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Sep 10, 2008

Benitez brands UEFA's home-grown rule a 'mistake'

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has laid the blame firmly at UEFA's door for forcing him to leave Sami Hyypia out of his Champions League squad. New rules brought into force this season state that each club must name at least eight home-grown players in their 25-man squad for the competition and the Finland international was left out to accommodate one such place.

At least four players much be produced from a club's own Academy with the other places made up of players who have come through the youth system of other English clubs.

Liverpool only have Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher as first team members from their own Academy which meant they were forced to add Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby to their 'A' squad. Robbie Keane and Jermaine Pennant filled the second criteria but again they were forced to delve deeper within the club to make up the eight, Steven Irwin and Martin Kelly the players being named.

Now Benitez has hit back at UEFA for forcing him to name a weaker squad than is actually available to him. However, the rule was intended to encourage clubs to look to the home transfer market rather than flood a club with foreign imports and if this is the effect it may just have the desired results.

Benitez told the club's official website: "Clearly I think it is a mistake. When you play in the Champions League, you need the best players you have on the pitch. It is not about where you are from, it is about the best players.

"I would understand if this rule came in for the Premier League, but not for the Champions League.

"It was really difficult decision, but we had to do it. With the rule saying that you need more or less eight British - or local - players in the squads, we needed to decide which three centre-backs to have for the Champions League. We now have four centre-backs who are good enough so they have to compete.

"And obviously it depends on the number of games we play and how we progress in the cup competitions too, so there could be a lot of games for many of our players."

Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel joined Carragher as Benitez's three central defenders in the squad in preference to the 34-year-old Finn.

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