Benayoun happy Anfield nightmare is over

Israeli says he looks forward to winning titles at Chelsea after bitter end to his time on Merseyside
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The Independent Football

Yossi Benayoun is clearly happy to be at Chelsea. Things may be looking up at Anfield under Roy Hodgson but the West London club's £6m signing from Liverpool has mostly bad memories of his time on Merseyside.

The former Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez, evidently did not see eye to eye with the Israeli. "He tried to destroy my confidence, to break me," said Benayoun.

Anfield, to hear Benayoun talk about it, was clearly a tense place in the dying days of Benitez's regime. "It was a very hard season last time out," he said. "From the first game, we didn't play well. Suddenly, when we beat Man United [in October], everyone thought, 'OK, we start again now,' but it was like a snowball that we couldn't stop and things went from bad to worse."

Benayoun refuses to lay the blame at the Liverpool owners Tom Hicks' and George Gillett's door, though. "Like everyone, we saw things in the newspaper, but we cannot say it affected the players on the pitch," he said. "We just didn't perform well in a lot of games. It was our responsibility because the season before we proved we could play and we almost won the league. We didn't change much so it was our fault, and that's it. Now I want to go a new way."

One of the key reasons Benayoun came to Chelsea this summer was to win trophies, he said. "The prospect of winning silverware with Chelsea was very important to me," Benayoun said. "You always want to play at the top level and try to win trophies – that's why I went to Liverpool. We were unlucky not to win any in the last three years, but I had a great time at the club and I think I did more than enough to prove that I deserved to be at that level. I believe that I can prove myself here again.

"I'm at the perfect age to be in a big club and I think I still have my best years ahead. I'm intelligent enough to know that this is a big club and you can sit on the bench, but I have a lot of patience, as I proved at Liverpool. I was on the bench a lot but when I got the chance, I proved that I deserved to play. I played a lot of games at Liverpool and this is my ambition here, too."

Chelsea are as happy to have Benayoun as he is to be there. He has swapped places with Joe Cole, Anfield's newest hero, but the Blues feel they have got the better half of the deal. Carlo Ancelotti said that while Cole may be "quicker", tactically, "Yossie is better. He understands what I tell him."

The Italian added: "Yossi is a very intelligent player. Tactically, he knows everything about the game. I've tried him in pre-season as a right midfielder [in a 4–3–3] and he can play there as well as his usual position as a winger. He had a little groin problem after he joined and so he needs to work to be ready."

Benayoun has another advantage over Cole, who is the big name arrival at a club that covets success but has not had much in recent years. Benayoun, by contrast, will be far from the focus in Chelsea's line-up. "But every player wants that pressure," Benayoun said. "Also for Joe, I think he's a great player but if Liverpool want to do well, they need all the players to do well – Fernando [Torres], Stevie [Gerrard] – and maybe to bring in a few more players. The team is never about one player."