Saturday, June 21, 2008

Liverpool FC's Gareth Barry And David Silva Boost

Rafael Benitez has received a double boost in his bid to raise transfer funds for Gareth Barry and David Silva.

Juventus have re-iterated their intention to go for Xabi Alonso after initially being frightened off by his asking price.

And George Gillett hinted there might be more money available in the transfer window as he and co-owner Tom Hicks are fixing their feud.

But Benitez must generate more funds on top of the £4m for John Arne Riise from Roma if he is to land his targets.

However, Juve’s renewed confidence that they will sign Alonso could yield another £15m for the kitty.

The Italians have been previously put off by Liverpool’s £16m price tag but although they have yet to make an official bid, they will to seek a compromise by coming up from their £14m valuation.

Juventus general manager Jean-Claude Blanc said: “Xabi Alonso? It’s an operation that we’re taking forward and we’ll compare him to other deals which could be done. We’re following more than three footballers. We’re looking for a very talented midfielder – there’s not many of those around and some of them aren’t available.

“We have to talk first with the club and then with the player. Only one of these deals will be done.”

With possible sales of Peter Crouch and Scott Carson also lined up, Benitez seems certain to have the funds to meet Aston Villa’s valuation of Barry, with Liverpool likely to need to bid £18m.

Attempts to sign Spanish midfielder David SIlva will be more difficult, however, with the £20m needed to tempt him away from Valencia beyond Benitez’s current means.

But Gillett did indicate that there could be room for negotiation with the manager as he seeks the strengthening needed for a shot at the Premier League next season.

Gillett 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. Our hope is that we’re making better progress.

“What did I think of last season’s performance? I’d 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 (Fernando) 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 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,” said Gillett, whose stance was backed up by sources close to Hicks last night.

He added: “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.”

Gillett refused to confirm whether this meant he no longer wanted to sell his half of the club to DIC.

Ian Urges Reds To Rush For Villa

Liverpool legend Ian Rush has voiced the sentiment of millions of Reds fans worldwide by saying that he would love to team see Spain's exhilarating strike-tandem of David Villa and Fernando Torres team up at Anfield next year.

Although the Merseyside outfit have recently denied any interest in the white-hot Valencia striker, Rush is convinced that the 26-year-old would be a great addition, even though he would surely cost the club an arm and a leg.

“There’s obviously the financial side of things, but I’d love to see David Villa at Liverpool along with Fernando Torres,” said Rush.

“They combine very well for Spain, they’ve got a good understanding of each other and in an ideal world you’d love to see Villa partner Torres at Anfield as he does for Spain.”

Villa, who currently leads the Euro 2008 scoring charts, has especially been linked with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea and figures of anywhere up to €40m have been mentioned.

In any case, Rush believes that the Reds will be in need of striking reinforcement if Peter Crouch completes his expected departure from Anfield this summer.

“If he stays then fair enough, he gives Liverpool a different option, but we need someone to help Torres out,” Rush concluded.

Fixture List Is Reason For Liverpool To Be Cheerful

It might not have been a blank cheque from the club’s warring American owners but Rafa Benitez must still have been pleasantly surprised with the gift which arrived on the day he celebrated his fourth anniversary as Liverpool manager this week.

The Reds may have to travel on the opening day of the Premier League season for the fifth successive campaign but there was little else to complain about when the fixture computer produced its annual offering.

A trip to Roy Keane’s Sunderland on Saturday, August 16 followed by a home clash with Middlesbrough undoubtedly gives the Reds a great chance to get off to a flyer.

And a glance at his side's fixtures following Champions League matches and international breaks also made good reading for Benitez, especially when compared to those handed to Manchester United.

England play a meaningless friendly against the Czech Republic at Wembley on Wednesday, August 20 but while the Reds plan to entertain Boro the following Saturday, Alex Ferguson must take his side to face FA Cup holders Portsmouth.

In early September the domestic season is interrupted for a fortnight as England begin their World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia.

When it resumes on September 13 - just three days after England have played in Zagreb - the Reds take on United at Anfield in the first battle of the campaign between the 'Big Four'.

As long as the Reds have safely negotiated their way past the qualifying round in August, attention will then turn to the first round of matches in the group stage of the Champions League.

But while United complete a gruelling seven days after their opening European match with a crunch trip to Chelsea, the Reds have the seemingly more straightforward task of entertaining new boys Stoke City.

The Reds' matches following the other five rounds in the Champions League group stage would be Manchester City (away), Chelsea (away), West Brom (home), West Ham (home) and Hull (home).

In contrast United are on their travels after every round of the Champions League with further away days at Blackburn, Everton, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.

Post European fatigue could just be a telling factor.

On top of that, United's matches against Fulham on August 30 and Wigan on December 20 will need to be re-arranged due to their commitments in the European Super Cup and World Club Championship.

Ferguson, who received the news of the fixtures at his holiday home in the south of France this week, will undoubtedly be deeply unimpressed with his side's schedule.

Benitez has frequently complained about the short time he gets to work with his players after internationals but the Reds are also winners when it comes to Premier League matches following international breaks early next season.

After England's double-header with Kazakhstan and Belarus in October, the Reds resume domestic duty at home to Wigan the following Saturday and United entertain West Brom.

Similarly, after the friendly against Germany in Berlin on November 19, the Reds host Fulham, while United hit the road for a tricky trip to Aston Villa.

Chelsea and Arsenal also have three away games straight after international fixtures.

Benitez's only concern now will be the number of times Sky ask his players to kick off at lunchtime.

It happened nine times in the Premier League last season and was a source of great frustration for the Anfield boss.

However, even that logistical problem should be eased by the fact that so often after European and international games, the Reds will benefit from home advantage this time around.

Of course, it will all count for little if Liverpool toss away points at Anfield as carelessly as they did last season.

But for a manager who prides himself on the small details, Benitez will know that lady luck has smiled on his side ahead of the 2008-09 campaign.

Juventus Still Keen On Xabi Alonso

JUVENTUS general manager Jean-Claude Blanc is still confident of signing Xabi Alonso - despite the Spanish midfielder insisting yesterday he is planning for life at Anfield next season.

Liverpool have been holding out for a transfer fee of 20m euros (£15.75m) for the playmaker, and with Juve struggling to come up with the cash Alonso admitted he was in the dark about his future.

But Blanc still believes Alonso will be at the Stadio Olimpico next season, but claims the Bianconeri also have their eye on other midfielders.

"We're following more than three footballers," Blanc told Sky Italia. "And we'll see if what you read in the papers comes true or the other names we're working on.

"Xabi Alonso? It's an operation that we're taking forward and we'll compare him to other deals which could be done.

"We're looking for a very talented midfielder - there's not many of those around and some of them aren't available. We have to talk first with the club and then with the player.

"Only one of these deals will be done."

Liverpool, meanwhile, will kick-off their pre-season programme with a friendly against cross-river neighbours Tranmere just a week after returning to pre-season training.

A Reds squad will travel to Prenton Park on July 12, 2008 - the first time Liverpool have faced Rovers since the sides met at Prenton Park in an FA Cup quarter-final in 2001.

The last friendly between Liverpool and Tranmere took place in July 1993.

Tranmere boss Ronnie Moore said: "This is a mouth-watering opportunity for our players to test themselves against some world class opposition who have played at the very top level.

"It's a game I know both sets of supporters will look forward to and I'm sure there will be a bumper crowd.

“There are plenty of Tranmere fans who will want to see their team take on some of the best players in the world and Wirral-based Liverpool fans who have the opportunity to see their team in action playing a local club.

"Hopefully it will be a game everybody will enjoy.It should be a fantastic occasion and it is a great way to start our pre-season campaign.

"Rafa has done a fantastic job at Liverpool and has proved he's one of the top managers in the world. It will be a pleasure to put my side up against his.

"It's earlier than usual for us to be playing a friendly at home but we wanted to fit in with Liverpool's schedule."

Liverpool's confirmed pre-season programme so far is now as follows: July 12: v Tranmere Rovers (Prenton Park), July 16: v FC Lucerne (Grenchen), July 19: v Wisla Krakow (Friborg), July 22: v Hertha Berlin (Berlin), July 30: v Villarreal (Villarreal), Aug 2: v Rangers (Glasgow).

Thompson Hails Lee's Reds Move

Liverpool legend Phil Thompson believes bringing Sammy Lee back into the coaching set-up at Anfield could prove the club's best summer signing.

After playing in the same Liverpool teams as Thompson from the late 70s into the 80s, Lee later replaced his former captain as reserve team boss in 1993.

When Thompson returned to the club alongside Gerard Houllier five years later, Lee moved up to become first team coach before leaving Anfield following the arrival of Rafa Benitez in 2004.

"I don't care who comes in on the playing side, I'm not so sure anyone will better Sammy coming back to Liverpool," Thompson told LFC Magazine. "There's so much to be gained by him coming back. For me, he could be the best signing of the summer.

"I am delighted Sammy is back. In fact I never wanted him to leave in the first place. When I departed my position as assistant manager I expressed my belief that Sammy should have taken the role alongside Rafa.

"But Rafa wanted to bring in his own people, which I fully understand. I just thought it would have been a step in the right direction to appoint Sammy. It didn't happen and he moved on."

Parry Days Numbered As Hicks And Gillett Get Back In Bed

Tom Hicks and George Gillett are slowly making friends in what could not only be a worrying sign for DIC, Liverpool fans worldwide and most of all Rick Parry.

Rick Parry was asked to resign earlier this year by Tom Hicks but George Gillett’s casting vote gave the man a stay of execution.

George Gillett was adamant that he would not be selling his stake to Tom Hicks who wants to take full control of the football club after revealing that ‘most fans don’t want me to do it’.

However speaking to a Canadian radio station, Gillett admitted the relationship was warming, slowly:

“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.

“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.”