Sunday, January 20, 2008

You're Not Fit To Run Our Club, Blast Liverpool Fans

Tom Hicks and George Gillett will be targeted by angry Liverpool fans on Monday in the first orchestrated show of dissent against their Anfield reign.

After weeks of voicing their support for Rafa Benitez, over the mounting threat to his position as Liverpool manager, Anfield followers are about to adopt a different approach by turning their fury on his bosses, Hicks and Gillett.

Influential website Reclaim The Kop, who organised the pro-Benitez demonstration prior to the Champions League tie with Porto two months ago, have launched a scathing attack on the Americans and urged a capacity Anfield crowd to follow suit against Aston Villa on Monday night.

In a press release, they claimed Hicks and Gillett were 'not fit to be associated with our club' and added that forcing them out might be the only way to save Benitez.

'We allowed ourselves to believe that they had a gut sense of Liverpool's specialness,' it said. 'They gave a good impression of understanding and cherishing The Liverpool Way, but the current situation is unworkable.

'There is a minimum acceptable standard of ownership and Hicks and Gillett have fallen badly short.

Rafa, with his ingrained sense of honour, dignity and morality, has been publicly humiliated by them and would have walked away by now but for one small thing the Americans will never get.

'He loves it here. He loves the club, the fans, the city and The Liverpool Way. More than anybody at the club, he is desperate to deliver for us that which we long for so badly.

'They will sack him in the summer. They have left themselves with no other option, so while it gives us no joy to recommend it, we have to drive them out.

'These are critical times for Liverpool FC. If Hicks stays, Rafa goes — simple as that. And if Rafa goes, the empire he is building crumbles. After giving Rafa a vote of no-confidence, he (Hicks) will have to sack him in the summer — unless the owners are not here. We have to give our answer loud and clear, starting on Monday night.'

Hicks denied on Thursday that he was considering selling his Anfield stake to Dubai International Capital but he may have second thoughts if vocal backing for Benitez turns into open hostility towards himself and Gillett.

Around 2,000 fans responded to a call from Reclaim The Kop in November and marched from a nearby pub to the ground, shouting slogans and carrying banners.

The protests were sparked by Benitez's fears that he was about to be ousted and his hold on power has been eroded still further by Hicks' recent admission that he offered the manager's job to Jurgen Klinsmann.

Doubts remain about Benitez's ability to survive beyond the end of the season. As he prepared for the Villa game, he insisted unity within the squad was a strong as ever and made light of an apparent refusal by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher to back him publicly.

Gerrard shook his head when asked whether Tuesday's 5-0 FA Cup third round replay win was 'for the manager', while Carragher admitted he 'hadn't a clue' whether the 47-year old Spaniard could deliver the main prize of a Barclays Premier League title.

'I am not concerned about that one bit,' said Benitez. 'We have all spoken before about the importance of doing the right thing for the club, not individuals, and they were echoing what I have always believed.

'I have a fantastic relationship with the players, even if I wasn't invited to their Christmas party! The relationship is as good as ever, and Stevie and Carra know I have always supported them strongly.'

Racing Close On Leto And El Zhar Loans

Racing Santander are believed to be close to agreeing deals to take Liverpool youngsters Sebastián Leto and Nabil El Zhar on loan for the remainder of the season.

Racing are looking to build on their excellent first half of the La Liga campaign, which sees them lying sixth in the table and have identified Leto and El Zhar as players that can give them more strength in depth for the remainder of the season.

Francisco Pernia, chairman of Racing, confirmed that they were in discussions to take the two youngsters on loan.

"They are two players from Liverpool with whom we are conversing so that they can arrive at Racing for the rest of the season," he told Marca.

Leto, 21, was signed by Liverpool this summer from Lanús in Argentina for £1.85million and has featured four times in various cup competitions for Rafael Benitez's side. He plays on the left of midfield.

El Zhar is the same age as Leto, but has been a Liverpool a year longer, having signed from Saint-Étienne in 2006. He scored on his full debut against Cardiff City in the Carling Cup earlier this season and can play out wide or as a support striker.

Racing's coach Marcelino confessed that he has not seen the two players in action before.

"I do not know them. I do not know where either of them plays," he told a press conference on Friday.

However, he indicated that he was happy with the players provided to him thus far by Pernia and has no desire to take over the club's transfer dealings himself.

"Right now I do not have time to collect the sufficient information, analyse it and make decisions. I believe that it would result in rash decisions that are possibly incorrect."

Pernia concluded proceedings by saying that he would be working on potential targets until the end of the month "so that the final result at the end of the season is similar to the one we have now".

"As a fan I would like to sign Cristiano Ronaldo... But I am a manager," he concluded.

Mascherano Olympic Call-Up Sure To Anger Reds

Although there has been no official reaction from Liverpool, Javier Mascherano's call-up to represent Argentina in the Olympics in Beijing this summer will certainly not sit well with the powers that be at Anfield.

Argentinian Under-23 national team coach Sergio Batista has penciled in Mascherano in a list of players, which also includes Martin Demichelis and Juan Roman Riquelme from Bayern Munich and Boca Juniors respectively.

Batista said: "Riquelme is a player that I like very much. I spoke with him and he wants to be at the Olympic Games.

"I have also included Mascherano because he is very important for the midfield of any team and Martin Demichelis can give his experience to the defence.

"These three players will surely be in the friendly match that we will play on 6th February against Guatemala in Los Angeles.

"Then in August we will have to see if their clubs let us have them for playing in China."

If the Argentine FA get their way this would mean that Mascherano would be absent for the start of the Reds' next Premier League campaign, and one can be sure that Rafa Benitez and co. will not take this sitting down.

Dubai Group Now Want 'Both' Americans Out Of Anfield

After initially backing George Gillett to buy out Tom Hicks' share in the club, Dubai International Capital have now decided that they want both of Liverpool's American owners out.

Tom Hicks' stock has been in free fall at Anfield after declarations about a discussion with Jurgen Klinsmann, something that has seen more and more people side with the relatively quiet George Gillett.

Gillett has almost been relegated to a secondary role by Hicks - who has been having his way and doing much of the talking ever since the duo took over - and differences between the two have been growing for a few months now.

It all seems to have come to a head following the Klinsmann revelations, and there were suggestions that Gillett was looking to buy out Hicks' share, a move backed by Dubai International Capital (DIC).

However, DIC have realised that public sentiment is against both the Americans, and that as they continue to squabble for control, the distance between them and the club continues to grow.

That the owners want a re-financing - which would help them dump their £350m debt on Liverpool - has hardly helped raise their stock, and DIC have now backed down on their support of Gillett, and want to buy out both Americans and take control at Anfield.
The News of the World quotes a club insider as having revealed that club officials do not want the Americans in charge, even until the end of the season.

"In a strange way DIC may think it's worth waiting for the Americans' to refinance because it will lessen the value of the club because of the level of debt," the source is quoted as saying.

"But the best thing that can happen is for the pair of them to get out now. It's clear the old board has made a huge mistake selling to these two."

The Guardian reveals that a takeover bid of £500million is already on the table.

This rather generous offer would allow Hicks and Gillett to pay off their £350million debt, and make a cool profit of £75million each, something DIC will be lucrative enough for the owners.

The process could get underway as early as by the end of this week, various media sources are claiming.

Valencia Waiting On £7m Sissoko

Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko could be on his way back to Valencia for a knockdown £7million.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been asked by the club's owners to find a buyer for Sissoko to finance the £6m purchase of Slovakia defender Martin Skrtel.

American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett sanctioned the purchase of centre-back Skrtel believing that Sissoko's £10m move to Juventus was imminent. However, that fell through.

Benitez is now under pressure to get the best price while Sissoko is on Africa Cup of Nations duty for Mali.