Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Euro Champ Alonso Keeps Liverpool Waiting As Juventus Wait In Wings With £16m Offer

Liverpool may have to wait until European champion Xabi Alonso returns from holiday before they can sort out the Spanish midfielder's future.

Alonso has been given a three-week break following Spain's successful Euro 2008 campaign, with his proposed £16million move to Juventus seemingly on hold.

But Alonso admits to having 'no idea' where he will be playing next season.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez needs funds from player sales to maintain his interest in Aston Villa's Gareth Barry and what is believed to be a player-plus cash offer for Tottenham's Irish forward Robbie Keane.

Alonso told Spanish football expert Guillem Balague's website, 'I have no idea [what the future holds]. Right now I am just thinking about going on holiday, sitting back and relaxing.

'We all need time to sit back and think about what we (Spain) achieved and to take it all in.

'I will be able to think about all that has gone on and what is going to happen regarding my future later on. We will see what happens when I get back.'

Alonso's performances have made him a European champion for club and country since joining Liverpool, and many fans do not want to see him sold.

Some are dismayed that the current American ownership seem unable to fund Benitez's transfer dealing without selling high-profile players.

Talks between Juventus and Liverpool over Alonso are believed to have stalled over the fee demanded by Benitez.

Benitez is involved in a delicate financial balancing act, and wants to offload Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant and Scott Carson.

John Arne Riise has moved to Roma for £4m, and Harry Kewell has been released, with reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje on his way to Galatasaray for £2m.

Yossi Benayoun and Steve Finnan could also depart.

Benitez is believed to have offered Crouch plus £5m to Tottenham for Keane, a lifelong Liverpool fan.

Portsmouth also want Crouch, a situation confirmed by Pompey chief executive Peter Storrie yesterday. But Benitez clearly want to use the England striker as a makeweight in a deal for Keane.

Benitez's activity in the transfer market continues as American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett maintain their search for funding for the new LFC stadium - as the club now wish the project to be named - planned for Stanley Park.

The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) are holding off on the delivery of a £9m grant for the project until the club show they have the money for the £350m scheme.

Steve Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, has held talks with Kop Holdings, the Americans' company, over funding for the new stadium.

Last week the club started preliminary work in Stanley Park, with both Gillett and Hicks being quoted on Liverpool's website together for the first time in months.

The work is being financed by the £60million set aside from the January re-financing package which is likely to run out by the end of the year.

The £9million from the NWDA will fund regeneration work around the stadium and is a drop in the ocean considering the overall costs of the scheme.

Winner Torres Thanks Liverpool Fans

The man who scored Spain's winner in Sunday's Euro 2008 final has acknowledged a debt of gratitude he feels to his English club and their fans.

Fernando Torres, the Liverpool and Spain striker, has been effusive in his praise of the Anfield club's fans for the part they played in his success with his country thi9s summer.

Torres was the scorer of the only goal on Sunday against Germany as Spain won their first major honour since 1964.

And the 24-year-old ex-Atletico Madrid striker says Liverpool have given him self-belief and helped him hone his technique.

"I have had a wonderful first season at Anfield and the 33 goals I scored for Liverpool gave me the confidence and belief I needed for the European finals," he was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.

"I would like to thank the manager Rafa Benitez and his staff because I have improved as a player thanks to them.

"But it is not just the people at the club who have helped me, it is also the supporters and the people of the city.

"From the moment I first came to Liverpool I have been made to feel welcome and that is why I am able to enjoy my football so much.

"It is incredible. The Liverpool fans have given me so much support and I know that they have even been supporting Spain and this is something I will never forget and I thank everyone for that.

"Now I am looking forward to competing for trophies with Liverpool because I know that means so much to the club and the fans."

Reds Lodge Last Barry Bid

Liverpool have reportedly lodged one last ‘take it or leave it’ bid for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

The Sun reports that the Reds have offered ₤17million for Barry, topping their previous best bid of around ₤14million.

The deal would comprise of ₤15million up front, while the remaining ₤2million would be triggered by Liverpool’s league position during the England international’s tenure.

Villa boss Martin O’Neill has already knocked back three bids from the Merseyside giants and is demanding no less than ₤18million straight cash for the 27-year-old.

But the Ulsterman may be forced to concede defeat after Barry recently went public with his desire to move to Anfield, slamming his manager’s lack of communication in the process.

Many suspected Reds boss Rafa Benitez might even lower his bid following Barry’s announcement, given that Villa have also been in negotiations with Chelsea for his potential replacement, Steve Sidwell.

O’Neill will hold crisis talks with Barry this week but the situation appears beyond repair and a deal could be done within days.

Lawrenson: League Title Next For Torres

Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson has backed Euro 2008 winner Fernando Torres to shoot Liverpool to next season’s Premier League title.

Ex-Atletico Madrid forward Torres was a key player for Spain and scored the winner in the final to hand his nation a 1-0 victory over Germany in Vienna on Sunday.

And after the Spaniard picked up his first piece of major silverware, in the process ending his side’s 44-year wait for international gold, Lawrenson believes that more titles could beckon for the striker, starting with next season’s Premier League.

"Amazingly, winning the European Championship was the first major piece of silverware that Torres has lifted during his career but now that he's off the mark it can only bode well for Liverpool next season," the BBC pundit told the press.

"Having become a European champion with his nation, Torres will be eager to repeat the feat at club level and following the end of Spain's long wait he'll be determined to bring to an end Liverpool's search for the Premier League title too, which I think he will do."

Torres' goal on Sunday, a perfectly weighted chip over the onrushing Jens Lehmann, was the perfect way to cap a high quality tournament, and Lawrenson feels that he was the only player on the pitch capable of producing such a moment.

"Grabbing the winner in the final against Germany was obviously a great way for Fernando Torres to end the Euro 2008 tournament and I reckon that he was probably the only player on the pitch capable of scoring that goal," he added.

"We're all well aware now that Torres is a special player and when you look at where he was and the fact that Jens Lehmann was hurtling towards him, he did incredibly well to get his goal.

"With that little bit of pace and little bit of power he was able to get the better of the German goalkeeper and secure Spain's first silverware in 44 years.

"One or two people have suggested to me that Liverpool’s number nine actually had quite an average tournament overall but I’d have to disagree.

"Torres was instrumental in David Villa finishing as top scorer although I thought he actually played better without the Valencia striker alongside him.

"He was able to play more of his natural game in the final with Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas operating just behind him in a Steven Gerrard-style role.

"Torres is similar to Thierry Henry in his pomp at Arsenal in that he likes to play up front on his own, getting his support from the various creative outlets in midfield.

"He enjoys the freedom and as a result Christoph Metzelder and Per Mertesacker were given a torrid time throughout the final."

Liverpool's Keane Bid Encounters Difficulties

Liverpool must overcome a series of obstacles to entice Robbie Keane to Anfield, with Tottenham's valuation of the Republic of Ireland captain and Rafael Benitez's limited transfer budget hindering attempts to unite the striker with Fernando Torres.

Keane has asked to be kept informed of Liverpool's interest after being the subject of a cash-plus-Peter Crouch enquiry last week, but is unlikely to jeopardise his relationship with Tottenham by submitting a transfer request. That could change if Liverpool lodged a formal bid for the 27-year-old, a boyhood fan who shares an agent with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, but Spurs' £20m valuation would still be prohibitive to the Anfield club.

Liverpool are expected to make a fourth offer of around £15m to Aston Villa for Gareth Barry in the next 48 hours and, with the £8m transfer of Andrea Dossena merely awaiting the Italian left-back's signature, Benitez will then have to sell before making any purchases in the Keane price-bracket. Consequently Liverpool, who sold John Arne Riise to Roma for £4m and hope to raise another £1m by off-loading reserve keeper Charles Itandje to Galatasaray, would prefer to include Crouch in a deal for the Spurs striker. However, with the England international considering several options and Xabi Alonso yet to complete a move to Juventus, Benitez will have to bide his time before formalising his interest in Keane.

Tottenham will not be deflected in their interest in the Sevilla winger Diego Capel despite the Spanish club rejecting their opening £12.5m bid for the midfielder. Juande Ramos hopes to add pace and invention down the flanks with the capture of Blackburn Rovers' David Bentley and Capel but, as yet, has seen offers for both players knocked back.

Sevilla were quick to reject the approach from their former manager for the 20-year-old, despite Spurs offering more money than the buy-out clause in the Spaniard's contract. "That clause is only valid when a Spanish team makes a bid," confirmed the Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido. "We do not negotiate with any figure less than that amount. Tottenham made a superior bid and we rejected that because it was not close to the amount we believe the player is worth abroad where, we believe, the buy-out clause does not apply."

Ramos worked with Capel at Sevilla, where the winger made his debut as a 16-year-old before establishing himself as their first-choice left winger last term. An improved offer is likely to be made, as it will be for Bentley after Blackburn rejected an initial bid of around £7m and the England winger Aaron Lennon as a makeweight in the deal.

Tottenham Set To Lose Robbie Keane To Liverpool As He Signals Intention To Leave

Tottenham striker Robbie Keane has told the club's management that he wants to leave after hearing of Liverpool's interest in signing him.

Keane, the club's vice-captain and a popular figure with both players and the fans, was the subject of an initial inquiry last week, with Rafael Benitez offering a player plus cash deal of Peter Crouch and £5 million.

The club rebuffed the offer, but Benitez will be encouraged by Keane's eagerness to join the club he supported as a boy.

The Republic of Ireland international also has a strong friendship with both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and is enthused at the prospect of being involved in the Champions League.

Tottenahm value the 27-year-old at £20 million, a figure Liverpool believe they had reached as they have priced Crouch at £15 million, despite the highest bid received to date coming from Portsmouth at £9 million.

Tottenham are taking Portsmouth's bid as the market value of Crouch and so Benitez will have to increase the cash element of the deal before they will do business.

A further complication arises from the fact that Crouch, who has now conceded his future lies away from Anfield, favours a return to one of his former clubs, Portsmouth, rather than moving to London.

Tottenham manager Juande Ramos would be reluctant to lose one of his most consistent performers, especially at a time when he is trying to offload £17 million flop Darren Bent and the future of Dimitar Berbatov remains clouded in uncertainty.

Keane scored 24 goals in all competitions last season and has been an integral part of the side since signing from Leeds United for £7 million six years ago.

Should Keane leave, Ramos would have to buy a completely new front line for next season, though with considerable funds to chase long term-targets David Villa and Lukas Podolski.

Liverpool are locked in a protracted round of negotiations with Aston Villa over Gareth Barry and have limited funds to rush things through.

Tottenham do not need to sell before they can buy this summer as Ramos continues to overhaul the squad he inherited mid-way through last season.

However, Keane's head has been turned by Liverpool's interest and forcing him to remain at the club after he has expressed a firm desire to leave is seen as counter productive by Ramos.

Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson's assertion that Manchester United are interested in making just a single, major signing this summer has raised once more the possibility that Berbatov could, at the third time of asking, be lured to Old Trafford.

Twice before, most recently last summer, Ferguson has inquired about the Bulgarian's availability only to be told by Tottenham that he is not for sale.

Tottenham value Berbatov at £30 million whilst United are willing to pay around £23 million and will not be forced to pay over the odds despite having money available to spend.

Asked about his transfer plans, Ferguson said: "There could be some dialogue, but I wouldn't think any more than one player. People think it's easy to buy players nowadays but it's not - money plays a big part.

"Clubs with ambition don't want to sell their best players so it's not as easy as you think."