Liverpool Chief Executive Rick Parry took time out from his hectic pre-season schedule to talk exclusively to TIA’s Paul Hassall about Rafa Benitez, new signings and his hopes for next season.
WHILE fans and media across the globe continue to focus their attention on the gripping events unravelling on the World stage in Germany, clubs on the domestic scene have quietly stepped up their preparations for the 2006/07 season.
For Liverpool and Rafael Benitez transfer targets, the pre-season schedule, a community shield date with Chelsea and the tricky prospect of an unknown Champions League qualifying opponent from one of Europe’s less coveted leagues are high on the agenda.
But had Real Madrid had their way the Reds could well have been addressing the unthinkable and heading into the forthcoming season without the man who masterminded the miracle of Istanbul.
And according to chief Executive Rick Parry that was a brief but real possibility when the Spanish Giants declared a public interest in the Reds boss earlier this year.
He explains: ‘˜We are delighted to be preparing for the new season with Rafa as our manager because 3 or 4 months ago we had to deal with the Real Madrid issue. They are his hometown club and he has strong links with them, so we told him to take a few days and think it through.
‘When he came back to us he was adamant he wanted to stay and enjoy more success with Liverpool and we are obviously delighted he has committed his long-term future to us.
‘˜Rafa is well aware of the traditions of the club but he is more concerned with the future. He is desperate for success and wants to develop us into a side that can challenge at the very top on a consistent basis.’
Despite his links with Real Madrid, where he enjoyed a modest playing career with their second string before returning as a youth team coach years later, Benitez could not turn his back on Liverpool and Parry believes the Spaniard has already set his heart on writing his own glorious chapter in the club’s successful history.
The epic triumphs over both AC Milan and West Ham in his first two seasons have already etched Benitez’s name in Merseyside folklore and with the expectations of fans continuing to soar Parry is relishing the prospect of Rafa’s third season at Anfield.
Parry said: ‘˜I’m really looking forward to next season but we’ve still got a lot to do ahead of it. We are working 24 hours a day to make some final improvements to the squad and as of this moment we are still after that elusive right sided midfielder.
‘We’ve got the work permit appeal for Mark Gonzalez next week and if that goes to plan our left side is looking very, very strong.
Mark had a fantastic season for Sociedad in Spain last season and he is a very quick player with great skill that will add something extra to our midfield.
‘I’m also very excited by the signing of Craig Bellamy. He’s a striker of great ability and he is also a Liverpool fan who was desperate to play for the club he supported as a boy. He’s a proven Premiership goalscorer and another great addition.
‘We are always looking to improve the squad and maybe we will be able to add a few more new faces ahead of the start of the season.’
While Benitez has secured two trophies (three if you count the Super Cup) in the first two seasons of the Rafalution, Parry’s tenure as chief executive has also coincided with an impressive haul of trophies.
Since leaving his post as Chief Executive of The F.A. Premier League in 1998 he has seen Liverpool secure 1 Champions League, 2 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 2 Super Cups and 1 UEFA Cup.
But despite the unforgettable cup triumphs against Alaves, Arsenal, AC Milan and West Ham and the vast improvement made in the league last season the Premiership title continues to elude the Reds.
And although Parry would love to see Rafa Benitez’s third season in the Anfield hotseat climax with Premiership glory, he believes fans must remain realistic about the prospect of ending a 17 year wait given the spending power of current Champions Chelsea.
He said: ‘˜I think it is silly to create expectation by making predictions about how well we think we can do. All we can say is that we want to make sure that every season we are up there challenging. Obviously with Chelsea being able to go out and buy players like Shevchenko and Ballack it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete with that kind of money. But we have faith in our manager and our improving squad and believe we are heading in the right direction.’
Article and all quotes Copyright Â© Paul Hassall and This Is Anfield .com
This Is Anfield would like to thank Rick for taking time out of his obviously busy schedule.