Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Benitez Targets Baines

Liverpool are being linked with a move for Leighton Baines if they fail to land Gabriel Heinze.

The Wigan left-back is their back-up option, according to the Daily Mirror, who also claim that the Reds have finally worked out that they need cover for Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger at centre-half.

Baines has already turned down a move to Sunderland, while Everton have had a bid of £4m plus a player turned down.

The Mirror also claims that Benitez is still looking for a wide player and although he would 'love' to sign Arjen Robben, he looks set to join Real Madrid.

Liverpool Not Stopped Spending Yet

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has suggested that the Reds’ summer transfer splurge has not ended yet.

Manager Rafa Benitez has already splashed out around £40million on several new players including Ryan Babel, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun, but according to Parry, more money could be spent.

Speculation continues over whether Benitez will be able to lure United full-back Gabriel Heinze to Anfield with a big cash offer and Parry refuses to rule out further signings this summer.

Manchester United and Tottenham have both spent big bucks this summer and in a change of tact, Chelsea have been fortifying their squad with free transfers, perhaps having learnt last summer with the signings of Shevchenko and Ballack that big cash doesn’t always guarantee big success.

There is still a month to go until the August transfer window closes, ample time to reconfigure the squad further if Benitez so wants.

"A lot of clubs have spent significant amounts of money this summer, like Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea," Parry told the club's official website.

"Then there are a number of other clubs who have recently also had new investors, such as Newcastle, and there's still a long way to go before the end of the transfer window.

"If a player becomes available and he's the right player for this club then yes, we will be interested."

"There's always a lot expectation but there's definitely a special buzz about the upcoming season," added Parry.

"We're all excited with the new signings we've made and genuinely happy with what we've done.

"It was important to get them in as early as possible so that Rafa could have more time working with them. Bringing players in on the last day of the transfer window is never ideal.

"It was good for our new players to have been involved in the training camp out in Switzerland and then in Hong Kong."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Brazilian Leiva Unveiled By LiverpooL

Liverpool's new Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva says he cannot wait to get started at Anfield.

Leiva, 20, was unveiled on Thursday after signing for an undisclosed fee from Gremio and is with the squad on their tour of the Far East.

Leiva told the club's website: "I am very happy to be at Liverpool. It is a club respected throughout the world.

"There is a great selection of top stars at this club and it is a fantastic opportunity for me."

Reds boss Rafael Benitez believes Liverpool have signed one of world football's best young talents.

Lucas is a young player with great experience," said Benitez. "We have known about him for a long time and had to move quickly to sign him because many top clubs were interested.

"Lucas is not a typical Brazilian player but he's a clever player who wants the ball all the time, which is important.

"He will need time but I think we've signed a really excellent prospect."

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has also predicted a bright future for the captain of Brazil's Under-20 side.

Gerrard said: "From what I've seen of him so far he's got everything you need in a Liverpool player; good touch, good passing and he's also a good lad off the field.

"I expect him to be knocking on the door of the first team before too long and hopefully, in time, he can help us win many trophies."

Comment: If this guy is selected for the Brazilian national squad at the age of 20, then he must have been playing some great football. Let's hope that he could spark some magic in the Liverpool camp.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

LiverpooL To Play Torres, Babel & Gerrard

Liverpool will be at full strength for the Asia Trophy final after record signing Fernando Torres was given permission to play and Steven Gerrard recovered from injury, their coach said on Thursday.

Rafael Benitez said Torres and Dutch forward Ryan Babel had international clearance for Friday's match against Portsmouth after a bureaucratic bungle ruled them out of the semi-final.

"Torres and Babel have been cleared and have permission to play," Benitez said, adding that England star Gerrard had recovered from a stomach problem. "I think he's OK. He will be all right."

Torres and Babel were left out of Tuesday's game because they did not have the international clearance needed to appear in a Premier League-endorsed competition.

The triple absences disappointed thousands of fans at Hong Kong Stadium and forced Benitez to field a makeshift line-up which toiled to a 3-1 win against local minnows South China.

"We had some problems without Torres and Babel," Benitez admitted. "Now we have new options and fresh legs, and maybe we can manage the final in a different way.

"Portsmouth will be very difficult to play against but at least we will have more options."

Benitez side-stepped the latest barbs from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who raised the stakes by saying Liverpool were under pressure to deliver this season.

But he admitted he wanted more bite from the 18-time English champions who have not won the domestic league since 1990.

"I would like to see more goals. We were attacking a lot [last season] but I feel we can improve now," he said.

"We will have more options up front. Depending on the game we can play more crosses with Crouch or down the line with Voronin.

"If we want to change the game I can use another style of striker so I think it will be good for the team."

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina said he expected the highly-rated Torres to make an instant impact on the Premiership after moving from Spain's Atletico Madrid, where he was top scorer for the past five seasons.

"It won't be a problem for him - I expect him to score as soon as he comes," Reina said.

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp, whose side beat Fulham 1-0 to reach the final, tipped Liverpool finally to challenge for the Premier League title.

"They're looking very strong," said Redknapp. "The backbone of their team is still [Jamie] Carragher and Gerrard but they've added some talent this year and they will get a lot closer to Chelsea and Manchester United, I'm sure."

Redknapp said he would unveil forward John Utaka, Portsmouth's seventh signing this summer as they push for a European spot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Introducing The New LiverpooL Stadium

Liverpool Football Club has unveiled plans for its new £300m stadium in Stanley Park.

The 60,000-seat stadium – designed by US-based architects HKS – will replace the club’s famous Anfield ground, where the team has played since 1892.

Chief executive Rick Parry said: “It was always the aim of the club, with the backing of our owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, to be world-class both on and off the pitch.

“When they took over, the first thing Tom and George wanted to do was review the stadium both in terms of the design and the capacity.

“We’re building a stadium that not only the club and supporters can be proud of, but something the whole city can be proud of. Liverpool is a city on the move and deserves world-class developments like this.”

The Stanley Park stadium has an asymmetrical design, with an 18,000-seat single tier stand, and will also incorporate facilities for the Anfield Sport and Community Centre and Liverpool Hope University, and its external amenities will include tennis courts and multi-use games area.

The stadium is expected to be completed in 2010.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Liverpool Too Strong For South China

Liverpool set up a Barclays Asia Trophy final clash with Portsmouth after seeing off a spirited South China outfit 3-1.

A side with skipper Steven Gerrard and summer signings Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel were given a testing examination as goals from John Arne Riise, Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger finally saw off the hosts at Hong Kong Stadium.

Riise opened the scoring after nine minutes with a trademark blistering free-kick from the edge of the area that left keeper Zhang Chunhui with little chance as it arrowed its way into the top corner.

Harry Kewell's ball into the box caused panic in the South China defence shortly afterwards and the ball broke to Andriy Voronin but the Ukraine striker could not apply the finish.

Jose Luis' side then nearly grabbed an equaliser as first an in-swinging corner was cleared almost off the line before the Liverpool defence misjudged a deep cross but Bai Hei spooned his shot wide when well placed.

The home side fell further behind after 26 minutes when Alonso's cute through ball split the South China defence and Voronin was bundled over in the box. Alonso slotted home the spot kick low to Zhang's left.

However, South China halved the deficit just after the half hour mark when, after Mohammed Sissoko had been penalised for a foul near the right touchline, skipper Li Haiqiang curled a brilliant effort into the top corner of Scott Carson's net from 30 yards.

Alonso went close with a couple of long-range drives before the interval, the first from a Peter Crouch lay-off after persistent work from Voronin and the second when the ball fell to him after Crouch's surging run was stopped in its tracks as the Reds maintained their advantage.

The second half opened in low-key fashion but Dirk Kuyt, who had replaced Crouch, fired over when Alvaro Arbeola's low cross picked the Dutchman out on the far side of the area.

Voronin went close after 70 minutes when the striker rose to meet Kuyt's cross from the left but just could not keep his header down as it went narrowly over the bar.

A third was not long in coming though as Agger rounded off a beautifully worked goal after 72 minutes.

It was the centre-back who started it as he intercepted a pass and rode a couple of challenges before feeding Riise on the left.

The Norwegian's cross picked out Kuyt and he teed up Agger to drive the ball home from inside the box.

Zhang then produced two good stops in the space of two minutes as he first parried Kuyt's strong effort before denying Jermaine Pennant at the far post.

Liverpool should have scored a fourth two minutes from time but Voronin could only get minimal contact on Pennant's teasing cross and Kuyt somehow could not turn it in at the far post.

My comment: Not bad at all.....five wins out of five matches. However, golden boy Torres has yet to find the net. Conversely, Voronin has been playing some impressive football. Hopefully the likes of Torres, Crouch and Kuyt will find their scoring touch when the new season starts.

LiverpooL Hunting For Real Madrid Youngster

Reports in Spain suggest Liverpool are pushing hard to secure the services of another Spanish youngster, Real Madrid's Javi Garcia.

The 20-year-old defensive midfielder, part of the Spain side that won the Under 19 European Championship in 2006, has spent the last five seasons at Real having joined from a regional side in his hometown of Murcia.

Highly rated within the corridors of the Santiago Bernabeu, he was expected to graduate to Real's first team last season, but found his progress blocked by the summer signings of Emerson and Mahamadou Diarra.

As a result he spent the majority of the campaign - a handful of UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey games aside - with Real's B side, Castilla, and is now reported to be anxious for a chance to prove himself at first-team level.

With another change in management at the Bernabeu this summer that is far from guaranteed and he is now mulling over a number of offers to move on.

Real are keen to extend his contract which expires next summer, but Liverpool and Atletico Madrid are understood to be leading the chase for his signature, with both ready to part with €3million (£2million) to land the youngster.

Mallorca, Getafe and Deportivo are also keen on Garcia but Liverpool and Atletico appear in the driving seat should the player choose to end his stay at Real.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez does have the advantage of sharing the same agent as Garcia, Manuel Garcia Quilon, although Atletico may feel they have a trump card of their own as Garcia's cousin, and former Liverpool player, Luis Garcia, now plies his trade at the Vicente Calderon.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Finnan Signs New LiverpooL Deal

Liverpool's Republic of Ireland full-back Steve Finnan has agreed a new three-year contract to stay at Anfield.

Finnan joined the Reds in a £3.5m deal from Fulham in 2003 and has made 181 appearances for the club.

The 31-year-old is expected to sign the deal when the Liverpool squad returns from their pre-season tour of Asia.

Liverpool is currently in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Cup which also features Portsmouth, Fulham and South China.

Finnan was signed by former Reds boss Gerard Houllier but has remained first-choice under the Frenchman's successor Rafael Benitez.

He was part of the Liverpool teams that won the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006.

Personal comment: Good old Finnan, never doubted his loyalty for the Merseyside club. Always been playing consistently. Great move of extending his contract.

Liverpool Consider Legal Action To Force Heinze Move

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed the club's lawyers are working on forcing through a deal for Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze after his initial bid for the player was rejected.

Recent speculation has linked the Reds with an offer in the region of £7million for the Argentina full-back, but any move appeared to have been ruled out by United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

But Benitez has refused to back down in his pursuit of the 29-year-old and has revealed: "We made an offer which they rejected.

"The lawyers are now working on it and so we have to wait. He's a good player."

Ferguson last week poured scorn on any suggestion he might allow the former Paris St Germain player to leave for his club's bitterest rivals.

He said: "I can assure you, Liverpool will not be getting Gabriel Heinze.

"We can put that to bed right now and we have done so. We have had a couple offers for him and we have turned them down."

It later emerged that Heinze had a letter signed by chief executive David Gill promising he could leave if United received a big in excess of £6million - a figure Benitez is thought to have topped.

His representatives were reported to be considering legal action to push through the controversial deal - the first between the two clubs since Phil Chisnall moved to Anfield in 1964 - and it appears the Reds are also now willing to go to court to get their man.

My comment: I don't understand the fuss is all about....Ferguson knows pretty well that Heinze has the right to buy out his contract. Why would the Red Devil manager choose the hard way instead of releasing Heinze straight away?.....Some say he's the most brilliant football manager in the world.....well, think again.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Red Alert Torres Gets His Liverpool Eye In

Fernando Torres was introduced as a half-time substitute as Liverpool continued their preparations for the new season yesterday with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Auxerre in Switzerland.

The 23-year-old Spaniard was making his second appearance since arriving at Anfield earlier this month but, having recently recovered from a slight ankle injury, showed only glimpses of the form that encouraged Rafael Benítez to pay £26m for him.

Torres has enjoyed a low-key start to his career with the Premiership club - both his two outings have been on the Switzerland tour - but he will gain a taste of things to come when Liverpool arrive in Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy, where they play South China and then either Fulham or Portsmouth.

While Torres is still awaiting his first start Benítez's most recent signings, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun, were handed theirs against the French Ligue 1 side. But it was Steven Gerrard who caught the eye, ending a bland first 45 minutes with the opening goal seconds before half-time.

Daniel Agger completed the victory with a header from the impressive Nabil El Zhar's cross but the manner in which Liverpool's defence was cut open in the second half will concern Benítez.

"It was a strange game in many ways because we didn't play to our normal level yet we managed to score two good goals," said the Spaniard. "It was very hot conditions and we have been training hard, so we expected the players to feel a little tired. We have enjoyed our training camp in Switzerland and the players have worked very hard."

After Hong Kong Liverpool play in the Rotterdam Tournament - their last stop before the new season.

Carragher Ready For Asia Trophy Battle

Defender Jamie Carragher says the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong will give Liverpool a much needed fitness boost for the new season.

The Reds defeated Auxerre 2-0 in Fribourg on Friday afternoon before jetting out to Hong Kong for a game against a team from South China and then one against either Fulham or Portsmouth in the tournament.

In addition to handing legions of Liverpool fans in the Far East the opportunity to see their heroes in the flesh, Carragher insists it will provide the squad a chance to find their shaprness and allow the new boys to settle into the side.

"We haven't been there for a long time but we know we've got a lot of fans over there, so it will be nice for them and all the players are looking forward to it," he told the club's website.

"It's something different and will be a new experience for some of the lads. But the main thing is to go, improve our fitness and make sure we don't pick up any injuries.

"Team spirit is good at the moment. There's a lot of new faces but everyone is settling in really well."

Boss Rafa Benitez added: "We know that we have a lot of fans in Hong Kong and are looking forward to playing in front of them again.

"I'm sure they will give us wonderful support and we will do our best to win the Barclays Asia Trophy for them."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pre-season Friendly : Auxerre 0 - 2 LiverpooL

Goals from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger were enough to give Liverpool a deserved 2-0 win over Auxerre in their latest pre-season friendly.

Gerrard broke the deadlock in the 45th minute with a well-struck low shot from just inside the box following a clever dummy by Ryan Babel.

Agger then doubled the advantage midway through the second half when he headed home from a Nabil El Zhar corner.

In what was a fairly uneventful encounter in Fribourg, Switzerland, Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel were handed their first starts in a red shirt, while young Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov made his debut.

Record signing Fernando Torres appeared as a half-time substitute and the boss again made several changes during another useful run-out.

Rafa's Reds now head off to Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy and, with a fourth successive summer win under their belts, they'll do so in high spirits.


Mihaylov, Arbeloa, Carragher, Paletta, Finnan, Babel, Gerrard MBE (captain), Hobbs, Benayoun, Voronin, Kuyt. Subs - Hyypia, Carson, Torres, El Zhar, Pennant, Darby, Reina, Alonso, Crouch, Agger, Riise

Sorin, Jaures, Marcos (captain), Mignot, Martin, Legage, Pedretti, Thomas, Kahlenberg, Maoulida, Jelen. Subs - Lejeune, Traore, Riou, Jasse, Genest, Niculae, Tamas

Gabriel Heinze: See You In Court, Fergie

Gabriel Heinze will take his battle to join Liverpool from Manchester United to court.

Sir Alex Ferguson stated yesterday there was no way he would sell the 29-year-old to Liverpool.

However, United will have no choice if Heinze has a get-out clause, and now the defender is preparing to begin legal proceedings demanding his sale.

It’s been widely publicised in recent days Heinze has a letter signed by United chief executive David Gill allowing him to join any club which bids £6m – a valuation Liverpool are prepared to meet.

Despite their protests, it’s understood United did not have the foresight to add the phrase ‘except for Liverpool’ in this document.

Heinze’s representatives are confident of a swift court hearing forcing United to accept a £6m offer made by all interested clubs, including Liverpool.

The Anfield club made a formal bid for the defender which was rejected, but will now take a back seat and watch developments closely over the next few weeks.

Manager Rafa Benitez will want a new left back in his squad before the start of the season.

The capture of Heinze would represent a major coup for Benitez and, given Ferguson’s opposition to the move, would also inflict psychological torment on the United boss.

What’s clear is no matter how much Ferguson claims it won’t happen, the final decision is out of his hands.

My comment: Although I don't really fancy the move of Heinze, somehow I'm impressed with his desire to join the Liverpool squad. To bring this matter to court might cost him time and money but if he's willing to go through that hardship, I guess his intention will be good for Liverpool.

Riise Attempts To Raise His Game

Aware that Liverpool are in the marker for a new left-back, John Arne Riise has vowed to impress Rafael Benitez by raising his game.

The Norwegian, who has been a fixture in Benitez's plans, is facing a threat to his place on the left-hand side of Liverpool's team following reports that the Reds have launched a raid on Manchester United's Gabriel Heinze.

However, Manchester United's boss Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed any chance of a deal being struck, but nonetheless Riise is determined to stay focused and make it impossible for him to be dropped.

"There have been a lot of rumours lately about new people coming to the club so you know you need to step up a level," Riise told the Liverpool Echo.

"I've been working out during the summer because I wanted to show the manager (Rafael Benitez) I was fit and raring to go.

"The only response I can make is to stay focused on my game and hope the manager has enough faith in me to keep me playing. It's up to me, really.

"But I've always worked hard to show the manager I deserve to play.

"I've enjoyed a good six years here so I hope I've done more right than wrong during that time."

Personal comment: Riise undoubtedly has been one of the Liverpool faithful.....there are times when Liverpool does need his long shot tries. Defensively, he has got the pace but sometimes you can see him drifting off in the middle of the game. At least he's better than people like Silvestre or Wayne Bridge. He should remain in the squad.

Gerrard Eyes Premiership Title

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is delighted with the signings the club has made over the summer and feels there is now enough quality in the side to mount a serious challenge for the Premiership next season.

'I've watched what the other teams are doing in the market and they're all strengthening, but all those teams will be looking at us and thinking we are going to be all over them this season,' Gerrard told the LFC Magazine.

'I'm not going to start making any unnecessary predictions about what's going to happen this season and the last thing any of us need to do is build hopes up too much.

'But without doubt, if we all perform to our level each week, we have the players to push United and Chelsea all the way.

'We are looking in great shape, not only going into this season but for the next few years.

'I thought going away for the summer that we were three or four players away from where we need to be.

'Now I think we are in a great place to challenge United and Chelsea and I hope if we get things right from the beginning we can beat them to the big prizes this year.

'I've liked the way we've done business this summer. Previous years have shown how important it is to sort everything early in the pre-season, as it's not easy for players if they arrive just before the deadline.

'Hopefully with everyone having had the right amount of rest this summer we'll be able to hit the ground running when the Premiership begins. People say you can't win the league in August but I believe you can certainly lose it in the first month.

'It's fine saying it's a nine-month season and there is plenty of time to recover from a shaky start but it's hard playing catch-up week-in, week-out.

'The last thing you want to do is give teams like Manchester United and Chelsea a head start, making things even more difficult for you than they are already.'

Thursday, July 19, 2007

LiverpooL Can Have Heinze

Argentina's Copa America finalist Gabriel Heinze will be allowed to leave Manchester United for Liverpool this summer - provided the Merseysiders meet United's asking price of £6 million.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports earlier this week: "Gaby's agent has advised us that he wants to move on.

“I am not too sure about that and we do not have a concrete offer from any particular club. But there is some momentum regarding the player's next move in terms of through his agent, even if nothing is close at this moment in time.”

Liverpool have expressed a definite interest, although manager Rafael Benitez, aware that no player has moved directly between the bitter rivals since 1964, when Phil Chisnall left Old Trafford for a brief, ill-starred spell at Anfield, has been concerned that United might block such an emotive transfer.

However, The Sun reports that Heinze has been told by United chiefs that he can join any club he wishes - as long as they come up with the required fee.

Ferguson has already spent £50 million on new talent this summer, and plans to splash out almost half as much again to bring Heinze's compatriot Carlos Tevez to Old Trafford.

The manager will be expected to recoup some of that outlay, and selling Heinze would help, after Kieran Richardson's move to Sunderland yesterday brought some £5.5 million back into the Old Trafford coffers.

My comment: Since Benitez is so eager to sign Heinze, there must be something up his sleeves, knowing the 'Master Of Tactician'. Maybe Benitez would use Heinze to compensate for the loss of Aurelio.

Rafa Raves Over Attacking Options

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has expressed his delight after watching four of his new attacking recruits in action on Tuesday night.

The Anfield boss handed Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun their debuts in Tuesday's 3-2 friendly win over Werder Bremen, but it was Andrei Voronin who stole the show.

The Ukrainian striker netted his first goal for the club, after signing on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen, after just four minutes and he helped himself to another in the second half.

John Arne Riise was also on target for the Reds, but Benitez was full of praise for his summer squad additions and the attacking dimension they have brought to Liverpool.

"I was pleased to see us score three goals and it was nice for Torres, Benayoun and Babel to play their first game for us," Benitez said.

"You can see the different options we have now in attack. It was good for the supporters to see us attacking and playing some good football.

"It was not so good for me as a manger to see us conceding goals but there were many positives."

Meanwhile, Benitez has decided he will be allowing Javier Mascherano additional time off before the new season.

The Argentine midfielder has only recently finished participating in the Copa America and Benitez has said he will excuse the 23-year-old from Liverpool's forthcoming tour of the Far East.

"Mascherano will have 10 days off but, when he returns, he will stay at Melwood with the reserves," Benitez said.

"There would be too much travelling for him to come with us to Hong Kong, we don't want to kill the player before the start of the season."

Mascherano is expected to return to action in the friendly with Shanghai Shenhua in Rotterdam on August 3, eight days before Liverpool kick off their Premier League campaign away at Aston Villa.

Personal comment: It seems like Liverpool has started to score goals after all.....hopefully new boy Torres will get his name on the scoresheet soon. However, I do hope that they keep their defence in-tact as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Werder Bremen 2 - 3 LiverpooL

Andriy Voronin doesn’t appear to be sticking to the script. The free transfer showed the £26 million Torres and the watching Rafa Benitez that he has no intention of sitting on the Anfield bench.

The Reds won 3-2 against one of Germany’s best sides tonight in the most intriguing pre-season game to date.

Andriy Voronin scored twice and was a menace during his time on the pitch. Fernando Torres came on to replace him and had a solid debut - coming close twice to opening his Liverpool account. Good news for reds fans is that Momo Sissoko is starting to find his feet against better opposition.

Liverpool will take heart from this performance and the reds will face Djibril Cisse’s old club, Auxerre, on Friday night.


Carson, Riise, Hyypia, Paletta, Finnan, El Zhar, Gerrard MBE, Hobbs, Pennant, Crouch, Voronin

Subs - Agger, Babel, Kuyt, Benayoun, Carragher, Darby, Arbeloa, Torres, Mihaylov, Alonso, Sissoko

Werder Bremen:
Wiese, Baumann, Fritz, Rosenberg, Andreason, Alberto, Frings (captain), Borowski, Niemeyer, Schulz, Schindler.

Subs - Bischoff, Vranjes, Loning, Pellatz, Almelda, Jensen, Wome

Betis Ready To Go For Gonzalez

Newly-appointed Real Betis coach Hector Cuper has approved the Spanish club's move for Liverpool winger Mark Gonzalez.

Betis narrowly avoided relegation from the Primera Liga last season after finishing in 16th place, and are currently busy rebuilding their squad.

Gonzalez, who previously spent a year on loan with Real Sociedad, is thought to be close to finalising his transfer, along with Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo and Argentina striker Mariano Pavone, after failing to establish himself at Anfield.

"We will do everything possible to create a team that is strong but that also has a winning mentality," said Cuper, who was confirmed at Betis on Monday after signing a one-year contract.

"The important thing is that this team has a strong personality.

"They (the club's prospective new signings) are all very good players. Ricardo has a great mentality, Pavone has played well for two years in Argentina and Gonzalez can improve a lot."

Personal comment: Frankly speaking, I do not understand why Benitez would want to sell of Gonzalez. I do admit that the Chilean is finding it tough to adapt in England but then he's on 22 or 23....still plenty of time for him to prove his worth. Maybe it would be better if Gonzalez is loaned out to other Premier League clubs instead of selling him off.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mancini Interest Is Over

Rafael Benitez today revealed Liverpool’s interest in Roma winger Alessandro Mancini is over, despite claims of a fresh bid from the player’s agent.

Liverpool did show an interest in the Brazilian earlier in the summer, but Benitez opted to sign Ryan Babel instead.

Now, with Mancini negotiating a new deal with the Italian side, his representative is claiming Benitez is still pursuing the 27-year-old.

But Benitez said today: “I was reading stories about Mancini. I can say that Liverpool will not be offering any money for this player.”

There are suspicions the player’s agent is using the Reds to improve terms at the Olympic Stadium.

Benitez and his 25-man squad arrived in Switzerland yesterday.

Youngster Jack Hobbs and Stephen Darby are among those included in the party, as well as all the recent recruits.

Fabio Aurelio is also with the squad and training again, although Benitez says he won’t be able to play for a month as he nears recovery from a ruptured Achilles.

Scott Carson, who enjoyed extra time off due to the Under-21 European Championships, is also back in training.

The manager hopes the documents to allow both Lucas Leiva and Sebastian Leto to feature in the pre-season games will arrive during the course of the week.

The Reds play their first Swiss game against Werder Bremen tomorrow.

My Say: I never thought that Mancini would be good enough to challenge Ryan Babel or Jermaine Pennant for a regular starting place in the Liverpool squad. Should Benitez is interested to look for pacy, nippy winger, look no further than Aiden McGeady who currently plays for Celtic in Scotland.

Liverpool Eye Chiellini Swoop

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini could be on his way to Liverpool after stating that the Bianconeri have neglected him.

The former Italy Under-21 captain claims that he is worried about his future in Serie A and is waiting for club officials to clarify their plans.

“No one has called me or tried to contact me,” he revealed. “They have focused on renewing the contracts of the important players and this is logical.

“However, they haven’t considered the players who gave their all to bring the team back to the First Division. I believe I might risk playing only 30 per cent of next year’s matches and I cannot agree to this.

“I have plenty of opportunities, but I only hope someone will call me to explain what the plan is. Unfortunately no one has done this so far.”

Reports in Italy suggest that Liverpool have offered £5m for the defender, although it is understood that the Old Lady value him at £7m.

The Premiership club is focusing on Chiellini after the deal to bring Manchester United left-back Gabriel Heinze – a former Juventus target – to Anfield stalled.

My personal comment: This left back is highly rated....although some of you might not heard of him before, I actually found him when I was playing Championship Manager 2007. Definately a good investment for the longer term.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Crewe 0 - 3 LiverpooL

Rafael Benitez was full of praise for new boy Andriy Voronin after the striker's impressive debut in the 3-0 friendly win at Crewe.

Voronin carved out game's opening goal for youngster Lee Peltier (21) during an impressive 45 minutes on the field.

Peter Crouch (24) added a second three minutes later when he turned in John Arne Riise's cross.

And Youth Cup hero Ray Putterill added the Reds' third after 58 minutes with a shot from the edge of the box.

"We know that Voronin is going to be another option for us," Benitez told the club's website. "He has good game intelligence, he plays well between the lines and he has a lot of quality.

"He played well today in what was a good game for us. We used 22 players and I saw a lot of good things on the field.

"Two of the young lads scored as well which is good for them. They need to be involved in these kind of games to show what they can do."

Heinze Set To Buy-out United Contract To Clinch Liverpool Move

Gabriel Heinze is locked in a £6.8 million tug-of-war with Manchester United because they refuse to sell him to their bitter rivals Liverpool.

Anfield boss Rafa Benitez has been given the green light by the club's American owners to swoop for the Argentina defender.

But despite giving Heinze the all-clear to find a new club after losing his first-team spot to Patrice Evra last season, United have made it clear they have no intention of allowing him to move to Anfield.

Heinze is now weighing up whether to buy out the remaining two years of his Old Trafford contract in order to seal a dramatic switch down the M62 after admitting his desire to move to Liverpool.

New FIFA rules allow players to pay off the final two years of contracts and £65,000-a-week man Heinze knows it will cost him a whopping £6.8m to trigger his exit from United.

No player has moved between the clubs since the unheralded Phil Chisnall left Old Trafford for Anfield in 1964.

If the 29-year-old does buy out his contract, the Champions League finalists would then get Heinze on a free transfer, handing the player a hefty signing-on fee and salary package to compensate him for his United buy-out.

Aurelio Doubt For Reds

Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Fabio Aurelio may not be fit for the start of the new season.

The Brazilian full-back suffered cruciate ligament damage last season and had been expected to be fit in time for pre-season training.

However, Benitez has admitted there is a major doubt over Aurelio.

"Fabio isn't fit yet. It could be another month before he is recovered, but we knew it would be a long time when he suffered the injury," said Benitez.

"He is improving, but it's not easy when you have this kind of injury."

Meanwhike, Benitez has also confirmed the appointment of a new goalkeeper coach with Spaniard Xavi Valero replacing fellow countryman Jose Ochotorena.

"Xavi is an important addition to our backroom staff and I'm looking forward to working with him," said Benitez.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

LiverpooL Make Mancini Contact

Liverpool are mulling over a move for Roma's Alessandro Mancini, according to the player's agent.

Mancini enjoyed a superb campaign last season and has reportedly attracted the attention of several clubs, including Juventus and Liverpool.

His representative Gilmar Veloz claims he has talked with Rafa Benitez about a possible transfer, although he admits the two clubs have yet to enter negotiations.

"There has been interest from Liverpool and I have spoken with Benitez," Veloz told Radio Centro Suono Sport.

"I replied that they must talk with Roma, but if the Giallorossi were to sell him I'd have no trouble striking a deal."

Mancini's current contract runs out in 2009 but Veloz insists his client would like to remain with the club.

However, the Brazilian has yet to agree a contract extension and Veloz admits his future remains uncertain.

He explained: "On Monday I'll be meeting with Roma sporting director Daniele Prade to talk about contracts, I don't know what their offer is yet."

"Does Mancini want to stay? Surely if he didn't he would have already left."

Reports in the Italian press suggest Mancini will consider leaving if he is not offered a substantial pay rise.

Benitez On The Attack

Rafael Benítez yesterday introduced Liverpool's latest two summer signings after a busy week in the market and then claimed he is ready to throw off the defensive mind-set which has held the club back in the past few seasons.

Liverpool have struggled badly for goals in the Premiership during the Spaniard's three-year spell as manager, scoring only 166 league goals compared to Manchester United's 213 in that time. It is a statistic that Benítez now says he wants to put right.

"We needed to be quick in the market and with the players that we have we can also be quick on the pitch," the Spaniard said as he introduced the £11.5m signing Ryan Babel, a 20-year-old forward, and then Yossi Benayoun, the 27-year-old wide midfielder from West Ham.

"Defensively the team was good, but really we wanted to attack," Benítez added. "Last season we were having a lot of chances, crossing and shooting more than anyone. But we needed to improve. Maybe with these players the crossing will be better and also the finishing.

"At Valencia I had three or four players, all of whom could score 10 or 15 goals a season. If you have a player who can score 20 goals a year, it's good. But he could get injured and the other team knows he is the only one who can score. It's then easier for the opposition to control. When your team attacks I prefer to have four or five players getting to the box."

The arrivals of Babel and Benayoun take Benítez's spending this summer to around £40m, and the £26m record signing Fernando Torres is expected to play his first game for the club on Tuesday against Werder Bremen in Switzerland.

Babel becomes the third most expensive player in Liverpool's history (Djibril Cissé is the second at £14m) and will receive in excess of £2m of the fee after Ajax agreed he would get 50% of the difference of any fee above €9m (£6.1m). He has scored four goals in 14 appearances for the senior Holland side and is looking forward to playing with Torres.

"I don't want to go into exactly what Rafa said, but he said I could play in a lot of positions and after a couple of months he can see what the best position is for me," said Babel, who had been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal earlier in the summer.

"My favourite position is striker but I can play in a number of different ones. This is a very great club and it was an easy decision to come here. I didn't actually know Liverpool had signed Torres because I was away on holiday. But of course he is a striker that I admire. If you want to learn how to score goals easily then he is one of the players to show you. There was never a proper interest from Arsenal."

Benayoun, who claims he was offered more money to stay at West Ham, is the third Israeli to play for Liverpool and hopes to follow in the footsteps of Avi Cohen and Ronny Rosenthal, both of whom won the title while at Anfield.

"Hopefully I will be the next Israeli to bring luck to Anfield and win the league again," said Benayoun, who has signed a four-year contract.

"Joining Liverpool is the biggest step of my career. It's a big dream. West Ham are a big club and I've had a very good two seasons there. But I told West Ham from the beginning if I was ever going to leave them then it would be for a club like Liverpool.

"I had two or three offers from other clubs, but I told them I would never leave unless it was for Liverpool because it's my dream. It's got nothing to do with money. I simply want to accomplish my dream."

Liverpool Stadium Plans Submitted

The stadium plans for Liverpool’s new ground have been submitted and will now have to be passed for approval by the city’s council before work can begin.

The proposed stadium at Stanley Park will hold 60,000 fans and would cost around £270million to build, with work starting before the beginning of 2008.

The Liverpool Echo have reported that there could be the facility to expand capacity to 80,000 in the future, which would make the Liverpool ground the largest in terms of capacity in the Premiership.

Currently, Manchester United’s ground, Old Trafford, holds that record, holding a maximum of just over 76,000, although there are plans in place to increase this to a mammoth 96,000.

There are sure to be mixed reaction from Liverpool fans at the news of a stadium move. Anfield, like Highbury, Maine Road and countless other iconic stadiums of yesteryear, is synonymous with the club.

The atmosphere created at Anfield is world-renowned, something that new Liverpool co-owner is willing to keep in mind with the new stadium, saying recently: "It is all centred around the Kop - it will be the symphony stage that plays to the symphony hall.

"I think our fans will love it. It's very creative architecture, very contemporary but also unique to Liverpool."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hicks Promises More As Reds Net £11.5m Babel

Liverpool's co-owner Tom Hicks believes the club's heavy-spending summer programme is not over even though the manager, Rafael Benítez, has invested about £40m overhauling his squad, with Ryan Babel last night confirmed by Ajax as the latest arrival.

The exciting 20-year-old Holland forward accepted a five-year contract after the Amsterdam club agreed to sell him in a deal worth £11.5m, about £2m less than they originally wanted. West Ham's Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun is expected to follow Babel into Anfield in time to fly out with the squad on Sunday to a training camp before two friendlies in Switzerland, where the record signing Fernando Torres is likely to get his first game.

Benítez, who has also signed the striker Andriy Voronin from Bayer Leverkusen since the Champions League final defeat in May, has been one of the busiest managers in the market this summer, but Hicks does not expect the spending to stop.

"I wouldn't rule Rafa out for one more [transfer]. I know the team is going to be a better team," said the American, who with his compatriot George Gillett has helped fund the eye-catching recruitment drive. "Part of the plan Rafa explained was that we needed to have more depth as it is a long season, particularly in the Premier League.

"He explained to George and me that we were able to compete better in the Champions League because of the format than we were in the nine to 10 months of the Premier League. We tried to add to that depth and I think we have."

Hicks believes Liverpool's spending sends out a strong signal to Premiership and European rivals about their intent to win trophies. Only Manchester United have flexed more muscle in the market, although Spurs are pushing them close.

"United are always going to be a top side and we just have to compete as best we can," he added. "Rafa has done a great job. We talked to him about a plan and it has gone pretty much how we agreed it would go. The first was to get existing core players on our team to sign extensions - it was critical to get those guys locked up. Then we started with the process of getting new players in."

Babel, one of the stars of Holland's European Under-21 championship win last month, is a product of the famed Ajax youth academy and broke into the senior side in the 2003-04 season. He has since scored 14 goals in 73 league games, was picked for Holland's World Cup squad last summer and is rated as one of the country's most promising talents.

He said he had been won over by Benítez's expectations for the future. "I've spoken to Rafa Benítez and that was when I knew everything would be signed," he said. "He has a clear vision of what he wants and said I'd be competing with six others for four positions in the forward line."

Liverpool Complete Babel Transfer

Liverpool have completed the signing of Ajax's Ryan Babel in an £11.5m deal.

The 20-year-old Dutch striker has agreed a five-year contract as Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez continues a major overhaul of his squad.

"I listened to them and I got a great feeling about the club," said Babel. "I have made my choice with my heart and the coach has big plans for me."

Yossi Benayoun, a reported £5m signing from West Ham, was also unveiled by Liverpool on Friday.

Babel admitted it was a tough decision to leave Ajax, where he made his debut aged 17 in 2004 and scored five goals in 27 Eredivisie matches last season.

He said: "I have met Rafael Benitez and my conversation with him was the moment I knew the deal would get done.

"He is like the ideal father-in-law. He has a lot of football know-how and he told me that I would be challenging with six other players for four positions. I have a good feeling about things.

"I met Dirk Kuyt at training, who I knew from the national team. At that moment he did not feel like a rival but I suppose that is what will happen.

"It was very important how the coach spoke to me, how I would fit in his team. After that conversation I knew it was the right decision."

Babel was a member of the Dutch team that won the European Under-21 Championship in June and he has been capped 14 times by the full Dutch team.

Liverpool manager Benitez has also signed forwards Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin this summer.

Babel Kops £3M Deal

Ryan Babel will receive a £3million windfall from his big-money move to Liverpool.

The Dutch whizzkid will arrive at Anfield today to complete his move to Merseyside after his club Ajax finally agreed terms on the transfer that will eventually net them £12m.

But canny 20-year-old Babel will personally receive more than £3m of that money after negotiating a clause in his contract giving him 50 per cent of any fee the Dutch club received above £9m.

The agreement to take the exciting young striker to England could eventually top £18m with add-ons effectively giving him a quarter of the transfer figure.

The Dutchman, who was the star of the recent European Under-21 Championship, will also get a £2m signing on fee from Liverpool and a salary of around £60,000 a week.

That will earn him a potential £20m over the course of his five-year deal with Liverpool - a staggering amount for such a young player.

But the Merseyside club believe that he is worth it given his massive reputation in the land of total football, and the promise he has shown so far in breaking into the full Holland side in the last year.

He has been described by Marco van Basten as Holland's next superstar, and a striker who could eventually be better than Thierry Henry.

Yet Liverpool first want to use him in a wide position as they hope to give him experience in the frenetic world of the Premiership, filling in vacant spots on the left and right flanks.

The youngster is expected to be unveiled publicly this afternoon, and he could not contain his delight at the prospect of the move yesterday when he said: "It is a dream for me.

Liverpool are a serious club, and to have them make an offer for me means so much.

"I listened to what they had to say and I got a great feeling about the club. I have made a choice with my heart. Rafa Benitez has big plans for me."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

LiverpooL Agree Price For Israeli Midfielder

Sky Sports News understands Liverpool have agreed a fee to sign Yossi Benayoun from West Ham United.

Benayoun has emerged as a target for Rafa Benitez's in recent weeks, despite agreeing a new five-year contract at Upton Park.

But the delay in signing the deal has allowed Liverpool to steal in with a suitable offer for the Israel international.

Benitez revealed last week that the Hammers had said 'no' to his club's original offer, but a fee now appears to have been settled upon.

Reports have mooted a price of £4million for Benayoun, who has made 72 appearances for West Ham since joining from Racing Santander two years ago.

His impending switch to Anfield follows the completion of the £7.5million deal which took Craig Bellamy in the opposite direction.

When quizzed on Liverpool's interest last month, Benayoun admitted he was 'honoured' to be wanted by the UEFA Champions League finalists.

The player's agent Ronen Katzav said: "It should be completed in the next 48 hours.

"Everybody would be happy to play for Liverpool. West Ham will always be in his heart, but he is looking to move up a level."

Babel Will Cost Liverpool £13.5m

Liverpool will have to pay £13.5m for 20-year-old Ajax winger Ryan Babel.

Ajax technical director Martin van Geel says talks have taken place between the two clubs, but no fee has been agreed.

"Liverpool are willing to pay a huge sum for Ryan," he said. "We have told them what we want, and that's 20m euros (£13.5m). That is our price."

Reports have suggested that Liverpool have made an improved bid after an initial £10m offer was rejected by the famed Dutch club.

"We would like to see Babel play here next season, it's not for nothing that we have extended his contract until June 2010," added Van Geel.

"But if these kind of clubs want to pay us these figures it says something.

"We will see if we can reach a deal in the coming days."

Babel helped Holland win the European Under-21 Championship this summer and had been linked with a move to Arsenal.

But the Reds appear to have stolen a march over their Premiership rivals and Babel said: "I had heard that there were some stories on the internet but that happens quite often.

"Liverpool's interest is serious news to me.

"I haven't thought about a transfer for a minute, I will do that soon though. That such a big club is interested is of course very nice."

BBC Five Live Sport football correspondent Jonathan Legard has been told a deal could go through on Wednesday after Craig Bellamy's £7.5m switch from the Reds to West Ham was confirmed.

He revealed: "Babel was strongly linked to Arsenal but Liverpool have made their move and it seems they will use the money from Craig Bellamy's move to West Ham to bring in one of Europe's finest young talents."

Liverpool boss Benitez signed striker Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid last week and admitted he was looking to sign wide players to help supply his new acquisition.

Babel made 27 Eredivisie appearances for Ajax last season, scoring five goals.

But Babel's agent Winnie Haatrecht has issued a note of caution as he considered any possible impact a move may have on the winger's career.

"The route is very clear," said Haatrecht. "First Liverpool and Ajax need to get an agreement about a transfer, that's step one.

"After that we want to know what the technical staff of Liverpool has planned for Ryan.

"The sporting perspective must be totally clear. Only then can Ryan make a good choice.

"Of course Liverpool is a great club. But it must not be that he needs to fight with eight strikers for two positions. We must also look at the development of Ryan."

Bellamy Joins West Ham United

West Ham United have confirmed the signing of Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy for a club record fee of £7.5 million.

Bellamy, 28 next week, agreed a five-year deal at Upton Park after it was made clear he had no future at Anfield following the arrival of Spain internationalist Fernando Torres.

The transfer was agreed on Friday but was delayed over the weekend as Bellamy thrashed out contractual issues with Liverpool.

The Wales captain is West Ham's fourth summer signing and takes manager Alan Curbishley's spending since he arrived at Upton Park in December to nearly £40m.

The deal for Bellamy breaks West Ham's previous transfer record of £7.25m, which the Hammers paid Norwich for Dean Ashton in January 2006. Bellamy joins midfielders Scott Parker and Julien Faubert plus goalkeeper Richard Wright in signing for the Hammers this summer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Benitez Eyeing For Two More Players

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has said he is in the market for "two new faces" during the summer following his successful pursuit of top priority Fernando Torres.

The highly-rated forward joined the Reds for a club-record £25 million last week but the Spanish tactician claims he is not quite finished in the transfer market and is particularly targeting wingers.

"We don't need a lot of new players, maybe two new faces," he said.

However Benitez has also sought to reassure the club's existing squad-members – particularly winger Jermaine Pennant – that any new signings will not threaten their places in the Liverpool squad.

"Jermaine is the type of player I like, a winger who goes forward and puts crosses in," Benitez continued.

"He can do this job perfectly but we do need other players in wide areas.

"He played really well in the Champions League final and he has also done really well in pre-season."

Pennant has scored just once in his 52 appearances in all competitions for the Anfield club but has impressed on a number of occasions.

His career had seemed to take several backward steps in recent years, following his inauspicious departure from Arsenal in 2005 and his drink-driving conviction later that year while a Birmingham City player, which saw him serve a 30-day prison sentence.

Pennant was signed by Liverpool in July last year on a four-year contract for £6.7 million.

Liverpool Make £10m Bid For Babel

Liverpool have made a £10m bid for highly-rated Ajax winger Ryan Babel, BBC Five Live Sport understands.

However, the Dutch club are thought to be holding out for £13.5m for the 20-year-old, who has also been linked to Arsenal.

Babel's agent told Sportweek magazine: "Liverpool have made a bid for Ryan but he hasn't spoken with them.

"We can only speak when Ajax say the clubs have an agreement, and phase two can start, but it's not that far yet."

But Five Live football correspondent Jonathan Legard has been told a deal could go through on Wednesday.

He said: "Liverpool have bid 15m euros (£10m), Ajax want 20 million euros (£13.5m) so there's a gap of about £3.5m.

"He was strongly linked to Arsenal but Liverpool have made their move and it seems they will use the money from Craig Bellamy's move to West Ham to bring in one of Europe's finest young talents."

Babel impressed as part of the Holland Under-21 team that won the recent European Championship.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez signed striker Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid last week and admitted he was looking to sign wide players to help supply his new acquisition.

Babel made 27 Eredivisie appearances for Ajax last season, scoring five goals.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Transfer Speculation: Ricardo Quaresma To LiverpooL

The biggest transfer rumour of the weekend is The News of the World splash (08.07.2007) that Liverpool have offered nearly £14m for Porto winger Ricardo Quaresma. This is the first sign of a price for the Portuguese - although this story has previously appeared in all of the News Corp papers.

Firstly in The Times (05.07.2007) and then in The Sun (06.07.2007) - who bundled interest in the 2005 and 2006 Portuguese player of the year with two other high-stepping crowd pleasers, Roma's Alessandro Mancini and, err, Man Utd's Gabriel Heinze.

Quaresma is an understudy for Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese national side, as they are both nominally right wingers and both has a similar style. This is partly the explanation for Quaresma only picking up nine additional caps since his debut four years ago.

Other contributing factors have been the presence of Luis Figo (what a production line of wide men there is in Portugal) and Quaresma's spats with Frank Rijkaard during his dismal season at Barcelona. Quaresma would offer a quality outlet on the right for Liverpool replacing Luid Garcia and suggesting that Jermaine Pennant would be reduced to a squad role.

But despite some fantastic YouTube clips, signing the mercurial Quaresma is a risk. His inability to adapt to a squad role at Barcelona lead to his rapid departure after barely 20 games; 29 goals in 180 league games suggest that he is not going to improve the fairly dismal, Gerrard aside, goalscoring options from midfield; at 5'8" and fairly slight he will be treated fairly robustly by Premiership full-backs; and at £14m he seems fully priced for his abilities and experience.

On the plus side he is 23 years old and adaptable enough to play in all the support forward roles; both wings and at number ten. If the price were around £10m then Liverpool would have a bargain, but even at £14m a motivated Quaresma would improve the team and add points in Rafa Benitez's most important season as a Liverpool manager.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

World's Top 50 Footballers

After going through piles and piles of statistics, here's my list of the world's top 50 footballers:

1. Kaka (Milan)

The top four are incredibly tight, but he just edges it for one simple reason: he combines Brazilian flair with European directness like nobody else. He truly is a product of two footballing cultures, a man who has all the virtues and none of the vices of either. Speaking of vices, he really, really doesn’t have any. A committed Christian, he announced proudly that he was a virgin on his wedding night. He likes to parade around in his favourite T-shirt, the one that reads “I belong to Jesus” (thereby opening a whole can of worms regarding third-party ownership). And that’s another reason he tops the list - with Kaka in your team, odds are, the big fella upstairs will be on your side as well...

2. Ronaldinho (Barcelona)

There’s a reason he’s always smiling. You’d be smiling all the time too if you knew that you were the best player on the pitch and you were about to make some poor defender look a jackass. He is the poster child for Brazilian football, the proud heir of those who came before him. He didn’t adapt to the European game, he forced it to adapt to him. Put him on the team sheet, sit back and enjoy the show.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

In the P.C. era (pre-Cristiano) wingers were slight, nippy and small. He redefined the position marrying size and brawn with pace and trickery. You get the sense that, when he’s running at defenders, he could go around them or straight through them. As an added bonus, he’s also an aerial threat on set pieces.

4. Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona)

He’s tired of playing second fiddle to Ronaldinho and with good reason. If he were anywhere else, people would be writing odes and sonnets to him. Eto’o is freakishly quick, an outstanding finisher, with a supernatural eye for goal. Plus, he’s happy to do the dirty work when the other side has possession. Just make sure you continue to massage his ego.

5. Michael Essien (Chelsea)

A one-man wrecking crew. Is there anything he can’t do? You could probably let the rest of the team go off for a fag break in the middle of the game and let him man the fort in midfield. Terrifyingly gifted already and, if given more responsibility, likely to get even better.

6. Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)

Simply put, he’s a freak of nature. No man his size should be so athletic. His agility belies the laws of physics and he is about as unflappable as they come. Having a guy like him in your side means that defeats turn into draws and draws into victories. That alone is worth an extra ten to 15 points at the end of a season.

7. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

Speaking of heroics, he’s done it so many times, it’s easy to lose track. If Gerrard were a few inches taller and a few pounds more slight, we would marvel at his pure technical ability. Instead, we focus on his bruising workrate and other more obvious qualities. Don’t worry about fitting him into your side. Just do what Rafa does. Line up your nine other outfield players and let Gerrard do whatever he likes.

8. Carlos Tevez (West Ham)

A single-minded winner, who has carried whole clubs on his back in Argentina, Brazil and England. Tevez’s contribution isn’t measured in just goals and assists, but in self-sacrifice and heroism. With a season of European football under his belt, there is no telling how much better he’s going to be next year.

9. Leo Messi (Barcelona)

Leave Maradona out of it for a minute. Focus instead on that when the ball is at his feet, unless you’re Nostradamus, you have absolutely no idea what will happen next. There is no legislating for unpredictability in football and Messi has bags of it. Plus, his 14 Liga goals last year show that he has added a healthy scoring dimension to his game as well.

10. Francesco Totti (Roma)

His job is to create, not finish, and yet he won the European Golden Boot this season with 26 league goals: a total made all the more remarkable when you throw in the fact that he uncharacteristically missed six penalties along the way. (At least he made the ones that mattered in the World Cup.) That alone should get him on the list - his vision and phenomenal range of passing are bonuses.

And the list continues…….

11. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

12. Thierry Henry (Barcelona)

13. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

14. Petr Cech (Chelsea)

15. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid)

16. Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

17. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter)

18. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)

19. Daniel Alves (Seville)

20. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)

21. Carles Puyol (Barcelona)

22. Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

23. Ronaldo (Milan)

24. Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea)

25. Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham Hotspur)

26. Michael Ballack (Chelsea)

27. David Villa (Valencia)

28. Mahamadou Diarra (Real Madrid)

29. Andrea Pirlo (Milan)

30. John Terry (Chelsea)

31. Florent Malouda (Lyons)

32. Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)

33. Javier Zanetti (Inter)

34. David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy)

35. Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

36. Dejan Stankovic (Inter)

37. Daniele De Rossi (Roma)

38. Paul Scholes (Manchester United)

39. “Lucho” Gonzalez (Porto)

40. Juninho Pernambucano (Lyons)

41. Alessandro Nesta (Milan)

42. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax)

43. Hernan Crespo (Inter)

44. Rino Gattuso (Milan)

45. Diego (Werder Bremen)

46. Rodrigo Palacio (Boca Juniors)

47. Phillip Lahm (Bayern Munich)

48. Jefferson Farfan (PSV Eindhoven)

49. Clarence Seedorf (Milan)

50. Gary Neville (Manchester United)

Liverpool Star Quits England

Jamie Carragher is ready to quit the England team after being left out of the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia last month.

The Liverpool centre-half, who played in four of England's five games at the World Cup last year, has made just five appearances under Steve McClaren.

He has never started in his favoured position in a back four, even when John Terry and Rio Ferdinand have been injured, despite winning rave reviews as he helped his club to a second Champions League final appearance in three years.

His likely decision to retire from international football, which mirrors Paul Scholes' self-imposed England exile,was brought to a head when he was left out of the side who defeated Estonia 3-0 in Tallinn.

A source close to the 29-year-old said last night: "Jamie does not want to sound like a big-time Charlie. He just feels that at this stage of his career it would be better if he concentrated his efforts on helping Liverpool become the No 1 team in England again.

"He has always regarded it as a tremendous honour to represent his country and he has happy memories of pulling on the shirt. But things have to end some time and he thinks this might be a good time to bow out."

Against Estonia, the euphoria surrounding David Beckham's England return overshadowed Carragher's huge disappointment at being dropped to the bench.

He had accepted the fact he was behind the likes of Terry, Ferdinand and Jonathan Woodgate in the central defensive pecking order but, in a match when both Ferdinand and Woodgate were unavailable, McClaren's preference for the injuryprone Ledley King came as a bitter personal blow.

The situation was made worse when the England manager picked Wes Brown at right-back, a role Carragher has filled in the absence through injury of Gary Neville.

McClaren, having failed to talk Scholes into returning to the international scene, has not given up on persuading Carragher to reverse his decision and has been in constant touch with him. He will seek to meet the player on his return, before he names the squad for the friendly against Germany on August 22 at Wembley.

Carragher has collected 34 England caps since he made his debut as a substitute against Hungary in April 1999, ironically in the game that also signalled Brown's nternational arrival. In that time, the Anfield favourite has earned a reputation for being a wholehearted player who rarely let the side down, despite being asked to play all across the back four.

Eriksson once tried him as a holding midfield player, but McClaren has used him at right-back, left-back and as one of three centre-halves in a 3-5-2 formation, as well as, briefly, in his favoured position.

Carragher won 27 caps during Eriksson's reign, but his appearances have been restricted to just three starts since McClaren took over.

Teenage Striker Scores Hat-trick In Liverpool Victory

Austrian teenager Besian Idrizaj scored an impressive 19-minute hat-trick as Rafael Benitez's squad of promising youngsters opened Liverpool's pre-season in some style at Wrexham.

Both sides fielded completely different teams in each half of their friendly at the Racecourse ground, which attracted an 11,000-plus crowd.

The 22 Liverpool players on show comprised of the bulk of their FA Youth Cup-winning sides of the last couple of seasons, plus an array of prospects signed in Benitez's three years at Anfield.

And it underlined that the battle for recognition outside Benitez's increasingly expensive senior squad will be fought out between local Academy products and newcomers from across Europe.

How many of them eventually make it when the club are spending the likes of £20million on Fernando Torres, with plenty more to come, remains to be seen.

The only big names on show for Liverpool were Steve Finnan, Jermaine Pennant, Mohamed Sissoko and Alvaro Arbeloa. And Benitez watched with interest as the young pretenders did their best to impress.

And 19-year-old Idrizaj did just that, with plenty of help from Pennant. His first came on five minutes when Jordy Brouwer nodded down a Pennant cross for Idrizaj to crash past Tony Williams from six yards.

Two more Pennant crosses saw Idrizaj, who had a spell on loan at Luton last term, got the better of Wales international defender Steve Evans with two fine headers.

The second period saw a much more even contest with Wrexham having 10 players with league experience on the pitch against a predominantly Liverpool youth team.

And the Welsh club pulled one back on 61 minutes when substitute goalkeeper Martin Hansen made a hash of a clearance and presented Eifion Williams with a gift chance.

Liverpool gave their two new Hungarian youngsters, Krisztian Nemeth and Andras Simon their first taste of British football, but they conceded another goal with three minutes to go when Hansen punched away a cross and Williams hooked home his second from 25 yards.

Liverpool Looking For Some Kompany

Rumours are spreading over the highy-rated 20 year-old defender Vincent Kompany's possible switch to Liverpool.

The Hamburg SV central-defender has been a prodigal talent for some time now and it seems Rafael Benitez feels it is time for the player to step up to the big-stage.

However the Belgian international is not expected to come cheap, especially with Hamburg SV surveying the Torres transfer as signs that Liverpool might reluctantly agree to a £8-10 million deal.

With Sami Hyppia being at the centre of heighten transfer speculation linking him to a move to Sunderland, the path could be made clear for Kompany’s arrival by the end of the next week.

A decision by Hyppia to stay in Merseyside might not mean the end of the deal as the defensive cover for Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger is thin. Outside the ageing Hyppia, Rafa only has the young Gabriel Paletta to call on as back-up, meaning Kompany would provide support as well as a possible long-term first-team player.

Chelsea FC have also been strongly linked to Kompany over the past two years, with sporting director Frank Arneson and manager Jose Mourinho both expressing their admiration for the player’s athleticism and ability to read the game from the back.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Top Paid Footballers Of The World

Here are the highest paid football players as of 2006:


$29.5 million, £16 million, €23.5 million

The impish Barcelona play-maker is not enjoying the best of seasons by his own standards. Like many of the stars of the last World Cup, a long club and international season has taken its physical toll. But he has leapfrogged David Beckham to become soccer's top-earning player thanks to endorsement deals with Nike and the likes of consumer electronics giant Sony.

David Beckham
Real Madrid

$29.1 million, £15.8 million, €23.2 million

No one can shift soccer merchandise like Beckham. He did it for Manchester United during his pomp and for Real Madrid over the past four years, where he won over the fans if not the critics. Now coming to America on the back of a potential $250 million marketing and playing deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, he has proved he has the marketing savvy to put him in the elite of sports commercial superstars who outlast their playing days.

AC Milan

$23.4 million, £12.7 million, €18.6 million

Injury has reduced the buck-toothed Brazilian striker to a super-sized shadow of the player who is one of only two people to be named FIFA's World Footballer of the Year three times. Offloaded by Real Madrid in a clear-out of its galacticos to AC Milan, Ronaldo seems destined for America, where his playboy lifestyle will sustain marketing appeal that is going nowhere in Europe.

Wayne Rooney
Manchester United

$17.2 million, £9.3 million, €13.7 million

The epitome of the sports star who wears his brains in his boots, Rooney's on-field goal-scoring partnership this season with Cristiano Ronaldo, cemented by Paul Scholes' Indian summer, has made Manchester United the English Premiership's unexpected top dogs. The barely 20-something's commercial challenge is to turn raw soccer talent into polished marketing power.

Michael Ballack

$16.8 million, £9.1 million, €13.4 million

The switch from being Bayern Munich's superstar to just another highly paid midfielder in Chelsea's glittering firmament of world-class stars has proved a challenge for the German on the pitch. But not when it comes to his bank account. Chelsea is reported to pay him a base salary of $240,000 (£121,000) a week, which would make him--for now--the top-paid player in the game.

Thierry Henry

$15.8 million, £8.6 million, €12.6 million

One of Europe's most feared strikers has suffered more than most in 2006-2007 from a punishing 2005-2006 season that culminated in France's defeat in the World Cup Final. But the Arsenal captain's elegance and glamour on and off the pitch--he is married to model Nicole Merry--keeps him a marketeers' favorite--while his Arselal contract of $220,000 (£112,000) a week keeps his bank manager merry, too.

Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid

$15.6 million, £8.5 million, €12.4 million

An inglorious end to a glorious career--that head butt in the 2006 World Cup Final--has not diminished the Frenchman's cult status at home now that he is retired. Famously shy for a superstar, he always made more from his playing than his pitching abilities. His earnings power is eroding now that his feet no longer do his talking.

Fabio Cannavaro
Real Madrid

$14.6 million, £7.9 million, €11.6 million

Leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup catapulted this Italian defender into the ranks of soccer's best paid thanks to a move to Real Madrid from scandal- tainted Juventus. In Spain, he is not quite the consistent force he was in Italy, but the 32-year-old is still in fine enough form to strip down to his underwear for Dolce & Gabbana ads.

John Terry

$14.3 million, £7.7 million, €11.4 million

A hard-driving muscular center half for club and country, Chelsea's iconic captain makes our list thanks to billionaire owner Ramon Abramovich's largesse and a lucrative endorsement deal with kit maker Umbro, even though he is no clothes-hanger. Terry is likely to move up the earnings league next year as his contract is up for renewal.

Steven Gerrard

$14.2 million, £7.7 million, €11.3 million

Liverpool's heart and soul, local boy Gerrard provides box-to-box English drive to a midfield of European flair. He's inspirational on the field, and handsomely paid by Liverpool for being so, but has yet to break through to the highest level of marketing superstardom.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bellamy Set For Hammers

West Ham have reportedly agreed a £9million deal for Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy.

Welshman Bellamy has slipped down the Anfield pecking order following the arrival of Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid and has been linked with a host of Premiership clubs, as well as Italian sides Juventus and Roma.

However, the Daily Mirror claims Bellamy has agreed to join the Hammers after being offered a £70,000 per-week, four-year deal.

Bellamy moved to Liverpool from Blackburn in a £6.5million deal last summer and scored seven goals, the last of which came against Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

However, it became clear the Welsh international did not feature in Rafa Benitez's long-term plans when he was an unused substitute in the Champions League final loss to AC Milan.

Garcia Wanted First Team Football - Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez decided to let Luis Garcia join Atletico Madrid because he could not promise him a regular place in the team.

However, Benitez has nothing but praise for the way the midfielder went about his business during his three years at Anfield.

"He was happy here but Atletico is a good club for him," Benitez told the club's official website, www.liverpoolfc.tv.

"It was the right time, because after three years maybe the situation was different.

"He wanted to play every game and that's not easy when we have other players coming here.

"This was a very good solution for him and also for us."

Benitez added: "I want to say 'all the best' because he was a fantastic player, a fantastic person and a fantastic professional.

"He has been a very good player for us. He has talent and the skills to change a game.

"When you are at home, the opponents play deep and there is not much space, but he can change this.

"In some games, I thought maybe if we had Luis today it would be different."

Marseille Sealed Zenden Deal

Marseille have completed the signing of midfielder Boudewijn Zenden on a free transfer, and also claim to have agreed a deal "in principle" for Djibril Cisse.

The Dutchman, released by Liverpool this summer, penned a two-year deal at the Mediterranean club after completing a medical.

A statement on OM's official website read: "Midfielder Boudewijn Zenden is a Marseille player.

"The Holland international this afternoon joined OM for two years.

"The man nicknamed 'Bolo' will wear number 10."

The 30-year-old has played for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Liverpool in a distinguished career.

His best position is on the left wing, but he can also play in the centre of midfield.

His last competitive appearance came in the Reds' 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in the final of last season's Champions League.

He has played 54 times for Holland but not since September 2004.

And on-loan France striker Cisse looks set to stay at Marseille after the club reached "an agreement in principle" with Liverpool.

The 25-year-old hitman now looks likely to sign a four-year deal with the French club.

A statement on Marseille's website read: "As well as signing Boudewijn Zenden, Marseille have also reached an agreement in principle with Liverpool for the transfer of Djibril Cisse."

Marseille qualified for this season's Champions League after finishing second in Ligue 1 last term.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

West Ham Are Favourites To Sign Bellamy

West Ham United have emerged as the favourites to sign Liverpool's Welsh international striker Craig Bellamy.

Bellamy's first-team opportunities are likely to be limited following the Reds’ capture of high-profile strikers Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin.

And the 27-year-old former Norwich, Coventry, Newcastle, Celtic and Blackburn star could be seen by the Hammers as a replacement for Argentine forward Carlos Tevez, who appears to be leaving Upton Park for Manchester United according o today's reports from South America.

Bellamy joined Liverpool from Blackburn for a £6 million fee a year ago, and scored nine goals in 42 appearances for the Merseyside club.

But the arrival of Torres at Anfield for some £20 million means Rafael Benitez now has five international strikers in his squad - by common consent, one more than he needs.

And when he was asked about Bellamy's Anfield future, at the press conference to unveil Torres, Benitez said: "We have some clubs asking about Bellamy and it's a possibility.

"He knows my idea. He is our player at the moment and we will see what happens in the future.

"It is clear we have new players here and then it could be more difficult for some of the players.

"The only thing I can say is that Crouch will be staying with us. I have said to Crouch that he must fight for his position and he will stay with us."

It was a clear hint that Bellamy might need to look elsewhere, and according to BBC Sport, West Ham could step in to end the uncertainty.