Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fernando Torrres Hopes To Emulate Ian Rush And Kenny Dalglish

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres hopes to emulate Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish and become a Kop idol.

The 23-year-old Spaniard has made an excellent start to life in England following his £20million-plus move from Atletico Madrid in the summer, scoring 12 goals in 20 games so far.

Reds fans have dedicated a chant once reserved for Dalglish and another Liverpool great Robbie Fowler to Torres, and he hopes by the time his career at Anfield is over he will be held in similar high regard.

“To be linked with players like that gives me pride and great satisfaction,” he said.

“They were some of the greatest players in the history of Liverpool Football Club. I have just arrived and still have a long way to go, but I am proud of the association.

“These players, Rush and Dalglish, they defined an era for Liverpool by scoring so many goals.

“It’s not just for their sake that I shy away from these comparisons, it’s for me too. I have only just arrived here. Many years down the line when I eventually leave Liverpool I would like to be held in the same affection as these players but I’ve got a long way to go, so I’ll leave them on their pedestal at the moment.”

Torres again gave his backing to Reds boss Rafael Benitez, who appears to have patched up his differences with the club’s American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

“It was Rafa who called me to join Liverpool, and that showed his trust in me,” the Spain forward told

“He wanted me to join a team of champions and I saw that as a vote of confidence. This confidence was a serious factor in me joining.

“In Spain he has been at many clubs. He was at Tenerife and led the league, and won La Liga and the UEFA Cup with Valencia. At Liverpool he won the Champions League. He is a recognised winner in Spain both with small clubs and massive clubs like ours.

“He is known throughout Spain as someone who brings success and he is a treasure for all Spaniards.”

Liverpool Face Funding Crisis

Liverpool's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, have postponed until 2009 plans to borrow £300 million from banks to pay for the club's new home at Stanley Park, plunging the project into fresh uncertainty.

Hicks and Gillett are confident of clinching a separate interim deal before Christmas with the Royal Bank of Scotland and American bank Wachovia to borrow £350 million to refinance a loan used to fund their £220 million takeover last February and pay for initial building work.

However, The Daily Telegraph has learned that there are now serious question marks over the rest of the money required to complete the move from Anfield. A combination of the global credit crunch and nervousness over the level of debt which will be placed on to Liverpool's balance sheet has forced Hicks and Gillett to abandon plans to raise all the money in one go.

Instead they are now looking to borrow £350 million to pay off a two-year loan with RBS worth approaching £270 million, inject £60 million of working capital for the new ground and cover £25 million of credit notes used to finance the summer purchases of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, again provided by RBS.

It is understood that while the £60 million of stadium financing will get Hicks and Gillett through the first 18 months of work on the Stanley Park project there are serious concerns over how they will raise the remaining £300 million needed to complete the stadium, which has been scaled back after the designs came in £50 million over budget.

Sources close to Hicks and Gillett maintain the Americans are confident of raising the money for the stadium in 2009 when it will be two years from completion and easier to secure contracts with future sponsors for naming rights and to predict income from the sale of club seats and executive boxes.

But contrary to promises made at the time of their takeover earlier this year, the owners are now preparing to load at least half of the new £350 million debt on to the club.

Banking sources said that, while Hicks and Gillett had now agreed to pump in £20 million each of their own cash to secure the new £350 million loan, one of the main sticking points previously has been the American pair's reluctance or inability to put up their own money. In addition to the £40 million in cash, the pair are also underwriting £75 million in letters of credit and £60 million in personal guarantees. The refinancing of the club's debts means that from next season Liverpool will have to shoulder about £30 million in annual interest repayments.

According to financial predictions for 2008, that will swallow up much of the club's spare cash, making it harder to provide funds for manager Rafa Benitez to invest in his squad. And although Benitez called a truce with Hicks and Gillett following a meeting on Sunday, tensions with the owners are likely to resurface if he is forced to sell players to fund new acquisitions in January.

Chelsea 2 - 0 LiverpooL

Liverpool and England striker Peter Crouch saw red as Chelsea progressed to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup thanks to second-half strikes from Frank Lampard and Andriy Shevchenko.

Lampard's deflected 59th minute opener was followed, seconds later, by a moment of madness from Crouch who was red-carded for a disgraceful two-footed lunge on Mikel John Obi.

Referee Martin Atkinson immediately dismissed the England striker who unleashed a four-letter tirade at Chelsea fans before disappearing down the tunnel.

Crouch will now miss Liverpool's home clash with Portsmouth and the visits to Derby and Manchester City over the festive period.

The Carling Cup has never been high on Rafael Benitez's hit-list and he underlined that by putting out a side which did not contain England midfielder Steven Gerrard and Spanish striker Fernando Torres.

Gerrard, laid low with a stomach complaint, was certainly missed by the Merseysiders - who showed little drive in a goalless opening half largely controlled by the home side.

But Chelsea's failure to break the deadlock was largely due to the agility of Liverpool's reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje.

In the 11th minute he denied Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou when Andriy Shevchenko's low cross had invited him to try his luck from just inside the penalty area.

However, the Liverpool goalkeeper had to rely on his shoulder to prevent Lampard scoring in the 24th minute.

Alvaro Arbeloa's attempted clearance fell to Lampard's feet on the edge of the penalty area but the England man could not finish the job.

A minute later Chelsea had to rely on Petr Cech, playing his first game in the competition this season, when a move involving Andriy Voronin and Crouch set up Lucas.

The Czech international keeper, at fault for Arsenal's winner in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday, produced a fine diving save to deny the Liverpool midfielder.

But they were the only real highlights in a first half littered with poor passes and choked by a packed midfield.

Chelsea continued to look the more likely to score but Lampard was still finding his range when he sent a 20-yard shot high into the crowd in the 52nd minute.

Less than 60 seconds later, Itandje denied Michael Essien, back from his three-match suspension, with a flying one-handed save as the Ghanaian's 18-yard effort looked destined for the corner.

Liverpool's attacks were sporadic at best but they were almost gifted a goal in the 55th minute when Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho, playing his first game since breaking a small bone in his back against Everton in early November, failed to reach Cech with a back-header.

The ball fell straight into the path of Crouch but the lanky striker could not lift the ball over the advancing Chelsea keeper.

But four minutes later, Chelsea were in front. Mikel found Shevchenko with a clever pass and the Ukraine striker put Lampard in the clear thanks to a neat first touch.

The England midfielder's shot was half-stopped by Jamie Carragher but the ball ballooned up and over the stranded Itandje to register Lampard's 99th goal for the club.

But the game erupted in the worst possible way within a minute when Crouch inexplicably decided to launch himself at Mikel right in front of the home dugout.

The two-footed lunge was high and dangerous and Atkinson had no hesitation in dismissing the England striker - to the fury of Benitez and the player himself.

Mikel was later replaced by Michael Ballack, who was returning to action for the first time since April.

In the intervening period, the Germany captain underwent two ankle operations - but he showed no ill-effects as Chelsea went in search of a second goal.

Indeed, it was Ballack's header down to Shevchenko in the final minute of normal time which allowed the Ukrainian to drill an angled shot past Itandje to put Chelsea into the last four of the competition.