Saturday, September 08, 2007

Riise: We've Got The Best

John Arne Riise has hailed Liverpool's new owners for bringing 'the best of the best' to the club.

Riise believes the Reds are in the most exciting period in their recent history – something he puts largely down to co-chairman Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

"This is the most exciting period during my time with Liverpool," the Norwegian told LFC Magazine. "Not just because of the players but also the plans for the new stadium and the new owners, too.

"We've got the best of the best here. We have one of the best managers in the world, one of the best stadiums on the way, great new owners and fantastic players.

"We've been able to go out and buy more expensive players than ever before thanks to the new owners. Players like Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun; those are the kind of players we need to take this club forward."

Riise, who has made 309 appearances since arriving on Merseyside in 2001, also admits to being impressed with his American bosses on a personal level.

He said: "I totally respect our new owners and what they are trying to do here. It seems like they care about the people and the club, and us players.

"Following the Barcelona game last season, they were giving us all a hug and a pat on the back. It was the same in Athens when we lost. That is great and tells us we have some great people around us."

Riise is currently with the Norway squad ahead of Euro qualifiers against Greece and Moldova.

Voronin: Rafa Is Right To Rotate

Andriy Voronin has insisted that Liverpool's excellent start to the season justifies Rafael Benitez's squad rotation policy.

The Reds are currently top of the Premier League, following their 6-0 thrashing of Derby County.

The Spanish tactician is famous for tinkering, but after a summer of several transfers, Benitez now seems content with the options available to him.

The Ukrainian has made four appearances so far this season, two of those off the bench, but Voronin believes their unbeaten start to the campaign is down to the astuteness of Benitez.

"When I signed, Rafa told me that I should be prepared to be rotated," Voronin told the club's official website.

"Liverpool have a 23-player squad, and 20 of them are national-team players.

"Everyone wants to play and everyone knows how to play. But the coach is doing the right thing by giving us rests.

"He wants us to play 50 or 60 games at the highest level per season, not 20.

"This is why over the last five games our squad has been changed four times. The results show that Benitez is right."

Rafa Alerted To Taylor's New Contract Rejection

LIVERPOOL boss Rafael Benitez has been placed on red alert after Newcastle centre-half Steven Taylor turned down the offer of a new five-year contract at St James' Park.

Taylor, who is the most successful player to have emerged from Newcastle's Academy in the best part of a decade, was in Montenegro last night captaining England Under-21s.

But, in his absence, his father and representative, Alf, confirmed the defender had rejected an offer that was described as "disappointing".

That news has been greeted with interest at Anfield, where Benitez has long coveted arguably the most promising young centre-half in the English game.

And while the Liverpool manager opted not to make a formal offer for Taylor's services during the summer transfer window, sources on Merseyside suggest he will attempt to sign the North-Easterner if the current impasse is not resolved by January 1.

With Sami Hyypia approaching retirement, Benitez is understood to regard Taylor as an ideal back-up to his preferred defensive partnership of Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger.

Taylor's current Magpies contract runs to 2009 but, after making 44 senior starts last season, the 21-year-old is looking to secure an improved deal.

James Milner and Charles N'Zogbia have both re-negotiated pre-existing deals recently, and Taylor had been hoping to follow suit.

But while he insists he has no intention of leaving Newcastle, he is clearly frustrated at the club's unwillingness to meet his demands.

"I only hope they are not trying to force Steven out," said his father, Alf.

"He loves Newcastle United and it is the only club he wants to play for, but he is most disappointed at what they are offering."

Taylor is currently one of the lowest-paid first-team players on Newcastle's books.

While summer signing Abdoulaye Faye is understood to be earning around £30,000-a-week after completing a summer move from Bolton, Taylor is believed to be commanding less than a third of that figure despite earning a call-up to Steve McClaren's senior England squad last month.

"Fans seeing the likes of Albert Luque and Jean-Alain Boumsong coming into the club with massive wages must think Steven is on big bucks, but that is not the case," added Taylor senior.

"He is not playing for Newcastle for the money, but because he loves football and the club.

"But having said that, it is a short career and the financial aspect is still important.

"Fortunately, while he is disappointed, Steven has never - nor ever will - let it affect his performance on the field.

"He is a local lad who only wants to play for his local team.

"But perhaps that is why his contract offer is not in the same category as those players who are coming in from all over the place.

"Yet I do not see this being a problem at Liverpool with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher."

Taylor was not the only Newcastle player on Under-21 duty last night, as Charles N'Zogbia was making his bow for France's junior side against Wales in Grenoble.

The versatile left-footer has been rewarded with a lucrative deal after his impressive start to the new season and, while France are hardly short of talent on the international stage, he is already eyeing a promotion to Raymond Domenech's senior squad.