Thursday, June 12, 2008

Degen's Switzerland Out Of Euro 2008

Philipp Degen was an unused substitute as host nation Switzerland crashed out of Euro 2008 after an injury time goal gave Turkey a 2-1 victory.

Degen - who will sign for Liverpool on July 1 - was on the bench for the second game running as Turkey came from a goal down to win.

The result means Switzerland cannot now qualify for the knock-out phase.

A heavy downpour in the first half contributed to Switzerland's opening goal which was scored by Hakan Yakin.

However, Turkey equalised in the second half when substitute Semih Senturk headed home.

The Swiss came close to winning the game near the end but Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel made a fantastic double save.

Then deep into stoppage time Arda Turan won it for Fatih Terim's side after a swift counter attack.

Degen will be hoping to make his tournament debut on Sunday night when the Swiss face Portugal in their final group game at 7.45pm GMT.

Rafa Wants Spanish Villa With Pool

Rafael Benitez reportedly wants to pair David Villa with Fernando Torres in Liverpool's attack - but has been warned he won't come cheap.

Villa combined with Torres to devastating effect with a hat-trick in Spain's 4-1 demolition of Russia in their opening Euro 2008 fixture on Tuesday.

And Reds boss Benitez is keen to see the pair wreak similar havoc on Premier League defences next season.

Torres took to England's top flight like a fish to water after moving from Atletico Madrid for £27million last summer - and Valencia director Juan Sanchez admits Villa's price tag will rise with every goal he scores at Euro 2008.

Villa looks destined to leave Los Che this summer, as the Primera Liga side's financial worries dictate that they will be required to reluctantly part with their biggest assets.

Villa certainly tops the list in the Mestalla sale and new Valencia boss Unai Emery can expect a busy close season as he sets about reshuffling his pack.

His star striker is valued in the region of around £17million, but that figure could rocket if he continues his electric form in Austria and Switzerland.

Villa's current employers are prepared to sit out a bidding war, with Sanchez revealing that the club will bide their time before deciding on the player's worth.

"He has a contract and is having a great Euro," the Spanish director said in The Sun. "We are calm and we hope he will continue to score many goals. You never know what will happen if we get offers.

"It's not a question of putting a price on him.

"What will come in the future will be assessed then."

Chelsea and Barcelona have also been linked with Villa, but it remains to be seen whether the Blues' interest will continue following the announcement that Luiz Felipe Scolari is set to become their new boss.

However, despite the growing speculation surrounding his future, the talented forward is refusing to be drawn on the issue until after Euro 2008.

"I'm not going to speak about my future until after the Championships," he insisted.

Roma Ready To Bid £3m For Liverpool's John Arne Riise

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti admitted last night he wants to take Liverpool misfit John Arne Riise, 27, to Serie A.

Norwegian left-back Riise's Anfield career is over after his catastrophic Champions League semifinal blunder against Chelsea and the arrival of Udinese's Andrea Dossena.

And Spalletti is ready to table a £3million bid for the 27-year-old.

Spalletti said: "A player like Riise can give a different kind of dimension. Considering the challenges that await us next season, he has the qualities that we are looking for."

Juventus Enhance Alonso Offer

Juventus have increased their bid for Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso as they attempt to lure the midfielder to Turin.

The Bianconeri are keen on the Spanish international and recently Giovanni Cobolli Gigli confirmed the club are in on-going talks with the Reds for the midfielder.

However, so far talks have hit a brick wall as Liverpool are not willing to budge on the £15m price tag.

According to reports in Italy, Juve only wanted to offer half of what Liverpool were asking for but now it seems as if the Old Lady has upped the ante as she attempts to prize Alonso away from Anfield.

Stadio News 24 claims the Old Lady has offered Liverpool €18m (£14.2m) which is still slightly off the £15m that the Reds are asking for.

However, it is likely that the Merseysiders will accept this latest offer as the Bianconeri are not looking to move any further up on their latest bid.

Claudio Ranieri is a big admirer of the Spanish player and he will be hoping to add him to his midfield department to partner Momo Sissoko.

Juve have returned to the Champions League and they are currently building a side for the future capable of challenging for major honours.

The Old Lady believes it would be a shame if Juve lose out on Alonso having come so close this time and she is trying her best to capture the player before other clubs beging swooping.

Liverpool Prepare £15m Barry Offer

Liverpool are putting together a £15 million cash bid for Gareth Barry in the hopes of finalising the deal for the Aston Villa captain by the end of the work week.

Villa have reportedly already rebuffed a number of of bids over the past days, including a ₤12million bid and a host of offers involving part player-swaps. This despite the it being clear that Barry, 27, is itntent on moving to Liverpool for Champions League football after 10 years at Villa Park.

The latest official statement from the Claret-and-Blues on the matter read as follow:

"Gareth Barry has stated in discussions with our manager he would like to leave Aston Villa to join Liverpool.

"But Liverpool's bid for the player has been rejected and they have been informed of Villa's continued position in this matter."

It will be interesting to see whether £15m will do the trick this time, as Villa boss Martin O'Neill has always maintained that Barry is worth at least as much as Argentine midfielderl Javier Mascherano who officially made the Liverpool switch in January for £18m.

Milner-Pennant Swap In The Works?

According to the latest reports emanating out of England, Newcastle are strongly considering accepting a swap deal put forward by Liverpool that would see James Milner leave St. James' Park in exchange for Jermaine Pennant.

British daily The Mirror alleges that Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has made a significant breakthrough in his quest to lure Milner, 27, to Anfield, and now all that stands between the completion of the deal is to wrangle over how much cash will be included along with Pennant.

Should the reports be validated, it would represent a dramatic improvement on the Reds' opening offer as Newcastle were said to be downright insulted by Liverpool's proposal of switching Argentine full-back Emiliano Insua, central defender Jack Hobbs and one other youth prospect in exchange for Milner.

Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill was livid when Benitez attempted to capture Gareth Barry with a similar deal, though he won't be best pleased to learn of this news either as Villa were reportedly keen on £7million-rated Milner as well.

Spain Coach Luis Aragones Denies Euro 2008 Rift With Bemused Fernando Torres

SPAIN coach Luis Aragones has dismissed speculation his decision to substitute Fernando Torres during the 4-1 Euro 2008 victory against Russia has caused a rift with his star striker.

Aragones chose to withdraw the Liverpool frontman after just 54 minutes on Tuesday, replacing him with midfielder Cesc Fabregas, with his team already holding a 2-0 advantage.

The 69-year-old coach later explained his reason for substituting Torres was a tactical one as he sought to add "one more player in the midfield to try to keep a clean sheet."

Torres, however, was clearly bemused by the decision as he left the pitch, opting not to acknowledge Aragones’s outstretched arm as he passed the coach.

Despite that show of petulance, Aragones said there was no ill-felling between himself and the player with the pair resolving the matter in the dressing-room after the game.

"I understand why the player is angry and I am behind him, but it is important to correct these things afterwards," Aragones said.

"They are things which stay in the dressing-room...(but) things won’t stay like that, we won’t let things like that fester."

Torres was instrumental in Spain’s opening goal of the night when he unselfishly laid off a pass to strike partner David Villa to tap home into an unguarded net.

That would be the first goal of a hat-trick for Villa whose impressive display stole the limelight from Torres, who was expected to spearhead the Spanish attack.

After scoring his third goal of the night, Villa raced to the bench where he embraced the already- substituted Torres and Aragones said that gesture was reflective of the "cohesion" in the team.

"I understand that a player gets angry when he is substituted, it has happened to me, but the atmosphere in the team is extraordinary," Aragones said.

Aragones also took time to praise Torres for his contribution while he was on the pitch, highlighting his defensive work to limit the contribution of Russia’s attack- minded full-back Roman Shirokov.

"Torres also contributed and worked up front to block Shirokov and he did it perfectly," Aragones said.

"The goals are a product of Villa, but the first (goal) was given to him by Torres."

Former Spain coach Jose Antonio Camacho was also glowing in his praise for Torres, pointing the striker’s assist for the first goal as evidence of his importance to the team.

"Torres’s generosity in the first goal was admirable," he said.

"When you are a striker, it’s not easy to see a team-mate when you are bearing down on the goalkeeper, but he had the presence of mind to give the ball to Villa. That was a great gesture."

Camacho, who led Spain to the quarter-finals of Euro 2000, was delighted with the performance of Aragones’ side.

"It was a great start," he said. "They have demonstrated that they are here at the European Championship with an attacking football, with a passing game and creating plenty of chances.

"(Carles) Puyol, (Marcos) Senna and Villa stood out in a team at a very high level," he added.

Camacho also praised Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta.

"Iniesta can do everything with the ball at his feet," he said.

"Only players with something different in their head and in their feet are capable of passes like the one for the second goal."

However, Torres admitted: "At the time I wasn’t happy but the disappointment soon went. The team is the important thing."

Meanwhile, hat-trick hero David Villa paid tribute to strike partner Torres.

Immediately after slotting the ball past Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to complete his treble 15 minutes from time, Villa raced to the Spain bench to embrace Torres, who had been substituted in the 54th minute and replaced by Cesc Fabregas.

That was the third Spain match in just over a week where Torres has been taken off early, with coach Luis Aragones substituting the Liverpool striker at half-time in both friendly matches against the United States and Peru.

Torres has now failed to score in each of those three matches – albeit whilst not always at peak fitness – and although he has been prolific during his first season at Liverpool, he has notched just once for his country since 2006.

All that has led to speculation about the striker’s ability to perform for Spain the way he does for Liverpool, but Villa was keen to show Torres he is fully behind the former Atletico Madrid man.

"The first two goals were with the help of Torres," said Villa.

"You saw what happened with the first one and with the second he opened the space so (Andres) Iniesta could make the pass to me," Villa added.

"I think he had a very important game, he’s a key player to us and I wanted to dedicate that third goal to make him happy."

Villa’s treble, with the goals coming in the 20th, 45th and 75th minutes, ensured Spain got off to a flying start in their bid to win their first European Championships since 1964.

The performance earned Villa the man-of-the-match award, but the Valencia man was more pleased with the fact that it took Spain a step closer to the quarter-finals.

"More than anything I am happy with the three points that give us a lot of options to continue to the next phase, and of course I am very happy to have scored the goals as well," said Villa, whose role in the Spain side and compatibility with Torres was an area of debate heading into the tournament.

"My aim is continue helping the national team, to work hard to try and score more goals.

"I want to play as much as possible."

Spain coach Aragones spoke glowingly about both his strikers, saying: "Villa has played very well, he scored three goals and could have scored more.

"Torres also did a good job, especially in the first two goals. I am happy with the team."

Russia coach Guus Hiddink famously got one over on the Spanish in the 2002 World Cup when his South Korea side won a quarter-final showdown on penalties.

There was little chance of Hiddink’s latest side achieving a similar scalp once Villa had taken the game by the scruff of the neck, but the Dutchman believes his inexperienced team could take a lot of out of the game.

"We had our chances, but we were too naive and ended up being punished because Spain have players who can to that," Hiddink said.

"In any case, I think that we can learn from this lesson. There are two games remaining and I have told my players that although it has been a heavy result, we can still bounce back if we learn from the match.