Benitez willing to let four depart
Liverpool appear to be ready to release as many as four players in January, with Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena, Andrei Voronin and Philipp Degen among those who may leave as part of the club's attempts to lower the wage bill.
Rafael Benitez's injury-ravaged squad was skeletal for the 1-1 draw in Lyons, which leaves the club's Champions League campaign hanging by a thread when they play Debrecen of Hungary in Budapest next week. But Benitez appears resigned to players leaving, with money tight and the prospect of the club losing another £10m by failing to progress from the group stage now a real one.
Babel, who seemed to have scored a winner in Lyons before Lissandro Lopez equalised, indicated in pre-season that he needed first-team football to force his way into the Netherlands' World Cup plans and would contemplate a loan move to Ajax, the club that developed him. He has started only two Premier League games this season and is not developing in the way Benitez hoped when he signed him in 2007. "To be a supersub is mentally hard," Babel said this week. "It is clear I have enough qualities to be in the starting XI of Liverpool."
Andrei Voronin, a player Benitez only kept in the summer because he knew the money raised would not be reinvested in transfers, is also dispensible. Though Hertha Berlin, for whom he flourished on loan last season, could not afford him this summer, most Bundesliga clubs would probably relish his proven ability at German league level. A loan move to Italy appears to be most likely for Dossena while Degen's defensive qualities have not matched his ambition as a right wing-back.
Benitez, meanwhile, is confident of having Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger fit to face Manchester City on Saturday. Fernando Torres, undergoing three weeks rest, will not be available however. Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera, initially ruled out until early December with hamstring injuries, may be back sooner.
The Liverpool manager conceded for the first time in an interview published last night that failure to win the Premier League would represent failure. "Anyone who knows me knows that I want to win every trophy, every game," he said. "But if you ask me what I prefer, I will say the Premier League. If I do not win the title, I'm sure I'd be so disappointed maybe I would have this feeling [that I have failed]."
Istanbul film unlikely to impress United fans
Fans of Manchester United were never likely to be much edified by Fifteen Minutes that Shook the World, the movie short which centred around Rafael Benitez's half-time team talk during the Champions League final against Milan at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul in 2005. But writer Dave Kirby's portrayal of the old enemy in the 45-minute film can only have contributed to the antipathy felt between the supporters. A parody of Sir Alex Ferguson sees him drinking scotch in an Old Trafford office while apparently contemplating suicide, while a Gary Neville lookalike by the name of "Rat Boy" also makes an appearance.
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