Thursday, January 10, 2008

Koeman Confirms Interest In Sissoko

Ronald Koeman has confirmed that he is in the running to challenge Juventus and take Mohamed Sissoko back to Valencia from Liverpool to bolster his midfield.

The Dutch coach believes that the 22-year-old Mali international is the perfect player to step into the defensive midfield position as he bids to change the fortunes at Mestalla.

Juve looked to be favourites to land Sissoko, but a return to Spain may tempt the player that has fallen down the pecking order at Anfield this season.

”We know the deal is complicated but it is not complete,” said Koeman. “He has all the characteristics of the player we need.”

Valencia are looking for a new player to add strength to the midfield after David Albelda was told that he was no longer wanted at the club.

Sissoko made 45 appearances for Los Ché in a two-year stint at the club after he joined them in 2003 from his first professional side, Auxerre.

In his first season at Mestalla, he helped the club to win the Spanish title, the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup.

A successful switch to Liverpool then saw him enjoy success in the European Super Cup, again, the FA Cup and the Community Shield.

Liverpool In No Rush Over Stadium Plan

Liverpool have delayed a decision on the designs for their new stadium as American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr try to thrash out a refinancing deal for the club.

Following presentations from two firms of architects which ran late into the evening at a board meeting in New York on Tuesday, Liverpool were due to make an announcement on their revised plans for the move to their new home at Stanley Park last night.

But chief executive Rick Parry issued a statement yesterday saying that while good progress had been made, a final decision had been put off.

He insisted, however, that whichever design was chosen, the club would be getting an "excellent result".

Parry said: "It was a very full day. We had two very detailed and very informative presentations which were very thorough and extremely professional. It has been another big step forward to finding the best possible solution and the whole meeting was very constructive."

Hicks and Gillett ordered the review of the stadium plans after Dallas-based architects HKS overshot the budget for the new 70,000-seat arena by £50 million.

The American owners then asked them to scale down their plans at the same time as asking Manchester firm AFL to come up with their own designs. "A clear decision will be taken soon," said Parry. "They were both very good in terms of coming closer to the right solution."

The reality for Hicks and Gillett is that they cannot choose a final stadium design until they have a clearer picture of how they are to finance that, plus £270 million of loans taken out last February to pay for their acquisition of the club.

Talks are ongoing with the Royal Bank of Scotland and American bank Wachovia about a new £350 million refinancing but have stalled after concerns over the amount of debt being placed on the club's books. There have also been question marks over the amount of cash being pumped into the refinancing by Hicks and Gillett.

Since the new year, the Americans have become more confident of clinching a deal before the one-year loan with RBS expires. One option being discussed by the banks is to lend money to the club to fund the start of work on the stadium project at the same time as offering Hicks and Gillett breathing space to raise new investment to help refinance the club acquisition.

Although the future of manager Rafael Benitez is certain to have been on the agenda during the meeting in New York, there was no comment from the club on the Spaniard yesterday.

On Tuesday he repeated his determination to stay at Liverpool, distancing himself from reports last weekend which suggested he expected to be fired in the summer.

Returning Agger Set For Reserves Outing

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez revealed that defender Daniel Agger is “very close” to returning to first-team action.

The stylish left-footed central defender has been crocked since September with a broken metatarsal, but he will be well on the road to regaining his first-team responsibilities after a reserve-team outing on Thursday.

Benitez, the subject of increased press speculation over his job, expressed his relief that Agger will be available for selection soon, and also stated that the Danish international’s return would spark an overall improvement for the club in the second half of the season.

"For us it's like signing a new player. He is very close to starting a game for the first team," he said on the club's official website.

The Spaniard insisted the medical team take their time with Agger’s recuperation after seeing fellow metatarsal-injured-absentee Xabi Alonso suffer continuous setbacks in his attempted return to action.

"The injury he had wasn't a bad one but we had problems also with Xabi Alonso, so we needed to be careful and we have missed him.

"We will be much better in the second part of this season."