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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug, 23, 2009

Benitez plays down Kyrgiakos disciplinary fears

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists Sotirios Kyrgiakos will not fall foul of Premier League referees despite his reputation as a footballing hardman.

Greece international Kyrgiakos has signed for £2m from AEK Athens, and the 6ft 5in centre-back will be embarking on his second spell in British football.

The 30-year-old brings an aggressive presence, and in his 18-month spell with Rangers which ended three years ago he picked up three red cards.

But Benitez is confident his latest recruit has matured since those days in the Scottish Premier League.

Benitez said: "Ever since Sami Hyypia left the club we have been looking for a player with this amount of experience and skill.

"He is the kind of player we needed. Strong in the air, he is physical and can give us something different in defence.

"He did have a few problems in Scotland with red cards, but I am not concerned. He is matured a lot since then and can channel the physical side of his game properly.

"Kyrgiakos is a very strong player. Everyone will remember him at Rangers and with Frankfurt, and also the Greek national side.

"He is aggressive, very strong and a physical presence in both areas. We were looking for a player who could compete and tackle.''

Benitez has yet to decide whether to bring Kyrgiakos straight into the side for Monday's home clash with Aston Villa.

Martin Skrtel, despite a broken jaw, may still have a chance of playing while teenager Daniel Ayala is again standing by.

Benitez said: "We certainly needed a new defender. Daniel Agger will have an operation next week on his back, and he may well be out for a few weeks.

"He has had problems with his back before, but this is different and not the old injury. That is why I feel he will not be out as long as people think, four or five weeks maximum.

"Skrtel has a broken jaw, and although he can train and has been today, we have to decide whether we can take the risk with him.

"Ayala did well in the Stoke match, but he is young and was a little nervous at the beginning. He improved as the game went on and we were pleased with him.

"But having signed Kyrgiakos, we have that cover now and a player with experience that Dani can learn from.

"I feel Kyrgiakos can compete with Agger, Skrtel and Carragher. He gives us a different option as well as a massive physical presence.

"We needed someone like this to compete and be aggressive. He has done that in Scotland so well feel he can be good here.

"I am not worried about any previous disciplinary problems, he has more experience now and knows how to manage situations.

"I do not think he will be worried about the physical aspect of the game in England.

"He also knows that there is a lot of competition already here. This is a top side and he will have to fight for his place and also be supportive of his colleagues.''

Kyrgiakos was unlucky to miss Greece's Euro 2004 success through injury, and had to sit and watch his countrymen lift the title in Portugal.

Unveiled at the club's Melwood training ground, Kyrgiakos admitted the chance to join Liverpool was an offer he just could not refuse.

He said: "I am very happy to have this chance even though I had just signed a new contract with AEK.

"But although it was a good contract, you never stop having ambitions in life, and that is why I am here.

"When you are approached by a club like Liverpool, it is an offer you just cannot refuse.

"I hope that I can bring my strength to this squad, I am good in the air and I have a lot of experience now, so I hope I an be of benefit to Liverpool.

"I have played for Rangers in Scotland and Frankfurt in Germany, that has given me a lot of experience of competitive leagues so I believe I will adapt quickly.''

He added: "I know that there have not been many Greek players who have been successful in the English game, so I feel that I have something to prove for my country, that we can play at this level.

"For me it is a chance to have success at the very top. I was injured when Greece were European champions in 2004, these things happen in football.

"So I have plenty of motivation to do well in the Premier League and help Liverpool to be successful.

"I had a few disciplinary problems in Scotland, but not too much. I feel I have learned now how to be physical in this style of football.''

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