Benitez keen to keep Real target Alonso
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has insisted that he does not want to sell Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso in the close-season.sports Updated: May 25, 2009 11:38 IST
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has insisted that he does not want to sell Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso in the close-season.
Benitez, speaking after Sunday's season-ending 3-1 win over Tottenham at Anfield, was responding to fresh reports in England linking the influential Spanish midfielder with a move to Real Madrid.
And Benitez denied suggestions that his spending plans hinge on selling players like Alonso who would command hefty fees.
"Xabi has three years of his contract left and we don't want to sell," said Benitez after Liverpool secured the Premier League runners-up spot.
"I had a private conversation with his agent. My idea is very clear - Xabi is not for sale.
"I think he has said he is happy here at Liverpool. He has said that to the media."
Alonso played as though he had other things on his mind as Liverpool brought the curtain down on a bitter-sweet season.
Despite finishing without any major silverware for a third successive campaign, the disappointment of missing out to Manchester United after leading the table for so long has been cushioned by overwhelming evidence that their domestic form is improving under Benitez.
Not only did this result secure Liverpool's highest finish since the 2001-02 campaign, their final tally of 86 points is their best Premier League return.
They finished the season with nine wins in the last ten games and with an unbeaten home record, the first time they have achieved that for 21 years when Liverpool were in their pomp.
Benitez's side hardly had to break sweat on a sun-baked Merseyside day to secure three points against Tottenham.
Former Liverpool striker Robbie Keane did make his point as he marked his Anfield return with a goal. But it made little difference after Fernando Torres and an own goal by Alan Hutton sent Liverpool into a commanding 2-0 lead.
Tottenham fans were still celebrating Keane's goal when Yossi Benayoun put the game beyond reach before the tears came.
The Kop, who had politely applauded Keane's goal earlier, had spent the afternoon urging Benitez to send on substitute Sami Hyypia, who is joining Bayer Leverkusen after 10 years at Liverpool.
They finally got what they wanted seven minutes from time. As Steven Gerrard made way for the veteran defender, the captain handed his armband to Hyypia and the crowd stood to cheer him on to the pitch for the last time.
After referee Peter Walton had signalled the end of Liverpool's campaign, Hyypia, who leaves after 464 appearances, was lifted into the air by his team-mates, the emotion of the occasion proving too much for the player as tears streamed down his face.
"I'm a little bit sad because we are losing a fantastic player," Benitez said.
Tottenham finish the campaign in eighth spot yet the London club could be pushing for a top six finish next season after enjoying a dramatic recovery under manager Harry Redknapp.
He took over from Juande Ramos in October with Tottenham 20th in the table after failing to win their first eight games.
"We have had a decent run but we need to try and push on next season," Redknapp said.
First Published: May 25, 2009 11:35 IST