Liverpool trio set to follow Rafa?

Following the confirmation of Rafael Benitez as the new manager of European and Italian champions Inter Milan, several sources this week have predictably claimed that the Spaniard is set to raid cash-strapped former club Liverpool for several of their crown jewels. This phenomenon of players following managers is not something new; previously we have seen the likes of Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira follow former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho from Porto to Stamford Bridge. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Benitez has been handed a staggering €80m to spend this summer, fuelling rumours that he will be able to force Liverpool’s hand into selling several star players over the next few months.

As manager of the reigning Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia champions, Benitez is already in possession of an immensely talented squad at Inter. Should Benitez decide to acquire players from L4, who would he bring, and where would they fit in?

Javier Mascherano

Since having his head turned by interest from Barcelona last summer, the little Argentine anchorman has not been the same player at Anfield. On his day, the tigerish destroyer is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, blessed with tenacity, dogged determination and strength.

It is thought that ‘El Jefe’ heads Benitez’s list of summer transfer targets, and Mascherano is understood to be receptive to a move to Inter, having recently confessed that he is learning Italian whilst in South Africa with the Argentine national side. The Argentina captain, who blossomed under the tutelage of Benitez, is said to be keen to link up with the Spaniard, having said of Benitez that “his football is my football.”

Despite Benitez’s proclivity for the use of two holding midfield players, Mascherano is likely to face stiff competition for a first-team berth at Inter Milan. The central midfield position is one department that is well-stocked at the San Siro, with Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta, Sulley Muntari, McDonald Mariga and Javier Zanetti all capable of operating in the holding role. However, the arrival of Mascherano would surely place question marks over the futures of one or two of the aforementioned players.

Glen Johnson

With Brazilian international Maicon set to follow Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid this summer, it appears that Rafael Benitez will be on the lookout for a new right-back. Perceptive tabloid types, including Spanish daily AS, have touted England international Glen Johnson as a potential replacement for the foraging Brazilian.

Maicon, regarded by many as the world’s finest full-back, has endeared himself to Inter Milan fans by way of his attacking displays down Inter’s right flank. Although not as accomplished as Maicon, Johnson has a similar penchant for forward play, and would be likely to command a first-team berth should Maicon depart for the Bernabeu.

However, unlike Mascherano, Johnson has not alluded to the fact that he is seeking a move away from Anfield.

Dirk Kuyt

As a long-time favourite of Rafael Benitez, recent speculation concerning the Liverpool future of Dirk Kuyt comes as no surprise. The converted right-winger, who is currently starring for the Netherlands at the World Cup, is rumoured to be one of Benitez’s targets this summer.

Kuyt’s agent Rob Jansen has added credence to such conjecture, having stated that “[Kuyt] has an excellent relationship with Benitez, but we are commenting only on an hypothesis, because there is nothing concrete. When and if an offer arrives, we’ll see. Dirk is happy at Liverpool and has a contract until 2012. Would he follow Benitez? Anything is possible, but, again, there is currently nothing.”

Notwithstanding the wealth of attacking options currently at Benitez’s disposal, Kuyt’s ability to operate as a right-winger, second striker and centre-forward would certainly vindicate any decision to move for the Dutchman. Given Benitez’s preference for ‘grafters’, Kuyt’s industry and hard-working nature would certainly be welcomed at Inter.

Are the trio likely to leave, or is it simply the World’s media stirring the pot?

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