Friday, June 20, 2008

Xabi Alonso Unsure About His Future At Liverpool

Xabi Alonso hopes to have played his way into the plans of Luis Aragonés, the Spain coach, for the European Championship quarter-final against Italy in Vienna on Sunday, but the midfield player remains in the dark about his future at club level, with Liverpool attempting to negotiate his sale to Juventus.

Alonso's agent, Iñaki Ibáñez, has held talks with Juventus over the past fortnight, but the player, who signed a five-year contract with Liverpool last summer, suggested yesterday that he would be happy to stay at Anfield. The situation is complicated, however, by Liverpool's financial position, which means that Rafael Benítez, having already offloaded John Arne Riise to AS Roma, is under pressure to sell Alonso to finance his bid to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.

“At the moment, I'm a Liverpool player and I am just focusing on the Euros,” Alonso said. “You will have to ask Liverpool what is happening. I have four more years of my contract and my plans are to start next season with Liverpool unless there is a change. I can't really say any more. It's between the two clubs.”

Alonso was happier to discuss the challenge that Spain face against Italy. Having sat out the first two games in the tournament, the midfield player pressed his claims with an outstanding performance in the 2-1 win over Greece on Thursday, winning the man-of-the-match award, but, whether or not he starts, he knows that his team face a difficult task against Italy, who make a habit of reaching top form during the knockout stages.

“It's going to be tough,” Alonso said. “It isn't the first time that Italy have struggled to get through the group. In 1982, they did the same in the World Cup in Spain and from then they were spectacular in the knockout stages.”

George Gillett Jr And Tom Hicks Try To Patch Up Differences At Liverpool

George Gillett Jr says that he and Tom Hicks, his embattled Liverpool co-owner, are attempting to patch up their relationship for the good of the club.

In an interview with a Canadian radio station, Gillett has claimed that communication between the pair is improving, with both men determined to help the club become more competitive in next season's Premier League.

“It’s fair to say that communication between the Hicks and the Gilletts has been substantially improved and I believe that it will be for the benefit of the club," Gillett said. “Time is a healer and there were things that had happened previously.

"It took a while for both of us to realise that we weren’t communicating very well and the huge responsibility we have to the fans to do the right thing for the club.

“I believe that the Hicks family are communicating better with us and we’re communicating better with them and I think that will be much better for the club.”

The relationship between the men broke down when Gillett refused to sell his 50 per cent stake to Hicks. Gillett had instead wanted to discuss a deal with Dubai International Capital (DIC), the private equity investment arm of the Arab state. Hicks vetoed the move, resulting in an impasse between the owners.

Gillett refused to discuss whether he was still hoping to sell his shares, preferring to iterate his desire to back Rafael Benitez, the club's manager, in the transfer market.

He said: “All of us are focused on the transfer window and we want to be ready for that and we want to have adequate resources and good communication with Rafa and our hope is that we’re making better progress."

When asked for his appraisal of Liverpool's performance last season, he said: "I would rather let the fans make that decision. But for a club that has a history of winning trophies, any season that you don’t win one of the five or six trophies that we compete for, I suspect the fans, as well as the Hicks and Gilletts, are disappointed.

“But overall I felt that the team played quite well, particularly beginning and late. I think they were very representative and I think Torres was a wonderful selection.

“By summer I think the rest of the boys played quite well and we have to help Rafa try and be more competitive in the chase for the Premiership.”

Liverpool Target David Silva From Valencia

Manager Rafa Benitez is preparing a bid for the winger after losing patience in his pursuit of Espanyol's Albert Riera and Newcastle's James Milner.

Valencia, in a precarious financial position, with reports suggesting they are having to pay out £20 million a month for repayments and interest on their new stadium, had initially placed a £20m price tag on the 22-year-old's head.

However, Benitez is hopeful he will be able to land the player for half the price.

Another ace up Benitez's sleeve is his chief scout Eduardo Macia.

Macia was working at Valencia when Silva broke through the ranks, and has close links to the Spanish international.

Publicly, Valencia insist they do not want to lose one of their most influential players, but privately they are reported to have contacted several clubs throughout Europe to gauge interest in Silva and David Villa

Villa is also on Benitez's wish list, although Liverpool's manager has so far been out off by the £30m price tag.

Rafa To Give Up On Barry For New Targets?

Rafa Benitez may be considering ripping up his plans for the summer after growing exasperated with the 'ludicrous' fees demanded for his original transfer targets.

Both The Daily Mirror and Guardian claim that Benitez has added the name of David Silva to his wish-list despite previous indications that buying the £20m-rated Spanish star would be beyond Liverpool's means. The disclosure that Benitez is interested in signing the Spaniard may signal a dramatic shift in focus or could be an act of brinkmanship from the Spaniard after being repeatedly rebuffed in his attempts to sign Gareth Barry.

Liverpool's latest bid for the midfielder was rejected late last week and if they shelved their interest then Villa would be in an invidious position. Although Barry has confirmed his determination to leave, Liverpool are, as yet, the only club to make an offer for his services. Despite speculation to the contrary, neither Arsenal nor Chelsea have showed any interest in acquiring the Villa captain.

Were Benitez to use the money earmarked for the purchase of Barry in order to pursue Silva then the player may look favourably on a transfer to Anfield. The player is described as being 'close' to Liverpool's chief scout, Eduardo Macia, who coached him through Valencia's youth system, while cash-strapped Valencia could be persuaded to sell for less than £20m.

Benitez's own money problems are easing, with his coffers increased by £4m this week following the sale of John Arne Riise to Roma. Scott Carson, Peter Crouch and Jermaine Pennant are also available for transfer.

Liverpool To Visit Ibrox In Pre-season

Rangers will meet Liverpool in a friendly at Ibrox on August 2, a week before the Scottish Premier League campaign begins, in an echo of last year's pre-season visit by Chelsea.

Rangers' chief executive, Martin Bain, commented: "We are pleased to confirm Liverpool will be heading to Ibrox as part of our pre-season programme in early August.

"Like Rangers, they are a club with a rich history and tradition and I know our fans will enjoy watching players of the calibre of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

We enjoyed a terrific game with Chelsea last pre-season and Liverpool will provide another great test for Walter Smith and his players as they prepare for the new campaign.

"The visit of a side from the north-west of England will also provide Rangers with an opportunity to generate positive publicity in that neck of the woods after their Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester last month was accompanied by unruly and violent scenes in the city centre when crowd control and live screening arrangements broke down.

The staging of the event has been the subject of an investigation by Manchseter City Council, which has also identified a likely total of 180,000 visitors for the game and a benefit to the local economy of £20million.

Merseyside Rivals To Battle For Rising Star

Liverpool and Everton are reported to be competing for the signature of Leicester City's Joe Mattock.

The Daily Express reports that Mattock, 18, will be leaving the midlands club in the near future.

Gareth McAuley just recently left the Foxes, who were relegated to League One this season and have since lost their manager Ian Holloway.

Mattock, 18, is thought to have attracted interest from both Liverpool and Everton, with team-mates Richard Stearman and Pat Kisnorbo also being linked with an exit from Walkers' Stadium.

The youngster has played at under-21 leven for England and is rated as one of the best young defenders outside the Premier League.

Leicester owner Milan Mandaric is thought to be resigned to losing many of his star players as well as promising youngsters, and it could just be a matter of which club entices the youngster more, with rumours that he will be available for less than £1 million, due to the Foxes' relegation.