Benitez heaps praise on '£70m' Torres

Liverpool 6 Hull City 1
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The Independent Online

Although the evidence was there once again on Saturday afternoon, the words had to be prised out of Rafael Benitez's mouth. Fernando Torres is priceless to this Liverpool side. In a summer of European transfer activity among forwards that saw Cristiano Ronaldo go to Spain, Samuel Eto'o join Internazionale from Barcelona, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic going in the opposite direction, Benitez, despite interest in England, held on to the most valuable player he has brought to Anfield in his five years in charge.

The Liverpool manager paid Atletico Madrid £20m in the summer of 2007, a club record sum that could one day rise by another £8m. But value for money is not a doubt for anyone at Anfield. He now has 46 goals in 64 league games for the Reds. Benitez said: "When we bought him we were signing a top-class player for a figure we were not paying before. We were really pleased to pay this. We had a list of strikers and were analysing their strengths and weaknesses and Torres had a lot of positive things and we decided he was the player.

"I don't know what he would be worth now, maybe £70m. No one could buy him. This year we have had agents asking me about the price, but we say he's not for sale." And were the enquiries from Spain? No. "The interest was from English clubs," Benitez said.

It's safe to say Hull were not one of those trying to buy Torres, although they could have done with him not being on the pitch, as last year when the Tigers drew 2-2 in the corresponding fixture. But he scored three times with effortless ease on Saturday and now has eight league goals this season, making him the Premier League's top scorer.

Geovanni's equalising volley after Torres' opener recalled the shock of last December, but then came the Spaniard's second goal and two minutes into the second half Torres had his hat-trick to banish all thoughts of an upset. The Hull manager, Phil Brown, called the defending "disgusting" and wasn't sure whether to continue having a go at his players or try to rebuild their shattered confidence.

The end of this game saw Hull capitulate and suffer awful luck. Steven Gerrard curled what was intended as a cross into Boaz Myhill's top corner, while even Ryan Babel scored twice, the second off his heel from Albert Riera's shot. Brown said: "The penny has to drop with individuals. You can't keep giving them harsh words. But the biggest job is to pick players up. October is the month earmarked for points and there is hard work to be done."

Liverpool's owners' pursuit of investment was reflected in the presence at Anfield of Prince Faisal bin Fahad bin Abdullah al Saud as George Gillett's guest. It is understood that Gilllett's co-owner Tom Hicks was not aware of Prince Faisal's presence until after the game began, though he does not appear to be a likely major shareholder in the club and his invitation may be a part of Liverpool's attempt to secure a revenue stream through new football academy partners.

Liverpool (4-1-3-2): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua; Lucas; Benayoun (Voronin, 77), Gerrard (Mascherano, 74), Riera; Kuyt, Torres (Babel, 68). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Ngog.

Hull City (4-1-4-1): Myhill; McShane, Sonko, Cooper, Dawson; Boateng; Ghilas, Geovanni (Altidore, 83), Kilbane (Marney, 64), Hunt; Vennegoor of Hesselink (Cousin, 64). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Barmby, Zayatte, Olofinjana.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Liverpool Skrtel; Hull Kilbane, Hunt, McShane, Marney.

Man of the match: Torres. Attendance: 44,392.

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