Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, knows that winning the Premier League title would represent the greatest achievement of his career. The Anfield side have not won England's top division since 1990 as their arch-rivals Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have dominated in the subsequent 18 years.
After a false dawn last season, in which the club's record signing Fernando Torres proved to be a spectacularly successful summer transfer, Benitez believes his team are edging closer to ending their drought. He considers that to be a success in the most competitive league in the world.
"Winning the title would be the biggest achievement of my career," said Benitez, who won the Champions League in 2005, his first season in English football. "It's more difficult than in Spain because teams here spend big money.
"But we will do our best. The key for me is not to talk about winning the title but to talk about doing a good job so we can be close, so we can be contenders. If we are close I think that we can win the title."
Having highlighted Torres as his key signing 12 months ago, Benitez has got his planning for next season well under way. He has already brought in the Swiss right-back Philipp Degen on a free transfer and is close to finalising a £7m deal to bring in the Udinese left-back Andrea Dossena.
The Spaniard is still hoping to bolster his midfield with the addition of the Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry plus a couple of other new faces. However, Benitez insists that the players he is targeting have to have the right attitude.
"You must do your job with your players after the season has ended and in the summertime you need to do your job with your staff," he said. "The key, though, is to sign the right players with the right mentality – a winning mentality – competitive players, players who are desperate to come here to win something.
"That is the key for me. We have been analysing a lot of things this summer. For example, we were conceding a lot of goals last season from set-pieces. We need to know why because the previous season we only conceded six, but this year it has been 16. We need to know why so we can improve in these areas, but keep the team scoring goals in open play."
Benitez added: "We have been really good in defence for three or four years but we need to improve a little bit if we want to be in contention."
The former Liverpool midfielder Steve Nicol, meanwhile, won the right to coach the MLS All-Stars against West Ham United on 24 July when Steve Ralston scored in each half to give his New England Revolution side a 2-1 win over Toronto on Saturday, maintaining the Revolution's lead in Major League Soccer. The honour of leading the All-Stars goes to the coach whose team collects most points up until the end of June.
Ralston fired in a rebound off Adam Cristman's header in the 12th minute. The veteran midfielder then followed up Kheli Dube's drive off the Toronto crossbar in the 59th minute. Toronto pulled a goal back in the 78th minute through a fine effort by midfielder Maurice Edu.
New England retained a four-point lead in the Eastern Conference, ahead of Columbus Crew, who beat Colorado Rapids 2-1.
The Crew's Argentine striker Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted a penalty in the 53rd minute before Nick LaBrocca replied for the Rapids just seven minutes later.
Columbus went ahead for a second and final time in the 70th minute when the Nigerian midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo struck a 25-yard shot for his first MLS goal.Reuse content