Benitez demands control over Liverpool’s next generation & the Chelsea bashing continues

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “How can a manager lead a project properly if the continuity of his staff is not secure for two or three years? I would like to clear one thing up: I never asked for complete control. I did, however, ask for the power to be able to make my own decisions and run the team the way I see fit. That is not the same thing… Alex Ferguson controls everything in England. The facts are the facts. They are indisputable. When he started talking about Liverpool, I had to respond… If I say that Madrid would be the icing on the cake for my career people will say I want to leave Liverpool. The right thing to say and the truth is that I am not thinking about leaving and I hope to be here for a long time but of course Real Madrid would be the perfect ending to anyone’s career. But my career is not at an end yet.” – Rafa Benitez.

Runner-up: “It would be difficult to go back [to the LA Galaxy] after everything that has happened. I have said that I want to stay but I will stay professional and do what I have to do… Talks have been going on and on and everyone seems to be talking about it but it’s out of my hands. We’ll know more in the next week.” – David Beckham.

Today’s overview: Today’s hot topics include the continued uncertainty at Liverpool over Rafa Benitez’s next contract with the club, continued criticism of Chelsea, and there is a harsh assessment of Setanta’s football coverage.

Liverpool return to the headlines this Monday with Rafa Benitez’s new contract the centre of controversy. According to Sid Lowe, “[Rafa] has hinted that if a solution is not found to his own contract issues by the summer, then his position will become unsustainable.” A far rosier picture is painted by Oliver Kay saying “Benitez has succeeded in persuading Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr… to redefine his responsibilities outlined in his new contract, giving him overall control of the club’s transfer budget, as well as securing a pay rise to about £4 million a year. But he is determined to land one final concession, having requested that he is allowed to oversee the running of the club’s youth academy.”

Chelsea bashing remains sport for the Fleet Street hacks. Oliver Kay fails to mince his words writing “to be blunt, Chelsea are a mess… the reality is that Chelsea, on and off the pitch, continue to fall short of the ambitious targets set by their Russian owner.” Also jumping on the bandwagon is Sam Wallace saying, “when Hiddink announced on Thursday that Chelsea could still win the Premier League you were reminded of those bonkers propaganda missives from the former Soviet Union about prolific iron ore production or record cucumber harvests. To judge by his expression at Vicarage Road on Saturday, Hiddink was already having a rethink.

Looking back at the weekend’s FA Cup match between Swansea and Fulham, David Pleat is full of praise for the Welsh outfit. “Fulham, the club from the higher division, had to resist a group passing slickly from the back, moving the ball crisply, interchanging and, above all, stretching the play with great width.”Cristiano Ronaldo’s effort should not have been disallowed; Darron Gibson’s volley, conversely, which flew through the legs of Rafael Da Silva, should have been chalked off. So they got the scoreline right, only by the wrong means.”

Looking forward to the sixth round of the FA Cup, as yet, there are no certain match-ups in the last eight of the competition.” Kempson points out that “if the results of the six outstanding matches go to form or status, the five remaining clubs from the Coca-Cola Championship will disappear and it will become an all-Barclays Premier League line-up in the quarter-finals.”

Alan Fraser sharpens his knives before attacking the quality of Setanta’s football coverage. “Did you hear the joke about the Scouser, the Brummie and the Geordie? They all got speaking jobs for Setanta. OK, it’s not the greatest joke. Then again the ex-England internationals in question — Steve McManaman, Stan Collymore and Chris Waddle — are not the greatest in their use of language and syntax.”

In other Premier League news, a rather unhappy man becoming more unsettled the longer he stays at the club,” while in a story that will surprise no-one, are unwilling to dismiss Eriksson and trigger a compensation payout, while Portsmouth’s finances will not stretch to buying the former England head coach out of his contract as well as paying his wage demands.”

A drab Old Firm derby was contextualised by Ewan Murray in the Guardian writing “fear of defeat meant Celtic and Rangers played out a goalless draw that resembled a tussle between two drunks in Buchanan Street.”

has admitted that mistakes have been made and seems to realise that while his formula may have worked with 11 Van Bastens on the pitch, his strategy needs tweaking if it’s going to function with a team of mere mortals.”

Finally. the feeling that David Beckham will remain in Milan is gathering pace with Jeremy Wilson reporting that “Galaxy have indicated that they want in excess of £10 million after rejecting an initial offer of £5 million, but some common ground is expected to be found at around £8 million.”