Liverpool may need as many as five new players to return to its trophy-winning ways, manager Rafael Benitez said following his team’s Europa League elimination.
The Reds had a 2-0 lead at Anfield last night that put them 2-1 up against Atletico Madrid in their two-game semifinal. Diego Forlan’s extra-time strike sent Madrid to the final on away goals with the teams finishing tied at 2-2.
Forlan’s goal ensured Liverpool, which has won a U.K.- record five European Cups and 18 English league championships, will go a fourth straight season without a trophy, prompting Benitez to call for an overhaul of his squad.
“In the past we have some players talking about signing three, four or five new players,” Benitez said in news conference comments on Liverpool’s website. “I agree with them more or less. That is what we will have to do.”
Liverpool appointed Martin Broughton as chairman April 16 to find a buyer for the club after Tom Hicks and George Gillett decided to end their three-year tenure as co-owners. Broughton said following his appointment that money will be available for transfers in the off-season. Liverpool owes 237 million pounds ($363 million) to Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Wachovia Corp.
Liverpool’s exit ended its chances of winning a record fourth title in European soccer’s second-tier club competition. Atletico will meet London team Fulham in a matchup of first-time finalists in Hamburg on May 12.
Benitez’s team still has an outside chance of finishing fourth in England’s Premier League to seal a place in the qualifying rounds of next season’s Champions League.
Seventh-place Liverpool is two points off fourth spot and hosts league leader Chelsea at Anfield in two days before ending the campaign at Hull on May 9. The Reds need other results to go their way with Tottenham, Aston Villa and Manchester City occupying fourth to sixth place.
“The season has not been good enough,” Benitez added. “We have to concentrate now on the next two games, try to do our best for next season and be ready.”
Liverpool had looked set to join Fulham in the final last night when it took a 2-1 overall lead in the fifth minute of extra time through Yossi Benayoun’s goal.
Uruguay striker Forlan, who scored the only goal in last week’s semifinal opener in Madrid, was left unmarked seven minutes later to put Jose Antonio Reyes’s cross past Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina.
Benitez, whose last trophy success at Liverpool was the 2006 F.A. Cup, sent on Nabil El Zhar, Philipp Degen and Dani Pacheco to freshen up his team in the extra period. The coach said injuries had left him unable to make attacking changes.
“We have had too many problems and injuries, so we had a little bit of a lack of offensive players,” Benitez added. “It is a season where everything is against us.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org