Friday, April 11, 2008

Liverpool Crisis: George Gillett Backs Rick Parry

Rick Parry has received reassurances from Liverpool co-owner George Gillett over his position following the demand from Tom Hicks that he should resign as Liverpool chief executive.

"Rick Parry retains our full support," said Gillett. "Any decision to remove him would need the approval of the full Liverpool board which, it should be remembered, consists of six people - myself, Foster (Gillett's son), David Moores, Rick himself, Tom Hicks and Tom junior.

"We have not seen the document in question and we were not party to it. We are not able to comment on the detail because we have not seen it. But I would reiterate that Rick retains our full support."

Parry only learnt of the three-page letter from co-owner Hicks that requested his resignation late yesterday afternoon following meetings at the FA and Premier League. He has sought immediate legal advice, but is clearly most furious about the timing of the latest move in Liverpool's embarrassing civil war.

"I haven't seen the letter, you guys know a lot more about it than I do which says something," he said as he arrived for work this morning.

"This week I shouldn't be the story, the story should be the team. It's offensive to the manager, the players, and the fans in a week when we've had another great European triumph there's more dirty linen being washed."

The request for Parry's resignation came less than 48 hours after the epic 4-2 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-final.

But hopes that the on-field achievements might overshadow the off-field turmoil, however, were short-lived. The splits in the boardroom would have been certain to dominate the agenda at manager Rafael Benitez's scheduled press conference today and it came as little surprise that it was duly cancelled.

Parry, though, insisted that the club would emerge without lasting damage from the current drama.

"No individual is bigger than the club, certainly not me," he told Sky Sports News. "The club will be fine. But once again it shows that there is a little bit of a lack of unity at the top. I'm just getting on with the job, there's work to do."

Parry intends to fight on in the knowledge that Hicks does not have the power to force his departure after almost 10 years as the club's chief executive. Gillett is supportive of Parry, as is former chairman David Moores, who remains on the board.

Although Gillett was understood to have agreed a deal in principle with potential buyers Dubai International Capital to sell his stake, he has insisted that he will not sell to Hicks under any circumstances.

It leaves the club in bitter stalemate, though DIC remain optimistic that Hicks will sell by the end of the season. Hicks has retained the American investment bank Merrill Lynch and has met with other City institutions and potential investors in a desperate effort to raise the money needed to bring an end to the current situation.

Hicks Calls For Parry Resignation

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has written to the club's chief executive Rick Parry calling for him to resign.

Hicks is thought to feel that Parry is siding with co-owner George Gillett in the club's ongoing power struggle.

The latest twist comes on the day Dubai International Capital said it will wait for the saga to be resolved before pursuing its interest in the club.

BBC Sport understands Parry is highly unlikely to resign and that Hicks lacks boardroom support for his shock move.

With the club ownership split 50-50 between the two Americans, Hicks would need approval from Gillett to force Parry out of his position.

But in a brief statement, Parry, who has yet to see the three-page letter, said: "It is my intention to remain focused on the job of serving Liverpool Football Club to the best of my abilities at this very important time of our season."

DIC is said to be unwilling to do business while there is so much turmoil at the club.

"You have two partners who do not see eye to eye. And we decided that we pull out completely. Let them sort out their problems," DIC chief executive Sameer Al Ansari told Arabian Business Magazine.

He added: "We will continue to be interested and would love to own the club but we are not going to put ourselves in a difficult situation where we make the investment but we have no control over the destiny of the club and we cannot influence the success of the club.

"Unfortunately, the terms that have been put on the table do not allow us to do that."

Only last month, Parry asked for the Liverpool co-owners to resolve their differences.

"If they're not able to co-exist then there needs to be a solution where one buys and one sells, or both sell," Parry told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek.

"There aren't too many other possibilities but it's pretty clear that to carry on with the status quo is going to be extremely difficult."

Hicks is said to be unhappy with those comments and was not at Anfield on Tuesday night to watch Liverpool defeat Arsenal in the quarter-final of the Champions League.

Gillett was shown on TV world-wide sitting next to Parry in the Liverpool directors' box.

BBC Sport understands that Hicks feels that the club needs a fresh injection of commercial clout in an attempt to boost their off the field revenue.

Hicks believes the club is falling behind the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in those areas but the American also feels that Parry has failed to deliver strength and direction in the transfer market.

It is also understood Hicks is aiming to take sole control of the club with his relationship with Gillett described as "unworkable".

But although Gillett is willing to sell, it is thought that he is unwilling to sell to Hicks.

The pair have had a tough time since taking control of the club in February 2007.

Despite seeing the club enjoy some success on the pitch, with Liverpool reaching last season's Champions League final, Hicks and Gillett's relationship with manager Rafa Benitez has often been strained.

Benitez has become increasingly frustrated with the lack of transfer funds made available to him over the past year, although he was able to bring in the likes of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel.

The American pair have not endeared themselves to Liverpool supporters who idolise Benitez and have shown their backing for the Spaniard with a series of rallies.

Plans for a new stadium in Stanley Park have also had to be downsized due to rising costs.

Fixer 'Kept Gangster Off Gerrard'

Steven Gerrard's father has said he turned to an underworld "fixer" to stop a gangster from terrorising his son and threatening to shoot him in the legs.

The information was in a letter Mr Gerrard wrote to a court where the fixer, John Kinsella, denies being part of a gang involved in a robbery.

Paul Gerrard said the Liverpool captain's car had been smashed up and he was chased home from training.

He said it was after he asked Kinsella for help that the trouble stopped.

Paul Gerrard said that Liverpool Football Club had provided extra security, and he had also contacted police but claims it was only after he contacted Kinsella that the threats ended.

Mr Gerrard's letter read: "I would like to say that in 2001 my son Steven was being terrorised by a notorious Liverpool gangster known as The Psycho, who was threatening to maim my son by shooting him in the legs.

"Also, he was trying to extort a large amount of money from Steven. We immediately contacted the police and asked for protection.

"This went on for a long time, during which Steven's car was smashed up and the gangster chased him while he was driving home from training.

"We were introduced by a friend to John Kinsella. John then reassured me and my family he would resolve our nightmare.

"We have never had any more problems from the Liverpool underworld. Steven and I have total respect for John."

Kinsella is on trial with two other men accused of stealing £41,000 of goods from a lorry depot in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 19 March 2006.

Their alleged haul included £8,000 of Easter eggs and another £33,000 of crisps and detergents.

But the jury was told on Thursday that Kinsella had been "hoodwinked" in to taking part in the robbery.

Gordon Aspden, representing Kinsella, said: "He (Kinsella) said he was hoodwinked and there's a lot of evidence to back up his case that in advance of this robbery he did not know what was going to go off."

Kinsella, of Liverpool, denies robbery and a charge of dangerous driving. Two other men - James Muldoon, 28, and 49-year-old Stephen McMullen, both of Liverpool - deny robbery.

A fourth man, Thomas Hodgson, 29, of Liverpool, has admitted one charge of robbery.

The trial continues.

Mascherano Loses Ban Appeal

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano will sit out his side's Premier League clash with Blackburn on Sunday after failing in a bid to have his extended ban cut.

A Football Association regulatory commission fined Mascherano £15,000 and gave him an additional two-match suspension following his furious reaction to being sent off during at Manchester United on March 23.

The Argentina international served a mandatory one-match ban for his red card at Old Trafford and also admitted an FA charge of improper conduct.

Mascherano, 23, served the first game of his additional suspension at Arsenal on Saturday.

Liverpool were unhappy with the "inconsistency of sentencing based on past precedents", with Mascherano seen as a scapegoat for some recent high-profile displays of petulance towards referees.

Those precedents may have included the cases of Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who staged a long protest after being sent off in last season's Carling Cup final, and that of Watford's John Eustace, who showed a reluctance to leave the field after being dismissed last month.

Both players received additional one-match suspensions, half the punishment meted out to Mascherano.

The midfielder challenged the sanction on the grounds his ban was excessive but this was dismissed on Thursday by an appeals panel.

Top Four Is Top Kop Priority

Liverpool must come back down to the earth from their Champions League quarter-final triumph to maintain their drive for fourth spot in the Barclays Premier League.

It would be easy to get carried away by the dramatic Champions League victory over Arsenal on Wednesday that has sent them into a semi-final with Chelsea for the third time in four seasons.

But boss Rafael Benitez has had been told by Liverpool's American owners in recent weeks that his priority is to ensure that the club qualify for next season's Champions League.

Co-owner Tom Hicks witnessed two of the clashes with Arsenal in the last week, while estranged partner George Gillett was there at Anfield in midweek for the third showdown.

Both men have held talks with Benitez and club officials with Gillett saying only that he "had congratulated the manager and the team" following the win over Arsenal.

But sources close to the takeover battle are keen to stress that the owners want the certainty of fourth spot over everything.

The interest on the controversial mid-season refinancing package can be paid from the money acquired from European football. Anything less could plunge the club into cash problems.

So for Sunday's home visit of Blackburn, Benitez can be expected to field a strong side to ensure he has the best chance of three points to hold off Everton's challenge for fourth.

The need to be certain of Champions League qualification is not lost on the players, with goal hero Fernando Torres underlining the importance of securing fourth place.

He said after his scoring part in the demolition of Arsenal's dreams: "We have two targets, to finish in the top four and to win the Champions League.

"We are getting to the final a step at a time, but we also must keep going in the league, too, to make sure we qualify for next season."

Benitez can afford to risk his stars against Rovers because he has a clear week afterwards ahead of the trip to Fulham on April 19, before the first semi-final with Chelsea at Anfield three days later on April 22.

If Everton win at Birmingham, Liverpool will go into the Blackburn game ahead of their local rivals only on goal difference.

The closeness of the battle ensures that Benitez will be careful not to take too many chances, because he does not want league position to distract the players ahead of the two games with Chelsea.

Unless the appeal over Javier Mascherano's ban is successful in reducing the punishment by one match, the Argentinian will complete his ban against Rovers.

Modric 'Truly Honoured' By Liverpool Transfer Rumours

Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Luka Modric has admitted he is "truly honoured" by rumours of a potential transfer bid from Liverpool this summer.

According to reports, Tottenham Hotspur and the Reds are set to go head to head in a race to sign the highly-rated 22-year-old.

Modric has attracted the attention of a number of big clubs across Europe and it is believed his price-tag could be in the region of £18 million.

And the Croatian international admitted any offer from one of the top English clubs might be too good to turn down.

"I don't wish to discuss possible transfers, but if Liverpool really want me then this is fantastic and I am truly honoured," he told Croatian daily newspaper Vecernji List.

Modric also revealed he had watched the European match between Liverpool and Arsenal in midweek and said he had been suitably impressed by the style of play, and the result, at Anfield.

"I watched the Champions League quarter-finals and the way they crushed Arsenal - only the greatest and the best can play such a match against a strong side like Arsenal," he added.

In addition to Liverpool and Spurs, it is thought Chelsea, Portsmouth, Manchester City and Barcelona are all preparing bids for Modric when the transfer window reopens this summer.

Andriy Voronin Bemoans Life At Liverpool

Out-of-favour striker Andriy Voronin has made himself Public Enemy No 1 on Merseyside after criticising the standard of living in Britain and in particular the city of Liverpool.

The 27-year-old Ukrainian has failed to make an impact on the pitch since arriving on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, but he has made his presence felt when it comes to bemoaning all that is wrong with life in the UK.

Voronin took no prisoners in his rant which criticised the Scouse way of talking, the high crime rate in the city and attacked the country's health care.

But most incredibly, the blond pony-tailed striker has accused Britain of lacking sophistication. Given that his wife Yulia was recently named the worst-dressed WAG after wearing a leopard-print velour tracksuit, talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

"Compared with Germany, England is far behind in terms of comfort and culture," Voronin said in an interview with a Russian newspaper.

"Five out of the seven houses near us are occupied by footballers.

"Steve Gerrard was burgled recently so a police patrol car comes into our compound fairly often.

"We hear police sirens all the time. Leverkusen, by contrast, was so much quieter."

On Britain's health care, he said: "The medical services here are poor. When I was in Germany, there were lots of good clinics and doctors.

"It is nothing like that here - when our child had a skin allergy we waited hours for the doctor to see him.

"When we finally got to see a doctor, he said he didn't know how to treat children and to try rubbing in this ointment.

"That was it. I was stunned. As a result my wife had to go back to Odessa with him and took a full set of tests there."

And in a final remark which is sure to have fans on the Kop up in arms, Vorinon added: "I study English twice a week with a teacher and I have made some progress in it.

"But English isn't the main problem. The main thing is to learn to understand the local players like Gerrard and Carragher.

"They speak with some peculiar local accent and sometimes I have absolutely no clue what the guys are saying.

"Many foreign players have the same problem."

Voronin is contracted to Liverpool until the summer of 2011 but having fallen behind fans' favourite Peter Crouch in the pecking order this season could find himself surplus to requirements at Anfield this summer.

Madrid And Liverpool Linked With Cruzeiro Star

European giants Real Madrid and Liverpool have both been linked with a move for Cruzeiro striker Marcelo Moreno in a report in the Brazilian press.

Moreno, 20, has enjoyed an excellent start to 2008, scoring ten goals in fourteen games and has impressed onlookers with his performances in Cruzeiro's splendid Copa Libertadores displays as well as in their games at Brazilian state level in the Mineiro.

His form has attracted the attention of two of Europe's biggest clubs in Real Madrid and Liverpool, with both said to be ready to make a move in the coming weeks in order to tie up the Bolivian international's signature in time for next season.

The striker took a professional approach when asked about the rumoured interest after training on Wednesday and dismissed any knowledge of their interest.

"I do not know anything about this and if I was to leave Brazil it would have to be a deal that is good for me and for Cruzeiro. My only concern is to continue working hard," he told Placar.

Cruzeiro coach Adílson Batista believes that the speculation surrounding Moreno's future is to be expected considering his current form, but confirmed that the club are yet to receive a concrete approach for the front man.

"I have also heard of other clubs interested in the player, but for the time being nothing is concrete," he affirmed.

"He looks like being an excellent player. Cruzeiro is a shop window, a great school that is currently having a good moment and this type of speculation is normal."

As is often the case in Brazil - and most of South America for that matter - Moreno's economic rights are not solely owned by the club, with a group of entrepreneurs holding 50%, Cruzeiro 40% and the player himself 10%. This could complicate negotiations, with the separate parties likely to be looking for differing outcomes depending on their own priorities.

Liverpool Fans Angry Over Moscow Final

Liverpool supporters have called on Uefa to act over Russia's insistence that fans of teams who reach the Champions League final in Moscow must have expensive visas which can take weeks to process. With either Liverpool or Chelsea in the final, along with Manchester United if they elude Barcelona, 50,000 English supporters are expected to travel.

After the conclusion of the semi-final on 29-30 April, there will be a mad rush to sort out visas for the May 21 final (although the more confident have already started). Such was the visa chaos before England's game with Russia that some fans even missed kick-off at the Luzhniki because of delays in collecting visas at the British Embassy in Moscow. Fans are also upset about the cost - up to £95.

"It is ridiculous that Uefa can allow Russia to charge for visas, to attend a final they should be privileged to host, especially considering the huge distances the supporters of any likely finalists would have to travel, and the high cost of doing so," said James McKenna, spokesperson for the Liverpool fans' pressure group, Spirit Of Shankly.

"Why can't Uefa look at the logistics of a final beforehand, for the fans that will be travelling across the continent to see their team in the most prestigious club football final there is?"

Neil Atkinson, chair of Spirit of Shankly, added: "We're hoping the three remaining English clubs, the FA, Uefa and perhaps even the Government will have dialogue with supporters of all three clubs to try to resolve these issues not just for the forthcoming final – where the clock is ticking fast - but for years to come. It's about time supporters were shown due consideration."