Roy Hodgson promised to fight "tooth and nail" to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at Liverpool but admitted he may be powerless to prevent them following Yossi Benayoun out of Anfield this summer.
Hodgson's first act as Liverpool manager yesterday was to rubber-stamp the £6m sale of Benayoun to Double-winners Chelsea. The Israeli was in London yesterday to speak with the club's owner Roman Abramovich and will sign a four-year contract worth around £55,000 a week in the next two days.
Hodgson now has to convince Liverpool's two world class players Gerrard and Torres not to follow him. Within hours of being officially paraded as Liverpool's manager yesterday, Hodgson made a direct appeal to his new captain's loyalty in a meeting with Gerrard. "My job is to try and explain to him that I have come to Liverpool because I want to work with people like Steven Gerrard," said the former Fulham manager, who has signed a three-year contract, worth £3m a year.
"I'm hoping that he will have enough loyalty to the club and will be interested enough to work with me and give it some time together. It is easy to say the right things but you know as well as I do it is not words Stevie wants, he wants actions.
"He wants to see the club make strides forward, he wants to see that alongside players of his quality there will be other players of that quality being signed by the club. And, of course, he is wise enough to know that I cannot give him that guarantee."
Gerrard, who recently turned 30, has been linked with moves to Real Madrid and Internazionale after becoming increasingly frustrated following four trophy-less years at Liverpool. The immediate signs, however, are promising. Gerrard yesterday endorsed Hodgson's appointment, describing the Londoner as the "right man for the job". "Rafa [Benitez] left a few weeks ago and I know the club were determined to take their time and get the right man for the job," said Gerrard. "Roy is hugely experienced and I believe he is the right man for Liverpool."
Hodgson has been handed around £15m to improve the team with any additional money coming from the sale of other players. He has been linked with the Norway defender Brede Hangeland, who played under him at Fulham, but has promised Mohamed al-Fayed, his former chairman, that he will not raid Craven Cottage. Instead he is anxious to seek assurances from Gerrard and Torres that they are prepared to stay. Javier Mascherano, too, is keen to leave.
Torres is currently in South Africa at the World Cup with Spain, but Hodgson will have a telephone conversation with the striker in the next few days before meeting him after the tournament. Like Gerrard, Torres has also become fed up with the lack of trophies. "You can't nail their feet to the floor," added Hodgson, "but we will fight tooth and nail to keep our best players."
Hodgson insisted that his friendship with Kenny Dalglish was as strong as ever. Dalglish had made it clear he wanted the job but was overlooked by the board. "He was entitled to suggest to the board that he wanted to be considered," added Hodgson. "As far as I'm concerned it shouldn't affect my relationship with Kenny. He will out-live my tenure at the club."
Hodgson had been touted to succeed Fabio Capello, whose future with England is unclear. But the 62-year-old declared he had no intention of waiting for the vacancy once the manager's post at Liverpool became available.
With Liverpool up for sale, money in short supply, players wanting to leave and the club not in the Champions League, Hodgson may appear to have taken on the impossible job. Yet Hodgson, whose managerial career has spanned 15 teams in 35 years, is relishing the challenge. "The impossible job that everyone thought that no one in their right mind should take was in 2007 at Fulham," said Hodgson. "They were very virtually relegated. There's no comparison with the job I am taking on here, which could have enormous prospects. We might find new owners making funds available, giving us a chance to get the right players, it could be fantastic."
Hodgson's career highs
Hodgson, aged 28, turned the Swedish side from relegation candidates to league champions in his first season, before adding a second title in 1979.
Staying in Sweden, Hodgson won five consecutive league championships and two Swedish Cups, as well as knocking Inter out of the European Cup in 1989.
Neuchatel Xamax (1990-92)
Hodgson led the unfancied Swiss side to two laudable Uefa Cup victories in 1991, beating Celtic 5-1 and Real Madrid 1-0 as they reached the third round.
Guided the national team to the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup, before comfortably sealing qualification for Euro '96.
Led Inter to the Uefa Cup final in his final year in charge at San Siro, narrowly losing to Schalke 04 on penalties.
Initially saved the club from relegation before leading them to the Europa League final last season, where they lost to Atletico Madrid after extra time.