Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gerrard Demands Summer Signings

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has reiterated the need for heavy summer spending in order to end an 18-year wait for the league title.

The Reds had been strongly tipped to secure 2007/08 Premier League glory, but Rafa Benitez's side ended the campaign in fourth position and 11 points adrift of champions Manchester United.

Swiss defender Philipp Degen is already set to make a free transfer move to Anfield on 1st July from Borussia Dortmund and Gerrard is keen to see more new faces over the coming months to end almost two decades of waiting for a league title.

Gerrard has previously called on Liverpool's American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks to splash the cash in order to keep pace with the league's top three and Aston Villa skipper Gareth Barry is a £12million target, but the midfielder has now reiterated his demand.

"We say it every season, but it's massive," Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo. "Other teams are going to strengthen and become better sides so it's important we do the same.

"A lot of sides spend every summer, teams and squads become stronger and it's important we don't fall away.

"We want to stay up there with the best and for us to challenge and win the league and to keep doing well in Europe we need to buy players, there's no doubt about it."

Gerrard, though, admits he is in the dark over Benitez's close-season targets.

"I know as much as the other players and you guys outside about Rafa's plans," Gerrard added.

"He doesn't call me in and tell me names, but obviously he assures me and the rest of the boys that if any players become available that will strengthen the team he will go and buy them, but it's important that Rafa gets the right backing.

"It (a title tilt) is getting down to the small details again so if we can make the team that little bit stronger, have a few more options and a few more match-winners and be a tiny bit better defensively as a team then we can do it."

Rafa Proud Of Reds' Spanish Quartet

Rafael Benitez has hailed the Liverpool contingent in the Spain squad ahead of the impending Euros.

There will be few prouder than Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez during Euro 2008 when he watches four of his players swap the Red of Liverpool for La Roja of Spain.

Alvaro Arbeloa, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina are all in the 23-man squad as Benitez's native Spain prepare for the Austria and Switzerland showpiece.

La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have fewer players involved and Benitez hailed his fab four, saying: "I will be supporting Spain, of course, because we have some very good players, including four from this club.

"As a manager of an English club, to see your players in any national team is really important. To see so many of our players in the Spain squad - I think we must be really proud because it is a special situation and one which is really good for us.

"It means that we are bringing in players with quality who are good enough to play international football, so that is very positive.

"The four Liverpool players who have been selected have shown the quality that they have.

"We know that Iker Casillas is a very good goalkeeper but for me Pepe Reina is as good as him.

"Arbeloa will have his chance because he can play in more than one position and he has more experience now, and Xabi, as we know, is a top-class player who can be at the same level of the other midfielders.

"Finally, we have seen how good Torres can be during the last season.

"Spain has a lot of quality. Everyone talks about the fact that they have not won a major tournament but statistics like this are there to be broken – maybe this will be their time."

Benitez hopes Liverpudlians will support Spain, because the Anfield club's success in Europe has gained them a fanbase in his homeland.

He continued: "In the first year we won the Champions League and many people in Spain were supporting us in the final and the other games.

"I think there are a lot of people in Spain who support us. Everyone has a first club – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal, whoever – and their second club now is normally Liverpool."

Spanish journalist Guillem Balague added: "The interest in Liverpool has grown steadily in Spain since Benitez first arrived at Anfield.

"The fact that the manager of Liverpool Football Club was a Spaniard got everyone's attention and then the Spanish players came – the likes of Luis Garcia, Xabi Alonso, Josemi and Antonio Nunez. That made the interest levels grow some more.

"But this season that interest has gone to a new level and it is all because of one man – Fernando Torres."

Benitez To Keep On Spending

Rafa Benitez admits Liverpool must keep on spending if they are to mount a realistic title tilt next season.

Although Liverpool finished nearer to champions Manchester United this season than the previous campaign, Benitez will be well aware his side never looked likely to challenge for top spot.

Benitez and his captain Steven Gerrard have both called for a busy summer of spending at Anfield and in highlighting Chelsea's £16.2million capture of Porto right-back Jose Bosingwa, the Reds boss accepts the chequebook needs to come out.

"Every year you must improve a lot because the other teams are doing the same," he told the club's official website.

"I think Chelsea have just spent £16million on a right-back, even though they got to the (Champions League) final.

"This year we have improved a lot. We signed two or three really good players, and also players who've been good for the club."

Liverpool's season has been played out against an unsettling backdrop of boardroom wranglings and rumours of Benitez being axed.

The Spaniard concedes it has been a difficult campaign on Merseyside but he remains confident the club has made strides to narrow the gap on their Premier League rivals.

"Yes, it's clearly been difficult, special and different, but at the end of the day we tried to manage.

"It's not a perfect season because you need to win trophies but it's not bad because we finished in the top four in the Premier League and Europe.

"Not the best, but not as bad as it could be."

Liverpool Face Dossena Fight

Fiorentina could rival Liverpool for the signing of Andrea Dossena after Udinese confirmed a deal has not yet been agreed for the left-back.

Liverpool are in talks to sign the 26-year-old, with reports suggesting Udinese want £8million for Dossena.

The Serie A side have acknowledged discussions have taken place and are set to meet with the Reds again next week.

"We have not got an agreement yet with the English side," Udinese's sporting director Pietro Leonardi told the Italian media.

"We are negotiating, but we will talk again next week.

"For the moment, nothing is done."

However, Dossena's agent Federico Pastorello says the player has yet to decide his future, with Fiorentina also rumoured to be interested.

Dossena played under Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli at Verona earlier in his career and Pastorello hinted at interest from the Viola.

Pastorello told the Italian media: "The future of the player is still very uncertain. He will decide everything in the coming weeks.

"Prandelli knows Dossena very well, he is aware of his strengths and weaknesses."

Kewell Heading For New York?

Liverpool winger Harry Kewell has revealed his desire to finish his career in the United States, with New York his preferred destination.

Kewell, 29, has had an injury-ravaged career and is almost certain to depart Anfield this summer, having failed to convince manager Rafael Benitez that he has a future on Merseyside.

Speaking to the press in Australia where he is on international duty, he said: “Playing there [in the USA] is certainly something I’d consider. Not now, but further down the line ... you never know. I do love the place.”

Kewell who was married in Las Vegas and frequent holidays in America made it plain that he would be more than happy to finish his career in the MLS. He said simply: “I love it, I love the place.”

The Australian captain, who joined Liverpool from Leeds United in 2003, has made only eight league starts this season as injury, poor form and a host of new arrivals at Anfield have curtailed his first team chances.

Despite this, there is likely to be much interest in a player whose huge potential has undoubtedly never been truly fulfilled.

Portsmouth and Fulham have both been rumoured to be interested in the winger, although his wage demands may prove a stumbling block to any potential transfer.

Benitez To Spend £70 Million - Report

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hoping to spend £70 million this summer as he rebuilds his squad and attempts to bring the Premier League title to Anfield for the first time.

Liverpool’s American owners are expected to hand Benitez £20 million to enhance his squad but Benitez is hoping he can also raise £50 million from player sales to ensure a massive summer spending spree.

According to the News of the World Benitez is hoping to be able to raise £50 million from the sales of players such as Xabi Alonso, Peter Crouch, Scott Carson, John Arne Riise, Jermaine Pennant, Steve Finnan and Andriy Voronin.

He will then use the money to help strengthen his squad and is reported to have his eye on Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry as well as Andrew Dossena from Udinese. Liverpool have also this week confirmed the transfer of defender Philipp Degen, albeit on a free transfer.

Despite the ongoing behind the scenes ownership battles at Anfield it seems likely that Benitez will be handed more time and money at Liverpool to challenge for the title.

Despite spending heavily last season on players such as Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Ryan Babel, Liverpool finished the season without a trophy and some eleven points behind champions Manchester United.

Captain Steven Gerrard has already called for more investment in the squad if his side are to close the gap on Manchester United and Chelsea and it seems as if his words are going to be heeded and another busy summer in the transfer market awaits for Liverpool.

Kuyt And Babel On Target For Dutch

Dirk Kuyt staked his claim for inclusion in Holland's squad for Euro 2008 with the opening goal in Saturday night's 3-0 win over Ukraine.

The Liverpool striker has been included in Marco van Basten's 26-man preliminary party but, having been left out of the squad for the friendlies at the start of the year, is still fighting to seal his place on the plane to Austria and Switzerland.

He did his chances no harm though with a fine header midway through the first half before fellow frontman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar doubled the hosts' lead.

Another Liverpool man, Ryan Babel, rounded off the victory after the break.

Profile: Andrea Dossena

Andrea Dossena has been one of Italy's best defenders this term. He is on the verge of signing for Liverpool.


Name: Andrea Dossena

DOB: September 11th 1981

Height: 1.85m

Weight: 74kg

Position: Defender

Current Club: Udinese Calcio 1896

Andrea Dossena was born in Lodi, a small town in the region of Lombardy- home to both Inter and Milan. He began his football career with Hellas Verona and he quickly moved up into the club's youth system after showing incredible talent at a young age. In 2001 he left the youth team and made the step up to the senior squad under Alberto Malesani's tutelage.

Dossena made his Serie A debut on November 18 2001 and he was thrown in at the deep end as his first appearance was against bitter rivals Chievo in the Derby di Verona and he played alongside emerging talents such as Mauro Camoranesi, Alberto Gilardino, Massimo Oddo, Marco Cassetti and Adrian Mutu. He was quick to adapt within a side boasting plenty of youth and brilliant talent with massive potential.

Dossena spent four years with the Gialloblu but in 2002 his side were relegated to Serie B following a last day defeat to Piacenza. It was a steep learning curb for the player but he kept his place in the side and decided to stay where as most of his team mates jumped ship. It was a wise decision which paid off in 2005 when he was signed by Serie A outfit Udinese. Fiery character Serse Cosmi, who coached the left-back at the time, decided his left back was surplus to requirements at the Stadio Friuli and he sent him on loan to Treviso. Dossena made 21 first team appearances for the Biancocelesti but he couldn't stop them sliding into Serie B. At the end of the 2005/06 season, the stopper was recalled back to the Bianconeri by Giovanni Galeone.

The stopper went on to feature 28 times for the Zebrette and he was soon to be reunited with his old coach from Verona. Galleone was sacked by the Stadio Fruili based outfit after falling out with the club's directors. Alberto Malesani, who played a big part in Dossena's early career at the Gialloblu, was reunited with his former Verona star. Rise To Fame In just two years, the powerful defender has made massive strides towards a rewarding career. He has played 63 times for Udinese and this season he has impressed in Serie A. His performances against the top four clubs in particular were outstanding. He kept the Nerazzurri's star studied line up quiet in the 0-0 draw back in January.

Dosena marked Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of the game as his side stole a valueable point against the league leaders. The left-back was dangerous all night and his constant runs and dangerous crosses from the wings caused the Nerazzurri problems. The Udinese number 8 also gave his side a shock lead against Juventus but they went on to lose the game 2-1. The defender's work at the back helped his side earn a very respectable sixth place finish which rewarded them with a UEFA Cup place. However, the former Verona man might not feature in the competition.

The Italian stopper has the chance to play in the Champions League next term with Liverpool who are on the verge of signing their target. Rafa Benitez has been impressed by the Bianconero and the Reds are focused on taking the rising star to Anfield as a replacement for John Arne Riise. Dossena has similar qualities to the Norwegian but he is more graceful on the ball and has a sweeter first touch. He is also excellent in the air and has a commanding presence at the back. His current coach Pasquale Marino has revealed that the player will move to Liverpool. It is believed the Reds are close to signing the defender from Lodi for around £8m. The future is looking bright for the stopper and no doubt he will impress wherever he ends up playing.