Liverpool's Benitez deserves to get paid

Martin Rogers

Two men facing the most pressure in the English Premier League right are Americans – Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Hicks and Gillett are facing a storm of controversy by failing to tie down the long-term future of Anfield head coach Rafa Benitez, who is adored by Liverpool fans. Benitez's stock soared further on Sunday when he ended Chelsea's 86-game home unbeaten streak by leading the Reds to a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.

The Spaniard has already turned down approaches from clubs in Spain and Italy and has 18 months left on his current deal. On the surface it seems that there's little urgency for Hicks and Gillett to act. However, Benitez's players are fiercely loyal to him, and any indication his days at the club may be numbered could spark a rush for the exit door. Such an exodus could undo all the positive work Benitez has undertaken over the past few years and set Liverpool into reverse.

In this tight financial era, the reticence of Hicks and Gillett to act will be seen as understandable by some. However, the longer this situation rolls on, the more it is likely to strengthen Benitez's bargaining power when the respective factions do finally sit down at the negotiating table.

And if the owners were foolish enough to allow the outstanding Benitez to walk away, then they would deserve the drop-off in performance that would be likely to follow.

1. Get them an Advil

The presidents of FIFA's six continental federations meet in the next few weeks to decide the contentious issue of the men's Olympic soccer tournament.

Before the Beijing Games, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that clubs are not forced to release players for the event, casting the future of men's Olympic soccer into doubt.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has indicated more than once that he would not be sorry to see the tournament scrapped. Whichever way the federation chiefs decide, they are certain to upset somebody.

2. Get him a beer

Germany head coach Joachim Loew has every right to be pleased with how things are coming together ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Not only is his team four points clear at the top of qualifying Group Four, but now senior players Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings have backed down from their criticism of his approach.

Ballack is so keen to clear the air with Loew that he is planning to fly to Germany from England on a day off in order to meet with the coach and apologize for his comments regarding Loew's treatment of veteran Frings.

3. Get him some earplugs

William Gallas is likely to be on the receiving end of an outburst from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger after being caught leaving a London nightclub with a cigarette in his mouth.

Wenger is a stickler for personal discipline, and although he opted not to give Gallas a lecture just before the Gunners' weekend victory at West Ham, sources indicate he will be forceful in reminding the defender of his responsibilities this week.

4. California dreaming

Real Salt Lake qualified for the MLS playoffs for the first time in its history with a dramatic late equalizer against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Head coach Jason Kreis did not expect his squad to reach the playoffs before the start of the season, but he must now fancy RSL's chances of getting past Chivas USA in the Western Conference semis and making a run toward the MLS Cup final in Los Angeles on Nov. 23.

5. Catch a flight to …

London. The North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham is always an intriguing affair. Yet Harry Redknapp's appointment as Spurs manager adds an extra edge to Wednesday's contest. Redknapp began what he hopes will be a major revival by leading his new club to a 2-0 win over Bolton on Saturday.

6. A round of applause for …

The little guys. In Germany, preseason relegation favorites Hoffenheim sit proudly atop the Bundesliga after thumping Hamburger SV 3-0 with a superb performance. In England, Hull City continued their fairy-tale debut campaign – moving to third by winning 3-0 at West Brom.

Long live the dream.

7. Get them a Kleenex

• Davide Ballardini – The Palermo boss insisted Alberto Gilardino's handball goal for Fiorentina was the turning point in his team's 3-1 home defeat in Serie A.

• Sergio Ramos – Ramos was ditched from the Real Madrid starting lineup in Real's 3-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao following his critical comments about coach Bernd Schuster.

• Jesualdo Ferreira – The Porto head coach described his team's performance as "horrible" after the defending Portuguese champions lost 3-2 at home to unaccomplished neighbors Leixoes.

8. Get ready to say hello to …

Freddie Ljungberg. The Swedish midfielder will become the first designated player for the new Seattle Sounders FC franchise when it joins Major League Soccer in 2009.

Ljungberg is expected to be announced by team ownership at a news conference this week. Sounders fans will hope he can recreate the form he displayed in nine successful years with Arsenal, rather than his brief and disappointing run with West Ham.

9. Get ready to say goodbye to …

Landon Donovan. The Los Angeles Galaxy striker looks to be headed for new pastures after categorically insisting on Sunday that he is keen to moving to a European club. Donovan and his advisors will speak to MLS officials over the next week to discuss his release. The 26-year-old's preference would be to play in England or Spain, but he continues to be linked with Germany's Bayern Munich.

10. Get excited about …

Neven Subotic. The Borussia Dortmund defender's dream of playing international soccer for Germany collapsed last week, meaning he must now choose between Serbia, Bosnia and the United States.

Given the emotional and potentially political ramifications of selecting one Balkan nation over another, the U.S. could emerge as the most realistic option.

11. Why it's good to be a soccer player

Here is Chanelle Hayes, rumored to be the new girlfriend of Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant.