Monday, June 23, 2008

Harry Confirms Yossi Interest

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp has confirmed his interest in Liverpool's Israel international midfielder Yossi Benayoun.

Benayoun is reportedly frustrated at a lack of opportunities at Anfield, triggering a host of interest from Premier League rivals.

Manchester City's new boss Mark Hughes has been linked with the 28-year-old, but Pompey have now joined the queue for his signature.

Redknapp believes the former Racing Santander man would be a quality addition to his squad, although he is unsure of his availability.

"Of course I'd like to have someone like Yossi Benayoun," he told Portsmouth's The News.

"He's a top player. I don't know what the chances are of getting him out of Liverpool."

The former West Ham manager is also keen on Peter Crouch but thinks he cannot match the Reds' valuation of the England international.

"It's known I like Crouchie, too. But I think Liverpool want a bit too much money for him," he continued.

"If that's the case then we'll move on to the next option."

Barnes Battles For Post As Boss

During Paul Ince's rise to the rarefied heights of the Premier League, John Barnes has been struggling to even get recognition in the foothills of the game.

Ince became the top flight's first black English manager when he was appointed as Mark Hughes' successor at Blackburn on Sunday.

Barnes, on the other hand, has been applying for vacancies in the lower leagues without success.

It is a situation that has left England's finest black player perplexed, frustrated and angry.

"I've applied for numerous jobs and sometimes I haven't even had the courtesy of a reply to my application letter," Barnes told BBC Sport.

"Perhaps I could understand it if I was applying for jobs at the top level but these were clubs in League One."

Barnes, whose playing career included spells at Watford and Liverpool, did get a big break when he was appointed head coach of Celtic in 1999 in tandem with director of football Kenny Dalglish.

He was sacked eight months into his troubled tenure, the final straw being the now infamous 3-1 defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup.

The former England winger admits he made mistakes in at Celtic but not enough to consign him to the managerial scrapheap forever.

"There aren't many managers who have never made mistakes, especially early on in their careers," said Barnes.

"You learn from your mistakes and come back stronger and better from them. There are also plenty of managers who keep failing but continue to get employed.

"I'm passionate about football and management and am willing to make my way up from the bottom but I'm not getting any opportunities."

While the 44-year-old is delighted by Ince's appointment, he is sceptical about whether it will herald a new dawn for black bosses.

His experiences, as well of those of other aspiring black managers like Luther Blissett, have persuaded him that there is not equality of opportunity.

"I believe the situation for black managers is like it was for black players back in the 1970s," he stated.

"Black players used to be put out on the wing because it was deemed they could run fast but not think too well.

"They weren't trusted to be a playmaker in central midfield or to wear the captain's armband.

Now I think there is an analogous situation in management. Chairmen don't believe we can do the top managerial jobs.

"I look at someone like Luther Blissett, who is a former England international and has played abroad at the top level.

"He has been applying for manager's jobs in the Football League for 15 years and not got anywhere. This is all about opportunities."

Although Ince's appointment has been heralded as a major breakthrough for black managers, there is still a dearth of coaches of non-white bosses in the game.

Keith Alexander, who succeeded Ince at Macclesfield, is the only other black manager in the Football League.

Even more startling is the statistic, provided by Warwick Business School, that there are only seven other black coaches of any capacity in the league.

This constitutes only about 1% of the total number of coaches.

Perhaps drawing on his own experiences at Celtic, Barnes says it is unfair to hold Ince up as a pioneer for all black managers.

He said: "If he doesn't succeed, does that count against all black managers? I don't think so, just as if he does succeed it doesn't mean all black managers are good."

Barnes, who is currently working as a television pundit and a part-time scout for Sunderland, says he has the utmost respect for what Ince has achieved.

"He has done things the hard way, proving himself with Macclesfield and MK Dons," commented Barnes. "While Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate were given chances at the top, he went to the bottom club in the league.

"I really hope he can succeed at Blackburn."

Liverpool FC Owners' £100m Credit Crunch

Liverpool’s American owners are facing a major credit crunch backlash over stalled plans to build a new stadium for the Reds.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett may need to put in as much as £100m of their own money if they want to borrow a further £200m.

And that casts massive doubt over their ability to go ahead with the ambition of building the 70,000 seat-plus super stadium, designed by Dallas based architects HKS and rolled out amid a fanfare of publicity last year.

Given the global credit crunch, banks are no longer prepared to allow 100 per cent borrowings and are currently asking for at least one third of the amount needed for major projects to be put up front by would-be borrowers.

Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool for £220m in February last year – most of it with borrowed cash – and have since refinanced their original loans with a further £350m loan deal, which leaves the club responsible for annual interest payments of around £30m a year.

The Americans, who have become estranged and embittered over recent months, are now on speaking terms again following Gillett’s admission on Friday that they needed to set aside their communications differences for the sake of the club.

But the worldwide clampdown on lending means they would still face huge problems raising the deposit now needed for what is effectively a mortgage to build a new Anfield.

The Dubaian government, headed by Sheik Mohammed al Rashid bin Maktoum, remain keen to buy out the Americans. And, as a sovereign wealth fund, it is claimed that unlike the Americans would to some degree be protected from the interest rates and pressures exerted by banks over private investors.

Reports that the Reds are considering a £15m swoop for Hamburg winger Rafael van der Vaart, meanwhile, are wide of the mark.

Completing Gareth Barry’s transfer from Aston Villa remains Rafa Benitez’s priority, with any future purchases dependent on the sales of Xabi Alonso and Peter Crouch.

Juventus are still short of Liverpool’s valuation of their £16m rated Spanish playmaker, while there has been no contact from Portsmouth – formal or informal – regarding Crouch.

Juve Set To Make Bid For Alonso

Juventus are set to make their first official move for Xabi Alonso this week after the player hinted he fancied a move to Italy.

And Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hopeful that his £16million valuation will be matched as he continues his quest to maximise his assets to build more transfer funds.

Juve have confirmed their pursuit of the midfielder but have been pondering over their move in light of interest in at least two other players in the same position.

But they have been alerted by Alonso speaking of his “fascination” with Italian football over the weekend and will look to prise him away form Anfield this week, although he is still involved in Euro 2008.

“I have little to say about Juve because at the moment I am very focused on Euro 2008 and on Spain,” said Alonso before his side reached then semi-finals with victory over Italy last night.

“I don’t have any news on my future, at this time my future is only the Euros.

“We’ll see what will happen with Juve. It’s difficult to say today. I spent four fantastic years at Liverpool, but I have to admit that I have always been fascinated by Italian football.

Moore: Benitez Is One Of The Best

Tranmere boss Ronnie Moore has hailed Rafael Benitez as one of the game's managerial greats ahead of the pre-season friendly against Liverpool.

The Reds will cross the River Mersey on Saturday July 12 for a 3pm kick-off which will guarantee a bumper crowd at Prenton Park.

Moore admits he is looking forward to pitting his wits against Benitez, who guided Liverpool to Champions League and FA Cup glory during his first two years in charge at Anfield.

Moore said: "Rafa has done a fantastic job at Liverpool and has proved he is one of the top managers in the world.

"Not many managers have won the Champions League and 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 ahead of their trip to Switzerland."

David Platt Urges Gareth Barry To Join Liverpool FC

Former Aston Villa skipper David Platt has stood by his belief that Gareth Barry should quit the midlands club and move to Liverpool.

Villa boss Martin O’Neill described Platt’s comments as "worthless" when he originally made his stance on Barry known when working as a Sky Sports pundit last month.

But the ex-England midfielder is unbowed and believes Barry has to leave - in the same way Michael Carrick left Tottenham to move to Manchester United two years ago.

Platt said: "Michael Carrick needed to leave and join a big club because it puts bigger demands on you and it is the same with Gareth Barry.

"It’s not necessarily the people within the club but just the level you are playing at and what you are playing for.

"I’ve always said that Michael Carrick was like a Rolls Royce. He needed to put his foot down and have to run to show what it could do - and I’d say the same with Gareth.

"At the moment he can walk into the Aston Villa team. He is guaranteed a place.

"At Liverpool there will be a massive amount of pressure next year. There will be more demands of him at Liverpool than there would be at Villa and he needs to go to reach that level."

Platt, who worked with Barry during his stint as England Under-21 coach, added: "People can get disgruntled about things but it’s just my opinion.

"Martin O’Neill knows more about the Gareth Barry situation than me.

"I’ve got nothing against Martin. He has done exceptionally well and he’s just had a good season with Villa."

Villa have already rejected three bids from Liverpool for Barry whom is rated in the £18 to £20 million bracket by O’Neill although he would prefer the 27-year-old to stay at Villa and sign a new contract.

Xabi Alonso Fuels Speculation Of Move To Italy

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has spoken of his “fascination” with Italian football as speculation over his mooted transfer to Juventus continues apace.

The Liverpool playmaker is part of the Spain squad preparing to face Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 on Sunday, a match during which Alonso could come face to face with a number of future team-mates at the Bianconeri.

But the 26-year-old couched his enthusiasm for the Italian game by insisting that his transfer from Anfield is still far from a done deal with his focus still solely on Spain’s European campaign.

“I am very calm,” Alonso told Sky Italia.

“I have little to say about Juve because at the moment I am very focused on Euro 2008 and on Spain.

“I don’t have any news on my future, at this time my future is only the Euros.

“We’ll see what will happen with Juve. It’s difficult to say today. I spent four fantastic years at Liverpool, but I have to admit that I have always been fascinated by Italian football.

“However, it’s too soon to talk about the future. In short: we’ll see.”

He added: “Juve are one of the biggest teams in Europe, perhaps the biggest in Italy. They have very many fans not only in Italy but all over the world.

“They have champions of the quality of Buffon, Nedved, and Del Piero who together have achieved great success.

“They’re a team who want to get back to winning the Scudetto and who also want to compete in the Champions League. In short: a great club.”

Harry In No Hurry To Decide Future

Harry Kewell has been linked with a move to Italian giants Roma - but insists he is "in no rush" to decide his future after leaving Liverpool.

The Australian winger is looking for a new club after seeing out his contract at Anfield.

Kewell has been linked with a possible move to Roma, who have already signed his former Reds team-mate John Arne Riise.

The former Leeds man, who featured for Australia in their 1-0 defeat to China on Sunday, says he is in no rush to decide his future

"I'm on holiday for a week or so and then I'll decide my future," Kewell told Fox Sports. "But for now I'm just going to relax.

"In this day and age, clubs take their time. There's a long way to go and a big process to go through, so I'm in no rush."

When asked specifically about Roma, Kewell replied: "It's a beautiful city. I've been there once when I was younger."

Roma’s Riise Sets New Targets, Thanks Liverpool

Norway full-back John Arne Riise has disclosed that he moved to Roma from Liverpool for a “new experience” and also revealed that he is looking forward to playing alongside ‘idol’ Francesco Totti.

The 27-year-old left-back/left-winger joined the Serie A outfit in a reported £4m deal after spending seven years at Anfield.

With Roma having finished runners-up to Inter last season in the Italian league, Riise is keen that Luciano Spalletti’s side finish top of the tree in the next season.

"We start from second place, and in sport you always work for improvement,” Riisie told Tuttosport. “We must make another step forward.

“For sure the city is beautiful, it is hot and the climate is lovely. Indeed at 9am you are already gasping for air.

“I came here to work hard. Roma are a great club. I needed a new experience, to learn another language, and a new culture. I wanted to make a life-change and for this my thanks go to my friends at Liverpool, to my agent, and to Luciano Spalletti.

“I am curious to get to know Totti, a great, an idol and I believe that with him it will be fun.”

Hughes Eyeing Liverpool And Inter Midfielders

New Manchester City boss Mark Hughes is facing a busy summer in the transfer market with Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun and Inter’s Dejan Stankovic reportedly at the top of his shopping list.

Hughes, who took over from Sven Goran Eriksson, at the club recently is keen to rebuild the side as he looks to improve on last season’s ninth place Premier League finish.

The Welshman is reportedly interested in signing Liverpool’s Benayoun who has failed to hold down a regular place in the starting line up since his transfer from West Ham.

Benayoun, 28, cost the Reds £5 million last summer but made only 15 league starts for Liverpool last season and is considered to be surplus to requirements at Anfield as manager Rafael Benitez seeks to raise funds for his own summer spending spree.

Liverpool are believed to want a fee of around £6 million for their Israeli frontman, although Hughes may face competition from Portsmouth who are also reportedly interested in signing Benayoun.

Dejan Stankovic, meanwhile, is another player attracting Hughes’s interest. The Serbian has been at Inter since 2004, however he has reportedly been told by new manager Jose Mourinho that he can leave the club.

The midfielder is likely to cost somewhere in the region of £8 million but would bring some grit and a wealth of experience with him should he make the move to Manchester.

He has forged a successful career in Italy, playing for Lazio and Inter and collecting four Scudetto titles and a Cup Winners Cup medal along the way. Stankovic is also the captain of his country, Serbia, and has 73 international caps to his name.

Rush Tips Babel To Excel

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes has tipped winger Ryan Babel to be key in Liverpool’s Premiership title challenge next season.

Babel is eager to get back into Premiership action with a bang after recovering from an ankle injury that ruled him out of Euro 2008.

And Kop idol Rush feels that the 21-year old Dutch starlet could have made a major impact for Holland in the European Championships if the ankle ligament damage had not struck.

The former Wales international is certain that Babel will hit back with a bang next season into action once he recovers from his injury and also stated that Babel would be a big threat to any top-flight defence next season.

"I think Babel will get better and better. It's a shame he's missing the championships because the experience would have done him a world of good,” Rush told Reuters.

"I think we'll be looking for him to get more involved next season and play more games. When he runs at defences he's direct and he's a menace. He's big and strong and we'll see progress from Babel if he's back fully fit.

"He's had a year now in the top league in the world and he knows what it's all about, so hopefully he'll keep getting better."

Babel played in 30 Premiership games during his debut season at Anfield, starting 15 and scoring 5 goals.

Johnson Hails AFC Liverpool

David Johnson has hailed the formation of AFC Liverpool and believes the club could prove to be the modern day alternative to the 'boy's pen.'

The former Reds striker feels the new non-league outfit - who will be playing at Prescot Cables' Valerie Park Ground next season in the Vodkat League - will give supporters with children more chance to afford tickets and, most importantly, provide them with an opportunity to learn the 'Liverpool way.'

"I think it is a great idea," he said on LFC TV's This is Anfield show.

"To have an intermediary where Dads can take their lads, and it is to do with Liverpool Football Club and backed by the club is great.

"Too many times, football has moved on where Dads can no longer afford to take the kids, and in my day that was a massive part of learning the Liverpool Way and learning the songs.

"If Dads can go along with kids and can use it as the Boys Pen and learn the Liverpool Way - well thats good for me.

"I am looking to see where I can get a ticket."

AFC Liverpool Chair Alun Parry was delighted to have the support of a Reds legend.

He said: "We are proud to have David Johnson's support and delighted that he wants a ticket to come and watch us.

"We'd like to advise David that our first ever game is vs St Helens on Wed 16 July.

"It's an all ticket match, and tickets are being sold at News From Nowhere Bookstore, Bold Street, Liverpool.

"We're looking forward to seeing him at the game where he will receive the kind of reception that Liverpool legends can expect from staunch Reds like ourselves."