Saturday, July 05, 2008

Juve Meet Alonso Reps In Paris

Juventus’ bid to sign Xabi Alonso from Liverpool is no closer to being completed following a meeting between the two clubs in Paris.

The possibility of seeing the Spanish international in a Juve shirt next season is, at the moment, still a remote one.

Alonso is no closer to signing for the Old Lady after a meeting in Paris today between a FIFA agent and Rafa Benitez’s transfer man, Eduardo Macia, yielded no agreement.

The deal may take another week to complete as the clubs are looking to agree on a selling price for the 26-year-old European Champion. The two clubs may strike a deal worth €18m, a balance between Liverpool’s asking price of €20m and Juve’s offer of €15m.

Juventus are still searching for a world-class midfielder and if all goes well, fans of the Bianconeri will see the former Liverpool midfield pairing of Alonso and Sissoko re-united at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico next term.

Liverpool Accept Pompey Crouch Bid - Report

The Daily Mail claims that Portsmouth have finally had a bid accepted for want-away Liverpool forward Peter Crouch.

The imposing forward had stated previously that he wished to join the Fratton Park side, only for Liverpool to refuse the south coasters' advances.

So fervent were Crouch's desires to move to Pompey that he allegedly turned down moves elsewhere, stating that he would run down his one year deal on Merseyside unless given the chance to head south.

Liverpool, then, have apparently acquiesced and accepted a £10m bid for the England international, which will be lodged with the Football Association on Monday morning.

Should Crouch agree terms with Harry Redknapp's side then the move could even be completed on the same day.

The Reds, who will receive £8m up front, will then be able to focus on new targets such as Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry.

Fernando Torres: Rafael Benitez Pushed Me To Greatness

Few foreign players have adapted better - or as quickly - to the unique demands of top-flight football in England than Fernando Torres. In his first season, after arriving at Liverpool 12 months ago, he scored 33 goals in all competitions.

Yet as the prolific Spain striker ponders how he can improve next season, having set the bar so high, he is swift to pay tribute to the part that Rafael Benítez played in his rapid and spectacular progress. Without the intense guidance of the Liverpool manager, Torres maintains, he might not have made such an immediate impact.

“There are days when you think: ‘My God, this guy [Benítez] doesn't let you breathe',” Torres, a £20.2million buy from Atlético Madrid, said. “At times like that, you don't realise that all he wants is for you to improve.

“When you are in a team where things are going mostly well, players tend to relax. But you must always push yourself. Never become complacent; you try to do your best every single day. At a club like Liverpool, you can't sit back after scoring 20-odd goals and say: 'Well, that's it.' After you score 20, Benítez is at you during the next training session and stays on top of you all day, all week.

“He tells you to go off on your own and do new exercises. I want to progress in life, not relax, not be complacent, and you need someone close to you telling you to keep at it. It is impossible to do it otherwise. We don't always fancy someone that close but, in the long term, I am sure that everybody will thank him for it.”

Torres, 24, carried his form into the international arena this summer, scoring two goals as Spain were crowned European champions. His second goal - a trademark effort embracing power and pace - was enough to see off Germany 1-0 in the final in Vienna.

If Benítez's influence has been great, Torres has also reaped the benefit of playing alongside Steven Gerrard, the England midfield player. He has watched Gerrard closely - on and off the pitch - and used the Liverpool captain as an example of how to deal with life in the goldfish bowl that is Merseyside.

“I really admire Steven,” Torres said in an interview in Champions, the official magazine of the Uefa Champions League, said. “I know the pressure he is under every day, everybody talking about him all day long. In the changing-room, in the pubs, in the stadium. I've heard people say he should be stronger, have a stronger personality. I know by experience how difficult it is to deal with that because Liverpool is a huge club. And he's at another level, of course.

“People look at you from a distance and challenge you with their eyes. All that happens to Steve every day and he copes with it, everything that is expected of him all the time. He's always under tremendous pressure to perform and everyone looks to him to show leadership, to lift the team.

“He's a great example, and those of us who have been in a similar situation know how difficult it is to handle. It's incredible the way he carries himself regardless of what is going on around him. I'd love to be captain of another team one day and Steve has shown me how to be a great leader.”

During a career of many highs, Torres has had to endure his lows, too, particularly before his move to Anfield. He would turn to Olalla, his girlfriend, for sympathy and advice. “She has had to suffer much disappointed ranting and moaning, especially when I was at Atlético,” Torres said. “Now, she is also having a good time herself.

“She knows how to calm me down when I haven't been able to see the way out of the tunnel or wake me up when I've been sleeping. She pushes me when I need to be encouraged. The person that lives with you is sometimes the only one capable of helping you up when you don't realise how down you are.”

Javier Mascherano Called Up For Argentina Olympic Squad

Rafael Benitez has lost his battle to prevent Javier Mascherano from going to Beijing after he was yesterday named in Argentina’s Olympic squad.

The decision could prompt the Spaniard to speed up his attempts to sign Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry as Mascherano will now be unavailable for both Liverpool’s Champions League qualifying legs on August 12 and 27 as well as the first two games of the Premier League campaign at Sunderland and at home to Middlesbrough.

While Benitez was prepared to let 21-year-old Lucas go to China if he was selected by Brazil, he has complained bitterly about the prospect of £18.6million signing Mascherano, who at 24 is an over-age player with 36 caps for the full Argentina side, being called up.

At the end of last season, Benitez said: “We will try to find a solution with Mascherano that will be the best for the club and the best for the player.”

Mascherano, who already has an Olympic gold medal from the Athens games four years ago, is now in line to face Canada on August 6, Sweden on August 9 and hosts China on August 12 with potential quarter and semi-finals to follow before the gold medal match on August 21.

Mascherano been named in Sergio Batista’s 18-man party along with other high-profile players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Juan Roman Riquelme.

Liverpool youngster Emiliano Insua – who signed a new long-term contract with the club on Wednesday will remain on Batista’s standby list.

Mascherano, Riquelme and Internazionale defender Nicolas Burdisso are the squad’s three over-age players.

Argentina will travel to Tokyo to play a friendly against Japan on July 29 before going on to Beijing.

Wily Benitez Hails Philipp Degen As Shrewd Slice Of Business For Liverpool

On the first anniversary of the day Fernando Torres arrived at Anfield in a record-breaking £28million deal, manager Rafael Benitez has hailed the potential of a player who cost the club nothing.

Defender Philipp Degen has been signed on a Bosman deal from Borussia Dortmund and met his new team-mates at Melwood for the first time yesterday.

The Swiss international has become Liverpool’s first official signing of the summer after putting pen to paper on a four year-deal.

He had been offered a new deal by the German side, but was keen to test himself in the Premier League with Liverpool.

Benitez is delighted to have added to his squad a player who won three league titles and a domestic cup winner’s medal during his time at first club Basel and believes the added strength in depth will give added momentum to the drive for the Premier League title in the new season.

“We were working to try and find this kind of player in the full-back position with the ability to push forward, so I think he is a good signing,” explained Benitez.

“It was another good acquisition through the scouting department because it is another Bosman player.

“The season before last we were watching him and we knew he would be a good addition. But we made our move this year because it was a better situation in terms of the contracts, so it was straightforward.”

Benitez has been linked with a number of wide players during the transfer window, but he believes Degen’s abilities will add a natural width to the side.

He said: “He’s very strong. He likes to go forward; he’s very offensive and will give us options on the right-hand side.

“People talk about wingers but he will give us width from thefull-back area and that is important too.”

Degen may find his way to the first team obstructed by the likes of Steve Finnan and Alvaro Arbeloa, but Benitez is delighted to have added further competition for places.

“It is important for me to have one, two or even three players who can play in one position or different positions and compete for their place,” he explained.

Liverpool have made an early start to their preparations for the new season – with the exception of those involved in Euro 2008 – and the manager has been encouraged by the reaction of the players at the end of their first week.

“The commitment of the players is fantastic,” he said. “Sometimes you need to stop them because they play with a very high tempo.”

On the prospects for Spain’s Euro 2008 match-winner Torres in his second season in the Premier League, Benitez is confident he can have an equally stunning impact as last time round.

“Everyone knows he has been fantastic for us,” he said.

“We have our good memories about the day he arrived and how well he has done. I am really, really happy with him and hopefully he will be even better next season – if that is possible.”

Liverpool start their pre-season schedule with a match at Wirral neighbours Tranmere next week, with Benitez adding: “The first game is always important. It will be close to our people and interesting for Merseyside, so we will try to do well.”

Torres Reveals Anfield Boost

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres believes pressure from Rafael Benitez and inspiration from Steven Gerrard have helped him to become a global superstar and European champion.

The 24-year-old topped off a season during which he scored 33 goals in his debut campaign for the Reds by firing Spain to the Euro 2008 title last weekend.

And he claims manager Benitez's demand for constant improvement has driven him to ever greater heights following last summer's transfer from Atletico Madrid.

"After you score 20, Benitez is at you during the next training session and stays on top of you all day, all week," Torres told Champions magazine.

"I want to progress in life, not relax, not be complacent, and you need someone close to you telling you to keep at it. It is impossible to do it otherwise.

"We don't always fancy someone that close but, in the long term, I am sure that everybody will thank him for it."

The Spaniard has also been impressed by his club captain Gerrard, and in particular by the Scouser's ability to deal with the pressures that come with his high profile.

"He's always under tremendous pressure to perform and everyone looks to him to show leadership, to lift the team," Torres said.

"He's a great example, and those of us who have been in a similar situation know how difficult it is to handle.

"It's incredible the way he carries himself regardless of what is going on around him. I'd love to be captain of another team one day and Steve has shown me how to be a great leader."

Ten Things You Don't Know About Dossena

He's an Italian international who helped set Serie A alight with a series of impressive diplays for Udinese last season - but what else do you know about our new left-back? attempts to get you up to speed by revealing 10 things you probably never knew about Andrea Dossena:

1. Andrea started playing football for Fanfulla, an amateur side from Lodi. He then joined Hellas Verona at the age of 14. During his career he has also played for Treviso and Udinese.

2. He loves reading crime novels and listening to music. He also enjoys travelling around the world – he has already been to Mexico, the Maldives and visited the USA last year.

3. Andrea will be the first Italian international to play for Liverpool. The player passed his medical at Melwood earlier this month.

4. Dossena made his Serie A debut for Hellas Verona on November 18, 2001, in the derby against Chievo. His team went on to celebrate a 3-2 win over their city rivals.

5. In May 2008 the full-back revealed his passion for the Reds. He said: "Liverpool are a great team, and it is great to be linked to such a famous club. I want to play Champions League football, the Reds have already won it and they often get to the big games. In England, they are on the same level as Manchester United."

6. The 5ft 11 defender made 35 appearances for Udinese last year, netting two goals, including a screamer against Juventus. With the Zebrette he used to wear the number 8 shirt.

7. The left-back enjoyed a nine year stay at Hellas Verona and still regards them as one of his favourites teams. "I will never forget Verona, I always keep it in my heart," he insisted.

8. In October 2007, aged 26, Andrea earned his one and only cap for Italy taking part in a friendly game against South Africa. His debut was really positive as he set up a goal for the World Champions. In the 2000-01 season, he made four appearances with Italy Under-21 National Team.

9. After having long hair for several years, Andrea decided to shave his head at the beginning of the past season. "They told me I looked angry with that haircut, so I was forced to change," he said.

10. The 27-year-old was born on September 11, and shares his birthday with German legend Franz Beckenbauer and American singer Moby.

Cavalieri Charge Liverpool Close In On Keeper

Liverpool have prepared for Scott Carson's exit by making a £3m offer for the Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri, although their £10m valuation of the England international is frustrating his hopes of a move away from Anfield.

Carson wants to leave Rafael Benítez's team having spent loan spells at Aston Villa, Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday in the three years since joining Liverpool from Leeds United. The 22-year-old, capped twice by England, saw a proposed return to Villa fall through after Martin O'Neill deemed the goalkeeper over-priced, while interest from Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion also cooled over Liverpool's demands.

Another season-long loan remains possible for Carson but, with the player wanting stability and his club seeking to raise funds for Benítez's transfer budget, neither party is keen on the idea. Anfield officials are close to securing cover for Jose Reina next season after holding talks with Palmeiras over Cavalieri. Milan and Internazionale have both been linked with the 26-year-old but Liverpool are understood to have agreed personal terms with the Brazilian and hope to secure his signature next week.

Benítez completed his second signing of the summer yesterday when Andrea Dossena finalised his move from Udinese. The Italian left-back, capped once by his country, signed a four-year deal and will cost Liverpool an initial £6m, rising to £8m over the course of his contract. He follows the Swiss international Philipp Degen, who has joined on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

The veteran coach Archie Knox has joined Paul Ince's backroom staff at Blackburn Rovers. The 61-year-old former Manchester United, Rangers and Everton coach was released by Gary Megson from Bolton at the end of last season and will work alongside Ince and the assistant manager Ray Mathias as Rovers' first-team coach.

Councillors in Liverpool have formed a cross-party alliance to urge the government to call-in Everton's proposed stadium move to Kirkby. The £400m project between Everton and Tesco is currently under review by the Government Office for the North West. Leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Liberal and Green parties are to formally request an inquiry amid allegations the project breaks planning regulations.