Rafa pledges allegiance to Anfield future

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez, whose stock has risen to such a level that he may soon find himself the subject of overtures from his home city club Real Madrid, has reaffirmed his allegiance to Liverpool.

Rafael Benitez, whose stock has risen to such a level that he may soon find himself the subject of overtures from his home city club Real Madrid, has reaffirmed his allegiance to Liverpool.

There has always been concern in the minds of the new Champions' League holders that his attraction to the club where he began his career as a player would increase in direct proportion to his success at Anfield. But in the wake of Wednesday's extraordinary triumph in Istanbul, the Spaniard stressed: "I'm proud of my situation and really happy at Liverpool.

I've a clear idea about my future, and that is to win next season another trophy, or trophies.

I am working now, preparing the future, thinking about what to do, and what to say to some players, and [establishing] if we can sign new players." He added: "Of course, I was born there, I have a lot of friends there, I know people in the club, and my family is in Madrid. But I am really happy here."

That will involve some pragmatic and difficult decisions - although the majority will have already been in his mind for some time - with Jerzy Dudek, he of the goalkeeping heroics, Djimi Traoré, Harry Kewell, Milan Baros (a target of Valencia) and Vladimir Smicer potential casulaties, together with Igor Biscan. The manager explained: "It's sad, but you need to think about the future.

As a manager, I have had many, many good, players, but you have to take responsibility. You must say face to face what you are thinking about.

It is worst not to tell them the truth, and to keep the players in your squad not playing or without confidence. But if you want to win your next game, you need to start working now." His captain Steven Gerrard could still be tempted away, but Benitez insisted: "I think now he has a clear idea about the future.

When you are a top player and you want to win trophies and you know that all your team-mates in the national team are doing that, it's very difficult. But now I think he has more confidence about the future." Gerrard has two years left on his contract, and his manager will be anxious to extend that.



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