April 9, 2005

Benitez concern at Baros approach

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has suggested his former club Valencia may have been guilty of an illegal approach to Czech striker Milan Baros.
Juan Soler, the president of the Spanish club, told a local radio station that they were 'negotiating' with Baros, even though he has two years left to run on his contract with Liverpool.

Benitez, who did not leave Valencia on the best of terms last summer, turned up the heat on his old club.

He said: 'It is illegal to talk to a player with two more years of his contract to go.

'I prefer not to talk about these things, and I need to discuss this with people at this club.

'But the situation is that he is our player and has two more years of his contract with this club still to go.

'I am not worried about Baros. If what their president has said is true maybe it is time to ask them about the situation.'

The Spaniard also played down talk of Michael Owen returning to Anfield from Real Madrid this summer.

The England striker revealed in a Shoot magazine interview that he would have 'nothing against' moving back to the club he left in an £8million deal last summer, but Benitez was in no mood to discuss his summer plans today.

'On Owen, whether I say yes or no then my words will be used how people want,' he said.

'He is a good player but I prefer not to talk about players until the end of the season.'

Benitez dealt with the issue of Steven Gerrard's future in unequivocal terms in a Belgian television interview after the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Juventus in midweek.

'Let me be very clear about Gerrard. We are building a strong team here in the future and that will be a team with Gerrard,' he insisted.

'We're not selling him for any money in the world. He is a local boy. A man of the club and he's our captain. We are not selling him.'

When he had dealt with the transfer rumours, Benitez turned his attentions to tomorrow's clash with Manchester City at Eastlands.

Victory would put Liverpool ahead of Everton in fourth place by two points and increase the pressure on the Toffees, who play Crystal Palace at Goodison Park 24 hours later.

Benitez, who will not include Xabi Alonso against City, preferring that his compatriot trains hard for three days before the Juventus trip, said: 'I hope Everton are feeling the pressure.

'But that will only happen for real if we win our next game, but if you look at the last few weeks and see that the lead has been eight points, four and now one. I am sure they feel under pressure.

'This has been a good moment for us, a good week. But if we are winning we must still stay calm and under control because you must not think that everything is okay. That would be a big mistake.

'We have a lot of important games now and we will have to work harder to achieve what we want from here on to the end of the season.

'Maybe we could move above Everton now, but the first thing we must do is to win our next match at Manchester City. But if we do win 24 hours before Everton play, we know we can watch calmly and enjoy the game. But I repeat, we must win first.

'It would be fantastic if we did, but I won't talk about the future just yet. Then we can all sit and watch the TV with a cold Coke and relax!'

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