Liverpool's 1-0 victory at Sunderland at the start of the Premier League season was swiftly followed by a hint that they are closer to signing Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry. Manager Rafa Benitez disclosed that he has now spoken to Tom Hicks, one of the club's American owners, and been assured that money is available for a new player.
However, only the departure of Spaniard Xavi Alonso will guarantee the finances will stretch to the £18-million fee that Villa are demanding for Barry. "," said Benitez. "For me, it is clear they are supporting me."
They will certainly have to support Benitez in his pursuit of Barry if they wish to avoid another awkward confrontation with a manager who is desperate to improve the left side of his midfield. For now, though, the former Valencia coach is vehemently disputing suggestions that he threatened to resign from his job earlier this month because of his frustration over the Barry transfer.
"That is wrong," he said. "My commitment to the club is 100 per cent. I have said a hundred times that my family are really happy here and I want to win trophies for Liverpool."
Torres, individually, enjoyed a superb first season at Anfield in 2007/08, and he wants to repeat the feat this term. The striker's 82nd-minute goal gave Liverpool an excellent start to their latest campaign, although they were frequently stretched by a Sunderland team clearly benefiting from the arrival of several new players.
"It was typical of him," remarked Benitez. "We know he can score those type of goals, but the rest of the team still needs to play well and keep a clean sheet.
Sunderland manager Roy Keane also admitted that his team were beaten by "one brilliant moment" from Torres. "We dropped off Torres 25 yards from goal and he pulled the trigger. ."
Keane also suggested that Sunderland may have paid the price for a low-key pre-season. "We tired and that probably affected our decision making. Until then we had defended very well, but a lot of teams do score late in the Premier League," he said.
"I was really pleased with the performance though. I think we played some good stuff and created one or two good chances. But when you play the big boys you've got to take those chances. It would have been very hard for Liverpool if we had gone in front.
"I'm encouraged by the performance. When we played teams like Liverpool last season, I hoped we would get a good result; this morning I thought we would get a good result. Liverpool will be delighted to see the back of us and that's a decent sign for us."
El-Hadji Diouf was the pick of the Sunderland players on his debut against one of his former clubs. "He can play with the ball and bring in other players. I thought he did very well, but so did all the other new players."