Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rafa Rubbishes Money Reports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has described reports he has demanded a £50million transfer kitty as 'total rubbish'.

Reports on Tuesday suggested Benitez was demanding a £50million war chest to enable him to sign David Villa, David Silva, Gareth Barry and Daniel Alves.

Benitez has brushed off the speculation, outlining the fact that Sevilla star Alves has already agreed a deal to join Barcelona to prove the reports have no substance.

"The stories are ridiculous. Total rubbish," Benitez told the Liverpool Echo.

"They have me trying to sign Daniel Alves, who already has an agreement with Barcelona, so how could I be trying to sign him?

"I am working hard with (chief executive) Rick Parry, who is in regular contact with the Americans, and there are no problems.

"The reports are just unbelievable."

Liverpool Boardroom Drama Could Be Over - Grobbelaar

Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar believes the club may have seen the last of the boardroom unrest at the club following a season full of turmoil.

The season just passed was far from memorable for Liverpool, as new co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett had an ongoing feud, there was an ownership struggle, an attempt to sack chief executive Rick Parry, talks held with J├╝rgen Klinsmann before he had secured the Bayern Munich job, and of course another forgettable season on all fronts, barring a Champions League run to the semi-finals following a poor start that only just saw them get through the groups.

Grobbelaar, who enjoyed 14 years at the club despite being convicted of match-fixing, is optimistic that the worst has passed and that the owners will now start working to bring the fans what they want.

The ex-goalkeeper told Setanta Sports News: “Who knows, if they are talking together and they can give the Liverpool fans what they need – the stadium and some good players for Rafa Benitez – then hopefully we can forget about the wranglings off the pitch and do the business on the pitch and knock on the door for the championship."

Grobbelaar is also hopeful that Liverpool can sign David Villa from Valencia, as he is Fernando Torres' strike partner at international level and has now caught everyone's eye following a hat-trick against Russia in Spain's opening game of Euro 2008 and a last-minute winner against Sweden.

“Yes, I’d like to see David Villa coming to Anfield,” declared Grobbelaar. “We know Rafa wanted David Villa two years ago so hopefully we can get the negotiations done as quickly as possible.

“He’s voiced his opinion already that he doesn’t want to go to London to Chelsea and he might find it better to come up to Liverpool with all his Spanish mates: Scouse Spanish!”

Voronin Vows To Repay Faith

Andrei Voronin is determined to show Liverpool supporters his true ability next season after a mixed first campaign at Anfield.

The Ukraine international arrived on Merseyside last summer on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen and initially impressed for Rafa Benitez's side.

However, the second half of the season saw injuries and a difficultly in adapting to new surroundings restrict Voronin's role in Benitez's first XI.

He is confident, though, that with another pre-season behind him he will be more acclimatised to English football and is gearing up for a successful showing next term.

"I think I started not bad," he told LFC magazine.

"I played a lot at the beginning and scored a few goals.

"Obviously the injury was a setback. There are a lot of good players here. It's competitive, so it's difficult to get straight back into the team after an injury.

"I'll do my best next season and hopefully I can help the team. I think I still have a lot to show the fans.

"When I first arrived here I didn't find it easy because I'd lived in Germany for 12 years.

"I didn't know the language but I'm gradually getting there. My wife had a baby here and, thank God, everything was okay. So I am getting more and more used to life here everyday.

"We are feeling much better than six or seven months ago. We like it here and don't have any problems with life in England or the town - except for the weather!"

Liverpool To Make Move For Fulham Keeper Antti Niemi

Liverpool want Fulham's veteran keeper Antti Niemi.

Anfield boss Rafa Benitez is after an experienced stopper to provide back-up to No.1 Pepe Reina.

And Finnish ace Niemi, 36, is keen as he is surplus to requirements at Craven Cottage and is big mates with compatriot Sami Hyypia.

Birmingham's Maik Taylor,36, was Benitez's original target but he is due to pen a new two-year deal at St Andrews on Wednesday.

And Niemi, who can leave Fulham for around £350,000, is set for talks with Liverpool next week when he returns from holiday but West Ham are also interested.

Strategic Transfer Sales Come At A Price

The phoney war is nearly over, and the real business is about to start.

The vast majority of the transfer rumours which are the staple diet of the press and gossip websites can be dismissed as just that: rumours.

But now, as Euro 2008 and the latest round of South American World Cup qualifiers draw to a close, and the transfer window creaks open, the more fanciful stories will fall away and be replaced by more concrete tales of how the latest unknown imports from darkest Africa and former Soviet republics have always been diehard supporters of their new club, and that their dream has come true with the donning of the red/blue/white shirt - provided it is stuffed with bundles of used tenners.

The prospective comings and goings at Anfield have filled many a column inch in recent weeks, with the size of Rafa's transfer budget the cause of much speculation.

The credit crunch has forced Rafa to sell to spend; or the new-found rapport between our co-owners has released additional funds to challenge for the top. Take your pick.

The reality is likely to be that Rafa will have a significant budget, courtesy of the refinanced loan negotiated in January, and that he will try to swell the coffers with a few strategic sales.

The thing that's worrying the Kops at present is that the strategic sales are beginning to look like a fire sale of our best gear, rather than a clear-out of end-of-lines. Crouch, Alonso and now Benayoun are being touted as likely departees, along with young talents like Jack Hobbs and Emiliano Insua, whereas most fans would prefer the discussion to be centring on the likes of Itandje, Pennant and Voronin.

The problem of course is that these three are worth about tuppence-ha'penny, while Liverpool will need big bucks to attract the star names to bolster its wings.

One national paper yesterday linked Liverpool with Villa, Silva and Daniel Alves, which is nice, but the Merseyside club probably have to throw in the Centenary Stand and the Kop chippy to afford that lot.

The arrivals of Degen on a free transfer and Dossena from Udinese have not exactly set the pulse racing, the fear being that these will be the latest in a line of average full-backs to arrive like Arbeloa and Aurelio, or the downright hopeless like Josemi.

It looks like Liverpool will get Gareth Barry once Martin O'Neill calms down, with Alonso sacrificed to appease the financial gods.

Most of Liverpool fans would be sorry to see him go, but in return is a left-sided player and a few more goals as well from the bargain; although anyone watching Xabi play in a more advanced role for Spain against Greece last week will have been wondering why he isn't encouraged to play this way for Liverpool more often.

As for Crouchy, well the big guy is clearly unhappy with his lot, and his contract's up next year, so I suppose that spells exit.

Perhaps Rafa plans to move Babel forward next year to make up his complement of strikers, preparing the way for a mega-signing on the left-wing. David Silva perhaps?

Arbeloa: I’d Love Ronaldo Leave Man Utd

Alvaro Arbeloa has echoed the thoughts of all Premier League defenders – by admitting he hopes Cristiano Ronaldo joins his former club Real Madrid.

The Liverpool defender, who began his career at the Bernabeu, was on the receiving end of the Manchester United winger’s brilliance last season, when he scored 42 goals as they clinched a Premier League and Champions League double.

And Ronaldo’s departure would be a blessing for many Premier League defenders, according to the Spain international, who is currently away with his country for Euro 2008.

“If he leaves, Manchester United would lose the best player in the world,” said Arbeloa. “I would be delighted if Ronaldo leaves and more so if it is to my former team.”

“Let’s hope Real Madrid make an effort. For me it would be fantastic. I would thank them.”

Ronaldo is a target for the Spanish giants, although several weeks of claim and counter-claim have failed to result in a deal.

United insist the Portugal international is not for sale while Madrid are waiting for the player to announce his future plans.

But the disruption the saga is causing to United’s preparations for next season can only be of encouragement to their top four rivals.

In terms of Liverpool’s own prospected transfer window business, Newcastle United seem set to take steps to ensure James Milner stays at the club.

Rafael Benitez was prepared to go to £7m including Danny Guthrie for the 22-year-old winger but with sources in the north east claiming £9m is closer to United’s valuation, the Liverpool manager’s interest has cooled considerably.

With Benitez still intending to raise the cash to secure Gareth Barry’s transfer from Aston Villa and possibly David Silva from Valencia, he won’t break his policy of refusing to pay above the odds for a player with no significant Champions League or international experience.

In terms of netting extra transfer funds, he is also holding out for the right price for Peter Crouch, as Portsmouth consider following up their rejected £9m bid with the £10m that is closer to Liverpool’s asking price.

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp said: “I'd love to bring Crouchie back here.

“We are trying to do deals to bring in players and Peter Storrie is working on trying to get things done.

“But the fee seems a bit too high, and at the end of the day it comes down to the price.

“It seems like things are getting a bit too expensive.

“Crouchie is a player who is on our list, but if nothing can be done then we will just move on to the next player.”