FROM THE KOP END
May 28 2008 by Tony Barrett
LIVERPOOL will go into the forthcoming season as Europe’s number one ranked team.
The Reds top UEFA’s official rankings thanks to their Champions League performances over the past five seasons.
Having won the competition in 2005, been runners up to AC Milan in 2007 and made it through to the semi-finals this year, Rafa Benitez’s team has accrued more ranking points than any other club in Europe.
Liverpool top the rankings table with 104.284 points, giving them a one point lead over Italian giants AC Milan.
Next on the list are Chelsea and Barcelona, with Arsenal in sixth and current Champions League holders Man United in seventh.
Other British teams on the list include Newcastle in 19th, Rangers in 20th, Middlesbrough in 27th, Spurs in 31st, Bolton in 41st, Everton in 44th and Celtic in 52nd.
Liverpool have moved up from third to first thanks to last season’s run to the semi-finals, meaning they top UEFA’s rankings for the first time since 1985.
Their recent form in the Champions League also means that they will go into the qualifiers for next season’s competition as number one seeds and will thereby avoid the other seeded teams when the draw for the qualifying rounds is made in July.
Meanwhile, Krisztian Nemeth’s rapid progress since joining Liverpool last summer has been recognised by Hungary who have called the teenage striker into their senior squad for Saturday’s international with Croatia.
The 19-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the stars of Gary Ablett’s title-winning reserve side after moving to the club from MTK Hungaria in July 2007.
A string of dazzling performances and several eye-catching goals in a debut season in which he finished up as top scorer have marked Nemeth out as a player for the future and Benitez believes he has the ability to challenge for a place in Liverpool’s first team.
The Reds boss said: “He is a player with game intelligence, with ability and someone who can score goals. He is a player we are keeping an eye on for the future.
“He must keep working. I think he will be much better in time because he wants to learn.”
At the weekend, Nemeth fired Hungary’s under-19 side to the European Championships with the only goal of the game against Portugal.
The Spanish giants say they have ignored Ferguson and chief executive Gill and contacted the club’s American owners directly.
But that has been denied out of hand by a spokesman for the family, who said: “As Sir Alex and David Gill have already said, Ronaldo is not for sale.”
In a further bizarre twist, Spanish sports newspaper Marca claim Real have a club car (right)ready and waiting for wing wizard Ronaldo.
The top-of-the-range Audi has been pictured in a club car park with a hand-written notice on the dashboard saying: ‘Deliver to Cristiano Ronaldo’.