Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Benitez`s Modest Budget Won't Be Cut

Rafa Benitez has reportedly been assured that his transfer budget will not be affected by the losses suffered by Tom Hicks and George Gillett since their takeover of Liverpool - but any euphoria at the news will be quelled by suggestions that the Spaniard has relatively little money to spend this summer.

The first set of accounts published since the Americans arrived last year reported a loss of £33million in the year ending July 2007.

However, according to The Guardian, 'Despite these ominous figures, has been assured his transfer budget will not be reduced'. But the sting in the tale is that 'Spaniard's spending rests heavily on the amount raised through player sales this summer and the budget 'is understood to be far from what the manager would like'.

This suspicion is borne out by fresh reports linking Pool with Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing - hardly the type of high-calibre player the club require to produce their long-anticipated title bid.

According to the Daily Mirror, 'Benitez has been a longtime admirer of Downing and considers that he can play not just in the wide left role, but also in a more central position.

'He is prepared to bid around £12m for the England international.'

Xabi Delays Juve Decision

Liverpool star Xabi Alonso is delaying any decision over a move to Juventus until he has completed his Euro 2008 mission with Spain.

The Basque playmaker has hinted that he wants to quit Anfield for Turin and there have been reports that Juve and Liverpool have agreed a fee of just over £10m.

But the 26-year-old has put the brakes on somewhat by insisting that he won’t be making any decision before this summer’s events in Austria and Switzerland are complete.

“I know that Juventus are interested,” Alonso told El Mundo Deportivo.

“But right now I won’t talk about that because I have enough to think about here with the national team.”

Meanwhile, Juve could make space for Alonso by selling unsettled forward Raffaele Palladino.

The former Azzurrini star has been frustrated at a lack of first-team football in Turin and is reportedly close to agreeing a deal with hometown team Napoli.

The Old Lady may insist upon a co-ownership agreement rather than an outright sale and are expected to ask for around £6m for 50 per cent of his rights.

Barry Seeking Reds Move

Gareth Barry wants to join Liverpool in the summer, according to the Aston Villa captain's agent.

Liverpool have made the England international a leading transfer target and have already had one bid rejected by their Premier League rivals.

Villa boss Martin O'Neill is determined to ward off any further interest in the 27-year-old, who has spent his entire career with the club.

But Barry's agent Alex Black says the player has held talks with O'Neill to outline his desire to play UEFA Champions League football.

Black also intimated that Barry is keen to discuss a move to Liverpool after making almost 400 appearances for Villa.

"Gareth has spoken to Martin since he returned from England's game in Trinidad and told him how he feels," Black told The Sun.

"At this stage of his career Gareth wants to be playing Champions League football and believes this is his chance to do it."

Reds skipper Steven Gerrard recently admitted that he is 'desperate' for his good friend to join him at Anfield.

Liverpool FC In Hunt For Espanyol Winger Albert Riera

Liverpool are back in the hunt for want-away Espanyol winger Albert Riera – but will not allow themselves to get caught up in a bidding war.

Manager Rafael Benitez is lining up a £9m offer for the former Manchester City winger but will resist the Spanish club’s attempts to inflate his value.

Espanyol initially insisted that Riera would only be allowed to leave if a club triggered his release clause of £16m, way beyond what Liverpool are prepared to pay.

They are ready to come down to accepting £12m but Benitez will be loathe to pay over the odds for the 26-year-old.

Liverpool’s transfer budget is unaffected by the £33m loss that was revealed yesterday in the accounts of Kop Holdings Ltd – the company set up by George Gillett and Tom Hicks when they bought the club.

But the money needed to prise Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, after the Midlands club already rejected bids of £10m and £12m, means Benitez is unwilling to enter into an auction.

He is wanted by a number of clubs across Europe, after they were alerted to his availability following an outburst against Espanyol at the end of the last campaign when fans protested against the team’s displays.

Riera said: “I want to leave Espanyol. I don’t want to be part of a club that does not take care of or protect its players.

“I do not know if I will go to Liverpool or some other team. But I do not want to be at a club where supporters have no love for the players.”

Riera, who is a left-sided midfielder, played in the Premier League for Manchester City when he was on loan from Espanyol towards the end of the 2005-06 season.

Benitez is keen to add to his options in wide areas, and has already tied up deals for full-backs Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena.

Benitez’s stance on players’ valuation has the full support of the man he paid a club record transfer fee for, Fernando Torres.

“If we can’t keep up with them (United and Chelsea) economically, then we have to get it absolutely right in the transfer market,” said Torres.

Torres Adapting His Game For Spain

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is not the only Spanish Premier League star being quizzed on why they cannot recreate their club form for country, but he insists he is still adapting.

Torres, 24, enjoyed a magnificent debut season in England with Liverpool on a personal level, finishing joint second in the Premier League goal scoring charts and netting 33 in all competitions - breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy's record made at Manchester United for most goals in a debut season by an overseas player.

For his country, he still performs very much as he did at his hometown club, Atletico Madrid. His ability is rarely called into question, but his failure to apply himself and win games for his side on a consistent basis has made him the subject of scrutiny.

However, coach Luis Aragones - an Atletico Madrid legend himself in his day - persists with El Nino and we await results at this summer's European Championship, with added interest from England adding to the expectation.

Torres explains that the difference in style means he too must adapt in order to succeed: "This tournament is different, with more vertical and long passes, so I have adapted my game to fit the national team."

Spain kick off their campaign against Russia this evening in Group D, which also contains Sweden and holders Greece.

Fabio Capello Wants Steven Gerrard To Captain England For World Cup Qualifiers

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has emerged as the leading contender to take over the England captaincy full-time.

According to the Sun, England manager Fabio Capello says he will make a decision in a fortnight.

And the Italian has also revealed that he sees a midfielder as the ideal choice to take the armband when England begin their quest for World Cup qualification against Andorra in September.

Last week, Capello revealed the battle for the England captaincy had been narrowed down to two candidates with Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand leading the way.

The England head coach has also given John Terry, David Beckham and Gareth Barry the captain's armband during his first four matches in charge.

Beckham started as skipper in England's last friendly against Trinidad and Tobago before Barry took over from the LA Galaxy midfielder when he was substituted.

A source close to Capello said: "Fabio is thinking very hard about this decision but likes to see his captains in the middle of the park bossing the game.

"No one has been ruled out but it looks like Gerrard is ahead."

Capello has been happy with the progress made in the four friendly internationals since he replaced Steve McClaren nearly six months ago. "I think we will be okay the minute we play against Croatia,” he said last week.

"For the qualification games, we will be okay. I am very happy with the progress we are making."

We Want You Out, Liverpool FC Fans Tell Owners

Hundreds of Liverpool fans united to protest at Anfield against the club's American owners.

They gathered on Walton Breck Road outside the Kop yesterday in another message of opposition to Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Banners saying Yanks OUT and Repossessed were pinned on railings around the ground.

A padlock was fastened to the Shankly Gates in a symbolic gesture to signify their unhappiness with the current regime.

The SOS fans group also planned to lobby supporters visiting the club shop about the protest.

Alan Kayll, from Spirit of Shankly, said: “When David Moores sold the club, he did so to allow the club to compete for the very best players and simultaneously build the stadium.

“The stadium finances are nowhere near being secured and we cannot compete for top quality now or have any great prospects for the future.

“Selling the family silver to Hicks and Gillett has proven to be a massive mistake, and every Liverpool supporter has to act and campaign against what is happening to our club.”

Red Francis Stanton added: “Our repossession is about the rightful owners of the club claiming it back from the "tenants".

“Why can the club not afford to bid for 17-year-old prospects even when the manager wants them? We have paid the rent for our custodians long enough. It’s time for an eviction.”

The ownership of Liverpool remains in the balance with American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett at loggerheads.

The Dubai-based consortium DIC has shown interest buying the club, but Hicks has repeatedly stated his intention of keeping hold of his 50% share.