Liverpool in decline
JOSE MOURINHO claims Roy Hodgson will struggle to achieve success at Liverpool with a team that became "worse, worse and worse" with each passing season of Rafael Benitez's six-year reign at Anfield.
Liverpool's 3-0 capitulation at Manchester City on Monday brought into sharp focus the problems facing Hodgson on the pitch at a club whose off-field future remains paralysed by the increasingly fruitless search for new owners.
With co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett driving the club heavily into debt since their 2007 takeover, Mourinho argues that Hodgson is faced with the unenviable situation of working with a team that has long been in decline.
Monday's defeat against City highlighted the challenge that Hodgson has taken on at Anfield, but with Roberto Mancini's expensively assembled team likely to be a direct rival in Liverpool's attempt to secure Champions League football, Mourinho believes the odds are stacked against the Reds this season.
"It is very difficult work for Roy to do it with Liverpool as, over the last few years, they have been getting worse, worse and worse," Mourinho said.
"The Liverpool of 2004 was better than the Liverpool of 2005, 2005 was better than 2006 and 2006 better than 2007. And they arrive at a situation now where, but for Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Fernando Torres, if his head is there, it is very difficult for Roy to make Liverpool champions. He needs time and it's not easy because I don't think they went in the right direction."
Despite their financial problems and failure to qualify for the Champions League this season, Liverpool have been able to retain the services of Torres and Gerrard. Mourinho's Real Madrid had courted Gerrard, while Chelsea and City both made clear their interest in Torres.
But while City were unable to land Torres, Mourinho admits that the Abu Dhabi-fuelled spending power at Eastlands is unmatchable and the Real coach backed Alex Ferguson's warning of "kamikaze" spending.
Mourinho said: "When Sir Alex spoke about kamikaze spending, if he was talking about (City) eating the market, I agree with him. But if they have the money, they can do it and, if they have the ambition to win the Premier League, they can do it.
"If someone wants to compete with them for a player it is very difficult because they are dominant in the market. The player they say they want is the player that they get. I was interested in (Aleksandar) Kolarov when I came to Madrid, but I couldn't compete with City as they went to values that I couldn't."
Mourinho, who won two league titles with Chelsea during his three years at Stamford Bridge, feels that City's financial muscle has propelled them into the fight for the title. But the Portuguese insists it will only be a three-horse race, dismissing Arsenal's prospects of ending their five-year wait for silverware.
Mourinho said: "I don't think Arsenal can win. Year after year it looks like they will but no. It's always the same type of comment, 'It's a young team, it will be next season'. I remember we played them in a Carling Cup final (in 2007) with a team of young boys, but they are no longer a team of young boys. They are now a team of 25, 26, 27-year-olds.
"Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Gael Clichy, Alex Song, Bacary Sagna -- they're not a team of kids any more; they're of an age to win things, but I don't think they will do it. I believe Chelsea and Manchester United can win the title and, of course, Manchester City because they have a great squad. That's it."
Having arrived at Real this summer after guiding Inter Milan to the treble last season, Mourinho could not resist another dig at Benitez, his fierce rival from the pair's time in England, by warning the former Liverpool manager that he will be unable to repeat his success at the San Siro.
Mourinho added: "Inter is a dream job because he has three trophies (to defend). I don't have that at Madrid. He is lucky, but I wish him well. One thing is certain, Benitez won't do better than me at Inter.
"Another thing also true is that, should he lift the Intercontinental Cup, he will have only won two games compared to my 13. Therefore it will be my trophy and not his." (© Daily Telegraph, London)