Agent rejects Benitez's claims about interference over Kewell

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The Independent Football

Bernie Mandic, Harry Kewell's agent, has denied interfering in the Liverpool player's recuperation from injury despite criticism from his club manager Rafael Benitez.

Bernie Mandic, Harry Kewell's agent, has denied interfering in the Liverpool player's recuperation from injury despite criticism from his club manager Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard has responded angrily to comments from the Australia coach, Frank Farina, that Kewell, who has suffered from groin and Achilles injuries this season, should undergo an operation in May. "His agent, Farina, a lot of people have been saying things," Benitez said. "Well, we pay him, we know him, we control him and train him."

However, Mandic said that he plays no part in advising Kewell on fitness. "Nothing's been said by me and it's really simple to find a quote from me on something if I've said it," he said. "I've simply not been involved in any of the medical matters. I don't offer medical advice to players. Basically, the players decide what their problem is and how to deal with it with their club."

Asked whether he believed Kewell, who was recalled by Liverpool for last night's Champions' League game against Bayer Leverkusen, was fit enough to play, Mandic said he was, but added the 26-year-old had not fully recovered.

"I don't have an opinion on it because I don't get involved," Mandic said. "Presumably, he's playing because the Liverpool medical staff have decided he's fit. Now, how fit he is... because at this stage of the season every player is carrying some sort of knock so, is he 100 per cent fit? Probably not."

Farina insisted that he had "no problem" with Liverpool deciding what was best for Kewell. "Liverpool have control over Harry," he said. "They are his employer and pay his wages, I have no problem with that. If he needs an operation, it is for him to decide. Whatever is best for the player."

Farina said that he had not spoken with Benitez over the issue and did not intend to. "It is their business and their club," he said. "We have never had any issues with Liverpool before. Obviously, the player is frustrated. I am not a doctor so I cannot give any recommendations over a player having surgery. Harry has had the problem for a year, so you have to weigh up whether an operation is best for the player.

Elsewhere, the midfielder Gary Speed believes the level of care afforded to the players at Bolton Wanderers is second to none.

With their match against Speed's former club Newcastle United not being played until Sunday, the Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, is taking a 21-man squad to Tenerife for some warm weather training.

"I have played under some great managers and Sam is certainly up there with them," Speed said. "He has more good points than bad. Since I have been here my eyes have been opened on how things are run and how he does certain things."

Bolton, unbeaten in 10 games, are using the training facilities of the local Spanish League side Tenerife. The two clubs are scheduled to play a friendly today. Allardyce will also use the time as an exercise in team bonding.

"We have been planning this for a while," he said. "It is important the players have a change of scenery. We will be able to train in excellent conditions. It also gives me quality time to spend with the squad."

Chinese fans of Kewell and Speed - or indeed any Premiership player or club - can log on to a new website launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, yesterday.

On a visit to Shanghai, where he was promoting business and sporting links between Britain and China, Brown launched the Chinese-language version of the Premier League's official website.

With football increasingly popular globally, fans for the first time can now read reports and news from the official website,, in Chinese.

The Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, said: "Whenever I travel to the region I am surprised by the depth of knowledge so many of our fans out here display. With the Chinese language websites we will be able to provide supporters with official news, reports and profiles in their own language about all 20 clubs"