Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Crouch: Just Finishing Fourth Is Going To Be A Fight For Liverpool

Peter Crouch underlined the extent of Liverpool's disarray yesterday by admitting they had a fight on their hands to qualify for next season's Champions League — let alone the Barclays Premier League title.

Liverpool's recent decline may not have been as pronounced as the nosedive on the world's financial markets that appeared to leave a question mark over Tom Hicks and George Gillett's hopes of pulling off a £350million refinancing deal.

Despite misgivings over another credit squeeze in America, though, the American owners remain confident of securing the rescue package in time to meet the early-February deadline for repaying loans.

Crouch, however, is more concerned with falling returns on the pitch that have forced Rafa Benitez's players to lower their sights and concentrate on salvaging fourth place.

Four successive draws in the League have left them 14 points behind leaders Manchester United and Jamie Carragher has already accepted that top spot has eluded them for another year.

But Crouch paints an even bleaker picture. The England striker said: 'First and foremost, we have to cement a Champions League spot. That is the minimum we have to strive for, but it is clear we are going to have to do better after the disappointments of the past few weeks.

'For a club like ours, with the sort of squad we've got, it is nothing like good enough. At the start of the season, we all felt we could mount a serious bid for the title, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen now.'

Milan Giants For Javier Duel?

Inter and Milan could do battle for Argentine ace Javier Mascherano after his agent revealed that Liverpool haven’t made a bid to keep him.

Mascherano joined the Reds on a long-term loan from West Ham last summer but Liverpool have been told they will need to pay around £17m to keep him.

While a deal in instalments could be arranged, the club’s owners seem to have other issues to deal with and have no agreement in place, leaving Mascherano looking for a new team.

“Liverpool haven’t made any offer at all for Javier and it is likely that he will move to Italy next season,” agent Walter Tamer stated.

Juventus had been favourites to table a summer bid for Mascherano, but the Old Lady have turned their attentions to Mohamed Sissoko, who is expected to join the Bianconeri within the next week.

Inter and Milan are reportedly watching the situation with interest and there may be some kind of bidding war between the two rivals.

While neither side will be keen to shell out £17m, Mascherano could become an alternative to Ronaldinho, should the Brazilian star decide to remain at Barcelona.

Reds Refinancing Deal 'Close'

Liverpool's co-owners are still hoping to finally seal a refinancing deal on Thursday, according to the Liverpool Echo.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett are attempting to restructure the loan agreement with the banks that helped them buy the club last March.

And after reports surfaced that the refinancing deal had hit the buffers, sources close to Hicks have told the paper: "Tom is in no doubt that the going through and he is looking forward to revealing the new stadium design which is every bit as spectacular as promised.

"There are a few minor glitches to be ironed out but nothing major - it's pretty much just standard procedure for a deal on this scale."

The Echo reports the deal will see the club take on £105million of debt with Kop Investment, the holding company set up by Hicks and Gillett in the immediate aftermath of last year's takeover, taking on £190million and the American duo putting up £55million of their own money.

Sissoko Hopes To Seal Juventus Move

Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko hopes his move to Juventus will be sealed by the end of this week.

The Serie A outfit hope to acquire the 23-year-old, who was signed by Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez from Valencia in the summer of 2005 for a reported 8million euros (£6million).

"It's a matter of a few days," Sissoko told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Three days, a maximum of four, and then everything will be decided. I know there has been some movement but we have to wait."

The Mali international is currently with his national team at the African Nations Cup.

"I confess that wearing the Juventus shirt would be the maximum for me," he said.

"I have been a Juve fan since I was a child because when I was young I was fixated with (Zinedine) Zidane. Then, having followed this team, I have become a fan of (Juve captain Alessandro) Del Piero, a great player."

Sissoko would also like to work again under coach Claudio Ranieri, his boss in Spain.

"I've known Ranieri since my time at Valencia," said Sissoko. "I did really well with him."

Sissoko has struggled to keep a regular starting place at Anfield and wants to have more playing time.

"My reason is a very simple one, I am young and I want to play," he said.

"In Liverpool, I'm not playing.

"But I will also be grateful to Benitez for what he has given me. But in football, things change."

Terry: Carragher World's Best Defender

John Terry has shocked Chelsea fans by admitting that Liverpool's Jamie Carragher is the best defender in the world.

Asked who he thought was the best defender in world football, Chelsea captain John Terry produced a surprising answer: Liverpool's Jamie Carragher.

The pair have often been viewed as very similar players, both showing a willingness to be brave and throw themselves into last ditch tackles.

Both defensive rocks for their clubs, Terry has gone on to take the captain's armband for England while Carragher was overlooked by Steve McClaren in favour of the likes of Wes Brown, Ledley King and Sol Campbell.

The Anfield favourite decided to call it quits at international level, but Terry thinks it's a shame that Carragher was never given a real chance to make his mark as an England centre-back.

"I personally think that over the last four or five years he has been the best defender in the world,” said the Chelsea skipper.

"He has everything you need to be a world class defender and you also have to look at what he's achieved in the Champions League with Liverpool.

He's been consistent in The Premier League, he's never injured, he always gives one hundred per cent, he's a good reader of the game, he's quick and is good in the air,” Terry continued.

"For a centre half he's also great on the ground as well. He knows when to get the ball away, when to clear his lines. He also never stops talking to his team-mates and that's a great thing to have. Even when you watch games on the television it's always his voice you can hear."