Benitez quick to sign Johnson
The 24-year-old right-back completed his move from Portsmouth for a fee believed to be £17million, although much of that will be offset by money still owed from Peter Crouch's transfer to Fratton Park last summer.
After a summer which has already seen the £59million transfer of Kaka and the expected £80million move of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, the Liverpool boss is happy with the outlay on his first signing of the summer. "We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy," said Benitez.
"Manchester City and Chelsea were there - they were making offers. We had to be quick and the club acted quickly. It was down to the player [Johnson] whether he chose us or City or Chelsea and he chose us. It was very clear from talking to him that he wanted to play for Liverpool."
Part of the reason the Johnson deal cost so much was the premium now attached to English players. With regulations set to become tighter on the number of foreigners each side can field, Benitez knew that he would have to pay a large sum for Johnson.
"We were thinking about bringing in players with quality and Johnson is a very good player," added the Liverpool boss. "He is also English and that is important for the UEFA Champions League list."
Benitez was also impressed with the attitude of the former Chelsea and West Ham full-back. "One of the main things is his mentality - it's really good. He is a winner," said the Liverpool manager. "I was impressed with the conversations I had with him. He wants to improve."
Johnson's arrival increases the likelihood that Alvaro Arbeloa will leave this summer, with Real Madrid ready to make a move. But Benitez has not ruled out the possibility of the 26-year-old staying.
"Arbeloa was a good player for us last year. He has one year left on his contract and we have offered him an extension and we're talking," Benitez told the official Liverpool website .
"He is our player but if there is a good offer we have to consider it. We have two or three clubs asking about him. He would like to stay but he knows the competition will be hard."
Liverpool face a battle to keep midfielder Xabi Alonso after reports in the Spanish press claimed Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini has travelled home to Chile for a short holiday with assurances from the club that they will sign the 27-year-old. But Benitez will not be forced to sell the player to balance the books after the club's bankers dismissed concerns about an impending financial crisis.
Auditors KPMG had raised issues about debt levels after Kop Holdings, the company set up by American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to buy the club two years ago, posted losses of £42.6million in the year ending July 2008.
However, the football club business itself made a profit of £10.2million and the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of two banks who loaned money to the Americans for the buy-out, have said there is a clear division between what the club owes them and Hicks and Gillett's debt.
"In our view and that of the executive management of the club, it is financially healthy and able to service comfortably its debt obligations from cash flow generated by its playing and commercial activities." said the bank in an email to supporters, according to the Liverpool Daily Post.