Hodgson admits sale of Rooney could hasten Torres' exit from Anfield

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The Independent Football

Having begun the day by losing the man who had brought him to Anfield, Roy Hodgson ended it by admitting it was possible Fernando Torres could leave Liverpool for Manchester United.

While it remains to be seen if the departure of the club's managing director, Christian Purslow, weakens Hodgson's increasingly precarious hold on the manager's position, he admitted he would have to work to keep Torres happy on Merseyside.

"With Torres, I think we will cross that bridge when we come to it," he said when asked if Manchester United might target the striker should Wayne Rooney quit Old Trafford in the January transfer window. "There will always be speculation. When a great player like Wayne Rooney is looking to leave, Manchester United will be in a position to target a lot of players around the world.

"I don't think Fernando Torres will be the only striker they target and I don't think we will be the only club that will be worried. I am not naive enough to believe there won't be any danger and we will never lose a player like Torres.

"I understand these things can happen. I don't believe we will lose him, we will do our best to ensure he stays and I only hope I can do everything in my power to help him return to the very top level. I certainly hope he will get back to form very quickly."

Given that no player has moved from Liverpool to Manchester United since Ted Savage in 1938, it would be a seismic event if any transfer happened, especially since Sir Alex Ferguson went to great lengths to prevent Gabriel Heinze's proposed move to Anfield in 2007. Rafael Benitez, Hodgson's predecessor as Liverpool manager, considered any proposal to sell Torres as a resignation matter. However, times have changed.

Torres, like his captain Steven Gerrard, was not on the plane, piloted by the Iron Maiden front man, Bruce Dickinson, that arrived at Capodichino Airport yesterday.

Hodgson acknowledged that while Liverpool could do with a win against Napoli, they desperately require one against Blackburn on Sunday. They are top of their group in the Europa League but, domestically, they no longer have any room for manoeuvre.

"For me it is a question of: 'If you have to make a sacrifice in one game, which is the right one?" said Hodgson, who alternated between answering questions in English and Italian at his press conference. "I agree that we need a win but we need a win on Sunday more."

Three of the four men who ratified Hodgson's appointment have now gone – Tom Hicks and George Gillett were the others – and Martin Broughton, the chairman, may follow. Hodgson countered the suggestion that his position had been undermined by stating he had "come to work for a club and not an individual".

He added: "I came here because it is a great club and a great job, one of the greatest in world football, and I was excited by that prospect. It was a big job, we all knew that. I came here to help them recover their former position but it will take time."

Purslow's departure was treated witheringly by Hodgson's predecessor, Benitez, who accused him of changing everything from the club's head of press to its manager. Put bluntly; when Purslow arrived, Liverpool had just finished second top of the Premier League, he left them second bottom.

Their position hardly seemed to affect Naples, who are treating this as the game of the year. The Stadio San Paolo, strewn with graffiti, like everything else in the city, will be packed this evening and not even the Napoli captain, Paolo Cannavaro – Fabio's brother – has been able to satisfy his family's demand for tickets.

The image of Diego Maradona still lingers in posters and slogans in the chaos of Naples in the same way that Eric Cantona's face can still be seen on billboards in Manchester.

After Maradona's departure, the magic drained from football in Naples and only recently has it begun to return. This match may be a group game in the Europa League but it is being compared to Napoli's encounter with Real Madrid in 1987 when Maradona and Emilio Butragueño went toe to toe. "This game will go down in Napoli's history," said Cannavaro. "In my years at the San Paolo, we have never had the theatre of a great European event and I cannot believe everything is sold out because I need to take my parents and some friends."

However, Liverpool may have arrived in a plane piloted by a rock star; they may have been treated like one; but these days they resemble the Beatles tribute band who this month are playing near the ruins of nearby Herculaneum. Not quite the real thing.

Reds' Iron Maiden voyage

His band released an album called Flight 666 but Liverpool hope their trip to Naples will be decidedly less hellish after Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson flew the squad out for tonight's Europa League tie.

"I was supposed to be flying to Tenerife," the 52-year-old said. "But this looked a lot more interesting. I would like to see Liverpool winning again. They have had a hard time [and] it would be nice to see them with their tails up."