Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Torres Targets Liverpool Captaincy

Liverpool's Spanish sensation Fernando Torres has vowed not to become complacent after he managed to top his record-smashing debut season in England by scoring the goal which ended his country's 44 year trophy drought.

The 24-year old moved to Anfield from Atletico Madrid in a £22 million deal last summer, and despite doubts from several leading pundits, went on to score 33 times for The Reds in his debut campaign.

His transition from the Estadio Vicente Calderon to Anfield has been so seamless, that he even has designs of succeeding Steven Gerrard as captain of the storied Merseyside club one day.

Torres told The Mirror: "I really admire Steven Gerrard because I know the pressure he is under every day, everybody talking about him all day long, in changing rooms, in the pubs, in the stadium.

"I've heard people say that he should be stronger, have a stronger personality. And I know from experience how difficult it is to deal with all that. He is at another level of course, because Liverpool is a huge club.

"But I was captain of my team from a very young age and I know everybody was talking about me. I could feel it. I could see it out of the corner of my eye - especially when things weren't going right.

"People look at you from a distance and challenge you with their eyes. All that happens every day to Stevie and he copes with it - he copes with 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 has been a great example to everyone and those of us who have been in a similar situation know how difficult it is to handle.

It's incredible how he carries himself regardless of what's going on."

"I'd love to be captain one day - Steven has shown me how to be a great leader."

Torres also was keen to give Rafa Benitez credit for his career reaching a whole new stratosphere over the past year.

"Rafa has taught me to demand a lot of myself daily, not to relax. When you are in a team where things are going mostly well, players tend to relax.

"But you must always push yourself and never become complacent, 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, Benitez is on 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.

"There are days when you think, "My God, this guy does not let you breathe'. At times like that you don't realise that all he wants is for you to improve.

"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 having someone like that so close. But in the long term, I'm sure everybody will thank him for it."

Toon In For Insua

Newcastle United are thought to be keen on a loan move for Liverpool's promising full-back, Emiliano Insua.

The Argentine was kept at Anfield for this coming season supposedly under express orders from manager Rafael Benitez, but the Toon are still hopeful of securing his services, if only for a year on loan.

With new signing Andrea Dossena and Fabio Aurelio more established internationals in Insua's position, the move may remain an outside possibility, particularly as John-Arne Riise has left for Roma.

The 19-year-old would most likely head straight into the Magpies' starting line-up ahead of Jose Enrique, who has failed to live up to his £6.3 million billing from Villarreal.

Nicky Shorey of relegated Reading and Wayne Bridge, Ashley Cole's deputy at Chelsea, are other targets being eyed up by the Toon.

"I've got to sign another left-back, as I've only got one at the club," said coach Kevin Keegan.

"That's not to say I don't fancy Jose [Enrique], I do, but I need another left-back."

Rovers To Replace Bentley With Pennant?

With Blackburn Rovers looking increasingly likely to have to sell winger David Bentley, however reluctantly, Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant is emerging as their main target to replace him.

Blackburn Rovers manager Paul Ince is being tipped to make a move for Liverpool midfielder Jermaine Pennant as soon as David Bentley leaves Ewood Park, which is looking increasingly imminent.

According to The Independent, Tottenham Hotspur have offered Rovers a range of player options as makeweights in their bid to secure Bentley's signature, but Blackburn are said only to be interested in cash - and apparently they see Pennant as a ready-made replacement.

Pennant, who like Bentley was developed at Arsenal but couldn't command a regular starting place in Arsene Wenger's side, has been told by Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez that he can leave Anfield.

He would be happy to join Ince's exciting new project at Ewood, but Liverpool will demand £6million for the 25-year-old. Rovers, though, are reportedly prepared to pay no more than £4million at this stage, so there could be some hard bargaining ahead.

Ironically, earlier in the summer Liverpool were one of the clubs being most strongly linked with a move for Bentley.

Satisfied Juve Rule Out Alonso

The chances of seeing Xabi Alonso in a Bianconeri jersey have dropped dramatically after Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli confirmed that the club's summer spending is over.

Cobolli Gigli's comments come a day after Juve manager Claudio Ranieri announced that Christian Poulsen would be their last addition ahead of next season.

The fact that the Dane plays the same position as long-term Juve target Alonso combined with the club's announcement means that if the Spaniard is to leave Liverpool in the summer it almost certainly won't be for Turin.

"We will not make any other buys. We have opted for the Dane because we have a very strong attack and needed a wall in the midfield," the Juve chief told local reporters.

"Everyone knows that the transfer market ends on August 31," but if I have to be honest, unless something extraordinary happens, we can say that we have concluded our transfer activity.

"I am convinced that we have made a good choice by acquiring Christian Poulsen," he added.

"This signing is not a bet made by (Claudio) Ranieri but rather a tactical decision taken by Juventus, knowing that a powerful attack can only be supported by a strong midfield."

Gigli's comments also have a direct impact on the future of Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic, who was all set to join Juventus last month only for the fans to effectively veto the deal through an online protest which the club simply could not ignore.

Hyypia Not Afraid Of Competition As Agger Finally Plans To Return From Injury

Liverpool veteran Sami Hyypia today welcomed back young rival Daniel Agger from his 10-month injury nightmare and vowed to fight for his first team place.

Hyypia, 35 in October, has a new one-year contract and the chance to complete a remarkable 10 years at Anfield in style before considering his future options.

And the big Finnish defender figured in over 44 matches for the club last season when 23-year-old Agger was out with a metatarsal injury.

But although Agger made his comeback in Saturday's 1-0 friendly win at Tranmere, and would expect to become first-choice as the season progresses, Hyypia has promised the young Dane that he will be battling to keep his place in the team.

He said: 'It's nice to have him fit because players always want to play and it will have been hard for Daniel to deal with not being fit for so long.

'It must have been devastating for him to be out for almost a whole season.

'It is not something I would really know about because I have never suffered that kind of thing but I'm sure it was very difficult for him.

'But I am really glad that he is back and he can help the team to win trophies.

'I am sure the manager is happy because it means he has five centre-backs to choose from now.

'That means we all have to fight for our place but that is the way it has always been at Liverpool and this season will be no different.

'It is good to have that kind of challenge, though. I will be fighting for my place and I am sure the other defenders will be doing exactly the same.'

And Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio underlines the strong competition there will be in Liverpool's defence now that boss Rafael Benitez has brought in two new full-backs, Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena.

Both made their debuts at Tranmere, and Aurelio told liverpoolfc.tv: 'At a club like Liverpool there is always massive competition to get into the starting XI because of the players we have for each position, but that is good and it can only improve the team.

'We are trying to fight for every title and we have more possibilities this season.'

Carson In Talks With Stoke

Scott Carson is holding talks with Stoke City after Liverpool accepted a £3.5million bid for the goalkeeper, according to Sky Sports News.

Carson moved to Anfield from Leeds in January 2005, but has been unable to force his way into Rafa Benitez's first-team plans.

He spent all of last season on loan at Aston Villa, after a similar arrangement with Charlton Athletic for the duration of the previous campaign.

The Whitehaven-born shot-stopper was handed his competitive England debut for the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia at Wembley last November.

But he endured an evening to forget as his early howler handed Slaven Bilic's side an early advantage, with the visitors going on to record a 3-2 triumph in the Wembley rain to deny England a place at Austria and Switzerland.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has been scouring the market for a new goalkeeper this summer and it will be something of a transfer coup if he can bring Carson to the Britannia Stadium.

Villa considered a deal to make their former loan star's move permanent, while West Brom and Middlesbrough were also credited with an interest in the No.1.

Reds Starlet Set For Loan Move

Liverpool starlet Robbie Threlfall is set for a loan move away from Anfield as Rafa Benitez looks for him to gain valuable first team experience.

The 19-year-old full-back is highly regarded at Anfield having come through the youth ranks and recently signed a three-year deal at the club.

Threlfall had a spell with Hereford last season and Benitez is keen to send him out on loan again as he continues his policy of farming out his best young players to aid their development.

The Reds have made the talented left-back available for loan and the news has alerted a number of clubs north and south of the border.

A couple of League One sides and SPL clubs are believed to be tracking the defender as they look to secure his services.

Threlfall is looking forward to the chance of moving out on loan as he looks to get regular action under his belt.

"I have been informed that Liverpool are willing to let me go out on loan and I am relishing the prospect of playing on a regular basis," Threlfall told skysports.com.

"I am aware of some interest in me and I am prepared to go anywhere to continue my development.

"I believe going out on loan will prove a valuable experience in my bid to establish myself in the Liverpool first team in the future."

Sissoko - Xabi Happy With Reds

Mohamed Sissoko has cast further doubt on Xabi Alonso's proposed move from Liverpool to Juventus.

Sissoko made such a move himself in January but believes the Spaniard is happy at Anfield.

His comments come as the transfer of the £16million rated midfielder appears to have stalled.

Sissoko told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport: "Yes, I have talked to him.

"And he told me he is happy at Liverpool."

Sissoko could instead link up with Sevilla midfielder Christian Poulsen as the Bianconeri look set to pay the player's 10million euro contract release clause.

The Denmark international has already agreed personal terms and is set to be confirmed after a medical on Monday.

Some Juve fans are unhappy with the signing but Sissoko believes the pair can form a solid partnership in the Juventus midfield.

He said: "We have different characteristics. In fact I think our styles can fit together very well, as can our qualities.

"He gets stuck in more and also scores more goals. There's no doubling up.

"Certain choices don't depend on me, but here there's space also for Poulsen."

He added: "I want to win the Scudetto. We are strong and we have the quality to improve still further.

"Now it's up to us, we have a great desire to win, we have a pile of dreams, we want to achieve them all."

Lee - We Can Be Champs Again

Sammy Lee believes Liverpool can get back to their glory days in the league.

The Reds assistant manager - who was part of the famous Liverpool sides that lifted the league in the early 80s - returned to Anfield earlier in the summer as boss Rafa Benitez's right-hand man.

He knows how much the club wants a first-ever Premier League crown, and believes they are not far off achieving this aim.

While the Reds will have to overhaul Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal for top spot, Lee believes they can better these sides.

He told the club's official website: "They are three very good teams. Only results will prove whether I'm right or wrong, but I feel that we need to be looking to be not just as good as, but better than those three.

"We just need that little stroke of luck, that little attention to detail, and you never know.

"We are not that far away and I feel we have proven on many occasions over the past four or five years that we can be better than them. Not as good as - but better."

Liverpool came within 11 points of eventual champions Manchester United last term, their nearest finish since 2002.

Lee added: "That shows we are getting closer. I have never been one for making promises. There are enough people out there who give promises and I would never do that.

"But what I would say is that I feel we are going in the right way. I feel with just a little bit of tweaking here and there we will not be far off.

"Only time will tell, but what I will say is that everyone is striving and working hard to try and make sure that we can close that gap and overhaul it."

Lee is delighted to be back at Liverpool - who he left in 2004 to take up an England role - after a stint as Bolton manager did not work out last term.

He added: "It's not easy to get back into the game, so to get the chance to come back here was the greatest honour I could ever receive.

"To be perfectly honest, it wasn't very easy for me to leave here in the first place - I just thought it was the right thing to do at that particular moment in time.

"I was very proud and very honoured to be given the Bolton manager's job and it was great to work with Sam Allardyce, it really was.

"That sense of pride and honour was only outweighed by the sense of disappointment that it didn't go well.

"I wanted to do well, but everybody was superb. The fans at Bolton were fantastic both to me, my family and the players at that time. I think they saw what we were trying to do, even if the results didn't mirror that."

He added he was disappointed that some people only saw him as ever being a number two.

"I don't think that's true. I thought I'd served an apprenticeship as a coach, reserve team coach, first team coach, assistant manager - it's not a natural progression but I thought it was part of my apprenticeship," said Lee, who has not ruled out a return to management.

"I have to be careful when I say I'd like to be a manager again because people might think I want to do it here when the top man's already here and doing a terrific job, or people might think I'm angling to go somewhere else when I'm not.

"At this precise moment in time, all I'm looking for is to try and do the best I can for Liverpool Football Club, to be a good help to Rafa and the players and to try and get us back to where I certainly believe we belong."