Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Villarreal Plan Crouch Swoop

Villarreal will attempt to prise Peter Crouch away from Liverpool if their bid to sign Valladolid's Joseba LLorente breaks down, but will be looking to lower the Reds' asking price.

The Yellow Submarine are planning to add three or four new faces to their squad and a striker is one of the key areas where the club want to bolster their options.

Llorente has been a long-term target for coach Manuel Pellegrini, but if Valladolid remain in the Spanish top flight then they will want to retain the 28-year-old's services for another season.

If that happens, or if la Pucela raise his asking price beyond Villarreal's means, then they will turn to Anfield and make an approach to Rafa Benítez for Crouch.

While the Red's manager has placed a €20m asking price on the former Tottenham, QPR, Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Southampton striker's head, that may go down for a foreign side.

With Giuseppe Rossi and Nihat Kahveci giving the squad the short and speedy option, Pellegrini is set to off-load either Guille Franco or Jon Dahl Tomasson and wants a replacement.

Also on the agenda at El Madrigal is Barcelona's Edmílson, who is believed to have undergone a medical, and Portsmouth's England defender Sol Campball, who has had Villarreal recommended to him by Robert Pirès.

Rafa Wants Trophies To Add To Records

Fernando Torres finished the season on a high but boss Rafael Benitez insists the bottom line is that Liverpool have failed to win a trophy.

Torres took his tally of league goals to 24 by clinching a 2-0 win at Tottenham, edging ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for goals scored by a foreigner in a rookie season.

Benitez bought 'El Nino' for more than £20million from Atletico Madrid last summer, which appears a bargain for what the Spain striker has delivered.

"Always when you sign a player you do not know if he will settle down and how he will do in the Premier League, but Torres is a young player who is hungry and wanted to do well," Benitez said.

"Sometimes you sign a player for a free transfer and people say he is bad signing.

"Then other times you can sign a player for a lot of money and he does well and everyone is happy, so lucky for us he is a good signing.

"He is one of the best strikers in the Premier League and is the best for us.

"We had spoken about the record. After the last game he said he wanted to play in this one and score here."

Despite Torres' prolific first season, scoring 33 in all competitions, Liverpool still finished the campaign empty-handed.

There were other personal accolades, with Jose Reina again keeping a clean sheet, but Liverpool fell short in cup competitions and drifted out of contention in the league.

Benitez added: "We did not win silverware but you talk about 119 goals, the goalkeeper has won the Golden Gloves Award again for the third time in a row.

"And with Torres, he was terrific at scoring and 76 points is a good total for us. There are a lot of positive things from this season, but the most important thing is we did not win a trophy."

Benitez will now look to strengthen his squad over the summer.

"Our idea is to finish as high up as possible and to win trophies was a priority, but we know this season has been very difficult for us," he added.

"We are working hard to improve the squad. Throughout the whole season we are watching players and trying to sign the players we need.

"We want to sign the best players as soon as possible and I think we will get investment from the owners, so we can go forward."

He could also let Peter Crouch and Jermaine Pennant go, with neither in the matchday squad for the final game of the season.

"Some of the players here are under contract and they are our players and we are waiting now to see if clubs are interested in them," he added.

Andriy Voronin opened the scoring at White Hart Lane in the 69th minute, with Torres grabbing his goal five minutes later.

"I think you have to give all the credit to Torres. He has had a great season and although he had a bit of space for the goal, he has played well," said Spurs head coach Juande Ramos.

Defeat meant Spurs finished in the bottom half, although they still did a lap of honour to parade the Carling Cup they won in February.

"I think we maybe did suffer after the Carling Cup success, maybe we achieved our target too soon," Ramos said.

Benitez Keen To Commit To Liverpool

Rafael Benitez reaffirmed his commitment to Liverpool by stating that he is "happy' at Anfield despite the ongoing boardroom battle.

The ownership row at Anfield between estranged co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett has cast a decidedly unsettling aura over the Reds’ season and with no trophies this term and seemingly less security surrounding his position, it has even been speculated that Benitez may take matters into his own hands and return to Spain.

Benitez, however, has refuted such reports and insists that he is most of all just keen to have confirmed that he has the complete faith of the controlling interests of the club.

"I would like to know my situation because every manager likes to have his position clarified," said the Spaniard.

"I haven't spoken with the owners about a new contract because I am concentrating on bringing in players for next season.

"I think it will be done before the start of the season. The owners have said that will be the case, so that is good. They are trying to improve the situation at the club.

"I am happy here. That is important when you look to sign players because they want to know the manager is happy and that they are joining the right club."

Benitez - We Need To Improve

Rafa Benitez admits Liverpool need to improve in all areas if they are to secure the Premier League title next season.

The Reds, who finished their season with a 2-0 win away to Tottenham thanks to goals from Andrei Voronin and Fernando Torres, finished fourth in the table this term after being tipped to compete for the top-flight silverware at the beginning of the campaign.

And manager Benitez confesses he will venture into the summer transfer market in a bid to close the 11-point gap to champions Manchester United.

"We want to win trophies," Benitez told Sky Sports News. "But we saw this year that we are closer. We drew some games, but we will try to improve this next season.

"Clearly if you want to close the gap you need to improve. Sometimes with the players you have you can reduce the gap, but you need to do almost everything perfectly."

Benitez, though, insists he will not be actively looking to sell the likes of Jermaine Pennant, Xabi Alonso, John Arne Riise and Peter Crouch - who were all left out of the Liverpool squad at White Hart Lane - in a bid to raise funds for a shopping spree.

Crouch has been especially strongly linked with a move elsewhere, but Benitez - who has placed a £15million asking price on the striker - is adamant that he is keen to keep the forward, despite hinting that offers would not be ignored.

"We offered Peter Crouch a new contract so we showed that we wanted to keep him," Benitez continued.

"I told him, I was very clear, if someone wants to sign him they can talk with us but he is a player that is different and is a good player and we have confidence in him.

"Xabi Alonso was injured so he didn't travel. Pennant ad Riise are not here because I was trying to use the squad. They are under contracts so they are our players.

"I don't have any problems. The problem will be if we receive offers because they are playing really well."

Anderson In Dark Over Future

Liverpool starlet Paul Anderson admits he does not know where he will be playing next season.

The 19-year-old has just spent the season on loan at League One champions Swansea and he impressed hugely.

Anderson, who grabbed 10 goals for The Swans, is now unsure what the future holds, although he expects to be away from Anfield again.

He said: "I know I'm going back on loan, but haven't got a clue for what team.

"I know there are quite a lot of clubs interested, but I'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Liverpool & Bolton To Discuss Guthrie

Bolton Wanderers are set to hold talks with Liverpool over the permanent signing of midfield starlet Danny Guthrie.

Twenty-one-year-old Guthrie has spent the season on loan with Wanderers this season and has an impressive campaign, becoming an important factor in their survival in the Barclays Premier League.

Bolton boss Gary Megson is therefore keen to sign the player permanently and tie down the young Englishman to a long-term contract. Megson is set to hold talks with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez in the coming days over a cut-price £1.5 million transfer.

With Liverpool already strong in central-midfield with the likes of Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso, along with Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry still being heavily linked with the club, a future on Merseyside looks unlikely for the youngster.

Guthrie made 25 Premier League appearances and also featured 7 times in the UEFA Cup this season and has himself stated that he is happy to stay at the Reebok Stadium having thoroughly enjoyed his loan spell at the club.

Rafa Ready To Ring The Changes

Rafa Benitez is hoping to start his summer rebuilding program at Liverpool as soon as possible.

The Reds finished 11 points behind Premier League champions Manchester United this season, and are desperate to mount a serious bid for the crown next year.

Benitez admits that alterations to the personnel at Anfield are imperative, and has already drawn up a list of targets.

However, rather than wait for the transfer market to begin in earnest over the summer, the Spaniard is keen to get the process in motion immediately.

"We are working hard to improve the squad," Benitez said.

"Throughout the whole season, we are watching players and trying to sign the players we need.

"We want to sign the best players as soon as possible and I think we will get investment from the owners, so we can go forward."

Benitez already has the foundations of a title-chasing team in place, but needs to complement his big-game players with more world-class talent.

Fernando Torres has been a revelation during his first season in England, while Jose Reina continues to provide a solid last line of defence.

Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano are all proven at the highest level, but silverware continues to elude the Reds.

"We did not win silverware but you talk about 119 goals, the goalkeeper has won the Golden Gloves Award again for the third time in a row," said Benitez.

"And with Torres, he was terrific at scoring and 76 points is a good total for us. There are a lot of positive things from this season, but the most important thing is we did not win a trophy."