Gerrard wins World Cup guarantee of time off

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The Independent Football

Steven Gerrard was at Anfield yesterday to promote Liverpool's involvement in a tournament they hope will attract new investors but which will certainly increase their captain's hectic schedule, the Fifa Club World Championship. Anxieties that a trip to Japan next month will only impinge on Gerrard's contribution to the Fifa World Cup, however, have been dismissed by the midfielder on account of the favours he expects to be returned by Liverpool.

With the exquisite pass through to Wayne Rooney from left midfield and the pin-point cross from right full-back that allowed Michael Owen to equalise against Argentina on Saturday, the Liverpool captain encouraged the debate on how to maximise his performances for England. Yet that argument could become irrelevant if exhaustion or the fitness problems that cost the 25-year-old a place at the 2002 World Cup appear before Germany.

Gerrard has already made 22 appearances in a season that commenced on 13 July due to Liverpool having to defend their Champions' League title at the first qualifying stage. Liverpool's backlog of fixtures will increase when they fly to Japan on 11 December for the two matches in the Club World Championship, which includes representatives from all six football confederations. However, with assurances from manager Rafael Benitez that he will be rested during the season, Gerrard has diplomatically allayed fears of fatigue.

"We won't know what effect it [the competition] will have on the World Cup," he said; "As a player you can look at it two ways; as a negative, because it comes in the middle of the season and could make things more difficult later on or as a positive, in that it will give us a lot more confidence if we win. That's the way I'm looking at it.

"People talk about fatigue, and it can be a problem," Gerrard added, "but if you keep winning these extra games it makes a hell of a difference to how you feel.

"I have played a lot of games already this season but the manager knows how many minutes we have all played and has said he will rest certain individuals at different times. That includes me, so I am sure that when the World Cup comes around I will be fresh."

Rick Parry, the Liverpool chief executive, believes exposure in Japan will aid efforts to bring new investment into the club, a necessity reinforced yesterday when the Benfica president, Luis Filipe Vieira, placed a £12m price-tag on Simao Sabrosa, a long-term transfer target of Benitez.

Liverpool are still awaiting a response from American billionaire Robert Kraft on a possible investment following talks with the New England Patriots' owner last week and Parry admitted; "Everyone knows we have been looking to secure investment for some time now. We are not looking for a quick fix but a long-term deal that can take us on to the next level."

He added: "The more success we have on the pitch the more we have off it, so to go to Japan as the champions of Europe can only help in that respect."

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