Belfast Telegraph

New Liverpool boss Hodgson fights to keep Gerrard and Torres as Benayoun exits

By Graham Luney

Roy Hodgson has vowed to battle to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at Liverpool.

But the new Anfield boss admitted he may be powerless to prevent them following Yossi Benayoun out of the club this summer.

Hodgson's first act as Liverpool manager yesterday was to rubber-stamp the £6m sale of Benayoun to Double-winners Chelsea.

Reds fans saw that one coming but they are horrified at the thought of Gerrard or Torres leaving Merseyside.

Hodgson plans to meet Gerrard and Jamie Carragher soon to discuss the squad and other aspects of the team but he will need all his persuasive powers to keep his big guns in place.

“They are the two key players for the club,” said Hodgson when pushed on the futures of Gerrard and Torres. “To some extent the matter is out of my hands. I'm very anxious that the club keeps its best players and I'll do everything in my power to do that.

“My job is to try and explain to him that I have come to Liverpool because I want to work with people like Steven Gerrard,” said the former Fulham manager, who has signed a three-year contract, worth £3m a year.

“I'm hoping that he will have enough loyalty to the club and will be interested enough to work with me and give it some time together. It is easy to say the right things but you know as well as I do it is not words Stevie wants, he wants actions.

“He wants to see the club make strides forward, he wants to see that alongside players of his quality there will be other players of that quality being signed by the club. And, of course, he is wise enough to know that I cannot give him that guarantee.”

Gerrard was quick to give Hodgson his backing, saying he was the “right man” for Liverpool — but his future remains uncertain.

Club chairman Martin Broughton was upbeat, saying: “Conversations have taken place with Gerrard and Torres and I can say we are optimistic (that they will stay).”

If Gerrard does leave the Reds, Gilberto Silva could replace him, while Brede Hangeland and Rafael van der Vaart are also high on his wish-list.

Gerrard, who recently turned 30, has been linked with moves to Real Madrid and Internazionale after becoming increasingly frustrated following four trophy-less years at Liverpool.

The immediate signs, however, are promising. Gerrard yesterday endorsed Hodgson's appointment, describing the Londoner as the “right man for the job”.

“Rafa [Benitez] left a few weeks ago and I know the club were determined to take their time and get the right man for the job,” said Gerrard.

“Roy is hugely experienced and I believe he is the right man for Liverpool.”

Hodgson's first job will be to keep Liverpool's best players rather than adding to the under-performing squad he has inherited.

He has been handed around £15m to improve the team with any additional money coming from the sale of other players.

Hodgson has been linked with the Norway defender Brede Hangeland, who played under him at Fulham, but has promised Mohamed Al-Fayed, his former chairman, that he will not raid Craven Cottage.

Instead he is anxious to seek assurances from Gerrard and Torres that they are prepared to stay. Yossi Benayoun has also been linked with a move to Chelsea while Javier Mascherano, too, is keen to leave.

Torres is currently in South Africa at the World Cup with Spain, but Hodgson will have a telephone conversation with the striker in the next few days before meeting him after the tournament.

Like Gerrard, Torres has also become fed up with the lack of trophies.

“You can't nail their feet to the floor,” added Hodgson, “but we will fight tooth and nail to keep our best players.”

Hodgson insisted that his friendship with Kenny Dalglish was as strong as ever ever. Dalglish had made it clear he wanted the job but was overlooked by the board.

“He was entitled to suggest to the board that he wanted to be considered,” added Hodgson.

“As far as I'm concerned it shouldn't affect my relationship with Kenny. There are so many roles that man can play to help Liverpool Football Club. He will out-live my tenure at the club.”

Hodgson had been touted to succeed Fabio Capello, whose future with England is unclear. But the 62-year-old declared he had no intention of waiting for the vacancy once the manager's post at Liverpool became available.

With Liverpool up for sale, money in short supply, players wanting to leave and the club not in the Champions League, Hodgson may appear to have taken on the impossible job.

Yet Hodgson, whose managerial career has spanned 15 teams, stretched over 35 years, is relishing the challenge.

“The impossible job that everyone thought that no one in their right mind should take was in 2007 at Fulham,” said Hodgson.

“They were very virtually relegated, and had four matches against Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham away in next four games.

“There's no comparison with the job I am taking on here, which could have enormous prospects.”

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