Thursday, October 11, 2007

Liverpool Eye Brazilian Star Afonso Alves

Rafael Benitez is tracking Brazilian striker Afonso Alves as he contemplates another spending spree in the January transfer window.

Alves is one of several names under consideration by the Liverpool manager, who can expect further backing from the club’s co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

And Benitez’s interest would suggest Peter Crouch is heading for an Anfield exit in the new year.

Alves is one of the most sought-after forwards in Europe and scored an incredible seven times for Dutch club Heerenveen on Sunday in their 9-0 victory over Eredivisie rivals Heracles Almelo.

The 26-year-old forward cost Heerenveen a club record £3million when arriving from Malmo ahead of last season, and went on to score 34 goals in 31 league games before being named Holland’s player of the year.

Alves, who has seven caps for Brazil, was a target for Middlesbrough during the close season and would cost in the region of £8m.

Benitez is also thought to still be monitoring another Brazilian, Roma’s stepover king Alessandro Mancini.

The Liverpool manager ruled out a move for the left winger during the summer, but is aware Mancini has fallen out with Roma coach Luciano Spalletti and is reportedly seeking a move in January.

Lyon are favourites to sign the player but Liverpool would be able to offer a better package to the 27-year-old.

PSG defender Bernard Mendy is another player on Benitez’s list of possibilities. The 26-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and would be available in January for a small fee.

Mendy, who spent the 2002-03 campaign on loan at Bolton Wanderers, operates on the right side of defence.

Meanwhile, Dirk Kuyt has handed Liverpool an early derby injury scare after pulling out of Holland’s squad for their forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Romania and Slovenia.

Kuyt has remained at Melwood to undergo treatment on a hamstring strain suffered during the 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

The Dutch striker will definitely miss Saturday’s away game against Romania.

But while Holland have not ruled the forward out of the home game with Slovenia the following Wednesday, it is thought unlikely Kuyt will have recovered in time to play.

Benitez Set For Spending Spree

Rafael Benitez will raid the Anfield war chest to strengthen his ailing squad in January.

The Liverpool manager revealed last week that he still has over £20million to spend after clearing the decks by selling unwanted players during the summer.

And the Mirror has discovered that he has been tracking FOUR players - with a view to signing at least one of them when the transfer window opens at the turn of the year.

The Spaniard's priority is a defender after injury to Daniel Agger and the loss of form of full-backs Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise.

Chief target is Paris St Germain full-back Bernard Mendy, who has been made available and will be sold in January - with Inter Milan, Juventus, Tottenham and Manchester City also interested.

The France international has six months remaining on his contract, and has refused all offers of a new deal, leaving PSG with no option but to try to get as much cash as they can for him.

Mendy, 26, who has been watched all season by Benitez's spies, will cost around £3m, and has already made it clear he wants to leave PSG.

Benitez is still keen on Roma's Amantino Mancini, despite having an offer for the right-sided midfielder rejected in the summer.

The Brazil international has since fallen out with Roma coach Luciano Spalleti in spectacular style and his agent, Gilar Veloz, has been instructed to find him a new club during the transfer window.

Liverpool will face competition from Lyon for Mancini - but they can offer bigger wages. Benitez will be prepared to pay around £8m to land the 27-year old South American.

Scouts from Anfield were at Heerenveen at the weekend to watch Brazilian striker Afonso Alves rattle in an incredible seven goals to set a scoring record in the Dutch League.

The Brazil international was top scorer in Holland last season with 34 goals, but when he demanded a move Heerenveen priced him out of the market at £12m.

Benitez knows Peter Crouch could leave in January and will seek to replace him with Alves.

Liverpool are also keeping tabs on Monaco's attacking midfielder Jeremy Menez, who has taken the French league by storm since arriving as an exciting teenage prospect. Now 20, he has been dubbed the 'new Zidane', and Liverpool know that Manchester United and Arsenal have also watched him closely, which could spark a major transfer scramble in the summer.

Benitez has been disappointed with the form of so many of his players and for the first time in his Anfield reign he has been openly critical of his team.

He knows that he still needs more quality and that is why his scouts have been working overtime across Europe.

Mascherano Wants Long Reds Stay

Javier Mascherano has targeted an extended stay at Liverpool after admitting he "feels settled and would like to play at the new stadium".

The Argentina international moved to Merseyside from West Ham in January after a complicated and protracted deal which, because of the controversy surrounding West Ham's signing of the player and compatriot Carlos Tevez, was fully investigated by the Premier League.

West Ham signed Mascherano and Tevez to England in August 2006 but issues arose over the legitimacy of the Hammers signing the pair on third-party agreements and the club were fined for breaching rules.

But having enjoyed happier times in the North West the 23-year-old has stressed he wants to remain part of Rafael Benitez's side.

"I'm very happy here. I feel settled and would like to play at the new stadium (due to be opened in 2010)," he told The Sun.

"I love playing for Liverpool and if the manager wants to keep me then I'd definitely stay for a long time.

"Liverpool are one of the world's biggest teams. They've got history, tradition, success and great fans."

There had been suggestions Mascherano was unhappy with Benitez's well-known rotation policy but the player dismissed that notion.

"Rafa's always used rotation so why would he stop it when it has brought him so much success?" he added.

"I know if I want to play I need to work really hard. We have good players in every position so no one has the right to start every match."