Saturday, June 14, 2008

Liverpool FC Will Wait To Sign Gareth Barry

Rafael Benitez is prepared to dig in and play a waiting game with Aston Villa in order to sign Gareth Barry.

Villa rejected a third Liverpool bid for their captain on Thursday, believed to be in the region of £15m but with manager Martin O’Neill admitting that the England international has his heart set on a move to Anfield, Benitez is in no rush to push through the move this weekend.

The Spaniard is away from the club until next week and although he realises that Liverpool must now make a fourth offer for Barry, he is willing to bide his time to capture the player he knows is craving Champions League football next term.

An irate O’Neill, who is unhappy with the way Liverpool have publicly conducted their attempts to pursue Barry, has broken down all direct contact with Benitez and is also at odds with their valuations of Peter Crouch and Scott Carson who are possible makeweights in the deal.

Although O’Neill has conceded that Barry’s desire for a move will now mean that his club football now lies away from Villa Park, he and owner Randy Lerner remain determined to get as large a fee as possible for their prize asset who they value at £20m.

Benitez is also willing to wait on Barry because any potential exit from Anfield for Xabi Alonso is not likely to be completed until after the European Championship finals.

Reports in Italy yesterday suggesting that Liverpool had agreed a £14.2m fee with Juventus for the Spanish international midfielder are wide of the mark.

Although Liverpool have had lengthy talks with the Serie A club, who are now believed to be eyeing Bayern Munich’s German international Bastian Schweinsteiger as a possible alternative, they have still yet to receive an official bid for Juventus for Alonso who they value at £16m.

Financial constraints at Anfield mean that Benitez will have to offload several players this summer to balance the books for big money purchases like Barry.

Torres Reacts To Chelsea Rumours

Fernando Torres insists that he is perfectly happy at Liverpool in the face of reports that Chelsea are putting together a mega-offer in the hopes of securing his services ahead of next season.

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has made it abundantly clear that there is no way that Liverpool will sell their prized asset, while the player himself has proven to be very un-ronaldoesque in doing his best to nip the rumours in the bud.

”I have no intention of leaving,” the Spanish star insisted.

”We have to focus our energies to give the little step we need to get to the top teams.

”If we only improve the team a little, we are going to manage to do so.

”I want to say very clearly that I’m not on the market and it is my desire to continue at Liverpool.

”I am very happy at Liverpool and want to carry on.”

Torres broke all sorts of records during his debut season at Anfield, scoring 33 goals in all competitions following his ₤21million move from Atletico Madrid last summer.

Going into the Euro 2008, some had questioned whether the 24-year-old would be able to replicate his club form at international level, and questioned whether he and Valencia hitman Villa would mesh as a pairing.

But all doubters have already been served a healthy dose of humble pie after La Furia Roja’s stunning display in their Group D opener, the pair having dovetailed beautifully as Villa’s hat-trick led the tournament favourites to a 4-1 win over Russia.

Alonso Signs For Juventus On Monday

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso is pratically a Juventus player and all that is missing is his signature which will arrive early next week according to Corriere Dello Sport.

Jean Claude Blanc met with Rafa Benitez on Friday and a deal was struck to bring the midfielder to the Stadio Olimpico.

Benitez will meet Bianconeri officials again either on Monday or Tuesday where the contracts will be signed, sealed and delivered. The player's agent Inanki Ibanez will also be present at the meeting to ensure that all runs smoothly.

Juve will be paying the Anfield Road club €17m which Liverpool will use to buy Aston Villa's Gareth Barry. Alonso has already reached an agreement with the Old Lady and he will sign a four year deal worth €3.5m per season as well as performance related bonuses.

The Spain international who is currently involved in Euro 2008 will undergo a medical in Turin after the tournament. It's a big hit for the Bianconeri who have, once again, convinced major players to come on board as they prepare to challenge for major honours both domestically and in Europe next season.

Bastian Scheweinsteiger's move from Bayern now looks highly unlikely after the capture of Alonso. The Bianconeri were on standby for the Bayern Munich midfielder in case the Alonso move failed.

Liverpool Must Sell To Buy Riera

Rafa Benítez is hoping to use the money the sale of Xabi Alonso to Juventus generates to bring in Albert Riera from Espanyol after the European Championships concludes.

The Liverpool boss knows that he will have to sell in order to finance a higher bid for the former Manchester City wideman, while saving the bulk of his transfer kitty for Gareth Barry, according to AS.

After having a €9.5m bid rejected recently, Benítez is determined to return with a €12m offer for Riera, which indications have already shown is likely to be accepted.

Espanyol are keen to off-load the player that they brought back to Spain from Bordeaux after his outburst against the club last month.

Riera voiced his frustration at having spent the majority of the second half of the season on the bench as the Blanc i Blau's quest for Europe fell apart.

Stating that he wanted to leave the club immediately, that wish was granted but only if a club were to meet Espanyol's evaluation because they too need the cash to bring in new faces.

Alonso is on the verge of a switch to Juve and the money raised will aid the Riera bid as well as freeing up a place in the midfield for Barry to arrive from Aston Villa.

Liverpool In For Balotelli?

Internazionale's young star Mario Balotelli has intimated that he may have no problems leaving the club, which appears to have put some top clubs on alert, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea linked with a move for the striker.

Balotelli, 17, is of Ghanaian heritage but was adopted by Italian parents. He is eager to represent the Azzurri once he turns 18 and is officially an Italian citizen, having already turned down the chance to play for Ghana.

Inter, however, he appears to have less loyalty towards. Recent quotes suggest that the powerful forward would have no problem leaving the club and that, as he has only been there for a couple of years, he has no special attachment to the Italian champions.

He enjoyed a fairly prominent breakthrough season, considering his age, scoring three goals in 11 starts.

The Times reports that Balotelli's signature is being fiercely contested for among three of England's big four. Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are said to be the clubs interest, with all possibly being in the market for a striker of his mould.

Red Letter Day For The Spirit Of Shankly

On Monday, the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) will celebrate six months in existence as the country's first ever football supporters union.

It has come a long way since the day it was formed on February 16 when around 1,000 Liverpool fans packed into the Olympia on West Derby Road ahead of the ill-fated FA Cup tie against Barnsley.

That rally was followed by a march to Anfield with all present united in their desire to see Liverpool Football Club rid of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Despite the good turnout and the clear and vivid passion on display SOS was not without its critics and there was no shortage of Nay’sayers who wanted to know what a disparate group of fans from Liverpool and beyond could do to challenge the corporate might of a pair of American millionaires based thousands of miles away from the Olympia.

In truth, it remains a forbidding challenge and one which may never be achieved in a football world where money doesn't just talk, it shouts, screams and hollers.

That doesn't mean SOS hasn't made progress though. Far from it.

In those six short months it has established a fully operative committee comprising of a chair, vice-chair, treasurer, secretary, club liaison officer and fans liaison officer among others.

Meetings are held regularly and continue to be well attended and in the near future a city centre office will be opened to process the membership applications which continue to flood in on a daily basis and a fully operational website will also be set up.
Increasingly, the union is starting to resemble a fans co-operative with issues which concern supporters of all clubs being tackled in an age of spiralling ticket prices and related costs.

A fortnight ago, I was invited to attend their latest gathering to observe their work at first hand and found it to be as professional as any council meeting with a full agenda established at the very outset and reports and updates presented by the treasurer, secretary and chair.

There was no shortage of debate and nor should there be in a movement which was set up to represent the best interests of all Liverpool fans and not just a local clique of like minded individuals.

The debate was lively and well informed but never threatened to get out of hand and although there were occasions when agreeing to disagree was the best course of action resolutions were passed and conclusions were arrived at, much as they are in any board meeting.

The level of professionalism on show should not come as a surprise though as many of those involved come from the kind of background where such meetings take place on an almost daily basis and their experience is telling.

Equally importantly though, there are those who do not hail from a professional background and who are ready and willing to try and break through the traditional constraints which have left football fans at the mercy of profiteers for far too long.

After the recent experience of Athens and Istanbul, not to mention just about every other European trip Liverpool have been involved in, SOS are now looking at ways of making European and domestic travel more affordable to the average Reds fan.

Talks are ongoing with travel operators aimed at chartering flights for Champions League away games and a coach is likely to be laid on for the Reds forthcoming pre-season friendly against Rangers at Ibrox.

These initiatives are a small step in the right direction for a movement which has come an awfully long way in a very short time.

Should the progress they have made in their first six months be repeated in the next six then there is no telling as to how far SOS could go.

But as long as they continue to have the best interests of fans at heart then no-one should bet against them achieving their objectives, even if their avowed determination to rid their club of a pair of owners they have no time for does remain the tallest of tall orders.

Kuyt On Target As Dutch Destroy France

Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring as Holland continued their impressive start to Euro 2008 by defeating France 4-1 on Friday night. Kuyt headed home from a corner inside 20 minutes to give Marco Van Basten’s side the lead.

Holland, who defeated World Champions Italy 3-1 in their opening game, were impressive again with Kuyt replaced at half time allowing Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie to combine to make it 2-0.

Thierry Henry made it 2-1 with a deft flick from a cross but Holland restored their two goal lead within seconds of the re-start, Robben firing home from an obscure angle. The impressive Real Madrid midfielder Wesley Sneijder added a fourth in the final seconds to gauruntee they win the ‘group of death’.

The Dutch face Romania next Tuesday, who can go through to the quarter finals with a win, while France and Italy - the last World Cup Finalists - will hope the Romanians don’t get the win they need and will battle out it for the right to go through with Holland.

The other game on Friday saw Romania and Italy share the spoils, 1-1, although Adrian Mutu missed a penalty which would have the sent the World Champions home early.