Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Torres Tipped To Match Henry

Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has told Fernando Torres that he is still not as good as Thierry Henry at his best, but could get there in time.

Torres was the match-winner for Spain in the Euro 2008 final as he latched onto a Xavi pass and finished expertly past Lehmann.

Lehmann has been impressed by the Liverpool striker but feels there is still room for improvement.

Lehmann believes Henry is the greatest striker of recent times, having played with the Frenchman at Arsenal.

"I played in the same team as Thierry Henry, who was like a god," said the 38-year-old shot-stopper.

"There is still a difference. Torres could get there, but it takes a while."

Christoph Metzelder had a torrid time against Torres in Vienna and the Germany defender agrees that he is one of the most difficult forwards in the game to come up against.

"There are many good strikers - it's difficult to say who the best is," said Metzelder.

Alonso Puts Future Plans On Hold

Juventus target Xabi Alonso's future is no closer to being sorted out and there is unlikely to be any developments in this regard within the next fortnight.

When pressed on the whether he was still looking to leave Liverpool in the summer, the 26-year-old responded that all he wants to do now is take a rich deserved break to reflect on Spain's magnificent Euro sucesss with his family.

"I've no idea [what the future holds]. Right now I'm just thinking about going on holiday, sitting back and relaxing," he was quoted as saying in Guillem Balague's official website.

"We all need time to sit back and think about what we achieved and to take it all in.

"I'll be able to think about all that has gone on and what's going to happen regarding my future later on.

"We'll see what happens when I get back."

The Spanish midfielder has been heavily linked with the Turin giants since the end of last season, but his proposed move has been stuck in limbo since with neither team able to make any real progress while he was in active duty for his country in Euro 2008.

Reds Eye Wantaway Juninho

Liverpool have been tentatively linked with a move for disgruntled Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Juninho Pernambucano.

Juninho recently told l’Equipe that he may leave Stade Gerland this summer, as he is less than satisfied with Lyon’s decision to sack Alain Perrin as coach and hire Claude Puel in his stead.

And rumours have sprung up that Reds boss Rafa Benitez is willing to pay ₤3million to bring the 33-year-old to Anfield.

The Brazilian playmaker may not have youth on his side, but he is nonetheless regarded as one of Europe’s pre-eminent attacking midfielders and arguably the finest free-kick taker in the world.

While all reports at this stage are little more than mere speculation, the former Selecao star could be seen as an ideal mentor for his young compatriot Lucas Leiva and, of course, the solution to Liverpool's inconsistency from dead-ball situations.

Rafa To Rest Spanish Stars

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will give the club's Spanish contingent an extended holiday after their efforts at EURO 2008.

Reds striker Fernando Torres was the hero for Spain on Sunday, his first-half strike against Germany leading La Furia Roja to their second European Championship crown.

The ex-Atletico Madrid hitman was one of four Liverpudlians in Luis Aragones' title-winning squad, alongside Xabi Alonso, Jose Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa.

And Benitez revealed he will allow his compatriots an extra three weeks to recover from their exploits in Austria and Switzerland before summoning them to rejoin the squad for pre-season training.

"We have about 18 back today, then some of the internationals will be back in the next week," he told the club's official website. "The four Spanish players should be back in three weeks."

Liverpool Yet To Make New Gareth Barry Offer

Liverpool have still yet to make an improved bid for Gareth Barry after Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill admitted that his unsettled captain could move to Anfield if Rafael Benitez met their valuation for the England midfielder.

An increased offer of around £18million is now expected to be enough to end the long-running transfer saga and prise Barry away from the Midlands club but despite Benitez and several members of his squad returning to Melwood yesterday, Liverpool are still plotting their next and likely to be decisive, move.

O’Neill has hit back in his row with Barry and told him he is free to join Liverpool – for the right price – after the 27-year-old claimed the Ulsterman had not done enough to convince him that he was wanted.

However, O’Neill responded to his player’s verbal attack yesterday by saying: “The chairman and I were surprised at Gareth’s comments.

“Contrary to what he said, we desperately wanted to keep him – and he knows that.

“We asked both Gareth and his agent to consider what had been discussed at our meeting which included a variety of options to incentivise the player.

“But Gareth came back from England international duty in June and reiterated his intention to join Liverpool and he told me so.

“Liverpool’s valuation of Gareth has been consistently well short of our own and at the moment remains so.

“But if they meet our valuation, Gareth will get his expressed wish to leave. Until then, he remains an Aston Villa player.”

Liverpool’s pursuit of Barry depends on whether they can raise funds by offloading some of their fringe players and Portsmouth have insisted that they remain in the hunt to bring Peter Crouch back to Fratton Park despite having a £9million bid rejected last week.

Chief executive Peter Storrie said: “Harry (Redknapp) has made it clear he wants Peter Crouch. He’s the sort of quality we want to add to the team.

“We have made a fair bid for him and that was turned down but we are still interested.

“It’s now the case that we have made known our position and Liverpool have made known theirs – we will see what happens after that. This is not the end of it.

“We are still interested, he’s a quality player.”

However, reports that Harry Kewell whose contract with Liverpool expires today could be set for a move to the FA Cup winners have been dismissed.

Storrie said: “As for Kewell, that is two years out of date. Back then we were interested and then he had that bad injury. That was the end of that. Nothing’s happening now, though.”

One new arrival confirmed at Anfield yesterday is former Liverpool player Mauricio Pellegrino who has returned to the club where he made 12 appearances in 2005 as first team coach.

Benitez, who also worked with the Argentinian at Valencia, from whom he arrives again having been working as youth team coach, said: “His role will be first-team coach, and he’ll also carry out specialist training sessions.

“He can also work specifically with the defence, and also the reserves.

“Pellegrino has a winning mentality. He won the Intercontinental Cup before going to Spain with Barcelona and Valencia.

“He has a lot of passion.

“When I asked him to come he was very pleased, but first he wanted to find out if there was a school where his three children could play good football. He is a football man.”

Liverpool FC Chief Rick Parry Determined To Stay Put

Liverpool FC chief executive Rick Parry yesterday said he still saw his future at “the best club in the world” as he picked up an honorary degree.

Parry donned a cap and gown yesterday to pick up his honour from the University of Liverpool.

The football executive, a Liverpool maths graduate in 1976, was awarded an honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at a ceremony at the Philharmonic Hall.

Parry came under fire earlier this year from American LFC co-owner Tom Hicks, who called on him to resign for under-performing in his stewardship of the club, but the chief executive said he loves LFC and sees his future with the club.

He said: “I’m looking forward to working with Rafael (Benitez) and helping improve on last season’s result.

“Our standards are very high, as is the standard our fans demand. Winning the league, that’s the prize we’re all striving for.”

He added: “I have very fond memories of Liverpool University and I’ve seen it from both sides, seeing all the new graduates outside I can recognise what they’ve been through.

“It’s a day for them, not for me.”

Parry, 53, has had a varied and successful career since his first job as a trainee chartered accountant in 1976.

He was instrumental in planning the new Premier League and was appointed chief executive in February 1992.

His plans for the league were ratified seven days later by the Football Association allowing Parry to negotiate a television deal then worth a record £214m.

As chief executive he oversaw the development of the league into the international hotbed it is today, developing top stadiums and attracting worldwide football stars.

An unashamed Liverpool FC fan since his school days at Ellesmere Port Grammar School, he was appointed chief executive of the club in July, 1998, by the then chairman David Moores.

Speaking to the Daily Post ahead of his ceremony yesterday, Parry said it was a great honour to receive the degree in “his favourite city in the world.”

He said: “It’s a great honour being given the degree from the university I attended in the best city in the world.

“It’s really very special and was such a shock and surprise when they told me. I studied hard for three years for my degree, but I haven’t had to do any work at all for this one.

“When people ask me about my career I’ve never thought about it, I’m always looking forward, football never stops to pause and think.

“There have always been a lot of other people involved in everything I do and it’s been a privilege to have 10 years at the best club in the world.

“Being involved in the formation of the Premier League was exciting and great fun. It was a challenge, times have moved on and it’s fiercely competitive. The fact there were three English teams in the Champions League semi-finals shows the strength of the English formation.”

In response to critics of overpaid Premier League footballers and fans priced out by rising ticket prices, Parry said football had to move with the times.

He said: “I remember years ago people wanted football to stop, to keep everything as it was then, but it has to keep moving forward.

“It’s getting even more competitive, even more difficult, that is the way and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.”