Rafael Benitez does not expect his Liverpool transfer kitty to be adversely affected if his club does not qualify for the Champions League this season – only because he has precious few funds to play with in the first place.
Benitez was advised at the start of the season that he could do little more than spend the money he generated, hence the purchases of Alberto Aquilani and Glen Johnson only once outgoing deals for Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa had been settled.
The manager has also spent a relatively small amount bringing Maxi Rodriguez and Sotirios Kyrgiakos to Merseyside yet he is anything but the last of the big spenders.
Not finishing fourth is currently unthinkable yet if they do not make it, he expects no reduction in his war chest only because he is determined not to miss what he never had.
"They [the owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks] told me before that it didn't make a big difference [if we don't qualify]. Every year that we have qualified for the Champions League it hasn't made a big difference so if we don't qualify this time I don't expect a big difference."
A failure to qualify for the Champions League would be a stark wake-up call to the fact that the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Aston Villa are now all genuine contenders. The hegemony of the old Big Four looks to be over – with Liverpool the principal victims – yet Benitez has not given up faith that a strong end of season can restore their position among the elite.
"It could go to the very end," he said. "I don't know which teams will be there. Hopefully it will be Liverpool and maybe another one but now there are four and maybe five teams involved so it is important to remain calm."
He also confirmed that Albert Riera's time at Anfield is almost up after he publicly criticised the Liverpool manager last week. Benitez said Riera could be sent out on loan.
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