Sunday, January 13, 2008

LiverpooL Linked With Real Striker

Real Mallorca forward Juan Arango says he is flattered by reported interest in his services from Liverpool.

Spanish media reports that the Venezuelan is on Rafa Benitez's wanted list and although the 27-year-old says he has heard nothing, he would be interested in a move to Anfield.

He said: "I have been told some things but I really didn't know what was happening. I am very happy that such a big team like Liverpool is speaking about me.

"They play the Champions League, they are one of the giants in the world.

"I would like very much to have the chance to play at Liverpool."

He added: "Maybe if I keep on having good performances at Mallorca and the national team the coach decides to count with me in the future. You never know where football can take you to."

Benitez May Rest Torres Again For Luton Replay

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was surprised by the criticism he received for not using Fernando Torres when the Reds drew against Luton Town last week - but nevertheless is considering leaving the Spanish striker out again for Tuesday’s FA Cup replay.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was criticised earlier this season when he used Fernando Torres in a Carling Cup tie at Reading, after having rested him a few days earlier for a Premier League game against Birmingham that the Reds drew 0-0.

Last week Benitez again chose to rest his star striker - in the FA Cup third round against Luton, when Liverpool were fortunate to emerge with a 1-1 draw and a replay.

After his rest, Torres looked sharp in yeserday's Premier League clash at Middlesbrough, scoring a superb equaliser.

Now Benitez has suggested that he might rest his leading scorer again.

"I was surprised when a journalist questioned me about not using my strongest team," Benitez told the official Liverpool website.

"We had 10 international players in the side but the journalist was just talking about Fernando Torres, so I think he didn't know exactly about our squad.

"We will approach the replay with the same idea. I will use a strong team again because we want to progress in The FA Cup.

"It is a fantastic competition and we want to win it again."

Liverpool Set To Sign Garay?

Liverpool could be set to make their second signing in quick succession, in the form of Racing Santander defender Ezequiel Garay.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez has identified his defence as the area that most needs strengthening, and only yesterday completed the signature of Zenith St Petersburg’s Slovakian stopper Martin Skrtel.

Acording to Radio Marca, Benitez has now set his sights on Argentine centre back Garay.

The defender signed for Racing Santander in 2005 from Newell’s Old Boys and has since established himself as a key member of the team.

The 21-year-old recently won his first cap for his country in Argentina’s friendly with Norway in August, and is regarded as a future regular for Los Gauchos.

Garay, who can also play at right back, is well known for his free-kick ability, scoring from a number of set-pieces for Racing.

Italian giants Juventus are also said to be very interested, however it seems that Liverpool have won the race after offering young midfielder Lucas Leiva as part of the deal.

Lucas has struggled to find space at Anfield, given the presence of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, although it is unclear whether the Brazilian will move on loan or in a permanent transfer.

LiverpooL Facing Second Takeover

Tom Hicks and George Gillett could be forced to sell their ownership of Liverpool by the end of February to Arab investors or the bank which financed their takeover.

The two Americans have encountered substantial difficulties in refinancing the £350m debt they incurred when buying the club last summer and are now reportedly unwilling to inject cash of their own in order to pacify the Royal Bank of Scotland, the bank from which it secured the loan.

According to The Observer, Gillett and Hicks are attempting to transfer the debt on to Liverpool itself but 'city sources believe this is an extremely difficult task to complete before the loan's due date at the end of February.'

'It is possible that the Americans will meet the deadline, but if not an Arab investment group, Dubai International Capital, is understood to be close to lodging an offer to buy out the American pair, probably for about £500m.n Takeover discussions are thought to be due before the end of this month,' the newspaper reports.

Gillett and Hicks have already ordered plans for a proposed new stadium to be downscaled and bickered with manager Rafa Benitez over the need to invest in new players.

With the size of their loan from RBS swelling to around the £350m mark, The Observer claims that 'attempts to restructure it have so far failed and the Americans have yet to inject new equity into the refinancing.

'While RBS have asked Hicks and Gillett to each commit £20m of their own cash to the deal, City sources believe that at least one of the pair is not prepared to do so.

'Should they fail in their efforts to repay the £350m acquisition debt on Liverpool when it comes due in just over six weeks, there would be the possibility of the next owner of the club becoming RBS.'

RBS are not thought to be keen on that scenario and the greater likelihood is that DIC will take over the club they were on the verge of acquiring last year before chief executive Rick Parry switched his allegiances and supported the American bid. Should, as speculated, the group buy Liverpool for around £500m then both Gillett and Hicks would profit from their venture by approximately £75m.

Jose Wants LiverpooL Job

Jose Mourinho has reportedly told Liverpool that he wants Rafa Benitez's job.

The Sunday Mirror claims that the 'former Chelsea boss has contacted Liverpool's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett through a third party indicating that he would love to take over at Anfield next season.'

It is widely believed that Benitez will be sacked by the Americans at the end of the current campaign and Mourinho is currently precluded from managing another Premiership club this season under the terms of his compensation package with Chelsea.

The expected approach from either Real Madrid or Barcelona has failed to materialise and Mourinho is apparently warming to the idea of moving to the cold north-west.

However, his prickly relationship with Liverpool supporters remains a stumbling block, as does the growing uncertainty that Hicks and Gillett will still own Liverpool at the start of next season.

Middlesbrough 1 - 1 LiverpooL

Fernando Torres paid off another portion of his £26.5million transfer fee with a dazzling equaliser at Middlesbrough.

The 23-year-old Spaniard came to the rescue with a stunning 71st-minute strike from 25 yards as the Reds belatedly found top gear.

Until that point, Boro had looked the more likely victors after skipper George Boateng, who at one point appeared to be on his way out of the club following a bust-up with manager Gareth Southgate, had put the Teessiders ahead with his first goal of the season on 26 minutes.

Southgate's men might have doubled their advantage when Stewart Downing hit the post on 67 minutes, but as the Reds finally established a momentum with half-time substitute Ryan Babel particularly prominent, Torres lit up the game with a goal of pure quality.

From then on, the visitors looked capable of snatching all three points, although that would have been harsh on Boro, who were the better side for much of the game in front of their biggest crowd of the season, 33,035.

In the final analysis, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez had to be happy with a point as his side drew for a fourth consecutive game, but that did little to improve their chances of closing the gap on the Barclays Premier League pace-setters.

Boro have made something of a habit in recent years of producing their best against the Premier League's aristocrats while under-achieving when faced with the division's lesser lights.

They went into the game lying 15th in the table and having won only two of their previous nine league fixtures at the Riverside Stadium this season.

Among their victims were leaders Arsenal, and there was a similar relish to the way they set about their task against a side which started the season with their sights set on the title, but a little more than halfway through, are starting to look like also-rans.

Liverpool never really got going and apart from Steven Gerrard's well-struck 17th-minute shot and Yossi Benayoun's 37th-minute volley, both of which were well-saved by Mark Schwarzer, they rarely threatened.

That in part was due to the excellence of central defensive pairing Robert Huth and David Wheater, who made a series of timely interventions to keep Torres at bay.

Boro, who had 19-year-old full-back Jonathan Grounds making his first senior start and were again missing Jonathan Woodgate and Mido, produced the far more fluent football.

The invention of in-form Turkey international Tuncay international was a threat throughout and with Downing, a £12million target for Tottenham, providing good service from the left, they pushed consistently throughout the first half.

They made the breakthrough with 26 minutes gone when Gary O'Neil headed Downing's cross back across goal and Tuncay nodded it down for Boateng to slide the ball home.

Boateng, who had been warmly applauded when his name was announced, received the acclaim for his first goal of the season joyously as his rehabilitation was completed.

Benitez made his move at the break when he sent on winger Ryan Babel for full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, and there was instantly a different look about his team.

Striker Andriy Voronin simply could not believe referee Andre Marriner's decision not to away him a penalty within a minute of the restart after he appeared to be barged to the ground by Huth.

Voronin, however, only had himself to blame for not getting a shot away on 49 minutes after being picked out by the unselfish Torres.

But Boro were almost handed a second goal on a plate four minutes later when keeper Jose Reina inexplicably raced out to the left touchline without a hope of beating Jeremie Aliadiere to Downing's pass, and could only look on gratefully as the Frenchman's cross failed to locate a red shirt.

Babel had started confidently and almost made a major impact on 59 minutes when he cut in-field before unleashing a dipping, swerving shot which wrong-footed Schwarzer and flew inches past the far post.

But only the upright denied the Teessiders a second goal eight minutes later when Downing's shot thundered into the woodwork with Reina beaten, and O'Neil lifted the rebound over the bar.

However, Torres' big moment arrived with 71 minutes gone when he picked up the ball in midfield and despite stumbling initially, hammered a venomous shot past the despairing Schwarzer to level.

The Australian had to tip a late Gerrard effort over the crossbar and block a Sami Hyypia header with his legs as the visitors pressed for the win, but Southgate's men just about held firm.