Saturday, June 28, 2008

Garcia: Torres & Liverpool A Match Made In Heaven

Former Liverpool favourite Luis Garcia has spoken of the special bond his compatriot Fernando Torres has quickly formed with the club's fans, and hailed the Torres-Liverpool partnership as one based on mutual understanding and passion.

Luis Garcia left Anfield for Atletic Madrid last summer, as his countryman Fernando Torres made the opposite move. Garcia was a much-loved performer among the Liverpool fans, and sad to leave both the club and Merseyside. But he is enthusuastic about the immediate impact Torres made at Anfield.

Garcia reckons Torres has the 'Scouse spirit,' which has made him an instant hit at his old club. And he has revealed that he did not need to persuade El Nino - currently preparing for his first European Championship final with Spain - to join Liverpool last summer.

"I didn't have to sell anything to him because I didn't need to," Garcia told the club's LFC Magazine in 'The Torres Story.'

"Liverpool is one of the best cities I have ever been to with some of the most passionate people. Fernando already knew about this spirit and soul beforehand and I think that was one of the main reasons why he signed for Liverpool.

"Fernando understands that if you have something in common with the people you are playing for, it can only be to the benefit of the team.

"I have spoken to him quite a lot since the start of last season. Whenever I call him I always start the talk in English.

"I say things like 'How are you,' then he will respond in English. The first time he did it, it surprised me, because he had only just moved.

"But Fernando is a quick learner, so really, I shouldn't be surprised.

"Fernando has the spirit of a scouser, so one day maybe he'll start talking like you lot!"

Garcia added that he was not surprised that Torres hit 33 goals in his first Premier League campaign, and reckons the striker's pace was a key factor in his success.

"The game is more about the counter-attack and the ball moves from one end of the pitch to the other very quickly," he said. "This is perfectly suited for Fernando because he is quick and can speed things up at the attacking end of the field.

"Stevie [Gerrard] and Fernando are working well together because Fernando has the pace to read Stevie's passes. Equally, Stevie knows that if he tries to make a through ball Fernando will have the speed to run on to it and create a chance."

Crouch Still In Limbo

Peter Crouch's future is no closer to being sorted as the will-he-or-won't-he transfer saga surrounding Arsenal scoring ace Emmanuel Adebayor is reportedly having a direct impact on the destiny of the towering Liverpool forward.

Arsenal emerged as surprise candidates for Crouch earlier this week, but even if the reports of their interest in the England striker prove true, they would only act on it if they needed a fill a void left by Adebayor.

Yesterday was a day of extremely mixed messages from the Adebayor camp, as within hours of announcing at a press conference that he fully intends to see out the remaining three years of his contract with Arsenal, the Togo striker admitted that a move to Milan or Barcelona is still a distinct possibility.

All this leaves both Crouch and Liverpool in an awkward position, as they risk turning Portsmouth off completely while waiting in limbo to see what develops at the Emirates.

Pompey's £9m offer for the 27-year-old still stands, but there is a very real possibility that Harry Redknapp will take his money elsewhere as Crouch is far from the only striker linked to the ascendant Fratton Park side.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, in the meanwhile, finds himself stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, as Arsenal would almost certainly be willing and able to come closer to meeting his £15m valuation of Crouch. However, with each passing day that he waits and hopes, Rafa is inevitably losing grip on transfer targets of his own.

Arsenal To Pull Out Of Crouch Race If Adebayor Stays

Liverpool have suffered another blow in their attempts to raise transfer funds with the sale of Peter Crouch.

Arsenal had emerged as one of the forward’s suitors earlier in the week but the possibility of Emmanuel Adebayor staying at the club has put that interest in jeopardy.

The Togo forward sent out mixed messages yesterday, first declaring he was staying at the Emirates only to later say that he had yet to decide on his future, with AC Milan leading the race for his signature.

Adebayor’s departure would leave manager Arsene Wenger in the hunt for striking reinforcements and would have the means to get closer to Liverpool’s £15million valuation than any of the other clubs interested in Crouch.

That number has diminished further with the news that Newcastle United won’t be pursuing him, while Portsmouth are still considering whether to improve on the £9m offer Liverpool have already turned down.

Adebayor’s agent Vincenzo Morabito said earlier this week: “Milan have already stated their position, while Arsenal have started moving in the market in the hunt for an attacker to replace Adebayor.

"Until that search ends the deal won’t move forward but I am quite optimistic because Arsenal are looking for a player. They’re talking about (Mario) Gomez, (Roque) Santa Cruz, and (Peter) Crouch.

“I’d say there’s a 70 to 80% chance Adebayor will go to Milan.”

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had insisted he would be happy to keep Crouch, but the player was unwilling to endure another season of cameo appearances.

But Benitez is now keen to get the best possible price for the 27-year-old in order to complete the transfer of Gather Barry from Aston Villa and have spare cash for other targets.

Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing is not expected to be one of those despite constant speculation linking him with a move.

And Benitez is, as expected, also set to abandon his interest in James Milner as Newcastle, who have already dismissed Liverpool’s £7m valuation, are now insisting he won’t be sold.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are likely to host Lazio in their first home pre-season friendly for five years.

Fernando Torres’s former club Atletico Madrid had originally been pencilled in for the date of Friday, August 8, but the two clubs could not reach agreement.

Galatasaray's Move For Itandje Leaves Liverpool's Carson In Limbo

Galatasaray have made a £2million move for Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje — scuppering Scott Carson's chances of a permanent exit from Anfield in the process.

Former French Under-21 international Itandje, who joined Liverpool from Lens last summer, has agreed a three-year contract with the Turkish champions.

Itandje, 25, made only seven appearances last season — none of them in the Premier League — as cover for Pepe Reina but Liverpool now need to bring in a replacement.

Veteran Bordeaux goalkeeper Ulrich Rame, 35, has been mentioned but otherwise Rafa Benitez wants to keep hold of Carson.

Despite interest from Middlesbrough and Stoke to take him on loan, Benitez has made it clear that he will only let Carson leave on a permanent deal — valuing the England international at £6m.

That has prompted Stoke to offer £1m for Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop instead. Roy Keane will reluctantly sell the 25-year-old but wants double that amount. He turned down a £500,000 offer from Leicester last season.

Grant Leadbitter meanwhile has signed a new three-year dealt at the Stadium of Light. The 22-year-old is now Sunderland’s longest serving player and Keane said: ‘He’s got quality and he’s enthusiastic, he’s a good character. He’s developing and maturing well.’

Rafa Must Raise His Game In Market

TEAMtalk's Graham Shaw feels Rafael Benitez needs to show more ambition in the transfer market if Liverpool are to be serious title contenders.

Eighteen years, and the wait goes on. The title drought on Merseyside shows no sign of ending just yet.

We're already hearing the annual 'this is our year' proclamations from Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and co.

But surely even those two must be scratching their heads when they read who Rafa Benitez is reportedly out to buy this summer.

Gareth Barry and James Milner appear to be high on the shopping list, with Stewart Downing also mentioned.

But the eight-figure sums mentioned in some quarters must have knowledgeable Koppites coughing up cornflakes all over their red tops around the breakfast table. More 'ow' factor than 'wow'.

Liverpool did make strides last season in terms of closing the gap on Manchester United and Chelsea, but for one reason only. They bought big.

The acquisition of Fernando Torres used up a hefty portion of Benitez's kitty in the summer of 2007, but it was worth every penny.

El Nino lit up the Premier League with some phenomenal goalscoring displays, and made Liverpool a real threat to most teams. Without him though they looked pretty average.

Benitez already has a sizeable squad to work with, so I'd humbly submit that he should be looking for quality and not quantity this summer.

If Barry is really a massively better option than Xabi Alonso I'd be very surprised - he's top-six, not Champions League for me. Good not great, lacking the pace and ability for the very highest level.

And with Javier Mascherano already in the Anfield engine room, shouldn't they be looking for something just a little different?

Milner and Downing, meanwhile, are hardly likely to terrorise opposing defences and set pulses racing on Merseyside (are they really better than Ryan Babel?). Personally I'd prefer the chances of Yossi Benayoun (who looks surplus to requirements) winning a game with a moment of magic.

When Liverpool were in their pomp they bought the best, only going for players who could improve them. That's why the likes of Dalglish, Souness, Barnes and Beardsley ended up in a red shirt.

Our man Rafa, though, appears to spend most of his time snapping up players who MIGHT be the next big thing. A bit like getting a cheap telly without a big brand name in the hope that it's quite good. Except you generally end up ditching it and upgrading because the picture's not great.

As long as Torres can stay fit Liverpool might well be only one player short of being genuine title contenders. Just not the ones they're currently being linked with.

Liverpool's form late last season was top-class. And for a fair part of the season they matched the top three. Their one big failing - they couldn't beat Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. To do that you need quality throughout the team.

Barry, Milner and Downing might not even be definite starters next season if they do end up moving to Merseyside. Squad players aren't what Benitez needs - he can only play 11 after all.

The message is simple: buy the best or fail the test. Rafa, you have been warned.

Anderson Happy With Forest Switch

Liverpool youngster Paul Anderson has revealed excitement at joining Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan.

Swansea City and was named the club’s Young Player of the Year after an impressive campaign that saw him score seven goals in 31 appearances.

Some queried whether Reds boss Rafa Benitez (pictured) should give the tricky winger an opportunity to earn a place in the senior squad next season, but Spaniard appears keen to draft in proven quality for the flanks over the summer.

Hence, Anderson – who has netted an impressive 13 goals in 17 games for the England under-19s – has been sent to Nottingham on another loan spell, despite Swansea's attempts to sign him permanently.

He told Forest’s official website: "I enjoyed last season at Swansea but after speaking to Forest I just felt it was the right move for me.

"I am joining a big club in Forest and I am very excited about the challenge of trying to help them make an impact in the Championship."

Ajax Enter Benayoun Race

Although Yossi Benayoun is keen on fighting for his Liverpool future, he could be moving elsewhere to make sure of his share of the action – perhaps even to the Netherlands.

De Telegraaf newspaper reports today that Ajax are keeping an eye on the Israeli international, whom the English giants spent a reported 7.3 million euros on July 12 last year.

The 28-year-old versatile midfielder, equally capable as a playmaker, an attacking midfielder or on the right, scored 11 goals in 47 matches with The Reds in his first season there, but only completed 14 of those games. And Rafa Benítez could be tempted to let go of him, as Tottenham and Portsmouth have reportedly expressed an interest.

As’s William Wood reported earlier, Liverpool would be willing to sell the former Maccabi Haifa, Racing de Santander and West Ham United ace for some 6.3 million. And Dutch media estimate that the Johan Cruijff Schaal holders could land Benayoun, who has had a trial in Amsterdam earlier in his career, having tabled a six-million bid. Furthermore,, a website of London Evening Standard newspaper, reports that Ajax are even prepared to offer Benayoun a pay-rise, compared to the 38,000-a-week he makes in England.

Despite spending quite some time on the bench, Benayoun, perhaps Israel’s most accomplished footballer today and the national team captain, had recently stated to The Jewish Chronicle that he would love to finish his playing days with Liverpool. But recent transfer rumours have probably prompted him to reconsider.

“I need to know what’s going on, because I thought I would be at Liverpool next season,” he told the Daily Mail tabloid, although his agent does not seem as eager to rush things. “He’s a good player, so it’s only normal that these clubs would be interested in signing him,” Ronen Katsav told BBC Sport.

“But Yossi is very happy at Liverpool, everything is perfect for him there. He sees his future at Liverpool. Even if the club wanted to sell him, then Yossi would say he would like to stay.”

Liverpool’s Carragher Expects Boss Benitez To Sign More New Players

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher expects manager Rafa Benitez to bring in more reinforcements as he declared that the Reds will be challenging on all fronts.

The Merseysiders finished fourth last season in the Premiership, while losing in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The Reds have brought in full-backs Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena, whose signing has been confirmed recently.

"We have brought in two or three players already and I am sure the manager is looking to bring some more in," said Carragher.

"We didn't win anything last season, so we want to look to improve and that is something we have already done.”

The former England international, Carragher asserted that the Reds will be looking to win every trophy on offer.

"At a club like Liverpool every season is a big season and we will be going for every trophy we possibly can," he said.

"It is a big competition not just in the Premier League but around Europe, but I am confident we can produce something this season.”