Benitez blames hierarchy for Barry saga

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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez has blamed the Liverpool hierarchy for the protracted Gareth Barry transfer saga.

The Anfield boss, preparing for tomorrow's Premier League opener at Sunderland, was very clear that he still wants the Aston Villa midfielder.

And he privately dismissed as unimportant the fact that Barry is now cup-tied for the first phase of the Champions League, having played for Villa in the UEFA Cup this week.

But Benitez surprisingly turned the spotlight on chief executive Rick Parry and the club's owner - he specifically only used the singular - to mastermind a way out of the saga that has rumbled on all summer.

Benitez said: "I will try to be very clear over the (Barry) situation. Everyone has been talking and it seems that the blame is put on me.

"I get blamed for everything, for global warming to high petrol prices.

"But in this case I want to be very clear. Since I talked to Martin O'Neill about the situation in April, I have not talked to anyone at Aston Villa.

"All the talks have been between our chief executive Rick Parry, the owner and the chief executive of Aston Villa. And those talks have all been pretty good.

"So if anyone wants to talk about Barry in the future they must talk with the owner, Rick Parry or the chief executive of Aston Villa. And as I have said, those talks I understand have been good.

"I was not involved in the talks about Barry, I was not involved in the talks about (Xabi) Alonso and Arsenal. If you want to talk about these players you must talk to the chief executive of our club who was handling the discussions.

"If you want to talk about players, then you talk to Rick Parry. If you want to talk about football, then you talk with me."

Parry made it clear last weekend that the club were not happy with the £18m price tag for Barry, his age or length of contract.

But Benitez clearly still wants Barry in his team to solve his left-sided problems.

He said: "The squad is better but we now have problems on the left because we have lost (John Arne) Riise, (Harry) Kewell and (Sebastian) Leto.

"We will see what happens in the future with that situation, but clearly our squad is better."

And the fact that Benitez has now specifically linked Alonso with a possible move to Arsenal underlines that he would have been happy to sell the Spain international to the Gunners for the right price.

Privately Benitez believes that the question of Barry now being cup-tied from the Champions League group stages - he could play in the knockout phase in February - is of no consequence.

Benitez was willing to sanction a four-year contract, so for Barry to be unavailable for six group stage games this season is an inconvenience but not a problem in the long term.

Whether Benitez eventually gets his man is still open to debate because co-owner Tom Hicks will not pay £18million. But it seems possible now that a lower fee will be offered to take into account the issue of the 27-year-old being initially cup-tied in Europe.

So Benitez goes into the new campaign stubbornly clinging onto the hope that he will get his number one summer target.

And he believes Liverpool can make a sustained challenge for the title, despite the shocking performance in Liege in midweek which cast doubts over the manager's planning.

Benitez said: "You have to be opportunistic when you have a squad like ours. I would just like our Olympic players back to help us. But we will probably have one player in the final the rest can return soon.

"The age of the squad is much lower, they are good players and can be a very good team for now and the future.

"Our fans want a trophy every season. They would want the league title, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup in that order.

"But if you asked me what I would prefer, then I would say I agree with our supporters."

And Benitez confirmed that Steven Gerrard will be fit to lead Liverpool into the new season.

Gerrard was only used for the final 24 minutes of the disappointing midweek Champions League draw against Standard Liege following a thing injury.

Gerrard trained yesterday and today and will be in the side at the Stadium of Light. There are doubts over Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun following minor muscle injuries from the game in Belgium, but Fabio Aurelio and Martin Skrtel are both back in contention.

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