Saturday, May 26, 2007

Craig Bellamy Heading For The Exit

Liverpool have warned rival clubs hoping to take advantage of Rafael Benítez's desire to reshape his squad that Craig Bellamy, one of the players for whom the manager would listen to offers, will only be sold for around £12m.

The Wales international moved to Anfield from Blackburn Rovers last summer for half that amount but, despite Bellamy struggling to adapt to Benítez's squad rotation system, Liverpool hope for a significant profit on his sale. Blackburn are keen to re-sign the forward but could now be priced out. West Ham and Aston Villa have expressed interest and could make formal bids.

Bellamy has scored nine goals in 42 appearances this season but was involved in an ugly fracas with his team-mate, John Arne Riise, on a mid-season training camp in Portugal and was an unused substitute at the European Cup final in Athens.

Benítez said in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to Milan that he would listen to bids for his players - "The number we bring in depends if we get big offers for the players or not," he said - with the Spaniard intent upon spending substantial sums.

It remains to be seen whether the manager will be given the money he desires, having issued a warning to the club's American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, that they must act quickly and lavishly in the market if Liverpool are to displace Chelsea and Manchester United at the top of the Premiership.

He would like to sign the likes of Valencia's David Silva and, possibly, Sevilla's Daniel Alves having made improvement of the supply-line to his existing forwards his priority. However, should Bellamy join Robbie Fowler in leaving the club then he would also need to add to his strikers.

Benítez's demand for transfer funds prior to the team's departure from Athens was aimed at kick-starting a summer of spending at Anfield, and Hicks and Gillett remain intent upon liaising extensively with their manager in the next few weeks to discuss and secure his targets.

Asked last week whether he would be spending significant sums in the summer, Hicks told the Guardian: "It depends upon the player. What we have said to Rafa is that if there is really somebody he thinks can change the team, then let's go get 'em.

"But let's don't just spend money to say we spent money. We have really got to use his judgments. He will say we have got this talent, we have got these areas covered, we need this to help compete better in the Premiership. We need this young guy to help us continue our progress. It's that kind of conversation we will have."

Just Who Is On Rafael Benitez's Most Wanted List?

Rafael Benitez has urged Liverpool's new backers to provide the funds to take the club to the next level in the wake of their Champions League final defeat by AC Milan.


Long linked with a move to England, the young Atletico Madrid skipper is certainly attainable. He has a buy-out clause of around 30million euros (£20million) and is willing to consider offers.


His latest posturing saw Eto'o claim he will stay at Barcelona, but either he or Ronaldinho will leave this summer. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United will also be interested but with some cunning manoeuvring Liverpool could attract the Cameroon striker.


It is almost universally accepted Villa will move to the Premiership, quite possibly joined by Eto'o and Torres. He would be better suited than the other two to play alongside Dirk Kuyt, but may prefer to remain at Valencia or perhaps replace Eto'o at the Nou Camp.


The transfer talk has so far been almost exclusively about forwards. But while Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger have formed a solid partnership at the back, Benitez could do with adding some competition for places and quality to his defensive ranks - and Real Zaragoza's Argentinian Milito fits the bill. However, Barca are also interested.


A long-term target, Benfica captain Simao would add flair and versatility for around £15million. Able to perform as a second striker or wide on either flank, the 27-year-old would be a quality addition, with Bolo Zenden and Mark Gonzalez heading out of the door.


Benitez could have signed the flying Brazilian right-back for around £12million last summer but the Reds balked at Sevilla's asking price. A year on, he will command a fee of approximately £25million.


The Argentinian firebrand had a sensational season at West Ham in highly testing circumstances. Real Madrid apparently head the queue for his services with plenty of others interested. Liverpool would doubtlessly be included in that group, but have other priorities.


One of the Premiership's stand-out performers in the 2006-07 season for Tottenham, the Bulgarian striker is hot property but Spurs will fight tooth and nail to retain his services.