Friday, July 25, 2008

Pacheco Yearns For Torres Union

Liverpool starlet Daniel Pacheco is relishing the prospect of lining up alongside compatriot Fernando Torres when The Reds take on Villarreal next week.

The 17-year old has impressed during his appearances for Rafa Benitez’s men in pre-season, adding credence to the growing reputation he has enjoyed in recent months.

Nothing, however, can match Torres’ meteoric rise up through world football, with El Nino scoring 33 goals in his debut season at Anfield before notching the winner for Spain in the Euro 2008 final.

Pacheco admits he one day hopes to emulate his fellow native, though the striker is prepared to exercise patience as he looks to break into Benitez’s first-team plans.

"I would love to play with Torres because he is such a great striker and it would be very special for me to be in the team with him," said Pacheco.

"He is Spanish also and he is a big hero for everyone in my country after he scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final.

"He is one of the best strikers around so I think I would learn a lot from him if I played in the team with him.

"I would have loved to have played in the team with Stevie as well but he had to go back to Liverpool because he had an injury.

"But I have really enjoyed playing alongside the other first team players and they have really helped me.

"I'm really happy to be playing with these players and to be involved during pre-season and until the boss tells me otherwise I will keep on playing and enjoying myself."

The youngster admitted that the transition from reserve football to first-team action caught him by surprise, but stated that he is prepared to train with vigour to continue his development.

"Everything is different to the football I have been playing in the reserve team," the Malaga-born player added.

"It is more competitive, faster, more difficult and you have to work harder but I am trying my best and now I just have to keep going.

"I don't know if I will still be in the team when the season starts though because that would be very difficult for me.

"The Spanish players have come back now and we will maybe have some new players as well so it would be tough for me to stay in the team.

"But I will continue to work hard every day and keep on going.

"I feel that I am playing quite well and that things are going well for me but, as I say, I cannot afford to stop working because that is the most important thing."

Alan Hansen: Liverpool Must Look To Their Wings To Have A Prayer

Liverpool legend Alan Hansen has warned Rafael Benitez that signing wide players is more important than bringing Gareth Barry or Robbie Keane to Anfield.

Benitez has made no secret of his attempts to sign midfielder Barry and striker Keane - but neither would add much of the width Hansen feels Liverpool need if they are to challenge Manchester United or Chelsea for the Barclays Premier League title.

Hansen, speaking at the launch of The New Football Pools, said: "They are getting closer but still need three or four players. Gareth Barry would be a great acquisition but really they need wide players, a couple of full-backs and wingers.

"The movement of United’s frontline is phenomenal and they look like they can score goals from anywhere.

"Liverpool rely too heavily on the goals of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. Take them out of the equation and I don’t see too many goals coming from any other areas.

"If they go with the squad they already have, their 11 best players can compete. It’s when you go deeper. Modern-day Premier League football is not about one team, it’s about two. United and Chelsea can replace quality with quality but Liverpool can’t.

"We won the championship in the 70s and 80s sometimes with great teams, sometimes with average teams. You can no longer do it with an average team, you have to be great to win the championship."

Hansen believes United and Chelsea will be the Premier League’s top two next season, although he feels Cristiano Ronaldo could decide where the title goes depending on whether he stays at Old Trafford or not.

He added: "If Frank Lampard went from Chelsea they would get by. If Ronaldo went from United it might make the difference between winning the championship or not."

However, Hansen also insists Lampard would be irreplaceable if he were to leave Chelsea for Inter Milan.

"If he does go the money is irrelevant because Chelsea will be looking at the wider picture of how they are going to be successful," he said. "They have a much better chance of being successful with Lampard in there.

"He’s a great player, playing all the time and he’s English so he has that heart and team spirit that can set teams and players apart.

"How do you replace him and with whom? They would be struggling because they wouldn’t be able to get Gerrard."

Hansen believes Sir Alex Ferguson was testing Luiz Felipe Scolari’s reaction with his comments regarding the age of the new Chelsea manager’s squad.

He added: "You’ll never win anything with kids, now you’ll never win anything with the older generation, according to Sir Alex. It’s just mind games, he’s the master of mind games and he always has been.

"He’s probably just testing Scolari out. Chelsea will be his biggest rivals, there’s no doubt about that, and he’s just trying to get set for the start of the season."

Xabi Alonso Set For Talks On Anfield Future As Alvaro Arbeloa Edges To Exit Door

Xabi Alonso will hold talks with Rafael Benitez today to clarify his future at Liverpool – as Alvaro Arbeloa edged towards the exit door.

Alonso and Arbeloa return to training at Melwood today along with fellow Euro 2008 winners Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina.

And Alonso is expected to waste no time in asking Benitez whether he remains part of the manager’s long-term plans.

Liverpool were willing to sell the midfielder for £16million to Juventus earlier this month before the Italians pulled the plug on the deal and signed Sevilla’s Christian Poulsen instead.

The Anfield outfit had planned to then use the transfer fee to finance their move for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

But if Benitez decides Alonso remains an integral part of the squad, it could severely test his intent on pursuing Barry, with Liverpool refusing to raise their most recent offer for the England international.

Alonso has previously intimated he would have “no problem” staying at Liverpool.

One player likely to leave Anfield in the near future, however, is Arbeloa, who is understood to want a return to his homeland for personal reasons.

Liverpool should have no problems in cashing in on the defender, whose stock is at an all-time high following his part in helping Spain win the European Championships last month.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old French striker David Ngog – the cousin of former Newcastle United defender Jean-Alain Boumsong – has penned a four-year contract after yesterday completing his £1.5m move from Paris Saint-Germain.

Ngog, who is expected to challenge for a first-team place, has scored goals at every youth level for France including two against England under-19s last season.

A young forward to have already caught the eye for Liverpool during pre-season is Dani Pacheco.

The 17-year-old, prised from Barcelona last summer, has appeared in every one of Liverpool’s friendlies so far and is hopeful of playing alongside fellow Spaniard Torres.

“I would love to play with Torres because he is such a great striker and it would be very special for me to be in the team with him,” said Pacheco.

“He is Spanish also and he is a big hero for everyone in my country after he scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final.

“He is one of the best strikers around so I think I would learn a lot from him if I played in the team with him.

“But I have really enjoyed playing alongside the other first team players and they have really helped me.”

Meanwhile, Sebastian Leto has revealed he is close to agreeing a loan move to Olympiakos.

Leto hasn’t played a competitive game for the first team since the League Cup game against Cardiff City last October after problems concerning eligibility.

The Argentine currently holds an Italian passport to enable him to win a work permit, but Italian authorities are carrying out an investigation on the validity of a number of citizenship decisions.

Although Liverpool are confident the issues will be resolved next week, Benitez is allowing the 21-year-old to leave on a season-long loan.

“I spoke with Liverpool and our decision is to leave the club and to play somewhere else on loan for one season,” said Leto.

“I have to play football next season. My agents are in Athens.

“They speak with Olympiakos for my loan.

“I have some offers from Italy and Spain but Olympiacos is the best club for me at the moment.”

Leto, who has appeared in all four of Liverpool’s pre-season friendlies, added: “I am still waiting for the community passport. Liverpool will wait for it until July 31.

“Of course, my dream is to play football in Liverpool.

“I spoke with Rafa Benitez and he told me that he wants me but I can’t stay without the passport.

“He advised me to go somewhere else to play for one season and to return next summer.

Martin O’Neill Warns Liverpool FC To Hurry Or Lose Gareth Barry

Martin O’Neill has warned Liverpool he is ready to set a deadline for them to meet his valuation of want-away Aston Villa skipper Gareth Barry.

O’Neill insists Villa cannot continue to be at the "behest" of the Merseysiders who have failed to offer the £18million he is seeking for the England midfielder.

The former Celtic boss is aware he has to make his own plans for the new campaign and needs to know whether he will have the services of Barry.

Already O’Neill is considering using the 27-year-old in Saturday’s home Intertoto Cup clash with Odense BK.

But that would not make Barry ineligible to play Champions League football if he eventually moved to Anfield.

O’Neill, who has rejected four bids for Barry from Reds counterpart Rafael Benitez, said: "It’s been unfortunate. We don’t know where we stand at this minute.

"Liverpool have not officially come back to us in any form of writing. It is a really awkward position here at this minute.

"At some stage or other there will have to be a timescale on it because we cannot just keep going on like this.

"We have got our own plans to make - and we shouldn’t be at the behest of Liverpool Football Club.

"We have to pick up the pieces and I could go on for forever and a day talking about it. It doesn’t really matter. We have to see what develops.

"As I say, we have not heard back from them in an official capacity."

O’Neill is ready to consider Barry on Saturday even though he was the target of abuse from Villa fans during Tuesday’s friendly at Walsall.

He said: "If Gareth is in the right frame of mind then we will explore everything. He will be in contention for Saturday.

"I have never not been impressed with him in two years as to his attitude on the football pitch.

"In fairness the Intertoto gives us that chance to get into the UEFA Cup, which we set out to get into by one way or another, and Gareth was a major part of that last year."

O’Neill, who is hoping to complete the signing of Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel, is aware of the need to bring in new blood with the start of the Barclays Premier League campaign only three weeks away."

Spurs' Robbie Keane On The Verge Of Sealing Liverpool Transfer

Tottenham Hotspur forward Robbie Keane is set to complete a transfer to Liverpool within the next 48 hours after it emerged that the Republic of Ireland captain had been left out of the north Londoners' 19-man squad that played a friendly at Hercules in Alicante last night.

Keane is expected to put pen to paper on a £18 million deal over the weekend, despite his employers at White Hart Lane having lodged a formal complaint with the Premier League over Liverpool's conduct in this whole affair, although Spurs themselves made no comment before the fixture kicked off regarding their captain's subsequent absence from the team line-up.

It is believed that Keane, 28, has already informed Tottenham coach Juande Ramos of his desire to join Liverpool, the club he supported as a boy and the fact that the player was removed from the Spurs squad in Spain without suffering any apparent injury, unlike his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov, who played the whole 90 minutes, only heightens the sense that the transfer is a fait accompli.

However, that is not the case concerning Gareth Barry's on-off move to Anfield. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez may now have £20m at his disposal following the close-season sales of Scott Carson, John Arne Riise, Danny Guthrie and Peter Crouch, but that has since been earmarked for Keane's transfer, a situation that threatens to leave both Barry himself, as well as his club Aston Villa, in limbo for the foreseeable future at least.

Benitez welcomes Xabi Alonso, Jose Manuel Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa all back to pre-season training today after the Spaniards were given more time off in which to recuperate following their country's triumph at Euro 2008, but unless he can find a club willing to part with £16m for Alonso, then it looks as though Barry may have to remain at Villa Park, at least until the next transfer window reopens in January.

It does appear though that one Spain international, full-back Arbeloa, will be departing the club, with the 25 year old said to be leaving Merseyside due to unspecified personal reasons.