Brendan Rodgers gave comfortably his most interesting interview of our Far East tour following Friday’s 1-1 draw with the Malaysia XI – discussing the signing of Christian Benteke, as well as Jordon Ibe and Jordan Henderson.
The Liverpool boss, who has previously refused to answer questions on Benteke despite his imminent signing, admitted that he was delighted by the number of qualities the Belgian striker would be bringing to the club.
In quotes taken by our official website, he said: “There’s a number of qualities that he has and he will only improve in his time at the club. I think first and foremost his goals, if you look at his goals record since the time that he’s been in the Premier League he’s up there with the best in terms of numbers. So that was very important for us.
“Obviously I’ve heard and I’ve seen stuff about the style, ‘he won’t fit the style of how we play’ – I think he’ll only complement it and help us. He’s a big guy but he’s got the attributes that I like in terms of pace and movement and he gets goals, he gets all types of goals.
“He’s great in the air, strong, he can hold the game up, he can play on the counter-attack, he can play whenever the team is deep because he can hold the ball up with his physical strength.
“As I said, he’s a boy that still is improving in his game so I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll fit our tactical idea of the game and he can be a huge player for us.”
Rodgers also had kind words for Ibe, whose brilliant individual goal secured us our result in Kuala Lumpur and – according to Rodgers – puts the player in a prime position for a starting spot against Stoke City.
“He’s been outstanding since he’s been out here and he’s staken a real claim to start the season in the team,” he said. “[It was a] wonderful goal, I thought he was a threat all night with his pace, his quality and it was wonderful finish cutting inside and a great strike. He was very good and like I say he has been working very hard.”
Ibe’s goal vs Malaysia XI…
Henderson was arguably the only other player to shine on Friday, as the Reds struggled to maintain the high standards we’d set during our first three games, and Rodgers believes he’s taken brilliantly to the captaincy.
“He’s taken on board the responsibilities and is doing it very, very well,” he continued. “He is a young player that has taken on the mantra of the captaincy and of course it’s a huge responsibility.
“I think he has settled into the role really well and his leadership is about looking after the team and coming back to me. We communicate very well and so far it’s been really good.”
As for the game itself, Rodgers admitted that he was a little taken aback with the tough conditions and the standard of the opposition.
“I’ve been pleased with the tour overall,” he said. “I think tonight was very humid and the conditions were difficult for us but I think the players handled it well. Coming towards the end of a long two weeks, where we’ve put in a lot of work, I’m satisfied in terms of where we’re at.
“I thought they [Malaysia] did very well. They proved it’s a difficult game on the surface. They scored a good goal, disappointment from our perspective, but they worked very, very hard as you’d expect. They gave us a good exercise at this part of our pre-season.”
The result rounds off an unbeaten tour of the Far East for Rodgers’ side, something which has helped ease the pressure which was on him at the start of the summer.
Asked about how the owners had backed him after a disappointing season, he added tactfully: “For the club as a whole, you know you need to improve year on year. Each club will spend and that is the idea of it and we were no different. Obviously there’s going to be some players who will move on from the club.
“We needed to improve the squad; when you’re a top team, any manager will tell you they want to improve the squad. Of course there have been a few signings but we are very hopeful they will come in and make a big impact.
“The owners have been absolutely brilliant since the first day I came in. I take nothing for granted. They have been great supporters of myself and they believe in my work. My job is to work well with the team and see if we can finish as high as we possibly can.”