Monday, June 30, 2008

Transfer Talk: Liverpool's 2008/9 Prospects

Liverpool’s season was marred by an internal war between manager, shareholders and owners. All eyes went from watching the football to round the clock analysis of the goings on between Rafa Benitez and the Liverpool board.

Anfield seemed to be in turmoil in April with co-owner Tom Hicks reportedly asking Rick Parry to hand in his resignation. Turmoil began as George Gillet admitted he was happy to sell his share of the club – this sparked a repeated interest from Dubai International Capital to take control of Gillet’s share – Hicks meanwhile was working on raising enough capital to buy-out his partner.

All this was going on as Liverpool prepared themselves for their Champions League semi-final against Chelsea – their third appearance in the last four stage in four seasons under Benitez.

Benitez’s position was further undermined when the media reported that former Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann had been approached as the Spaniard’s replacement – emergency talks were arranged, and as the season came to and end Benitez’s job was as safe again.

As every season, Liverpool will go in to the next campaign talking of a genuine title challenge but it is clear that investment in the playing staff is required to make that ring true for once.


Rafa Benitez

Benitez has been with Liverpool since 2004 replacing Gerard Houllier. Much like the team he coached previously at Valencia, Benitez has struggled with a talented squad who persistently seem to under perform. European success and domestic cups have edeared him to the fans and hinted at what can be achieved but for all at Anfield winning the Premier League becomes more important the longer they go withoutn doing it.

Benitez is a football man - some would say football obsessive - and his constant search for the right balance in the team has yet to yeild a satisfactory solution with Liverpool.


Last season:

4th - 76 points


The pot:

Rafa Benitez is reported to have ‘demanded’ £50 million from Hicks and Gillet in a bid to bring three major signings to Anfield next season. This is something the manager has denied. Liverpool’s finances do not appear all that healthy however; their asking price for Peter Crouch has been branded too high by Harry Redknapp, and their persistent bids to bring Gareth Barry to the club reveal their inability to provide excessive funds. With a new stadium to finance as well Benitez may have to cut his cloth a bit more cleverly than the rest fo the big four if he is to compete for signings.


What they want / need:

Liverpool need width. At least two wide players with pace and the ability to beat a man would add massively to a side that is central midfield heavy. Also, a decent strike partner for Fernando Torres is essential, despite his best efforts as a lone front man last season.


Who their targets are:

Liverpool are expected to make a fourth offer for Aston Villa's Gareth Barry, reports suggest they hope to close a deal in the coming days. They are also targeting Valencia - said to be cash-strapped - in a bid to land David Silva. The departure of John Arne Riise to Roma also makes way for Liverpool to sign Udinese left-back Andrea Dossena for £7m.


Special One:

Having already made three bids for Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry it seems the midfielder is Benitez’s top priority.


Expect to see:

More boardroom turmoil.


Don't expect to see:

A title challenge

O'Neill - Barry Can Leave

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has conceded that Gareth Barry will be allowed to fulfil his wish to join Liverpool, so long as The Reds meet the club's valuation of the player.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is keen to land England international Barry, who on Sunday reiterated his desire to play UEFA Champions League football, as he looks to bolster his midfield ahead of the 2008/09 season.

However, the Anfield club have failed in their previous attempts to secure Barry's services, despite upping their offer earlier this month.

O'Neill has remained adamant that the club are desperate to retain their captain, but has now admitted Barry will be granted permission to leave - for the right price.

"The chairman and I were surprised at Gareth's comments," O'Neill told The Sun.

"Contrary to what he said, we desperately wanted to keep him - and he knows that.

"But if Liverpool meet our valuation, Gareth will get his expressed wish to leave. Until then, he remains an Aston Villa player."

Liverpool's latest offer was reportedly in the region of £15million, but rumours claim Villa are holding out for a fee of £18million.

Anfield Is The Only Place For Me, Insists Gareth Barry

GARETH BARRY insists that his future lies at Anfield because Liverpool want him more than Aston Villa and claims that Martin O’Neill’s lack of support is driving him closer to a move.

Villa are stubbornly trying to get as large a fee as possible for their unsettled captain and have already rejected three bids from Liverpool so far this summer.

Manager O’Neill is furious with the way Liverpool have conducted their pursuit of the player in the public arena and has cut off all contact with the Anfield outfit, leaving negotiations in the hands of chairman Randy Lerner’s assistant, Paul Faulkner.

But it is a lack of dialogue between O’Neill and himself that has apparently upset Barry.

O’Neill has been appearing as a regular pundit on BBC television’s coverage of the European Championship finals in Austria and Switzerland over the past three weeks and despite the Ulsterman insisting that he wants Barry to stay, the player insists he has not heard from his manager during this period.

He said: “My mind’s made up, I want to join Liverpool.

“There’s no going back, it’s time for me to move on. I’m desperate to play Champions League football and that’s why I have to leave Villa. Villa kept saying they wanted me to stay, but I have not heard from the manager for weeks.

“It’s seven weeks now since the season finished, but while the gaffer’s found time to be a pundit for the BBC at Euro 2008, he hasn’t found the time to speak to me.”

In contrast, Barry claims that Liverpool’s high-profile chase for his signature shows just how wanted he is at Anfield.

He said: “Rafa Benitez has shown how much he wants me at Anfield. I am obviously flattered that someone as successful as Rafa Benitez thinks so highly of me.

“And that he’s not been afraid to put his valuation of me in black and white for Villa and all the world to see.

“But have Villa offered me anything to try to persuade me my future is at Villa Park, not Anfield? Not a thing.”

Barry is eager to push a move through this week to spare him having to return to pre-season training with O’Neill’s side but after more than a decade of service to the Midlands club, he hopes the Villa supporters can understand the reasons behind his desire for a transfer as he looks to test himself in Champions League football.

He said: “I hope the Villa fans understand. I have given my all for the club for 10 years and I’m only leaving because now I need to test myself at the very highest level.

“And I can honestly say if Villa were in the Champions League I wouldn’t even consider leaving this great club.”

Rafa Benitez Set To Ring Changes At Anfield

MAURICIO PELLEGRINO is poised to return to Anfield as Rafael Benitez attempts to bring Robbie Keane to Merseyside.

Argentinian Pellegrino, 36, who played 12 games for Liverpool in 2005, has been approached by Benitez for a second stint at the club, this time as part of his coaching staff.

Liverpool are also trying to prise Keane, 27, away from Tottenham Hotspur in a swap deal involving Peter Crouch.

Anfield insiders have confirmed that Benitez's interest in the Republic of Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer is genuine, but admit that it could prove difficult to reach an agreement with the north London club.

Keane, who netted 23 goals last season, is a big favourite with the White Hart Lane supporters, who voted him their player of the year having helped inspire Spurs to a Carling Cup victory.

Pellegrino's expected arrival will be part of Benitez's rebuilding of his backroom staff after a couple of high-profile departures.

The Spaniard's partnership with long-time assistant Pako Ayesteran ended last season.

Although the 45-year-old fitness expert's contract at Anfield doesn't officially end until today, he has not been present at Melwood for several months.

Ayesteran, who has been linked with several coaching positions both in England and Europe, also worked with Benitez at Tenerife and Valencia.

Former first team coach Alex Miller also left at the end of the season, to become manager of Japanese club JEF United Chiba, ending his nine-year association with Liverpool, having been brought in by former manager Gerard Houllier as chief European scout.
Benitez has already brought another former Liverpool player and staff member back to the club in Sammy Lee, who has been appointed assistant manager having worked as coach under Houllier. Although Pellegrino, who is back at Valencia as youth team coach, only played 12 games for Liverpool in the second half of the 2004/05 season and was generally considered to have lacked enough pace to adjust to the Premier League game, he was always a big favourite with Benitez.

The pair had great success together at the Mestalla - winning two Spanish titles - and Benitez remains adamant that it was Pellegrino's run-outs during his short spell on Merseyside that enabled Sami Hyypia to stay fresh ahead of Liverpool's Champions League final victory.

Meanwhile, Anthony Le Tallec has finally formally ended his Liverpool career by signing for French First Division club Le Mans UC 72.

The 23-year-old, who can operate either as an attacking midfielder or striker, has spent the past four seasons away from Anfield out on loan at St Etienne (2004-05), Sunderland (2005-06), Sochaux (2006-07) and Le Mans (2007-08).

Starting his career with Le Harve, Le Tallec impressed former Liverpool manager Houllier at the World Under-17 Championship in 2001 and arrived at Anfield two years later alongside Florent Sinama-Pongolle. However, neither player was able to hold down a regular first team place and Le Tallec made just 17 appearances for Liverpool.

Riera Requests Transfer - Report

El Mundo Deportivo reports that Espanyol winger Albert Riera has made formal his determination to leave Montjuïc this summer.

It comes as no surprise that the Spanish international has sent in a transfer request as various European clubs look to secure his services.

Furthermore, Riera has personal reasons for wishing to leave. As he told the media after Espanyol's disastroud second half of the season, he was hurt by the banners from fans that read: "Stay on vacation. We won't be in Europe, and you won't be at the Euros."

While he then informally signalled his intention to leave, president Daniel Sánchez Llibre stated that he would be going nowhere unless his €24m release clause was met.

Riera, then, has set his agent about finding him a new club of considerable financial wherewithal - a search that continues. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are thought to be among those interested.

Striker Luís García, too, could be on the way out as his agent begins to make preliminary enquiries about a move elsewhere.

Rafa: Torres Proved Critics Wrong

Rafa Benitez has spoken of his pride after Fernando Torres confounded his critics to fire Spain to their first major honour since 1964.

The Liverpool boss admits certain sections of the Spanish press were critical of the striker's performances in Euro 2008.

However, El Nino's winning goal against Germany on Sunday night has made him a national hero – and Benitez believes the strike will be talked about for decades to come.

He told "I am very proud, especially after he has been criticised from some journalists in Spain.

"Everyone remembers the Marcelino goal from 44 years ago, and the last final Spain were in was 24 years ago. Now people will talk about Torres in the same way."

Benitez watched the goal from the comfort of his sofa, from where he was in no doubt the best team won.

"Spain played well. For 10 minutes at the start of each half Germany were pressing, but after that Spain controlled the game," he said.

"The first goal changed the game. After that Metzelder pushed forward and Torres was left one versus one. Spain could play on the counter and that was important.

"They had three or four players in the middle with real quality and played good football."

Torres and Spanish counterparts Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina will now be given three weeks' rest before returning to Melwood ahead of the new campaign.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rafa Gets Tough: Only Winners Wanted Here

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is only seeking summer transfer targets who can help the club foster a winning mentality.

Benitez told Liverpool's official website that the players he'll bring to Anfield this summer must be winners.

The Spaniard has made it clear that, like just about every Liverpool fan, he wants more than anything to bring the domestic League title back to Anfield. Liverpool hold the record for most English title successes - 18 - but haven't been crowned champions since the 1989-90 season, and have seen arch-rivals Manchester United lift their tally from seven to 17 in the meantime. It means the Reds have never been title winners in the Premiership era.

That glaring omission eats at the soul of every Liverpool fan - and club captain Steven Gerrard is no different. He has stressed that he will consider his career unfulfilled if he cannot count at least one Premier League winner’s medal among his haul by the time he retires from playing.

And Benitez is also clear that winning the League is the one that matters most to him now, having already achieved European glory.

"Winning the title would be the biggest achievement of my career," said the manager. "It's more difficult than in Spain because teams here spend big money.

"But we will do our best. The key for me is not to talk about winning the title but to talk about doing a good job so we can be close, so we can be contenders.

"If we are close I think that we can win the title."

So far only Philipp Degen has been added to the squad at Anfield, though Benitez has several players in his sights. However, he stressed that anyone he brings in must be a winner.

“The key, though, is to sign the right players with the right mentality – a winning mentality – competitive players, players who are desperate to come here to win something,” he told

"That is the key for me. We have been analysing a lot of things this summer. For example, we were conceding a lot of goals last season from set pieces.

"We need to know why because the previous season we only conceded six, but this year it has been 16. We need to know why so we can improve in these areas, but keep the team scoring goals in open play.

"We have been really good in defence for three or four years but we need to improve a little bit if we want to be in contention."

Liverpool Keen On Robbie

Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane has emerged as a transfer target for Liverpool, according to a report in the News of the World.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is reportedly keen on bringing the striker to Anfield to partner Fernando Torres up front as the Reds go in search of their first Premier League title.

According to the paper Liverpool are willing to offer Tottenham a massive £20 million for Keane and are happy to throw in Peter Crouch as part of the deal too.

Keane, 27, joined Spurs from Leeds in 2002 and is the club captain at White Hart Lane. His current partnership with Dimitar Berbatov is one of the most prolific in the Premier League, both players netting 23 goals each last season for Tottenham.

The Irishman has enjoyed a successful last season at Spurs, winning his first major competition, the Carling Cup, with the club and also scoring his 100th Premier League goal and his 100th goal for Tottenham.

However, with Berbatov expected to leave the club this summer in search of Champions League football, it is unlikely the club will also want to let the talismanic Keane leave as well, hence the offer of Peter Crouch as part of the deal.

Crouch has been widely linked with a move away from Liverpool after failing to cement a regular place in the starting line up at Anfield. The striker managed only nine league starts for Liverpool last season although he did end the season with five Premier League goals to his name.

Whilst Crouch is rumoured to want to leave the club in search of regular football and to improve his international prospects, manager Rafael Benitez is clearly reluctant to let him go and has reportedly already rejected approaches by Portsmouth for the striker.

Martinez Criticises Anderson Snub

Swansea boss Roberto Martinez has questioned Paul Anderson's loyalty after the winger snubbed a return to the Swans to join Nottingham Forest.

The Liverpool man impressed during his season's loan spell at Swansea last term and Martinez was willing to pay £100,000 for a second 12-month loan.

Spaniard Martinez said: "Everyone knows being grateful or loyality in football does not exist anymore."

The deal for the 20-year-old midfielder should be finalised over the weekend.

Martinez continued: "We are proud to be involved in the development of a player that no-one wanted 12 months ago who now has six or seven choices.

"We are delighted how he adapted as we allowed him to enjoy his football, that's why he has enjoyed a lot of interest from clubs this summer."

Anderson, Swansea's young player of the year in their League One title-winning season, will link up with his new Forest team-mates on Tuesday.

He told Forest's website: "I enjoyed last season at Swansea but after speaking to Forest I just felt it was the right move for me."

Should Rafa Go After German Striker?

With Rafa Benitez reportedly on the look out for a foil to play alongside Fernando Torres next season, and names such as David Villa being bandied about by the press, one striker who could be available for the right price has confirmed he is thinking about a move from his present club.

Lukas Podolski, Bayern Munich's free-scoring German international has admitted that he may have to find himself a new club once the European Championships are over, after a season playing second fiddle to Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni at the Allianz Arena. Podolski told German newspaper Sport Bild:

"I will tackle this subject after the European championships. I will have enough time on holiday to think about my situation and I will make a decision on my future then.

"I have made it clear to him (new Bayern manager Jurgen Klinsmann) that I am unhappy with my situation in Munich. He knows what he has in me. He has even said that he understands my problems. We shall sit down together after the Euro and see what happens."

With the ever-popular (yeh right!) Tom Hicks and George Gillett understood to be close friends with Herr Klinsmann, maybe there's a chance that if Rafa does express an interest in Podolski they could help broker a deal. But maybe this time they could talk to Rafa before making contact with the German...

Can Rafa Bring Us The Title Next Season?

Rafa Benitez has revealed that winning the Premiership title with Liverpool would be his greatest achievement as a football manager.

Speaking to the club website, Benitez admitted that despite winning two La Liga titles during his time at Valencia and the Champions League in his first season at Anfield, winning the league in England is a bigger and more difficult challenge than any other.

He said: "Winning the title would be the biggest achievement of my career. It's more difficult than in Spain because teams here spend big money.

"We will do our best. The key is not to talk about winning the title but to talk about doing a good job so we can be close, so we can be contenders. If we are close I think that we can win the title."

"The key is to sign the right players with the right mentality - a winning mentality - competitive players, players who are desperate to come here to win something.

"That is the key for me. We have been analysing a lot of things this summer. For example, we were conceding a lot of goals last season from set pieces. We need to know why because the previous season we only conceded six, but this year it has been 16. We need to know why so we can improve in these areas, but keep the team scoring goals in open play.

"We have been really good in defence for three or four years but we need to improve a little bit if we want to be in contention."

But what do you think? Can next season be the year that the title finally comes back to Merseyside after almost two decades of watching the Mancs and the capital clubs' hauding domestic glory?

Barry: It's Time For Me To Move On

Gareth Barry remains desperate to join Liverpool and has blasted Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill for making no effort to persuade him to stay.

The England midfielder has made no secret of his desire for the regular Champions League football on offer at Anfield.

But despite his pleas to the Villa hierarchy to allow him to leave, the Midlanders have remained entrenched and rejected a reported £15million bid from the Reds earlier this month.

Barry told the News of the World: "My mind's made up, I want to join Liverpool.

"There's no going back, it's time for me to move on. I'm desperate to play Champions League football and that's why I have to leave Villa."

O'Neill has been openly critical of Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez over his pursuit of the Villa skipper.

But despite O'Neill's public posturing, a scornful Barry insists nothing has been done to get him to remain at Villa Park.

"Villa kept saying they wanted me to stay but I have not heard from the manager for weeks," he claimed.

"It's seven weeks now since the season finished but while the gaffer's found time to be a pundit for the BBC at Euro 2008, he hasn't found the time to speak to me.

"Have Villa offered me anything to try to persuade me my future is at Villa Park, not Anfield? Not a thing."

Benitez: Title Would Be Ultimate Achievement

Manager Rafael Benitez claims that winning the Premier League title with Liverpool would be the biggest achievement of his career.

Benitez, who won the Spanish League title twice with Valencia, says the spending power of their rivals makes it difficult but feels his side can improve on last season's fourth place finish.

"Winning the title would be the biggest achievement of my career. It's more difficult than in Spain because teams here spend big money," said Benitez.

Last season the Reds once again prospered in Europe but failed to stay in contention for the league past Christmas.

Next year Benitez is sure that if they can be in touch with the leaders towards the end of the season they can achieve their dream of capturing the title for the first time since 1990.

He said: "We will do our best. The key for me is not to talk about winning the title but to talk about doing a good job so we can be close, so we can be contenders. If we are close I think that we can win the title."

The Spaniard wants to add some more members to his playing squad but claims the mentality of the player is just as important as his skill level and ability.

He explained: "The key, though, is to sign the right players with the right mentality – a winning mentality – competitive players, players who are desperate to come here to win something."

The Reds manager added that he was keen to minimize the number of goals the team concedes from set pieces next term after allowing 16 last season.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Garcia: Torres & Liverpool A Match Made In Heaven

Former Liverpool favourite Luis Garcia has spoken of the special bond his compatriot Fernando Torres has quickly formed with the club's fans, and hailed the Torres-Liverpool partnership as one based on mutual understanding and passion.

Luis Garcia left Anfield for Atletic Madrid last summer, as his countryman Fernando Torres made the opposite move. Garcia was a much-loved performer among the Liverpool fans, and sad to leave both the club and Merseyside. But he is enthusuastic about the immediate impact Torres made at Anfield.

Garcia reckons Torres has the 'Scouse spirit,' which has made him an instant hit at his old club. And he has revealed that he did not need to persuade El Nino - currently preparing for his first European Championship final with Spain - to join Liverpool last summer.

"I didn't have to sell anything to him because I didn't need to," Garcia told the club's LFC Magazine in 'The Torres Story.'

"Liverpool is one of the best cities I have ever been to with some of the most passionate people. Fernando already knew about this spirit and soul beforehand and I think that was one of the main reasons why he signed for Liverpool.

"Fernando understands that if you have something in common with the people you are playing for, it can only be to the benefit of the team.

"I have spoken to him quite a lot since the start of last season. Whenever I call him I always start the talk in English.

"I say things like 'How are you,' then he will respond in English. The first time he did it, it surprised me, because he had only just moved.

"But Fernando is a quick learner, so really, I shouldn't be surprised.

"Fernando has the spirit of a scouser, so one day maybe he'll start talking like you lot!"

Garcia added that he was not surprised that Torres hit 33 goals in his first Premier League campaign, and reckons the striker's pace was a key factor in his success.

"The game is more about the counter-attack and the ball moves from one end of the pitch to the other very quickly," he said. "This is perfectly suited for Fernando because he is quick and can speed things up at the attacking end of the field.

"Stevie [Gerrard] and Fernando are working well together because Fernando has the pace to read Stevie's passes. Equally, Stevie knows that if he tries to make a through ball Fernando will have the speed to run on to it and create a chance."

Crouch Still In Limbo

Peter Crouch's future is no closer to being sorted as the will-he-or-won't-he transfer saga surrounding Arsenal scoring ace Emmanuel Adebayor is reportedly having a direct impact on the destiny of the towering Liverpool forward.

Arsenal emerged as surprise candidates for Crouch earlier this week, but even if the reports of their interest in the England striker prove true, they would only act on it if they needed a fill a void left by Adebayor.

Yesterday was a day of extremely mixed messages from the Adebayor camp, as within hours of announcing at a press conference that he fully intends to see out the remaining three years of his contract with Arsenal, the Togo striker admitted that a move to Milan or Barcelona is still a distinct possibility.

All this leaves both Crouch and Liverpool in an awkward position, as they risk turning Portsmouth off completely while waiting in limbo to see what develops at the Emirates.

Pompey's £9m offer for the 27-year-old still stands, but there is a very real possibility that Harry Redknapp will take his money elsewhere as Crouch is far from the only striker linked to the ascendant Fratton Park side.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, in the meanwhile, finds himself stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, as Arsenal would almost certainly be willing and able to come closer to meeting his £15m valuation of Crouch. However, with each passing day that he waits and hopes, Rafa is inevitably losing grip on transfer targets of his own.

Arsenal To Pull Out Of Crouch Race If Adebayor Stays

Liverpool have suffered another blow in their attempts to raise transfer funds with the sale of Peter Crouch.

Arsenal had emerged as one of the forward’s suitors earlier in the week but the possibility of Emmanuel Adebayor staying at the club has put that interest in jeopardy.

The Togo forward sent out mixed messages yesterday, first declaring he was staying at the Emirates only to later say that he had yet to decide on his future, with AC Milan leading the race for his signature.

Adebayor’s departure would leave manager Arsene Wenger in the hunt for striking reinforcements and would have the means to get closer to Liverpool’s £15million valuation than any of the other clubs interested in Crouch.

That number has diminished further with the news that Newcastle United won’t be pursuing him, while Portsmouth are still considering whether to improve on the £9m offer Liverpool have already turned down.

Adebayor’s agent Vincenzo Morabito said earlier this week: “Milan have already stated their position, while Arsenal have started moving in the market in the hunt for an attacker to replace Adebayor.

"Until that search ends the deal won’t move forward but I am quite optimistic because Arsenal are looking for a player. They’re talking about (Mario) Gomez, (Roque) Santa Cruz, and (Peter) Crouch.

“I’d say there’s a 70 to 80% chance Adebayor will go to Milan.”

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had insisted he would be happy to keep Crouch, but the player was unwilling to endure another season of cameo appearances.

But Benitez is now keen to get the best possible price for the 27-year-old in order to complete the transfer of Gather Barry from Aston Villa and have spare cash for other targets.

Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing is not expected to be one of those despite constant speculation linking him with a move.

And Benitez is, as expected, also set to abandon his interest in James Milner as Newcastle, who have already dismissed Liverpool’s £7m valuation, are now insisting he won’t be sold.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are likely to host Lazio in their first home pre-season friendly for five years.

Fernando Torres’s former club Atletico Madrid had originally been pencilled in for the date of Friday, August 8, but the two clubs could not reach agreement.

Galatasaray's Move For Itandje Leaves Liverpool's Carson In Limbo

Galatasaray have made a £2million move for Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje — scuppering Scott Carson's chances of a permanent exit from Anfield in the process.

Former French Under-21 international Itandje, who joined Liverpool from Lens last summer, has agreed a three-year contract with the Turkish champions.

Itandje, 25, made only seven appearances last season — none of them in the Premier League — as cover for Pepe Reina but Liverpool now need to bring in a replacement.

Veteran Bordeaux goalkeeper Ulrich Rame, 35, has been mentioned but otherwise Rafa Benitez wants to keep hold of Carson.

Despite interest from Middlesbrough and Stoke to take him on loan, Benitez has made it clear that he will only let Carson leave on a permanent deal — valuing the England international at £6m.

That has prompted Stoke to offer £1m for Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop instead. Roy Keane will reluctantly sell the 25-year-old but wants double that amount. He turned down a £500,000 offer from Leicester last season.

Grant Leadbitter meanwhile has signed a new three-year dealt at the Stadium of Light. The 22-year-old is now Sunderland’s longest serving player and Keane said: ‘He’s got quality and he’s enthusiastic, he’s a good character. He’s developing and maturing well.’

Rafa Must Raise His Game In Market

TEAMtalk's Graham Shaw feels Rafael Benitez needs to show more ambition in the transfer market if Liverpool are to be serious title contenders.

Eighteen years, and the wait goes on. The title drought on Merseyside shows no sign of ending just yet.

We're already hearing the annual 'this is our year' proclamations from Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and co.

But surely even those two must be scratching their heads when they read who Rafa Benitez is reportedly out to buy this summer.

Gareth Barry and James Milner appear to be high on the shopping list, with Stewart Downing also mentioned.

But the eight-figure sums mentioned in some quarters must have knowledgeable Koppites coughing up cornflakes all over their red tops around the breakfast table. More 'ow' factor than 'wow'.

Liverpool did make strides last season in terms of closing the gap on Manchester United and Chelsea, but for one reason only. They bought big.

The acquisition of Fernando Torres used up a hefty portion of Benitez's kitty in the summer of 2007, but it was worth every penny.

El Nino lit up the Premier League with some phenomenal goalscoring displays, and made Liverpool a real threat to most teams. Without him though they looked pretty average.

Benitez already has a sizeable squad to work with, so I'd humbly submit that he should be looking for quality and not quantity this summer.

If Barry is really a massively better option than Xabi Alonso I'd be very surprised - he's top-six, not Champions League for me. Good not great, lacking the pace and ability for the very highest level.

And with Javier Mascherano already in the Anfield engine room, shouldn't they be looking for something just a little different?

Milner and Downing, meanwhile, are hardly likely to terrorise opposing defences and set pulses racing on Merseyside (are they really better than Ryan Babel?). Personally I'd prefer the chances of Yossi Benayoun (who looks surplus to requirements) winning a game with a moment of magic.

When Liverpool were in their pomp they bought the best, only going for players who could improve them. That's why the likes of Dalglish, Souness, Barnes and Beardsley ended up in a red shirt.

Our man Rafa, though, appears to spend most of his time snapping up players who MIGHT be the next big thing. A bit like getting a cheap telly without a big brand name in the hope that it's quite good. Except you generally end up ditching it and upgrading because the picture's not great.

As long as Torres can stay fit Liverpool might well be only one player short of being genuine title contenders. Just not the ones they're currently being linked with.

Liverpool's form late last season was top-class. And for a fair part of the season they matched the top three. Their one big failing - they couldn't beat Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. To do that you need quality throughout the team.

Barry, Milner and Downing might not even be definite starters next season if they do end up moving to Merseyside. Squad players aren't what Benitez needs - he can only play 11 after all.

The message is simple: buy the best or fail the test. Rafa, you have been warned.

Anderson Happy With Forest Switch

Liverpool youngster Paul Anderson has revealed excitement at joining Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan.

Swansea City and was named the club’s Young Player of the Year after an impressive campaign that saw him score seven goals in 31 appearances.

Some queried whether Reds boss Rafa Benitez (pictured) should give the tricky winger an opportunity to earn a place in the senior squad next season, but Spaniard appears keen to draft in proven quality for the flanks over the summer.

Hence, Anderson – who has netted an impressive 13 goals in 17 games for the England under-19s – has been sent to Nottingham on another loan spell, despite Swansea's attempts to sign him permanently.

He told Forest’s official website: "I enjoyed last season at Swansea but after speaking to Forest I just felt it was the right move for me.

"I am joining a big club in Forest and I am very excited about the challenge of trying to help them make an impact in the Championship."

Ajax Enter Benayoun Race

Although Yossi Benayoun is keen on fighting for his Liverpool future, he could be moving elsewhere to make sure of his share of the action – perhaps even to the Netherlands.

De Telegraaf newspaper reports today that Ajax are keeping an eye on the Israeli international, whom the English giants spent a reported 7.3 million euros on July 12 last year.

The 28-year-old versatile midfielder, equally capable as a playmaker, an attacking midfielder or on the right, scored 11 goals in 47 matches with The Reds in his first season there, but only completed 14 of those games. And Rafa Benítez could be tempted to let go of him, as Tottenham and Portsmouth have reportedly expressed an interest.

As’s William Wood reported earlier, Liverpool would be willing to sell the former Maccabi Haifa, Racing de Santander and West Ham United ace for some 6.3 million. And Dutch media estimate that the Johan Cruijff Schaal holders could land Benayoun, who has had a trial in Amsterdam earlier in his career, having tabled a six-million bid. Furthermore,, a website of London Evening Standard newspaper, reports that Ajax are even prepared to offer Benayoun a pay-rise, compared to the 38,000-a-week he makes in England.

Despite spending quite some time on the bench, Benayoun, perhaps Israel’s most accomplished footballer today and the national team captain, had recently stated to The Jewish Chronicle that he would love to finish his playing days with Liverpool. But recent transfer rumours have probably prompted him to reconsider.

“I need to know what’s going on, because I thought I would be at Liverpool next season,” he told the Daily Mail tabloid, although his agent does not seem as eager to rush things. “He’s a good player, so it’s only normal that these clubs would be interested in signing him,” Ronen Katsav told BBC Sport.

“But Yossi is very happy at Liverpool, everything is perfect for him there. He sees his future at Liverpool. Even if the club wanted to sell him, then Yossi would say he would like to stay.”

Liverpool’s Carragher Expects Boss Benitez To Sign More New Players

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher expects manager Rafa Benitez to bring in more reinforcements as he declared that the Reds will be challenging on all fronts.

The Merseysiders finished fourth last season in the Premiership, while losing in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The Reds have brought in full-backs Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena, whose signing has been confirmed recently.

"We have brought in two or three players already and I am sure the manager is looking to bring some more in," said Carragher.

"We didn't win anything last season, so we want to look to improve and that is something we have already done.”

The former England international, Carragher asserted that the Reds will be looking to win every trophy on offer.

"At a club like Liverpool every season is a big season and we will be going for every trophy we possibly can," he said.

"It is a big competition not just in the Premier League but around Europe, but I am confident we can produce something this season.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Forest Complete Anderson Capture

Championship newcomers Nottingham Forest have acquired the services of highly-rated Liverpool youngster Paul Anderson on a season-long loan.

Forest beat off stiff competition from Championship rivals Swansea, who Anderson spent last season on loan with and helped them pip Colin Calderwood's side to the League One title.

The 19-year-old midfielder, who played 36 times for the Swans and scored eight goals, said he jumped at the opportunity to return to his native east midlands when he was aware of Calderwood's interest.

He told the club's official website: "I enjoyed last season at Swansea but after speaking to Forest I just felt that it was the right move for me.

"I'm joining a big club in Forest and I am very excited about the challenge of trying to help them make an impact in the Championship."

Torres Is The World's Best - Carragher

Jamie Carragher has hailed Liverpool team-mate Fernando Torres as the best striker in the world following his exploits at Euro 2008.

Torres has helped Spain reach the final of the competition with some impressive showings in Austria and Switzerland.

The former Atletico Madrid ace has carried on where he left off at Liverpool last season after scoring an impressive 33 goals in his debut season at Anfield.

Carragher is a big fan of Torres and insists he would not swap the Spaniard for anyone in the world.

"He has a great partnership with Villa they look really sharp the two of them and Fernando has took his form from Liverpool into the national team," Carragher told Sky Sports News.

"He does not have to prove anything to anyone at Liverpool as he has done it in the Champions League and I am sure he has gone down well in Spain.

"I am Liverpool player and I am biased, I suppose, but for me he is the best.

"I am just delighted to be in the same team as him and it was a great bit of business by the club last summer, great for Rafa who brought him in and he has repaid everyone.

"Hopefully he will do it for the next four or five years for Liverpool, but at the moment I would not swap him for anyone."

Carragher: Reds To Challenge

Central defender Jamie Carragher believes Liverpool will mount a serious challenge for silverware next season.

The Reds stalwart has backed manager Rafael Benitez to bring some quality new signings to Anfield this summer, as they look to close the gap to the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal both domestically and in Europe.

Liverpool finished 11 points off the pace of eventual Premier League champions United last season, while they exited the Champions League at the semi-final stage at the hands of Chelsea.

The Reds have failed to claim the domestic league title since 1990 and have not won any trophies during the last two seasons.

"At a club like Liverpool every season is a big season and we will be going for every trophy we possibly can," said Carragher.

"It is a big competition not just in the Premier League but around Europe, but I am confident we can produce something this season.

"We didn't win anything last season, so we want to look to improve and that is something we have already done.

"We have brought in two or three players already and I am sure the manager is looking to bring some more in."

Liverpool Line Up Shock £10m Swoop For Boro's England Winger Stewart Downing

Liverpool will make a surprise £10million swoop for Middlesbrough's England winger Stewart Downing, according to reports.

Anfield boss Rafa Benitez wants a left-sided midfielder following Harry Kewell's departure and he has targeted England star Downing, The Sun reports.

The Boro ace was a Spurs target last season. But Gareth Southgate wants to keep him, especially as Downing was handed a new five-year deal just five months ago.

Boro want to build a team around Downing, 23, and aim to have James Harper and French midfielder Didier Digard alongside him next term.

Chief executive Keith Lamb said: "We are pursuing a number of players. The negotiations are going very well and we hope to have most of our incoming transfers completed before the players return to training on July 7."

Liverpool will wrap up the signing of £7m Italian defender Andrea Dossena next week. The Udinese full-back, 26, will become Benitez's second capture of the summer following Swiss ace Philipp Degen.

Anfield chief executive Rick Parry said: "The deal should go through next week after finalising the paperwork." Benitez has also pounced for AZ Alkmaar's Dutch strike prodigy Vincent Weijl. Weijl, 17, is due to move for a nominal fee as he has yet to sign a professional contract.

Chester Look To Take Godwin Antwi On Loan

CHESTER City last night approached Liverpool to enquire about the availability of central defender, Godwin Antwi.

The 20-year-old Ghanaian-born player is highly thought of at Anfield, but it is understood that they would be receptive to a temporary loan spell, if the player was agreeable.

Antwi, who moved to Spain with his family when he was 14 years of age, played for the Real Zaragoza youth team before being spotted by Paco Herrera, who persuaded him to move to Anfield.

The player, who was a member of the Liverpool’s FA Youth Cup-winning side in 2006, had a loan spell with Accrington Stanley 18 months ago, before spending a year-long temporary period with Hartlepool United last season.

During his time in the North East, he made 27 League One appearances for the Victoria Park club.

City manager Simon Davies said last night: "We have spoken to Liverpool and if the player is receptive then we would like to bring him to the Deva Stadium on a season-long temporary loan arrangement.

"Godwin is an exceptional player and he is just the sort of defender that we are looking for. Hopefully he will see the benefit of joining us for a season and see the temporary move as an integral part of his football progression."

Rafa Benitez To Seal Double Capture Of Nikola Saric And Andrea Dossena

Liverpool are set to complete two transfer deals – after beating a host of top clubs to one of Europe’s most promising young strikers.

Italian left-back Andrea Dossena agreed terms to complete his move from Udinese for a fee in the region of £6million earlier this month before going on his honeymoon.

He is now set to put pen to paper when the transfer window officially opens on Tuesday, and Anfield chief executive Rick Parry said: “We are now ready to confirm the signing of Dossena. The deal should go through next week after finalising the paperwork.”
But the signing of Danish youngster Nikola Saric (pictured above) is a longer-term investment, the 17-year-old joining on a three-year deal from Herfolge for an undisclosed fee.

Barcelona were just one of a clutch of clubs keen to seal the signature of the striker, who can also play wide on the left, but after Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez contacted the player personally he dropped out of his club’s training camp in Greece to fly in to Merseyside yesterday.

“All the top clubs in Europe have been involved with this player,” Herfolge’s sporting director Per Rud told the Daily Post.

“So it says something about the club that he is turning up at Liverpool.

“We are very proud to sell him to one of the biggest clubs in the world and glad that they came up with the best package for him.”

Saric made his debut for the Danish second division club when he was 15 but he was restricted to just three appearances for them last season because of country commitments.

He began the campaign playing for Denmark under-17s but was promoted to the under-18s as he started to catch the eye with his performances in the international set-up. He is set to sign his contract next week and is likely to join the ranks of promising teenagers in Gary Ablett’s reserve side next season.

Saric said: “It is a unique opportunity for me.

“I will train with the big names over there, and in time they will develop me at reserve level.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gunners Eye Crouch Move

Superagent Vincenzo Morabito claims Arsenal are considering Peter Crouch as a possible replacement for Emmanuel Adebayor.

Barcelona and Milan are battling to persuade the Gunners to cash in on Adebayor, with a fee in excess of £30million mooted for the Togo striker.

Milan have confirmed the former Monaco forward is their top target, but have acknowledged the difficulty in tempting Arsenal to sell.

Morabito, who is among the agents working on the deal for the Italian giants, appears optimistic that Adebayor will move to the San Siro.

However, Morabito claims Arsenal will not sanction the transfer until Arsene Wenger has brought in a replacement.

Liverpool striker Crouch is among Wenger's targets, according to Morabito, along with Blackburn Rovers' Roque Santa Cruz and Stuttgart frontman Mario Gomez.

"Arsenal are looking for Adebayor's replacement," Morabito told Italian TV show Studio Sport.

"The names being talked about are Peter Crouch, Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz and Germany forward Mario Gomez.

"Until that search is over, the negotiations won't reach the final stage, but I am fairly optimistic.

"What are the chances of Adebayor joining Milan? At this stage, we are at 70 per cent to 80 per cent."

Arsenal boss Wenger, though, is remaining calm about possible player departures, with Alexander Hleb also being strongly linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium.

Wenger said in The Independent: "I know a lot has been written about us, but I am very calm. Why? Because I don't know why I should be nervous.

"It's like when you take a penalty, if you are nervous it doesn't help. I will approach it with my usual calm.

"My biggest challenge is to make sure I have a competitive team next year no matter who it is."

Benitez Won’t Be Held To Ransom Over Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry will be kept waiting on his dream move to Anfield with Liverpool set to infuriate Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill further by telling him to “get real” over the valuation of his unsettled captain.

The England international made it clear that he wanted to leave Villa Park at the end of last season in the search for European football with Anfield his preferred destination.

However, with his skipper still under contract, Villa manager O’Neill, who is preparing for an Intertoto Cup campaign with one of the Premier League’s smallest squads is determined to squeeze as much out of any suitors for his prize asset.

Backed by American owner Randy Lerner, O’Neill, livid at the Anfield outfit’s public chase for Barry has stubbornly dug in his heels and rejected Liverpool’s first three bids.

With Villa valuing Barry at £20m, Liverpool are now set to ask the Midlanders to introduce some ‘realism’ into negotiations as Benitez looks to seal a deal.

O’Neill’s valuation of Barry is based on the £18m fee paid for Javier Mascherano last season but Barry, 27, is more than three years older than the Argentine star.

The Ulsterman is so annoyed with the way negotiations have been conducted that has now severed all contact with Anfield, leaving Lerner’s assistant Paul Faulkner to conduct talks.

For the first time, Liverpool have admitted that they fear that the stalemate could last much longer than they’d hoped unless a compromise can be reached and Barry now faces the prospect of having to report for the start of Villa’s pre-season training at Bodymoor Heath.

With the clubs also unable to reach an agreement over Scott Carson’s asking price, any part-exchange involving the keeper who was on loan at Villa Park now seems unlikely, with O’Neill eyeing Paul Robinson.

Man City Linked To Liverpool's Peter Crouch

Manchester City have entered the race for Liverpool striker Peter Crouch – but the Anfield club will have to lower their £15m valuation for the player.

New manager at Eastlands Mark Hughes is attracted by the England striker’s recent European experience ahead of City’s Uefa Cup campaign.

Anfield chiefs are still waiting on an official bid following City’s initial enquiry but Hughes will have to fork out an eight-figure fee for the 27-year-old after Portsmouth had a £9m offer rejected.

The substantial funds available to the City manager from Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra are believed to be a major factor in ambitious Hughes’ decision to come to the club from Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers, but despite having the kind of transfer budget which has seen major world stars such as Ronaldinho linked with a move to

Eastlands this summer the Welshman is determined not to pay over the odds for Crouch.

Hughes still faces stiff competition for Crouch’s signature from FA Cup winners Portsmouth.

The Fratton Park outfit are now pursuing Reading’s England international left-back Nicky Shorey but despite having a £9m bid for Crouch knocked back earlier this week, manager Harry Redknapp insists the 6ft 7in frontman remains his number one striking target as he looks to bolster his frontline ahead of the club’s first ever European campaign.

Meanwhile, Andriy Voronin is relishing the prospect of his second season with Liverpool and has promised supporters that his best is still to come.

The Ukraine international admits that he did not feature as much as he would have liked during his debut campaign at Anfield but insists that he is now happy with life in England and determined to show the club’s supporters just what he can do.

“When I first arrived here I didn’t find it easy because I’d lived in Germany for 12 years,” he said.

“I didn’t know the language but I’m gradually getting there.

“My wife had a baby here and, thank god, everything was okay. So I am getting more and more used to life here everyday.

“We are feeling much better than six or seven months ago. When we have time we go into town. We like it here and don’t have any problems with life in England or the town – except for the weather.”

Voronin feels he made an impressive start to his Liverpool career but added: “Obviously the injury was a setback. There are a lot of good players here. It’s competitive, so it’s difficult to get straight back into the team after an injury.

“I’ll do my best next season and hopefully I can help the team. I think I still have a lot to show the fans.”

Steve Finnan: I Will Fight For My Liverpool Shirt

Under pressure Reds defender Steve Finnan has a message to Anfield new boys Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena: "I'm not going easily!"

After being a virtual fixture in the Liverpool starting line-up since his £3.5m move from Fulham five years ago, Finnan found himself on the sidelines for much of last season.

He started just four of the Reds last 17 matches, then saw Swiss international right-back Degen and Italian international full-back Dossena signed in the summer.

But Finnan said: "I think every player welcomes competition. I'm no different.

"If the manager wants to add more I've got no problem with that. Obviously it benefits the team and it means those of us already here have to keep improving.

"At a club like this there will always be competition for places. We're all aware of that. Nobody can afford to take anything for granted.

"Rumours about new signings appear on a regular basis, it's part of the job.

"You look at our squad now and you can see we've got two top players in nearly every position."

Prior to last season only injury kept Finnan out of the Reds starting line-up, as he saw off new signings Josemi and Jan Kromkamp.

But 2008/09 promises to be the most challenging campaign of his Liverpool career.

The battle for Peter Crouch's signature, meanwhile, has intensified - with Arsenal surprise contenders.

Super agent Vincenzo Morabito told Italian TV show Studio Sport last night: "Arsenal are exploring the transfer market for a substitute for Adebayor. The names being talked about are Peter Crouch, Roque Santa Cruz and Germany forward Mario Gomez."

Manchester City are also reported to be in the running now, after Portsmouth had a £9m bid rejected by the Reds earlier this week, and Tottenham have also been linked with a double raid on Anfield for Crouch and Yossi Benayoun.

Liverpool, meanwhile, will kick-off satellite channel Setanta's coverage for the new season - on July 12!

The broadcasters have announced that they intend to screen the pre-season friendly between Tranmere and Liverpool, their first 'live action' of 2008/09.

It is part of an intensive package which includes 27 live screenings prior to the Community Shield between Manchester United and Portsmouth.

Spurs Plan To Thwart Pompey With £15m Deal For Crouch And Benayoun

Juande Ramos has joined the bidding for Peter Crouch and is ready to launch a £15million double offer for the unsettled Liverpool striker and his team-mate Yossi Benayoun.

Still fearful he may lose Dimitar Berbatov before the start of next season, the Tottenham manager has earmarked Crouch as a ready-made replacement and put together a package he believes will give him the edge over Portsmouth counterpart Harry Redknapp.

While Portsmouth offered an initial £7million, with £2m worth of extras to follow, Tottenham are prepared to pay the full £9m asking price for Crouch and a further £6m for former West Ham midfielder Benayoun.

Tottenham’s proposal carries the greater appeal for Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, who is eager not only to do business with his fellow-Spaniard and close friend Ramos but rake in desperately needed funds to finance his own transfer plans.

Redknapp still feels he is in pole position, though, after a clear signal from Crouch that Fratton Park remains his preferred destination.

The England striker has even indicated he would sooner see out the 12 months left on his contract than be forced into a move against his will and Benitez may have to wait while Portsmouth raise the additional cash to match Tottenham’s bid.

With goalkeeper Scott Carson a target for Middlesbrough and Xabi Alonso edging closer to a move to Juventus, Benitez could soon have the financial muscle to follow up his long-running pursuit of Gareth Barry and more recent interest in David Silva.

The bidding for Aston Villa midfielder Barry looks like topping £15m, while Valencia winger Silva will cost almost as much after his emergence for Spain sent his value soaring.

Redknapp has persistently refused to be hurried into meeting an opening valuation on Crouch of around £12m and is confident he is now close to landing the out-of-favour Liverpool marksman for £9m at the most.

As he attempts to build on last season’s FA Cup success, Redknapp is also considering trying to hijack Roma’s negotiations with freed Liverpool winger Harry Kewell and has been linked with a move for Strasbourg midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, as well as confirming his interest in Reading left-back Nicky Shorey.

Kewell was thought to be close to reaching an agreement with the Serie A club but is sure to consider any opportunity to extend his injury-blighted career in the Barclays Premier League.While Crouch’s arrival would be seen as further evidence of Portsmouth’s growing ambition, it may not be welcomed by Nwankwo Kanu.

The Nigerian has held off agreeing new terms since January because he believes he deserves another two years. But the presence of Crouch would strengthen Pompey’s hand in negotiations.

‘I cannot sign for just one year when I have done so much for the club,’ said Kanu. ‘Winning the FA Cup and playing well during the season should qualify me for more than a one-year extension.’

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rafa Rubbishes Money Reports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has described reports he has demanded a £50million transfer kitty as 'total rubbish'.

Reports on Tuesday suggested Benitez was demanding a £50million war chest to enable him to sign David Villa, David Silva, Gareth Barry and Daniel Alves.

Benitez has brushed off the speculation, outlining the fact that Sevilla star Alves has already agreed a deal to join Barcelona to prove the reports have no substance.

"The stories are ridiculous. Total rubbish," Benitez told the Liverpool Echo.

"They have me trying to sign Daniel Alves, who already has an agreement with Barcelona, so how could I be trying to sign him?

"I am working hard with (chief executive) Rick Parry, who is in regular contact with the Americans, and there are no problems.

"The reports are just unbelievable."

Liverpool Boardroom Drama Could Be Over - Grobbelaar

Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar believes the club may have seen the last of the boardroom unrest at the club following a season full of turmoil.

The season just passed was far from memorable for Liverpool, as new co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett had an ongoing feud, there was an ownership struggle, an attempt to sack chief executive Rick Parry, talks held with Jürgen Klinsmann before he had secured the Bayern Munich job, and of course another forgettable season on all fronts, barring a Champions League run to the semi-finals following a poor start that only just saw them get through the groups.

Grobbelaar, who enjoyed 14 years at the club despite being convicted of match-fixing, is optimistic that the worst has passed and that the owners will now start working to bring the fans what they want.

The ex-goalkeeper told Setanta Sports News: “Who knows, if they are talking together and they can give the Liverpool fans what they need – the stadium and some good players for Rafa Benitez – then hopefully we can forget about the wranglings off the pitch and do the business on the pitch and knock on the door for the championship."

Grobbelaar is also hopeful that Liverpool can sign David Villa from Valencia, as he is Fernando Torres' strike partner at international level and has now caught everyone's eye following a hat-trick against Russia in Spain's opening game of Euro 2008 and a last-minute winner against Sweden.

“Yes, I’d like to see David Villa coming to Anfield,” declared Grobbelaar. “We know Rafa wanted David Villa two years ago so hopefully we can get the negotiations done as quickly as possible.

“He’s voiced his opinion already that he doesn’t want to go to London to Chelsea and he might find it better to come up to Liverpool with all his Spanish mates: Scouse Spanish!”

Voronin Vows To Repay Faith

Andrei Voronin is determined to show Liverpool supporters his true ability next season after a mixed first campaign at Anfield.

The Ukraine international arrived on Merseyside last summer on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen and initially impressed for Rafa Benitez's side.

However, the second half of the season saw injuries and a difficultly in adapting to new surroundings restrict Voronin's role in Benitez's first XI.

He is confident, though, that with another pre-season behind him he will be more acclimatised to English football and is gearing up for a successful showing next term.

"I think I started not bad," he told LFC magazine.

"I played a lot at the beginning and scored a few goals.

"Obviously the injury was a setback. There are a lot of good players here. It's competitive, so it's difficult to get straight back into the team after an injury.

"I'll do my best next season and hopefully I can help the team. I think I still have a lot to show the fans.

"When I first arrived here I didn't find it easy because I'd lived in Germany for 12 years.

"I didn't know the language but I'm gradually getting there. My wife had a baby here and, thank God, everything was okay. So I am getting more and more used to life here everyday.

"We are feeling much better than six or seven months ago. We like it here and don't have any problems with life in England or the town - except for the weather!"

Liverpool To Make Move For Fulham Keeper Antti Niemi

Liverpool want Fulham's veteran keeper Antti Niemi.

Anfield boss Rafa Benitez is after an experienced stopper to provide back-up to No.1 Pepe Reina.

And Finnish ace Niemi, 36, is keen as he is surplus to requirements at Craven Cottage and is big mates with compatriot Sami Hyypia.

Birmingham's Maik Taylor,36, was Benitez's original target but he is due to pen a new two-year deal at St Andrews on Wednesday.

And Niemi, who can leave Fulham for around £350,000, is set for talks with Liverpool next week when he returns from holiday but West Ham are also interested.

Strategic Transfer Sales Come At A Price

The phoney war is nearly over, and the real business is about to start.

The vast majority of the transfer rumours which are the staple diet of the press and gossip websites can be dismissed as just that: rumours.

But now, as Euro 2008 and the latest round of South American World Cup qualifiers draw to a close, and the transfer window creaks open, the more fanciful stories will fall away and be replaced by more concrete tales of how the latest unknown imports from darkest Africa and former Soviet republics have always been diehard supporters of their new club, and that their dream has come true with the donning of the red/blue/white shirt - provided it is stuffed with bundles of used tenners.

The prospective comings and goings at Anfield have filled many a column inch in recent weeks, with the size of Rafa's transfer budget the cause of much speculation.

The credit crunch has forced Rafa to sell to spend; or the new-found rapport between our co-owners has released additional funds to challenge for the top. Take your pick.

The reality is likely to be that Rafa will have a significant budget, courtesy of the refinanced loan negotiated in January, and that he will try to swell the coffers with a few strategic sales.

The thing that's worrying the Kops at present is that the strategic sales are beginning to look like a fire sale of our best gear, rather than a clear-out of end-of-lines. Crouch, Alonso and now Benayoun are being touted as likely departees, along with young talents like Jack Hobbs and Emiliano Insua, whereas most fans would prefer the discussion to be centring on the likes of Itandje, Pennant and Voronin.

The problem of course is that these three are worth about tuppence-ha'penny, while Liverpool will need big bucks to attract the star names to bolster its wings.

One national paper yesterday linked Liverpool with Villa, Silva and Daniel Alves, which is nice, but the Merseyside club probably have to throw in the Centenary Stand and the Kop chippy to afford that lot.

The arrivals of Degen on a free transfer and Dossena from Udinese have not exactly set the pulse racing, the fear being that these will be the latest in a line of average full-backs to arrive like Arbeloa and Aurelio, or the downright hopeless like Josemi.

It looks like Liverpool will get Gareth Barry once Martin O'Neill calms down, with Alonso sacrificed to appease the financial gods.

Most of Liverpool fans would be sorry to see him go, but in return is a left-sided player and a few more goals as well from the bargain; although anyone watching Xabi play in a more advanced role for Spain against Greece last week will have been wondering why he isn't encouraged to play this way for Liverpool more often.

As for Crouchy, well the big guy is clearly unhappy with his lot, and his contract's up next year, so I suppose that spells exit.

Perhaps Rafa plans to move Babel forward next year to make up his complement of strikers, preparing the way for a mega-signing on the left-wing. David Silva perhaps?

Arbeloa: I’d Love Ronaldo Leave Man Utd

Alvaro Arbeloa has echoed the thoughts of all Premier League defenders – by admitting he hopes Cristiano Ronaldo joins his former club Real Madrid.

The Liverpool defender, who began his career at the Bernabeu, was on the receiving end of the Manchester United winger’s brilliance last season, when he scored 42 goals as they clinched a Premier League and Champions League double.

And Ronaldo’s departure would be a blessing for many Premier League defenders, according to the Spain international, who is currently away with his country for Euro 2008.

“If he leaves, Manchester United would lose the best player in the world,” said Arbeloa. “I would be delighted if Ronaldo leaves and more so if it is to my former team.”

“Let’s hope Real Madrid make an effort. For me it would be fantastic. I would thank them.”

Ronaldo is a target for the Spanish giants, although several weeks of claim and counter-claim have failed to result in a deal.

United insist the Portugal international is not for sale while Madrid are waiting for the player to announce his future plans.

But the disruption the saga is causing to United’s preparations for next season can only be of encouragement to their top four rivals.

In terms of Liverpool’s own prospected transfer window business, Newcastle United seem set to take steps to ensure James Milner stays at the club.

Rafael Benitez was prepared to go to £7m including Danny Guthrie for the 22-year-old winger but with sources in the north east claiming £9m is closer to United’s valuation, the Liverpool manager’s interest has cooled considerably.

With Benitez still intending to raise the cash to secure Gareth Barry’s transfer from Aston Villa and possibly David Silva from Valencia, he won’t break his policy of refusing to pay above the odds for a player with no significant Champions League or international experience.

In terms of netting extra transfer funds, he is also holding out for the right price for Peter Crouch, as Portsmouth consider following up their rejected £9m bid with the £10m that is closer to Liverpool’s asking price.

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp said: “I'd love to bring Crouchie back here.

“We are trying to do deals to bring in players and Peter Storrie is working on trying to get things done.

“But the fee seems a bit too high, and at the end of the day it comes down to the price.

“It seems like things are getting a bit too expensive.

“Crouchie is a player who is on our list, but if nothing can be done then we will just move on to the next player.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pompey Parried In Crouch Bid

Portsmouth may be forced back to the drawing board after Liverpool rejected their ₤9million bid for Peter Crouch.

The England international has only a year remaining on his contract at Anfield and has expressed his desire to leave after receiving limited opportunities last season.

Harry Redknapp is keen to team up the beanpole striker with Pompey poacher Jermain Defoe, who in turn has revealed his excitement at the prospect of partnering his sometime international colleague at Fratton Park.

But the Daily Mail reports that Reds boss Rafa Benitez, who initially slapped a rather ambitious ₤15million price tag on Crouch, has turned down Redknapp's ₤9million offer.

Benitez may be holding out for offers from Aston Villa and Newcastle United, who have also been linked with the 27-year-old.

Yossi Benayoun May Be Sold To Raise Cash

Liverpool will consider cashing in on Yossi Benayoun if they receive any concrete offers.

The Israeli playmaker, bought for £5million from West Ham last summer, has not previously been on the list of players manager Rafael Benitez is looking to offload as he continues to seek the funds that will land him his targets.

But with Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp admitting an interest, while also expressing doubts over raising the necessary cash to take striker Peter Crouch from Anfield, Liverpool’s hand could be forced.

Benitez would prefer to retain Benayoun as a useful squad member as the player is happy on Merseyside despite his apparent lack of first team opportunities.

He recently said: “There are three or four clubs in England willing to buy me after the season I have just had.

“But I want to stay at Liverpool until the end of my career.”

He did play in 30 Premier League games last season but started in only half of those, while his biggest impact came in the Champions League group stages when he scored a hat-trick in the 8-0 win over Besiktas.

He also hit a treble in the FA Cup win over Havant & Waterlooville but generally found it difficult to force his way into Benitez’s preferred attacking formation for much of the campaign.

Bids of £6m would be well within range of the likes of Portsmouth and other reported potential suitors such as Manchester City and Middlesbrough.

And with Benitez’s attempts to raise money from other squad members currently stalling, any hope of snaring enough cash to bring in both Gareth Barry and David Silva could rest on what they would be able to get for Benayoun.

No headway has been made in negotiations to agree a fee with Aston Villa for Scott Carson, while Liverpool have still to reach the Midlands side’s £18m valuation of their captain Barry.

Juventus are expected to make their move for Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso after both the club and the player hinted they wanted a deal to be done.

But even the minimum £10m Benitez hoped to get for Crouch could be in jeopardy after Portsmouth manager Redknapp admitted he is cooling to the idea of bringing the striker back to Fratton Park.

But he did admit an interest in Benayoun despite bringing in winger Glen Little from Reading, albeit on a free transfer, last week.

Redknapp said: “Of course I’d like to have someone like Yossi Benayoun.

“He’s a top player. I don’t know what the chances are of getting him out of Liverpool.

“It’s known I like Crouchie, too. But it doesn’t look like anything is happening there. I think Liverpool want a bit too much money for him.

“If that’s the case then we’ll move on to the next option.”

Liverpool have added another friendly to their pre-season programme by confirming a game against Norwegian side Valerengen in Oslo on August 5 (6pm).

Liverpool’s confirmed friendlies are: July 12 v Tranmere (a); July 16 v FC Lucerne (Grenchen); July 19 v Wisla Krakow (Friborg); July 22 v Hertha Berlin (Berlin); July 30 v Villarreal (Villarreal); August 2 v Rangers (a); August 5 v Valerengen (Oslo).

Skrtel Has Found His Mersey Paradise

Martin Skrtel claims he is loving life in Liverpool – even though there is no escape from Kopites in the city.

The Slovak international arrived at Anfield from Russian side Zenit in January and has since proved a massive hit with the Kop.

Skrtel insists the feeling is most definitely mutual.

"I think because of the skinhead and my accent I am not too hard to pick out on the street," the centre-back told LFC Magazine.

"From the bits of conversation I understand between us then I have to say that they have been amazing to me.

"I have signed more autographs since touching down in Merseyside than in the rest of my professional career. But, for the support I have had individually, and that we get as a team, signing some autographs is not a problem."

Skrtel's popularity is in no small part down to his no-nonsense brand of defending, a style which saw him start 20 Liverpool games in less than five months.

He added: "That's just the way I play. I am a defender and sometimes that means you have to put your body on the line to prevent an opposition player scoring a goal.

"I like tackling. It is one of my main strengths. And yeah, I can hear the supporters cheering and getting excited when I go in for a 50/50 challenge. It's beautiful to me to hear that the Liverpool fans appreciate what I do.

"It means a lot to me because these are early days in my Anfield career. To know that I have made an impact is pleasing because I am in a new country and playing a new style of football.

"The English style suits me very well. I enjoy physical battles with forwards and I have had plenty of those in England so far. I am sure over the course of my stay here in Liverpool, which I hope will be a long one, I will have many more.

"Every game in this country is tough; there is no such thing as an easy game in the Premier League."

Rafa Benitez To Demand £50m To Strengthen Liverpool Squad

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is to request a £50 million transfer kitty from the club's owners as he bids to bring three major signings to Anfield this summer.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett have reportedly ended their feud and are back on speaking terms, after a year of infighting.

With peace seemingly returned to the board, Benitez believes now is the best time to ask for cash.

The Spaniard wants to land David Villa, David Silva and Gareth Barry. However, asking for such a considerable sum has sparked fears that Benitez is heading for another run-in with the Americans.

Benitez came close to losing his job last year when he spoke out against the transfer restrictions imposed by Hicks and Gillett.

He has already signed Philipp Degen on a free and £7m right-back Andrea Dossena, but is convinced another £50m is needed.

Barry will cost £15m, with a deal for the Aston Villa midfielder expected to be completed within weeks, while Valencia are asking £20m for Villa.

The Spain international has shone at Euro 2008 and Liverpool will face stiff competition for his signature from the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid.

Villa's compatriot, Silva, will also cost in the region of £20m.

To help raise funds, Benitez has already sold John Arne Riise to Roma for £4m, while Xabi Alonso has been linked with a £14m move to Juventus.

Benayoun Bats Off Anfield Exit Talk

Yossi Benayoun says he wants to stay at Liverpool for the rest of his career despite interest from "three or four clubs" including Portsmouth.

Pompey boss Harry Redknapp has confirmed his interest in the Israeli and Manchester City are thought to be among the other clubs monitoring Benayoun's situation.

Benayoun struggled to hold down a regular place in the Liverpool side last season and is aware of interest from other clubs in his services.

But he has no plans to leave, telling the Jewish Chronicle: "There are three or four clubs in England willing to buy me after the season I have just had.

"But I want to stay at Liverpool until the end of my career.

"It really moves me when I go out on to the pitch at Anfield and the crowd start singing."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Harry Confirms Yossi Interest

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp has confirmed his interest in Liverpool's Israel international midfielder Yossi Benayoun.

Benayoun is reportedly frustrated at a lack of opportunities at Anfield, triggering a host of interest from Premier League rivals.

Manchester City's new boss Mark Hughes has been linked with the 28-year-old, but Pompey have now joined the queue for his signature.

Redknapp believes the former Racing Santander man would be a quality addition to his squad, although he is unsure of his availability.

"Of course I'd like to have someone like Yossi Benayoun," he told Portsmouth's The News.

"He's a top player. I don't know what the chances are of getting him out of Liverpool."

The former West Ham manager is also keen on Peter Crouch but thinks he cannot match the Reds' valuation of the England international.

"It's known I like Crouchie, too. But I think Liverpool want a bit too much money for him," he continued.

"If that's the case then we'll move on to the next option."

Barnes Battles For Post As Boss

During Paul Ince's rise to the rarefied heights of the Premier League, John Barnes has been struggling to even get recognition in the foothills of the game.

Ince became the top flight's first black English manager when he was appointed as Mark Hughes' successor at Blackburn on Sunday.

Barnes, on the other hand, has been applying for vacancies in the lower leagues without success.

It is a situation that has left England's finest black player perplexed, frustrated and angry.

"I've applied for numerous jobs and sometimes I haven't even had the courtesy of a reply to my application letter," Barnes told BBC Sport.

"Perhaps I could understand it if I was applying for jobs at the top level but these were clubs in League One."

Barnes, whose playing career included spells at Watford and Liverpool, did get a big break when he was appointed head coach of Celtic in 1999 in tandem with director of football Kenny Dalglish.

He was sacked eight months into his troubled tenure, the final straw being the now infamous 3-1 defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup.

The former England winger admits he made mistakes in at Celtic but not enough to consign him to the managerial scrapheap forever.

"There aren't many managers who have never made mistakes, especially early on in their careers," said Barnes.

"You learn from your mistakes and come back stronger and better from them. There are also plenty of managers who keep failing but continue to get employed.

"I'm passionate about football and management and am willing to make my way up from the bottom but I'm not getting any opportunities."

While the 44-year-old is delighted by Ince's appointment, he is sceptical about whether it will herald a new dawn for black bosses.

His experiences, as well of those of other aspiring black managers like Luther Blissett, have persuaded him that there is not equality of opportunity.

"I believe the situation for black managers is like it was for black players back in the 1970s," he stated.

"Black players used to be put out on the wing because it was deemed they could run fast but not think too well.

"They weren't trusted to be a playmaker in central midfield or to wear the captain's armband.

Now I think there is an analogous situation in management. Chairmen don't believe we can do the top managerial jobs.

"I look at someone like Luther Blissett, who is a former England international and has played abroad at the top level.

"He has been applying for manager's jobs in the Football League for 15 years and not got anywhere. This is all about opportunities."

Although Ince's appointment has been heralded as a major breakthrough for black managers, there is still a dearth of coaches of non-white bosses in the game.

Keith Alexander, who succeeded Ince at Macclesfield, is the only other black manager in the Football League.

Even more startling is the statistic, provided by Warwick Business School, that there are only seven other black coaches of any capacity in the league.

This constitutes only about 1% of the total number of coaches.

Perhaps drawing on his own experiences at Celtic, Barnes says it is unfair to hold Ince up as a pioneer for all black managers.

He said: "If he doesn't succeed, does that count against all black managers? I don't think so, just as if he does succeed it doesn't mean all black managers are good."

Barnes, who is currently working as a television pundit and a part-time scout for Sunderland, says he has the utmost respect for what Ince has achieved.

"He has done things the hard way, proving himself with Macclesfield and MK Dons," commented Barnes. "While Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate were given chances at the top, he went to the bottom club in the league.

"I really hope he can succeed at Blackburn."

Liverpool FC Owners' £100m Credit Crunch

Liverpool’s American owners are facing a major credit crunch backlash over stalled plans to build a new stadium for the Reds.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett may need to put in as much as £100m of their own money if they want to borrow a further £200m.

And that casts massive doubt over their ability to go ahead with the ambition of building the 70,000 seat-plus super stadium, designed by Dallas based architects HKS and rolled out amid a fanfare of publicity last year.

Given the global credit crunch, banks are no longer prepared to allow 100 per cent borrowings and are currently asking for at least one third of the amount needed for major projects to be put up front by would-be borrowers.

Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool for £220m in February last year – most of it with borrowed cash – and have since refinanced their original loans with a further £350m loan deal, which leaves the club responsible for annual interest payments of around £30m a year.

The Americans, who have become estranged and embittered over recent months, are now on speaking terms again following Gillett’s admission on Friday that they needed to set aside their communications differences for the sake of the club.

But the worldwide clampdown on lending means they would still face huge problems raising the deposit now needed for what is effectively a mortgage to build a new Anfield.

The Dubaian government, headed by Sheik Mohammed al Rashid bin Maktoum, remain keen to buy out the Americans. And, as a sovereign wealth fund, it is claimed that unlike the Americans would to some degree be protected from the interest rates and pressures exerted by banks over private investors.

Reports that the Reds are considering a £15m swoop for Hamburg winger Rafael van der Vaart, meanwhile, are wide of the mark.

Completing Gareth Barry’s transfer from Aston Villa remains Rafa Benitez’s priority, with any future purchases dependent on the sales of Xabi Alonso and Peter Crouch.

Juventus are still short of Liverpool’s valuation of their £16m rated Spanish playmaker, while there has been no contact from Portsmouth – formal or informal – regarding Crouch.

Juve Set To Make Bid For Alonso

Juventus are set to make their first official move for Xabi Alonso this week after the player hinted he fancied a move to Italy.

And Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hopeful that his £16million valuation will be matched as he continues his quest to maximise his assets to build more transfer funds.

Juve have confirmed their pursuit of the midfielder but have been pondering over their move in light of interest in at least two other players in the same position.

But they have been alerted by Alonso speaking of his “fascination” with Italian football over the weekend and will look to prise him away form Anfield this week, although he is still involved in Euro 2008.

“I have little to say about Juve because at the moment I am very focused on Euro 2008 and on Spain,” said Alonso before his side reached then semi-finals with victory over Italy last night.

“I don’t have any news on my future, at this time my future is only the Euros.

“We’ll see what will happen with Juve. It’s difficult to say today. I spent four fantastic years at Liverpool, but I have to admit that I have always been fascinated by Italian football.

Moore: Benitez Is One Of The Best

Tranmere boss Ronnie Moore has hailed Rafael Benitez as one of the game's managerial greats ahead of the pre-season friendly against Liverpool.

The Reds will cross the River Mersey on Saturday July 12 for a 3pm kick-off which will guarantee a bumper crowd at Prenton Park.

Moore admits he is looking forward to pitting his wits against Benitez, who guided Liverpool to Champions League and FA Cup glory during his first two years in charge at Anfield.

Moore said: "Rafa has done a fantastic job at Liverpool and has proved he is one of the top managers in the world.

"Not many managers have won the Champions League and it will be a pleasure to put my side up against his.

"It's earlier than usual for us to be playing a friendly at home but we wanted to fit in with Liverpool's schedule ahead of their trip to Switzerland."

David Platt Urges Gareth Barry To Join Liverpool FC

Former Aston Villa skipper David Platt has stood by his belief that Gareth Barry should quit the midlands club and move to Liverpool.

Villa boss Martin O’Neill described Platt’s comments as "worthless" when he originally made his stance on Barry known when working as a Sky Sports pundit last month.

But the ex-England midfielder is unbowed and believes Barry has to leave - in the same way Michael Carrick left Tottenham to move to Manchester United two years ago.

Platt said: "Michael Carrick needed to leave and join a big club because it puts bigger demands on you and it is the same with Gareth Barry.

"It’s not necessarily the people within the club but just the level you are playing at and what you are playing for.

"I’ve always said that Michael Carrick was like a Rolls Royce. He needed to put his foot down and have to run to show what it could do - and I’d say the same with Gareth.

"At the moment he can walk into the Aston Villa team. He is guaranteed a place.

"At Liverpool there will be a massive amount of pressure next year. There will be more demands of him at Liverpool than there would be at Villa and he needs to go to reach that level."

Platt, who worked with Barry during his stint as England Under-21 coach, added: "People can get disgruntled about things but it’s just my opinion.

"Martin O’Neill knows more about the Gareth Barry situation than me.

"I’ve got nothing against Martin. He has done exceptionally well and he’s just had a good season with Villa."

Villa have already rejected three bids from Liverpool for Barry whom is rated in the £18 to £20 million bracket by O’Neill although he would prefer the 27-year-old to stay at Villa and sign a new contract.

Xabi Alonso Fuels Speculation Of Move To Italy

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has spoken of his “fascination” with Italian football as speculation over his mooted transfer to Juventus continues apace.

The Liverpool playmaker is part of the Spain squad preparing to face Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 on Sunday, a match during which Alonso could come face to face with a number of future team-mates at the Bianconeri.

But the 26-year-old couched his enthusiasm for the Italian game by insisting that his transfer from Anfield is still far from a done deal with his focus still solely on Spain’s European campaign.

“I am very calm,” Alonso told Sky Italia.

“I have little to say about Juve because at the moment I am very focused on Euro 2008 and on Spain.

“I don’t have any news on my future, at this time my future is only the Euros.

“We’ll see what will happen with Juve. It’s difficult to say today. I spent four fantastic years at Liverpool, but I have to admit that I have always been fascinated by Italian football.

“However, it’s too soon to talk about the future. In short: we’ll see.”

He added: “Juve are one of the biggest teams in Europe, perhaps the biggest in Italy. They have very many fans not only in Italy but all over the world.

“They have champions of the quality of Buffon, Nedved, and Del Piero who together have achieved great success.

“They’re a team who want to get back to winning the Scudetto and who also want to compete in the Champions League. In short: a great club.”