Carragher's warning: Pack your bags if not committed to Liverpool
Defender insists no player is bigger than club as Rafael Benitez prepares to gamble on another season at Anfield
Jamie Carragher has told any players who wish to leave Liverpool that they should go if they are not committed to the club's future, a message which suggests he does not think the Reds will be served by Fernando Torres or Javier Mascherano staying under sufferance next season.
As Carragher's manager, Rafael Benitez, provided the first firm indication yesterday that he is preparing to take the biggest gamble of his 24-year managerial career by staying in place for the challenging battle ahead at Anfield, the defender made it clear he expects commitment from all quarters as Liverpool strive to "get back", as he put it.
Torres is a £60m player whom Roberto Mancini has made it clear he would dearly love to sign for Manchester City but he is not bigger than his current club, Carragher insisted. "The people who want to be there will come back," the 32-year-old said. "If people don't, then no problem. There will always be a Liverpool Football Club. People always talk about players leaving, about 'is this the end of Liverpool?' No chance. Better players than the ones we have now have left and we have replaced them. Anyone who doesn't want to be there, no problem, but we'll start next season with the players who want to do well."
Quite what Carragher has made of Benitez's representatives' choreographed dalliance with Juventus over the past few months does not need much imagination, but Torres has also hinted at dissatisfaction – publicly declaring that Liverpool require "four or five" new players" this summer to compete at the top of the Premier League – and Mascherano painted a graphic picture of his family's unhappy life in Liverpool last weekend. Liverpool can take some comfort from Barcelona concluding the £30m purchase of David Villa yesterday, which seems to rules out one possible destination for Torres, while some sources at Chelsea have suggested the club's interest in Torres is less substantial than has been reported. Torres will look painfully of out place in July's Europa League qualifying round, but Steven Gerrard's appetite for more struggle is also questionable and Yossi Benayoun has been equivocal about his whereabouts beyond this summer.
But Carragher, a part of whose heart was with his beloved club side even as he discussed the recall to the England set-up after a three-year absence, said he is expecting a summer of "negativity" where Liverpool are concerned and wants to put it behind him to get on with the next campaign. "As soon as [Liverpool's last game of the season] at Hull finished I wished the start of next season was the next day," Carragher said. "The best thing is to forget it and get on with it. I know what it's like on the back of a poor season. There's a lot of negativity all summer. We've had it all season and I'm sure we will again through the summer.
"During the World Cup I want to enjoy [international football] and do well but I also want to go back to Liverpool and do well there and get the club back where it wants to be. I just want us to get back. People will come back at different stages."
Carragher expects Benitez to be in situ – "Yes, I think so. He's said nothing to me to say he won't be," the defender said – and the Spaniard bore out that opinion. "My future is Liverpool, I have four more years of my contract and I want to complete them. I hope to make this team competitive again," Benitez said.
The on-off drama with Juventus has, as well as alienating him further from those at Anfield he believes want him out of the club, contributed to his feeling of antagonism towards the football commentariat which demanded he depart Anfield. If he does, as he seems to have decided, stay on, it will be with his own insecurities about those who write about him compounded. "My critics in London say that I am not a good manager and the experts with English accents here [in Spain] say the same thing, but they forget many things," said Benitez, who is currently holidaying in Madrid. "Liverpool have had an average of 69 points over the last 12 seasons. I made a huge error, which was to start by winning four trophies. After that, people demand more of you, when in reality it is assumed at the start that coaches need time to adapt to the Premier League. It took Ferguson seven years to win the League."
The road to Juventus is closed off for Benitez and Milan are believed to prefer a former player – possibly Frank Rijkaard – to replace Leonardo. Also, Real Madrid no longer seem to have an appetite for Benitez as a successor to Manuel Pellegrini.
Of Madrid, Benitez said: "I am from Madrid, I like this city and I have been attached to the club and it is a great entity, but there is nothing more I can say." The Spanish national job is one he covets, though. "Everyone would like to be national coach, but I hope it is after many years and many triumphs for Del Bosque."
Benitez does not believe Torres will leave. "I have no evidence he wants to go," he said. "At the moment he is concentrating on his recuperation, winning the World Cup and after that he will think about his future. He has boosted the image of Liverpool in Asia because he drives the women crazy over there."
Source: UK Independent