you that he lacks composure in one-on-one situations. He scored 24 goals in all competitions last season, which is a decent haul, but with no disrespect to Spurs, he has arguably found his level at the club. When Liverpool signed Torres, everyone took a sharp intake of breath and thought, "Wow!" I don't see this signing, if it happens, having quite the same impact.

Looking around the top half of the Premier League, you can see Chelsea securing the brilliance of Deco, Arsenal chasing French talent, Samir Nasri and Manchester United plotting expensive contingency plans in the event that they lose Cristiano Ronaldo. Below Liverpool, Tottenham have made two potentially huge signings in Luka Modric and Giovanni dos Santos, Blackburn and Manchester city have new cheque-book wielding managers and, despite their silence, you'd be a fool to write off further improvement from Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle.

This is a vital season for Liverpool and a proven manager like Benitez deserves better backing from these American owners. The EPL is the richest league in the world and a club that is so well supported around the world and that consistently qualifies for the Champions League should be able to strengthen itself better than this. Where on earth is all that TV money going?

I like Keane and I like Barry, they're both good players, but are they really that much better than Peter Crouch and Xabi Alonso, the likely candidates to make way for them? Is Degen, an unused Swiss substitute and bit-part player in a struggling Bundesliga outfit, really the best replacement for the ageing Steve Finnan? Liverpool have been so far adrift of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal for so long that we're in danger of seeing the 'big four' replaced by the 'big three'. If George Gillett and Tom Hicks are serious about their designs for Liverpool, it's time for them to either put up their money, or hand the reins to someone who will.