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By ESPN Staff
Apr 11, 2006

Rejuvenated Kewell reveals debt to Rafa

Liverpool winger Harry Kewell has thanked boss Rafael Benitez for salvaging his top flight career.

The Australia international star, who was sidelined for virtually 10 months due to injuries and recovery from operations, claims that without Benitez's support 'I'd have been left in a hole and probably faded away.'

A disastrous attempt at a return in the Champions League final, where he was forced off in Istanbul before half-time, just highlighted Kewell's problems.

But now the left-sided midfielder has completed a run of 26 consecutive appearances for Liverpool and is contemplating an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, a third-place Premiership finish and the forthcoming World Cup.

'If I want to repay the manager then I have to start scoring more goals for him and for the team,' Kewell said.

'I want to do the things I know I'm capable of doing. That's what is driving me on.

'I've never been in an FA Cup semi-final so on a personal level it's going to be a big thing just to play in that. If we can reach the final then that will be even better.

'It's going to be a tough game against Chelsea but we're not looking that far ahead yet because there are other matches to play and win before that one comes along. There's no doubt it's going to be a fantastic occasion though.'

Kewell has recovered from serious groin problems to claim a regular place on Liverpool's left side, and he says of Benitez: 'Without the manager's confidence in me I'd have been left in a hole and probably faded away. If you don't have the backing of your manager and team-mates then you're lost.

'I went home to my family and they were supportive as well. I'm not a very nice person when I'm injured and I know that better than anyone. It was difficult but the people I care about the most stood behind me and I'm thankful for that.'

Kewell, in a Liverpoolfc.tv interview, said he believes he is now playing a full part in what he considers a vastly-improved Liverpool season overall compared to the last campaign.

He added: 'If we win a cup and come third then you can say it has been a good year but our mentality is that we want to win all the cups and we want to come first in the Premiership. That's the way it has to be at a club like Liverpool.'

Liverpool can clinch that third spot on Sunday if they win at Blackburn, with the cup semi-final at Old Trafford a week later.

Kewell revealed Benitez has already warned his stars they must 'concentrate on Liverpool first before the World Cup,' but the Spanish manager is already planning ahead to cope with the fall-out from the summer tournament in Germany.

By then several Liverpool players would have been in constant activity for a year, and Benitez is unwilling to have any strenuous tours before the start of next season.

A dozen Liverpool players could be involved in the World Cup, and Benitez said: 'We have ideas of where we'll go in pre-season and when. We'll also set different times for players to return, depending on how far they get in the World Cup.

'If England reach the final against Spain, we'll have a lot of players involved. Those players will need more time to rest.'

Liverpool have been to the Far East twice and the USA in recent summers, but Benitez said: 'Players will need 15 to 20 days to recover from the World Cup, I do not think we will be going to other continents this summer.'