Friday, June 13, 2008

Reina's Father Predicts More From Pepe

The father of Liverpool goalie José Reina says he's proud of his son's role as a Spanish back-up and insists the highly-rated shot-stopper is yet to peak.

Minguel Reina is, of course, following his son Pepe's goalkeeping career avidly, and thinks the much-admired 'keeper can do better yet.

The 25-year-old Anfield man picked up his third Premier League Golden Glove in succession last term and is currently with the hotly-tipped Spanish side as they gun for Euro 2008 glory.

The proud Spaniard and father is so excited about his country's strong start at the Austria and Switzerland showpiece that he isn't even sore about his son languishing on the bench behind first-choice Iker Casillas.

"Pepe is growing as a man and as a footballer before my very eyes," said Reina Sr. "But no way is he near his peak yet. There is so much more to come before he's either the finished product or as good as he can be.

"Watching my son train so hard for his country and playing with his little daughter at a time when Spain have just put in a tremendous performance to open the tournament is just great.

"Right now his role is fundamental. The substitutes have to train hard but also give total support to those who start. With affection, support and friendship coming towards the key players, Spain will see the benefit on the pitch. That's sure.

"This year I think we are at least going to the final and if we win so much the better."

Redknapp Still Wants Crouch At Pompey

If the price is right, says Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, he still wants to bring Peter Crouch back to Fratton Park.

Liverpool have pinned a £15 million price tag on England striker Peter Crouch - and although Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp would like the player, that valuation is considerrably higher than the South Coast club are prepared to pay.

Redknapp told The News: “We are looking, but it is not always easy to get in the people we are looking for.

“But we are moving along and something could happen soon. Crouchy is a brilliant lad and I do like him a great deal. I suppose if Peter Storrie was negotiating with Liverpool though, he wouldn't want me throwing figures around.

“We might feel Liverpool want a little too much for him even at £10million. We might want to pay a bit less, so it wouldn't be right for me to say a price.

“At the end of the day he still belongs to Liverpool.

“I doubt if they would want me talking about their players really. I've always said I like Peter, though.

“There might be a deal there. If there's not then we will move on.”

Redknapp also confirmed to the local paper that he will definitely not be pursuing an interest in Marseille's former Liverpool striker, Djibril Cisse.

Cisse's agent climed earlier this week that the player was keen on a move to Pompey, describing them as a club who matched his ambition.

But Redknapp has ended all speculation by declaring: “He is a good player and we have looked at him before. But he's not one that I'm concentrating on at the moment.”

Torres Denies Showing Any Disrespect To Aragones

Spain striker Fernando Torres has denied that he was angry with coach Luis Aragones for taking him off in the team's 4-1 win against Russia in their opening game at Euro 2008.

Torres walked past Aragones when he was replaced by Cesc Fabregas early in the second half of Tuesday's match and did not acknowledge the coach's outstretched hand.

"I was angry with myself and it isn't true that I refused to shake the coach's hand," Torres told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Friday.

"Luis was six metres away from me, we weren't that close and I would never show any disrespect to a coach.

"I know that I can't get angry for more than 30 seconds when I've got team mates next to me who didn't play (in the game) at all."

Aragones, who coached Torres when he was at Atletico Madrid, said earlier this week that he understood the striker's anger at being taken off but that he would not let the incident pass.

"The big advantage of having an ex-player as the coach is that he has experienced these things hundreds to times," said Torres.

"Luis showed me the rules of dressing room when I was 16 years old and the important thing is that what happens is left on the pitch."

Torres is almost certain to be in the starting line-up when Spain play Sweden in their second match in Group D on Saturday.

O'Neill Tells Liverpool To Increase Barry Offer

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is determined to get the right price for captain Gareth Barry after dismissing Liverpool's third bid for the England midfielder as 'just not acceptable'.

Villa yesterday rejected a revised offer for Barry from the Reds believed to be around the £15million mark.

Barry has told O'Neill he wants to join Liverpool in order to play Champions League football and boost his England prospects but the Villa boss insists his club will not be bullied into selling.

He said: 'Gareth and I had a little chat when he got back from holiday and he has said he fancies going to Liverpool.

'That's obviously a big setback to us, but the offer from Liverpool is just not acceptable.

'It's very frustrating. We finished sixth last year, he was a major part of that and he has been a splendid player for us for some considerable time.'

O'Neill accepts it is a fact of life star players will be targeted by big clubs and has vowed the club will continue their bid to break the stranglehold of the big four in next season's Premier League.

'If Man United are having a struggle keeping hold of Cristiano Ronaldo, I guess the rest of us have a bit of trouble,' he added. 'It's difficult [to break into the top four] but that's what you're in the game for. If it's without Gareth Barry, we'll still have a go.'

Barry must now wait to see if Liverpool return with yet another bid or whether Rafael Benitez opts to look elsewhere.

It is believed previous offers for the midfielder included a cash-plus-player deal and this could still be the key to landing Barry.

Liverpool keeper Scott Carson spent last season on loan at Villa and O'Neill is keen to make the move permanent. But while Benitez is willing to sell, the two again disagree over Carson's valuation.

Liverpool Target Aistair Mackintosh Leaves Eastlands

Manchester City last night confirmed the departure of highly-rated chief executive Alistair Mackintosh – who Tom Hicks has reportedly earmarked to replace Rick Parry at Liverpool.

The Liverpool co-owner has made no secret of his desire to fire Parry as chief executive, branding his reign a “disaster” in an explosive interview two months ago.

The Texan is in no position to wield such power at Anfield yet, however, due to the deadlock in his fight for power with fellow owner George Gillett.

However, Hicks is thought to have been impressed by Mackintosh’s role in City’s move from Maine Road to Eastlands – while being critical of Liverpool’s stalling plans to move to a new home in Stanley Park – and will be intrigued by yesterday’s developments.

The future of Mackintosh had been the subject of intense debate following the arrival of Garry Cook as new executive chairman.

It had been thought Mackintosh may stay on at Eastlands for a little while but having been left out of the negotiations which saw Mark Hughes installed as manager last week, it became clear he had no long-term future.

Mackintosh has been seen as a pragmatic chief executive, who helped stabilise City’s financial position, then helped bring former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the club.

“I would like to thank Alistair for his decade of service,” Cook said.

“He took us through a period of great change, particularly the move from Maine Road to our home here at the City of Manchester Stadium and goes with our best wishes for the future.”

However, the move is seen as an effective completion of his takeover by Thaksin, breaking the major management link from before his arrival 12 months ago.

Cook was a noticeable presence at Hughes’s unveiling last week, where he outlined his vision for City under Thaksin’s guidance.

As a former senior executive at Nike, Cook has well-placed contacts within the football industry which could yet bring Ronaldinho to Eastlands.

Meanwhile, the home tie of City’s UEFA Cup first qualifying round tie in July seems certain to be held at Barnsley’s Oakwell Stadium as Eastlands is unavailable.

Hughes will learn City’s opponents on June 27.

Martin O'Neil Refuses To Talk To Rafael Benitez Over Barry Row

Martin O'Neill has angrily broken off all contact with Liverpool after becoming infuriated by their dogged pursuit of Aston Villa skipper Gareth Barry.

The Villa boss is refusing to acknowledge attempts by Reds manager Rafa Benitez and chief executive Rick Parry to enter into any dialogue over Barry.

Liverpool only learned their third bid of £13m for the midfielder had been rejected yesterday through a curt fax.

O'Neill, usually so hands-on, has instructed Villa owner Randy Lerner's PA Paul Faulkner to field all communications from Anfield.

His stubborn tactics have left Liverpool officials exasperated as they hoped to finally buy Barry, 27, this week. And the star himself is getting increasingly despondent at the failure of the two clubs to resolve his future after he made it clear to O'Neill he wanted to go.

Liverpool are now reluctant to table a new bid for Barry while they have no insight into what O'Neill will accept for the versatile left-sided player.

And the ill-feeling at Villa - sparked by Benitez making public Liverpool's initial £10m offer for Barry on the eve of the penultimate game of the season - has only increased.

O'Neill has since slammed the Reds' Spanish manager in a tirade and even dropped Villa's former Liverpool midfielder Patrik Berger for recommending that Barry moves to his old club.

O'Neill is now trying to concentrate his energies on strengthening his squad as they kick-off their InterToto Cup campaign in five weeks.

Brazilian midfielder Paulo Assuncao, 28, who has bought out the final year of his contract at Porto, is a target.