Benitez keen to keep Alonso
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists Xabi Alonso is an indispensable part of a squad which he believes is within touching distance of greatness. The Reds boss has named the Spain midfielder alongside the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jose Reina and Fernando Torres as one of the key components of his future plans. "We are working very hard to keep the spine of the team - that was always the idea," Benitez told LFC Magazine. Benitez's side last season came up just short in their pursuit of a first top-flight title since 1990, although a points tally of 86 marked their best effort of the Premier League era. However, the Reds chief insists that with the addition of some fresh talent, they can overhaul bitter rivals Manchester United at the top. And despite repeated speculation linking Alonso with big spenders Real Madrid, Benitez insists his compatriot will not be allowed to leave Anfield. He added: "We have Pepe Reina as the number one goalkeeper with Diego Cavalieri behind him, another good goalkeeper. Then we have (Martin) Skrtel, (Jamie) Carragher and (Daniel) Agger - three good centre-backs. "Then you go to the midfield with Alonso, (Javier) Mascherano, Lucas and Gerrard, with Torres up front and (David) Ngog, who is a very good prospect. We have a good squad that is still young, so hopefully we can improve further. We know we still need to improve in some specific areas. We will be working very hard to do that over the summer." Liverpool's long-term planning has been hampered by question marks over the financial straits of owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. With the American duo and, therefore, the club struggling to cope with crippling interest payments on their massive debt, it has been suggested that any lofty ambitions might have to be shelved. Striker Torres is, however, having none of it and has backed his team-mates to overtake Barcelona as Europe's top side. "Our aim has to be the best. If we have no desire to be the best in England and in Europe then there is no point even turning up for work," the Spaniard said. "I don't say it lightly, but we must think we can be as good or even better than (Champions League winners) Barcelona. "It's the belief of everybody at this club that we can become the best and I think we have really moved forward in the last two seasons."
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