Thursday, July 03, 2008

Insua Signs New Pool Contract

Liverpool have tied down their talented young defender Emiliano Insua to a new three-year contract this afternoon.

19-year-old former Boca Juniors player Insua is a full-back, whose best position is in the left full-back role.

And the news that he has signed a new contract will come as a boost to fans of the Merseyside giants as the Argentinean is tipped to have a hot future in the game.

The deal to keep Insua, who last year was a regular for Liverpool’s reserve side that won the title, will keep him at Anfield until June of 2011.

To date, Argentina Under-20 international regular Insua has made just five senior appearances for the club, three of which have been in the Premiership.

The summer transfer activities are picking up for Liverpool as they have reportedly stepped closer to signing Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry after the England international was disciplined by his current club due to criticising manager Martin O’Neill in a newspaper interview.

Attacking midfielder Anthony Le Tallec has gone out the other way, joining French outfit Le Mans on a permanent deal, having spent last season on loan there, for an undisclosed fee. Le Tallec had been a Liverpool player for five years, but the vast majority of his spell was spent away from Anfield in loan stints.

Liverpool FC's Latest Bid For Gareth Barry Rejected

Gareth Barry’s Aston Villa nightmare deepened last night when the Midlands club claimed they had rejected a new bid from Liverpool.

But Villa insist the offer from Anfield was not the £17million one widely reported earlier yesterday.

Liverpool also denied they had made a £17m bid, and insisted it was “not their final offer”.

But on a day when Villa manager Martin O’Neill fined club skipper Barry two weeks’ wages for his Sunday newspaper outburst attacking his manager’s handling of the prospective deal, Liverpool were again told they had not matched Villa’s valuation.

Liverpool had previously seen three bids rejected of £10million, £12m and then £13m and the new offer was believed to be in the region of £15m. O’Neill, however, is holding out for £18m.

Barry had raised the stakes this week by publicly attacking his manager, and as well as being fined he was also told not to attend Villa’s first day of pre-season training today.

Villa’s latest statement said: “The club have received a renewed offer from Liverpool for the player but that still falls well short of Aston Villa’s evaluation, and has subsequently been rejected.”

Earlier yesterday O’Neill had denied he had received another offer from Liverpool.

Barry’s absence from training today will only heighten the drama over his move, with his current position at the club clearly untenable.

Barry upset O’Neill by intimating the Villa manager was more interested in being a television pundit for the Euro 2008 finals than speaking to him over his future.

It is also unlikely that the England midfielder will be part of O’Neill’s squad as Villa jet off to a Swiss training camp next week ahead of their first pre-season friendly away at FC Zurich on July 12.

Villa’s competitive season starts almost a month earlier than most of their Premier League rivals as they will travel to the winners of TPS Turku of Finland and Denmark’s Odense BK on July 19/20 but Barry is not expected to figure even if his desired move to Anfield has not been completed by then.

Barry’s situation has become so bitter at Villa though, O’Neill could well try to hold out to ensure his captain is not able to play for Liverpool in their Champions League qualifier on August 12.

And Benitez is also ready to embark on a similar war of attrition with Tottenham over striker Robbie Keane, with sources close to the Irish international striker claiming they know Keane wants to move to Anfield.

Liverpool’s willingness to meet Villa’s price tag for Barry could be assisted if Juventus meet their £16m valuation of Spanish international midfielder Xabi Alonso. Currently on holiday following Luis Aragones’s side’s success at the European Championship finals, Alonso admits that he had no idea where he’d be playing his club football next season.

However, with Juventus having been unable to lure Italian international midfielder Alberto Aquilani from Roma, they could now step up their attempts to prise Alonso away from Anfield.

Pompey Step Up Bid To Sign Peter Crouch

Portsmouth are ready to step up their bid to sign Liverpool striker Peter Crouch as it emerged that the FA Cup winners are heading for a showdown with Kanu over his contract demands.

After playing more than 20 matches for the Fratton Park outfit last season, the 31-year-old Nigerian triggered the offer of a new one-year deal as stipulated in the contract he signed with the club last summer.

However Kanu, who netted the winning goal against Cardiff in last season’s FA Cup final to give the south coast club their first major trophy for 58 years, is now expected to tell them he wants a two-year deal.

The former Arsenal and West Brom striker, who has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes under Harry Redknapp following relegation at the Hawthorns in 2006, has reported to have declared as much on Nigerian radio and is set to return to his club next Tuesday to discuss his future.

Portsmouth remain unconvinced though and chief executive

Peter Storrie who handles all contract and transfer details for Redknapp said: “Kanu will be back in training next week when we hope he will sign the contract he has been offered.

“In accordance with last year’s deal, we have given him another 12 months. At this moment in time he has not signed it. All talk he now wants a two-year contract is news to us. I was not aware of that at all. He hasn’t spoken to me about it. No-one knows whether what he has supposedly said is factual or not – I will be interested to hear what he has to say when he returns next week.

“As it stands there is a contract there to be signed. If he wants longer nothing has been said to me.”

Storrie has already revealed that Portsmouth remain still very much in the hunt for Crouch despite having a £9million bid for the Liverpool striker rejected last week.

Whether Kanu stays or not, the England international remains Redknapp’s number one striking target ahead of the club’s first ever European campaign.

In terms of physical stature and playing style, Crouch, who netted 19 goals in 39 games for Portsmouth between 2001-02 – the most prolific spell of his career – would be an ideal replacement for Kanu.

The 27-year-old, who has been linked to several other Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur with Benitez eager to acquire Robbie Keane in a swap deal, is believed to favour a move to Fratton Park, not just because of the success he enjoyed there previously but also because he has a good working relationship with Redknapp.

The pair were together at Hampshire rivals Southampton back in 2004-05 when despite suffering relegation from the Premier League Crouch netted 16 goals, earning an England call-up and £7million move to Champions League winners Liverpool.

Anfield officials could 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 £16m move to Juventus seemingly on hold.

The player admits to having “no idea” where he will be playing next season.

Trap Pushes Keane Towards Anfield

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has urged his star charge Robbie Keane to jump on the chance to join Liverpool this summer.

Tottenham already have their work cut out for them to convince Keane to resist the lure of Liverpool, so they will not be in the least bit happy that his national team manager has so publicly encouraged his player to make a move to 'advance his career'.

Trapattoni told the Daily Mail: "I don’t know what is happening with Liverpool at the moment but I would be very happy for him (to move).

“I hope it happens for him because it will be a big challenge. It would be important for him and important for us.”

The Sun claimed on Monday that Keane has told Spurs boss Juande Ramos he wants to leave, while virtually simultaneously Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has weighed in with a Crouch plus cash swap proposal.

According to the Irish Independent, Tottenham have now made it clear that they will resist all offers for the 27-year-old, who is considered one of the key components of the London side's determined drive to become a genuine top four side.

Liverpool Aim To Capture Hat-trick Of Titles In Rome

All roads lead to Rome for Liverpool in next season’s Champions League competition. The 2009 final will be staged at the Stadio Olimpico in Italy’s capital and on two of the three previous occasions that the Eternal City has hosted European football’s biggest game of the season Liverpool have emerged as winners.

Juventus defeated Ajax on penalties in the most recent Rome final in 1996 but Liverpool took the cup – again in a shoot-out – against Roma on their own ground back in 1984 and won their first European Cup in the same stadium in 1977, defeating German club Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1.

Roma, who will be hoping to reach the final on their own turf again, are already guaranteed a place in the group stages alongside Serie A champions Internazionale who Liverpool knocked out in the quarter-finals of last season’s tournament.

This year’s finalists, Manchester United and Chelsea, also go straight through to the group stages courtesy of their one-two finish in the Premier League and will be joined by Spain’s Real Madrid and Villarreal, who will host Liverpool in a friendly match in the final week of this month.

UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg go straight through to the groups after winning the Russian League last autumn when Martin Skrtel was still at the heart of their defence.

Because of their fourth-place finish in the Premier League, Liverpool will enter the competition in the third qualifying round, the same stage as last year, alongside third-place Arsenal.

Their opponents will be one of the winners from the second qualifying round and high profile candidates include Rangers, Dynamo Kiev, Anderlecht, Sparta Prague, Fenerbahce, Panathinaikos, Basel and Rapid Vienna.


Group stage:

Spain (2): Real Madrid, Villarreal

England (2): Manchester United, Chelsea

Italy (2): Internazionale, Roma

France (2): Lyon, Bordeaux

Germany (2): Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen

Portugal (2): Porto, Sporting CP

Romania (1): CFR Cluj

Netherlands (1): PSV Eindhoven

Russia (1): Zenit St Petersburg

Scotland (1): Celtic

Third qualifying round:

Spain (2): Barcelona, Atletico Madrid

England (2): Arsenal, Liverpool

Italy (2): Juventus, Fiorentina

France (1): Marseille

Germany (1): Schalke 04

Portugal (1): Vitoria Guimaraes

Romania (1): Steaua Bucharest

Netherlands (1): Twente

Russia (1): Spartak Moscow

Ukraine (1): Shakhtar Donetsk

Belgium (1): Standard Liege

Czech Republic (1): Slavia Prague

Turkey (1): Galatasaray

Gareth Barry Playing Dirty With Aston Villa

I always had Gareth Barry down as a straight guy, a decent footballer, a humble team man, the sort you want to see succeed. Silly me. If you thought that Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Real Madrid was the tawdry business of the summer, you have not been paying attention to Barry's attempts to get himself a transfer to Liverpool, whatever it takes.

Last weekend Barry interrupted a holiday in Florida to talk to a reporter from a Sunday red-top newspaper. The majority of the conversation appears to have been spent criticising Martin O'Neill, his manager at Aston Villa.

This would be the same O'Neill who arrived at Villa Park and, in one of his first decisions, stopped Barry being sold to Portsmouth on the cheap. The same O'Neill who showed such faith in Barry that the club captain has become a stalwart of the England team under Fabio Capello.

His thanks was a laughable piece saying that O'Neill was more interested in commentating on Euro 2008 for the BBC than retaining his captain. About all there was to recommend the article was that at least it made a change from the clumsy leaks about Liverpool's interest and Barry's desire to move to Anfield that have mysteriously found their way throughout the summer into a friendly newspaper.

Such shabby behaviour might make sense if Villa were adamant that Barry was not going to leave under any circumstances, but O'Neill and Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, are intelligent men. They can understand why Barry's head has been turned by the approach from a Champions League club. They know that every player has a price when the big clubs come calling.

By any reasonable estimation, that price has to be close to £18million, given that Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves each joined Manchester United for something similar and Barry has overtaken both rivals in the England pecking order. For a 27-year-old established international player with two years left on his contract, it is the going rate.

The interesting question now is whether Liverpool want to spend that sum or whether they even have it available. One can only guess from the increasingly desperate behaviour of Barry and his genius of an agent, Alex Black, that those are questions they are asking themselves.

Surely Black is not so daft to have have promised Liverpool that he could get his player out for considerably less than £18million. Surely he was not in such a mad rush to pull off the transfer that he erroneously assumed that Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, had a huge budget and would simply pay what it takes.

The questions take on particular pertinence, given that Villa are due to report back to pre-season training on Thursday, when Barry, in theory, will return as captain. It makes you wonder whether he is so embarrassed by the idea of having to meet O'Neill face to face that he has resorted to anything, even attacking his own club in the hope that they will wash their hands of him for the £13million on the table.

He is not the first footballer to stoop to such tactics, but instead of wasting time attacking his manager, Barry could more usefully have picked up the phone to Liverpool and instructed them to increase their offer. He must be wondering if they do not value him so highly after all, which is something we should all be asking, given his recent behaviour.