Rick Parry has promised Liverpool will not make the same mistakes in the transfer market which saw their former manager Gérard Houllier waste the opportunity to take the club to a new level after their 2001 treble success. The chief executive at Anfield sees similarities between the position Liverpool were in four years ago and now after the present manager, Rafael Benitez, guided them to Champions' League glory and his side put in a hugely impressive performance in the Club World Championship in Japan.
Benitez has vowed to bring in new faces during the January transfer window, and could have as much as £20m to spend. Parry recalls the last time Liverpool were in this position, having finished second in the Premiership in 2002 after winning the FA Cup, Worthington Cup and Uefa Cup the previous season.
Houllier's mistakes in the transfer market ruined any chance of serious progress and eventually cost him his job before Benitez took over 20 months ago.
Parry said: "In 2002 it was also looking good. Just like then, the foundations are there for us and now it's about kicking on and taking the next step. We've just got to keep on doing what we're doing, keep improving and make sure the players we acquire are of the right quality. That's the key; not to buy the wrong players and make rushed decisions."
At the end of the 2001-02 season, Houllier spent over £20m on El Hadji Diouf, Bruno Cheyrou and Salif Diao. None of them was successful and the 2002-03 season saw Liverpool finish fifth and fail in both the Champions' League group stages and the Uefa Cup.
The experience cost Liverpool dearly just as Chelsea were transforming themselves from a club on the brink of financial ruin to that now dominating the Premiership as well as the worldwide transfer market.
Parry, though, believes Benitez is on the right track. "I've been optimistic about our future before, but not more optimistic than now," he added. "I expect to be very busy this Christmas."
Following Sunday's defeat by São Paulo, Liverpool have already let it be known they harbour ambitions to return to Japan next season to go one better and win the world crown. To do that, of course, they will have to retain the European Cup.
A tall order perhaps but Parry added: "We're already thinking of doing what we can do to return to Japan next year. You have to take a lot of pride out of the performance of the boys. Sometimes it makes it harder to bear when you're the better team."
Benitez and his squad returned to Merseyside last night and the Spanish manager immediately returned to his homeland to be with his family following the death of his father last week.
Liverpool face a tough four-game holiday programme, which includes Michael Owen's return to Anfield with Newcastle on Boxing Day. By then Benitez could have new acquisitions already on their way to the club for Parry to tie up when the window opens.
The Reds have been linked with the Portuguese winger Simao Sabrosa, although the fact that the Champions' League holders must face his club, Benfica, in the last 16 of the tournament could complicate a deal with the Lisbon giants wanting £10m-plus.
Benitez has also been linked with the Tottenham defender Ledley King, a player it is believed he had watched on several occasions last season, before the centre-half broke into the England squad.
The Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic, currently with Spartak Moscow, and the Danish defender Daniel Agger are on his shopping list along with Anderlecht's Christian Wilhelmsson, who made a big impact on Benitez in their Champions' League group matches.
Benitez does not have to sell to buy and with the heavy 2006 workload for his squad he may not be keen to sell Djibril Cissé despite further interest from Marseilles. But he would allow Chris Kirkland to complete a permanent move to West Bromwich Albion, while reserve striker Neil Mellor could also leave now he is back to fitness.
The Sunderland midfielder Dean Whitehead has played down speculation linking him with a move to Liverpool. The 23-year-old has been one of the few Black Cats to adapt swiftly to the rigours of life in the Premiership. He was the subject of an inquiry from an unnamed club during the summer, but there have been suggestions that the Reds could be prepared to test Sunderland's resolve with a £4m bid during the January transfer window.
"It is probably just speculation," Whitehead said. "I'll just get on with my job and hopefully play well on Boxing Day, if I'm picked. I've signed a new contract and I'm very happy here."Reuse content