Monday, December 24, 2007

Rafa - Kaladze Chance Gone

Rafael Benitez feels Liverpool have missed out on the chance to sign Milan defender Kakha Kaladze.

The Reds boss is expected to strengthen his defence in the New Year and Kaladze had been a top target.

But Benitez has suggested that he will no longer be able to bring the Georgian to Anfield when the transfer window reopens.

"I don't think we will be able to sign Kaladze now," said Benitez in the News of the World. "That opportunity has passed."

Instead, reports claim Benitez will look to push through the signing of Czech Republic international Tomas Ujfalusi from Fiorentina.

Ujfalusi is out of contract at the end of the season and his agent has admitted it is '50-50' regarding his chances of staying in Serie A.

Liverpool's interest in the centre-half has been confirmed and he could head to the Premier League in a cut-price deal in the New Year.

LiverpooL For Sale? Again???

The problems at Liverpool just won't go away. On a weekend when the team hit the headlines for the right reasons with a 4-1 win over Portsmouth, they were back in the news for off-field reasons.

Following a public 'argument' last month between manager Rafael Benitez and American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, the story this month, in the News of the World, is that Liverpool could be up for sale again, less than a year after the pair bought a controlling stake.

The Sunday Supplement picked up the debate this week and Shaun Custis wondered whether this 'club in turmoil' could really be up for sale.

He said: "There have been suggestions for a while that either both Americans, or one of them, wants to sell up and some of it is to do with the exchange rate apparently.

"There is talk of building a new ground. Can they afford that? And meanwhile Rafa Benitez is saying, 'can I have £17m to sign Javier Mascherano properly?'.

"Now they are not going to do all that, it's simple."

The end result of all this, according to Custis, is that something has got to give, and he believe someone will be walking out of Liverpool forever and sooner rather than later.

He said: "Also in the background there are people like Jurgen Klinsmann lurking around, possibly to be the new manager, you never know.

"At the end of all this, I cannot believe that we will get to the end of the season without something happening, either the owners leaving, the manager leaving or players leaving.

"There is too many things coming out, too often and Liverpool is in turmoil."

Rafa Benitez To Bide His Time On Javier Mascherano Move

Rafael Benitez is confident he can find the funds to make Javier Mascherano’s move permanent – but might have to wait until the end of the season to complete the deal.

The Argentinian midfielder signed on loan from West Ham last January, and when that expires at the end of this season Liverpool will still have first option to buy him permanently.

But while Benitez and the player himself would sooner tie up the loose ends when the next transfer window opens again next week, the Liverpool manager is prepared to wait.

He wants to make an extra centre-half his priority in January and with the Mascherano deal set to be worth £17million, Liverpool could need the extra six months to the end of the loan agreement to come up with the money.

The 23-year-old was also hesitant to commit his future to Liverpool until after Benitez had smoothed things over with American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett following their public fall-out last month.

But after the two parties called a truce following the meeting they had after last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, Benitez hopes that Mascherano will be closer to deciding on his future.

“We’re just waiting. I have confidence he will stay with us,” said Benitez

“I really don’t know (if he will sign in January). The situation is we are working together on a lot of issues, and we just have to wait.

“But it’s always better to get it done as soon as possible.”

Benitez’s desire to keep Mascherano will only have been strengthened his performance in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Portsmouth at Anfield.

The win took Liverpool three points clear of both their opponents and Everton, which is how it stayed yesterday when their Merseyside rivals lost 2-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford.

It was the way Mascherano nullified the physical presence of Portsmouth’s midfield that laid the foundation for Liverpool to go clear in fifth place, thanks to goals from Yossi Benayoun, a Sylvain Distin own goal and two late strikes from Fernando Torres.

Benitez said: “Mascherano can give us the balance and allow the other players to play their own game.

“When you have a midfielder who is in a good position and can play the ball properly and always supporting the centre-backs and also the attack, it’s really important for players like Torres that they can go forward and sometimes forget they need to defend.

“We have a lot of very good players now with that mentality. Javier has a very good mentality, he’s very professional.

“If you don’t use him he never complains, he’s always ready for the next game. He trains really hard.

“He’s the kind of player you want as a holding midfielder. He doesn’t need to score a lot of goals, just keep the balance of the rest of the team.”

Manchester United’s victory over Everton, coupled with Arsenal’s 2-1 win in the north London derby over Tottenham earlier on Saturday, mean Liverpool remain 10 points behind Arsenal Wenger’s leaders with a game in hand and six off United.

And Benitez insists the complexion of the title race still has time to change, even during the remainder of the congested Christmas period.

“The title race is open,” the Spaniard added. “You never know what can happen over Christmas with three more games.

“We need to keep going. We know we have one game in hand so we need to keep going and try to play well and win, if possible play well and score goals.

“And then maybe it can be closer.”

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp revealed that his team couldn’t train in the two days before the game because their training pitches were frozen.

And that proved fatal for his defence against Torres, whose direct running and pace also played a part in the opening two goals, before he added his brace to round off the victory.

“When he gets down the channels, and he got up their left four or five times in the first half, he is very difficult to deal with,” said Redknapp.

“You don’t want to be left one-on-one with him as Sol Campbell was a few times. The lad has got pace, terrific skill.

“He has that trick where he looks at you then drags it past you and goes outside, which we looked at an awful lot on the video.

“But then for £26m he should be half decent. He is very good player.”

Gerrard: I Tried To Snag Us Henry

Steven Gerrard has revealed that he tried to convince Thierry Henry to join him at Liverpool during the time that it became increasingly obvious that he was set to leave the Emirates Stadium.

The Reds skipper claims a special bond with Henry due to a mutual respect that developed as a result all the times that they’ve played against each other in the league and internationally, but that was not enough to convince the French superstar to opt for Barcelona.

"I sent him a few text messages seeing if he fancied it," said Gerrard.

"I would have loved to have seen him in a Liverpool shirt, just like the supporters would have.

"But he wanted to play in Spain and for Barcelona, so you had to respect that decision.

"However he's got a lot of respect for Liverpool. He speaks really well about us."

In the interview with Liverpool’s official website, Gerrard also shed light on how he and Henry got to be friends.

"Just through the respect from playing against each other,” he explained.

"One day we swapped numbers and ever since we've been sending each other text messages, had phone calls, we support each other and stuff.

"It is really flattering when a player at that level comes out and gives you a bit of praise.

"He is just settling in at Barcelona now and I'm sure he'll prove again he's one of the best players in the world."

Dirk Kuyt: We Must Win Our Next Three Games

Dirk Kuyt emphasised the importance of avoiding a third consecutive Premiership defeat with the win over Portsmouth on Saturday.

The last time Liverpool suffered such a run was when Portsmouth beat them 1-0 in October 2003, but after recent losses to Reading and Manchester United, Liverpool ensured there was no repeat as they completed a comfortable 4-1 victory.

And Dutch striker Kuyt hopes it will kick off a run of three-pointers over the Christmas and New Year period.

He said: “Every defeat in the league is big one for us because you just want to win and compete with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea so we can’t afford to lose any more.

“We just have to look at the next games and look forward.

“We have to win our next three now at Derby, Manchester City and at home to Wigan and if we can get nine points from those games I think we will get closer to the other teams.

“We want to go on a run and win a lot of games.”

Kuyt was Liverpool’s top scorer in the Premier League last season with 12 in his debut season in English football, with all of them coming from open play.

But two of his three league goals this season came from the penalty spot in the derby victory over Everton as he has taken a back-seat to 14-goal Fernando Torres in the scoring stakes.

Kuyt, however, admits that the extra firepower the Spanish record signing, who scored twice against Portsmouth, was necessary to bring in in order to improve the side’s title challenge during this campaign.

“Fernando is unbelievably quick and it’s what the team needs,” added Kuyt. “Quick players and clever players.

“We have got everything in our squad now and we can do something really good so we’ll see how far we can go this season.”

Yossi Benayoun, who opened the scoring, also outlined how vital the victory over Portsmouth was after the first home league defeat of the season to United last Sunday.

“We played a great game against a strong rival in Portsmouth and it was an important win for us after we lost to Man United,” Benayoun said.

“It was good to get back to winning ways and to prove that we can still go to the end of the season. So overall I think it was a good performance for us.

“It was nice to score and the goal was a bonus,” he added. “But it’s not the main thing for me. The main thing is to keep playing and try to do my best for the team so that we keep winning.

“I enjoyed the goal and I caught it well but I’d have to give credit to Harry Kewell because he delivered a great cross from the left to pick me out.

“It gave us the start we needed and we went on from there.”