Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Can Liverpool Bridge The Gap?

George Gillett Jr, one of Liverpool's American owners, has said he will not spend money on players like “a drunken sailor", much to Rafael Benitez's chagrin.

Benitez, the manager, has been openly disgruntled over the club's transfer policy, but has grudgingly accepted that the Americans’ promise of support in the transfer market does not equate to the blank chequebook that he envisaged after his initial conversations.

Yet, with Manchester United having already spent a projected £55 million this summer, and Roman Abramovich's seemingly bottomless pit of available cash at Chelsea, Liverpool seem further from catching their Premiership rivals than ever before.

Two Champions League finals in three years provides evidence that progress has been made, but can this summer's transfer activity really see Liverpool challenge for the title they last won in 1990?

Is the club now more suited to knockout competitions or do Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks, his co-owner, have realistic ambitions of claiming the big prize over a season?

Is Diego Forlan, now plying his trade at Villarreal after 2½ largely unsuccessful years at Old Trafford, a realistic alternative to the more expensive Barcelona striker, Samuel Eto'o?

Reds Could Switch Winger Targets

Lyon's £17 million asking price for Florent Malouda could see Liverpool turn their attentions back to Benfica wideman Simao Sabrosa.

Rafa Benitez is understood to be keen to add French international Malouda to his squad during the close-season, but the latest comments from the Ligue One champions could put the Reds off making a move.

Lyon's chairman, Jean-Michel Aulas, has called on those clubs interested in Malouda to firm up their interest after slapping a price tag on his head.

Aulas revealed: "I'm waiting on a call from an English club so we can sort out a meeting. The transfer could move forward if there is an offer that comes close to the price I've fixed.

"On players' values, I seldom get it wrong: today Malouda is [worth] £17m."

With Chelsea and Arsenal also believed to be interested, Liverpool are being tipped to step aside and instead concentrate on trying to sign long-time target Simao, who is available for £12million.

Liverpool Boss Benitez To Have £55M For Transfers

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez could have up to £55 million to spend this summer - despite the club's American owners warning over the size of his transfer budget.

With Liverpool making £29 million from their run to the Champions League final, plus the Sky TV and Premiership prize money to come, Benitez can expect £40 million plus to spend this summer.

With maybe £15 million from the sale of fringe players, including a possible fee from Marseille for Djibril Cisse, Benitez can bolster his cash kitty considerably.

Punters Pick Henry For Liverpool Move

There has been plenty of speculation about where Thierry Henry will start next season and, if money talks, then he could be heading for Liverpool.

The Arsenal forward has been backed down to 7-4 from 7-2 with Ladbrokes to be plying his trade at Anfield after a string of wagers.

Nick Weinberg, a Ladbrokes spokesman, said yesterday: “Punters have been speculating on Henry’s future all week. He was initially backed to leave Arsenal but then we began to field requests, in increasing numbers, from customers looking to back Liverpool as his destination.”

Liverpool have lacked a prolific striker since Michael Owen’s departure in three years ago but, even so, they finished with the same number of points as Arsenal in the league last season and reached the final of the European Cup for the second time in three years.

Were Henry to join, then Liverpool’s title odds - they are generally 11-2 - would plummet. The 4-1 that Coral offer against Henry being top goalscorer next season would also vanish.

AC Milan and Barcelona have also been linked with Henry, whose impact last season was limited by a string of minor injuries. The 29-year-old is said to have been disappointed with the departure of vice-chairman David Dein in April and would have been frustrated with Arsenal’s inconsistency in their first season at their new 60,000-seater home in Ashburton Grove.