Babel challenges Rafa's authority
Already contending with dire form and injuries to key players,
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's troubles mounted Friday when his
authority was openly challenged by winger Ryan Babel.
The Netherlands forward's Internet tirade came as Benitez resisted calls for his resignation after reaching the lowest point of his Anfield tenure.
Amid all this, Benitez is struggling to strengthen his squad as he works with financial constraints set by the club's Americans owners as they search for new investors.
The urgency for new talent was highlighted Wednesday. After the joy of signing Argentina winger Maxi Rodriguez, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun were all injured in the loss to Reading. Torres will require surgery on his right knee that will sideline the striker for six weeks.
The 23-year-old Babel is one of the players Liverpool is willing to sell to raise funds for squad additions, but the Netherlands international has been determined to force his way back in the team despite interest from Birmingham and being linked with Marseille.
Babel started his diatribe Friday by saying he had "got some disappointing news" stating on Twitter: "The Boss left me out the squad. No explanation."
After Babel leaked news of being dropped, Benitez complained at a news conference that "it is impossible to stop people talking. It is not like in the past."
"It is more than just football," Benitez said. "Agents, money, TV, radios and internet, everyone needs to talk. Everyone has a Twitter or something like that."
But about an hour after Benitez's news conference, Babel turned to his Twitter feed again to complain about his lack of first-team opportunities.
"What happened after a first good season?" Babel asked. "Scoring 10 goals, being young talent of the year, and then second and this season don't play at all?"
Babel, who joined Liverpool in 2007 from Ajax, insisted that he has never had "a fight with the manager ... I always kept quiet."
"Where did it go wrong???" he asked a minute later. "You have people who support me and don't support me ... And one day, you will see what I'm capable off, will it be at LFC or somewhere else ... I have faith."
As dozens of people posted messages of support, Babel insisted: "I'm not scared to share this with you guys. (Be)cause it's the truth. And there r no secrets."
As do managers, with Benitez fighting to rescue Liverpool's miserable season, while seemingly retaining the owners' support.
"We are not playing well and we feel sorry for our fans," Benitez said as he read from a statement of "facts," a lighthearted reference to a tirade he launched almost exactly a year ago against Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Benitez's priority is securing one of the four Champions League spots, but Liverpool is languishing in seventh, five points behind fourth-place Manchester City and 12 adrift of leader Chelsea.
"If I am worried about my position or the future of the club at this moment I will lose my focus," Benitez said. "If I decided to stay here and signed a five-year contract (last year) it is because I wanted to fight."
Benitez needs reinforcements, though, and must fund new signings by selling players.
"We are still working hard to find good players," Benitez said. "In this market it is very difficult but we have to keep looking to see if we can find someone."
Torres is urging co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. to find the cash after failing to build on last season's runners-up finish.
"It's now the owners' turn," Torres said. "They have to sign players so that this does not happen again. If we want to compete with United and Chelsea we need a much, much more complete squad.
"We need more genuinely first-class players and we can't let our best players leave."
Losing Babel, though, now seems more likely.