Kuyt is so good he could even play in defence, claims Liverpool boss Benitez
29 September 2009 10:41
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Jermaine Pennant evidently feels there was no pleasing Rafa Benitez during his time
at Anfield, so it will not surprise him to hear the Liverpool manager finding fault with his latest delivery.
It was the verbal variety this time, rather than a cross from the right, but there was still no escaping Benitezâ€™s critical eye on Monday.
Claiming he had been turned into a robot by Benitezâ€™s taskmaster approach was one thing, but the Anfield exile overstepped the mark when he turned his scorn on Dirk Kuyt and labelled him a failed forward who is accommodated on the wing because he cost so much.
Given Kuyt stands two away from equalling Liverpool legend Ian Rushâ€™s tally of 14 European Cup goals, ahead of tonightâ€™s Champions League group game against Fiorentina, there was no shortage of ammunition for Benitez to fire back at his outspoken former winger, now playing for Real Zaragoza in Spain.
He did not hesitate to use it, either, as he mounted a passionate defence of Â£10million signing Kuytâ€™s worth as a willing worker down the right or capable support act for Fernando Torres up front.
Benitez said: â€˜I saw what he had to say, but I donâ€™t intend saying too much about him. Kuytâ€™s record is there for everyone to see and he doesnâ€™t need me to defend him. You
only need to look at the impact he has made to see he is picked on merit and has become an extremely important member of our squad.
â€˜He speaks out on the pitch and doesnâ€™t have to say a single word to justify his place. He is a striker who is as effective on the wing or as second striker, and, as you can see from his record, he scores goals as well as working hard.
â€˜He is the sort of player who would be good for any manager. We signed him then extended his contract because we knew he was an excellent player and outstanding professional. I could put him in central defence and he would be as good as
A nod and a wink accompanied the last observation, but it might not seem quite so far-fetched if Liverpool continue to leak goals at such an alarming rate. Fortunately,
they are going in at the other end with even greater regularity, but Benitez admitted his concerns as he prepared to face a Fiorentina side likely to boast former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu.
Referring to the 22 goals his side have scored in their opening seven Barclays Premier League games, he said: â€˜That is the highest return by any Liverpool side in 115 years and it underlines what we are about. We are an attacking side who can cause problems for any opponents.
â€˜When you attack like we do, you can get caught out at the back. That has happened and we have contributed to it by making too many mistakes.
â€˜Iâ€™m not too worried, because it is simply a matter of finding a balance and cutting out the errors. We are playing well and winning games and I am confident we can address the problems in defence. We are working on that.â€™
Critical: Real Zaragoza's Jermaine Pennant
Benitez distanced himself from the latest manoeuvring behind the scenes, following Saudi billionaire Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullahâ€™s claim that he was close to
agreeing a Â£200m-plus investment after attending Saturdayâ€™s 6-1 win over Hull as guest of co-owner George Gillett.
â€˜I talked with George yesterday, but we just chatted about football,â€™ Benitez said. â€˜It was clear he had enjoyed the Hull game and there was no distraction for us at all.â€™
Javier Mascherano stayed behind with a slight hamstring strain, but Yossi Benayoun trained on Monday night and is expected to play after flying out early to make sure he could observe the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur yesterday without any distractions.
As he prepared to try and close in on Rushâ€™s aggregate of European Cup goals, Kuyt described the influential effect of playing alongside Torres and Steven Gerrard.
â€˜It is unbelievable for me to be so close to Rushâ€™s total,â€™ he said. â€˜He is one of the biggest names in the entire history of this club and it would be a great feeling to draw
level with him.
â€˜It is great having players like Fernando and Stevie in the team, because you know they are capable of scoring the most amazing goals at any moment.
â€˜That gives you a huge amount of confidence. I always knew how good Fernando was, but when you play with him, you learn where he wants the ball. The understanding becomes even better and everyone benefits.â€™