Friday, July 11, 2008

Rafa Hints At Alonso Exit

Rafa Benitez has hinted that he still intends for Xabi Alonso to leave Liverpool this summer, telling the gathered media ‘he knows my ideas and he knows why’.

Alonso has been the £14 million target of Juventus all season, in a deal that would facilitate Liverpool’s £17 million move for Gareth Barry.

The Reds want closer to £16 million for their Spanish midfielder, which has caused The Old Lady to stall on the transfer.

It now appears Alonso’s move may collapse, a situation that does not seem very satisfactory to Benitez.

"The situation with Alonso has not changed. Juventus made an offer that was not good enough and now we are just waiting,” he explained.

“I do not know, really, whether that will go through.

"Xabi wants to stay because he is happy here but he also knows that Juventus is a top side.

“I have talked to him, he knows my ideas and he knows why. So we will try to find a solution for him, for us, and the best for the club."

Benitez did reveal that all his signings will be made by using funds from the sales of others, and Alonso would certainly be the most lucrative departure for The Reds.

"We know the situation regarding what we can spend, and we are trying to find solutions if we do not have enough money.

"And we will still try to sign players that will make us better. But if you do not have too much money and that is clear, we will have to have a little bit of imagination to progress in the market.”

O'Neill Clears Way For Barry To Complete Liverpool Deal

Gareth Barry is set to finally secure his £18m move from Aston Villa to Liverpool in the next few days after the two clubs re-opened negotiations yesterday. The impasse was broken following a letter submitted to Liverpool by Villa manager Martin O'Neill outlining how he wants the deal to be structured.

Villa have not wavered in their valuation of Barry but are prepared to accept Steve Finnan, in exchange, as part of the transfer. O'Neill has told Liverpool he values the full-back at just £1m so would still want £17m for Barry. He has also insisted that Liverpool adhere to the Premier League payment structure of half of the Barry money to be paid now and the rest within the next 12 months.

Although Liverpool, who had a £15m offer for Barry rejected last week, are still quibbling over that and Finnan's value – they rate the 32-year-old at £2m despite the fact he is in the final year of his contract – it appears the deal is finally underway. None of the stipulations are insurmountable.

O'Neill, who has been preparing an £11m bid for Valencia right-back Miguel, does not regard the wrangle over Finnan as crucial and is keen to resolve Barry's future as quickly as possible so that his pre-season preparations are not affected any longer.

"Liverpool have come back to us and we have responded to their proposal with a letter," O'Neill said. "We're waiting to hear back from Liverpool after putting that proposal to them. I'm sure there will be some sort of resolution."

O'Neill is also more relaxed about the situation now that Steve Sidwell's £5m move from Chelsea has been agreed and wants to rule a line under the Barry saga. It has also become increasingly acrimonious with the 27-year-old Villa captain being fined two weeks wages, around £80,000, for giving an "unauthorised interview", and then banned from club premises.

Sidwell will undergo a medical and should sign today before flying out to join up with the squad at their training camp in Switzerland. The 25-year-old is due to make his debut on Saturday in a friendly in Zurich.

At the same time Liverpool, having secured a potential £11m for Peter Crouch, who has agreed terms on a move to Portsmouth, feel they are in a position to push ahead with their bid for Barry. They are also close to completing a £3m deal for the Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri who will arrive from Palmeiras, and be understudy to Pepe Reina, after completing his medical and obtaining a work permit, with Charles Itandje on the verge of being sold to Galatasaray for around £2m.

Manager Rafael Benitez, who needs to generate funds to add to his transfer kitty of around £20m, is also keen to offload Scott Carson, who was on loan to Villa last season, but no club has come close to matching his £10m valuation.

Benitez spoke yesterday of his admiration for Valencia's David Villa and although the club are willing to sell, the striker appears to want to remain in Spain.

Benitez Keen On Keane

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez ruled out making a move for Spain striker David Villa on Thursday.

Benitez, who has allowed striker Peter Crouch to join Portsmouth, had been linked with the Valencia player who starred at last month's Euro 2008 finals.

"I said the other day that Villa is one of the names we had on our list, but I can say at this moment that it is not an option for us," Benitez told Liverpool's website (

"We know Villa is a very good player, we know the price and we know the players we have, so when you consider everything we decided he was one of the names but, at this moment, not our target."

However, Benitez confirmed that a move for Tottenham Hotspur's Ireland striker Robbie Keane was a possibility.

"Keane is one of the other names and OK we are still working with other names. We were in contact and we will see now," he said.

Dutch Coach De Haan Blasts Benitez

Dutch U-23 boss Foppe De Haan is sticking to his guns, shrugging off Rafael Benitez concerns that Ryan Babel's Olympic participation could seriously disrupt his plans for the injury-plagued starlet.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez must have been relieved to see his Euro 2008 battlers arrive back on Merseyside with a tough pre-season schedule looming for the Reds.

However, the wily Spaniard wasn't happy to learn that Holland Olympics coach Foppe De Haan was eager to take injury-plagued Ryan Babel to Beijing, with Javier Mascherano also looking to join up with the Argentina squad.

De Haan previously admitted that crocked Babel was a big loss to the Netherlands’ Euro 2008 squad, saying: “His absence was a large blow to the national side. He could have been our secret weapon.”

The 21-year-old, an £11.5m signing from Ajax, last summer ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in training ahead of the Austria and Switzerland showpiece and Benitez was keen for him to rest up in order to enjoy a full pre-season in order to hit the ground running.

The worried boss told the Liverpool Echo this week: "This season is very important for him, so this is a big problem. We prepare him and then he goes away with the national team."

However, bullish De Haan has now hit back at Benitez, insisting "As I understand it, coaches always think about themselves first."

If Babel does indeed head for China, he'll miss a couple of early Premiership matches and the third round or Champions League qualifying.

Dossena: Liverpool The Most Prestigious English Team

Italian defender Andrea Dossena has given his first interview since joining Liverpool, and he has described his new club as the “most prestigious team in England”.

Dossena officially completed his transfer from Udinese last week, and in the process became Liverpool’s first-ever Italian signing.

The 26-year-old left back, who has won one cap for Italy put pen to paper on a four year contract at Anfield, and he believes that his English heart will make him a success in the Premiership.

"Even from training I realise English football is different,” Dossena told

"It's all about possession and the ball seems to move quicker. There is also a great determination among the players in training, but these are all qualities that are characteristic of me too. In this way, I feel half English, half Italian.”

Dossena also spoke about his pride at being able to play for such a prestigious side as Liverpool, who are England’s most successful ever club.

"It is an honour to be wearing such a prestigious shirt." he enthused.

"It was great for me that Liverpool were so determined to have me in their squad. It is a very important shirt to wear and I will do my best. I have a great will to work hard and succeed and achieve great results.

"Of course I'll feel very strong emotions when I wear the shirt at Anfield for the first time but after the first few seconds these will be replaced by a focus on what I am doing.

"There are so many great players here and I hope to be playing beside them as soon as possible.

"I believe I will bring determination as my main strength. I have a will to succeed and achieve results. These are also characteristics I have seen in Liverpool as a team."

Finally Dossena spoke about his international ambitions, saying that he hopes his move to Liverpool will lead to him winning a regular place in the Italy squad.

"The Premier League is followed and it will be up to the national manager to watch the players abroad," he said.

"I am aware, though, that I am at the most prestigious team in England. There are other players who play abroad who are getting caps, like Luca Toni."

Benitez: Duo Give Us New Threat

Rafa Benitez is convinced the arrival of Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena can give Liverpool the added dimension needed to make a sustained challenge for the Barclays Premier League title next season.

The Reds boss - who was speaking at an afternoon press conference held to unveil the duo to the members of the media - believes the full-backs will give his side more attacking verve in the wide areas.

"I think everyone was thinking the same as us, that we needed to improve in the wide areas," he said.

"We have the spine of the team with Torres, Gerrard, Mascherano and all these players that we know. In the wide areas maybe we needed something different so we were looking for full-backs with an offensive mentality.

"Dossena likes to play football, and Degen is the same, he goes forward with quality. So we now have two players who can go forward and they will compete for their positions and hopefully it will be good for the team."

Benitez has been linked with a whole host of Europe's top talent this summer but insists it is more about improving the side in areas where he feels they will benefit rather than signing big names.

"Sometimes it is not about how much money you spend but getting the players you need," he continued.

"We needed full-backs with different qualities and these two players could be good for us. Afterwards maybe you can sign big names and maybe people will be happy, but the priority is to sign the players that you want and need - in this case two full-backs who can give something more to the team."

While neither player has experienced the fast pace of the English league, the Reds boss is confident the two players - who arrive from the Bundesliga and Serie A respectively - will prove their quality and make a rapid transition into life in the Premier League.

"I think all foreign players need time to adjust and it depends on the mentality," he said.

"Both players are very good professionals and that was one of the things we were looking for; a strong mentality and they can compete as well, so I think they will be okay.

"They played in the Italian league and the German league. They are both leagues with a high level and strong players so I think they will settle quickly.

"Degen can talk English, although he is more comfortable in German and he can also speak French. His English is okay. Dossena is learning. He can understand Spanish so it will be easy for him and we can talk in Italian too, so it is not a problem."

The new additions mean Benitez has a variety of full-backs at his disposal for the new campaign and he expects his latest recruits to battle it out with the likes of Steve Finnan, Fabio Aurelio and Alvaro Arbeloa for a place in his starting XI - although he does feel Saturday's pre-season friendly at Tranmere could come too soon for both players.

"They will need to compete for their positions," he said. "We will also need to see about the international players who have returned. I think that with Dossena, maybe he will not play against Tranmere.

"Degen we are working with and we will see. In terms of the Premier League they can both be ready if they train well in the pre-season.

"If they can give us the things that they have both spoken about with an offensive mentality and quality with the ball then it will help us and also the two strikers."