Monday, July 28, 2008

Philipp Degan Injury Blow For Liverpool FC

New signing Philipp Degen is facing the prospect of missing the start of Liverpool’s season with a groin strain.

Degen could require surgery on the injury, sustained during the team’s pre-season training camp in Switzerland last week.

The right-back, who arrived on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, missed much of last season with a groin problem.

Degen required an operation to repair the damage but, despite efforts to regain his full fitness, failed to get off the bench for Switzerland during Euro 2008. The 25-year-old’s absence would be another blow to Rafael Benitez, who is already without Olympics-bound trio Lucas Leiva, Ryan Babel and Javier Mascherano for the opening weeks of the campaign.

And with Alvaro Arbeloa’s Anfield future uncertain, it could persuade Benitez to keep hold of Steve Finnan.

But Benitez is confident of having Robbie Keane available, with the Tottenham Hotspur striker expected to undergo a medical today.

The Reds are hopeful of pushing through a deal that could climb to £20m for the Spurs forward.

Martin O'Neill In New Gareth Barry Jibe At Liverpool FC

Martin O’Neill has urged Gareth Barry to remain with Aston Villa and claimed the Midlands club wants him more than Liverpool.

Barry received a rapturous reception from the Villa faithful following his introduction as a 15th-minute substitute in the Intertoto Cup win over Odense.

The England midfielder responded with applause of his own as he turned in his usual measured performance after replacing stricken Dutchman Wilfred Bouma at left-back.

And with Liverpool still to come up with an offer approaching the £18million Villa are demanding, O’Neill, who banned Barry from the training ground after his newspaper sideswipe at the Ulsterman, is hoping his star man will stay.

“Having not heard anything from Liverpool for some time it is clear we value him more than they do,” said O’Neill.

“The fact they have not answered us for a week sends out a real message.

“We obviously don’t want him to go, so the price we are asking is a fair and realistic one for a player who is so good. In fact I think it is really cheap.

“My own view is that he should hang around for another year and see if we can make further progress as he would want.

“Gareth is still only 28 next year – if we don’t get where he wants to go, everybody would wish him well.”

O'Neill could not have asked any more of the Villa fans, who jeered Barry during a midweek outing at nearby Walsall.

There was not the merest hint of dissent this time as the cheers began as the player waited to make his entrance.

The reception, as well as a win which takes Villa into the UEFA Cup second qualifying round, provides the perfect platform for Barry to revise his opinion, which is what O’Neill desperately hopes for.

“He has been with us for 10 years and the crowd reaction was really strong in his favour,” said O’Neill.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about what we all want at Villa Park. We want him to stay at the club.

“I am not in the habit of encouraging players to talk to me after games but I told Gareth he had been terrific.

“You could see, with hardly any training, how brilliant he was.

“We need him at this club. He would be a terrific loss for us.”

Meanwhile John Carew believes it is a 50-50 bet that Barry remains with Aston Villa.

The striker said: “We all hope Gareth stays because he is such an amazing player and I definitely do because I really enjoy playing with him.

“The fans certainly could not have done any more.”

Carew shares the manager’s view that Barry should stay a further year to see how far the club progresses.

“Gareth is a good professional and a great player,” said Carew.

“He can handle any situation and I am happy to see him playing again.

“The reception he received did not surprise me but I know he can adapt to any situation.

“We have all been in the game for a long time, so we don’t waste too much energy thinking about whether the crowd is being positive or negative.

“He will just go out there and do his job in exactly the same way as he always does and we will just wait to see what happens.”

Ashley Young used his lightning pace to score the goal that ease Aston Villa through 3-2 on aggregate.

By the time Villa learn their opponents in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round, Barry’s future should be slightly clearer.

“I have always said Gareth is a true professional,” said Young.

“He is always going to do his job in a professional way and that is what he has done.

“What is happening is between Gareth and the club. It has nothing to do with me. But he was always going to get a good reception from the fans. He has done well for the club. It was nice to see that being recognized.”

Carragher Impressed By Impact Of Pacheco And Fellow Fresh Faces

Jamie Carragher reckons that Liverpool could soon have another Spanish star spearheading their attack.

With Torres still on holiday last week after netting the goal that secured Spain victory in the European Championship finals earlier in the month, manager Rafael Benitez handed his number nine jersey to compatriot Danny Pacheco for the 0-0 draw with Hertha Berlin at the Olympiastadion.

The 17-year-old, who was signed from Barcelona last summer following an increasing trend of Spanish youth players who can sign professional contracts in England at a younger age than in their homeland, has impressed Carragher throughout Liverpool’s pre-season campaign to date and he believes that the diminutive frontman could soon be making an impact around the first team squad for competitive matches.

Carragher said: “Danny Pacheco was as good as anyone on the trip, he’s been superb.

“He’s always looked like a great one for the future but we might not have to wait too long because the way he’s playing he looks like he could be a great one for right now.”

Also in action in Germany were fellow youngsters Stephen Darby and Jay Spearing and as someone who has come through the ranks at Anfield, Carragher knows the challenge they are facing.

He said: “I think the young lads have done superbly so far.

“We’ve all been there as a young lad when you’re probably a bit shy knocking around with the first team but they’ve all come in and haven’t been overawed by it all and I think they’ve impressed all of us.

“Jay and Stephen have both stepped up from the reserves and done really well.

“They’ve all been good and it’s nice for everyone at the club to see young players come into the team during pre-season and give a good account of themselves.

“We all know what it’s like when you come through as a young player and you just want to impress the manager on the training pitch and in matches and I think they will have done that.

“Now they have to keep on working hard and looking to get better so that they can give themselves as a good a chance as they possibly can.”

Bootle-born Carragher is also pleased that Spearing and Darby’s breakthrough to the first team squad has seen another couple of fellow Merseysiders to try and grab their chance.

He said: “I’m desperate for young players to come through, especially young Scouse lads, and I think the ones who’ve been involved so far have definitely shown what they can do.

“When you come away the pre-season training sessions are really important for the young players because you’re in the manager’s face all the time and that gives you a chance to impress him as much as you can.

“Going back to when I first came into the side I knew I had to treat training just like a match if I was going to impress the manager and that’s certainly what the likes of Darby and Spearing have been doing.”

Liverpool Transfer To Have Silva Lining

Liverpool look to take advantage of the financial situation at Valencia by swooping for Silva, according to The Sun.

Valencia are alleged to have amassed debts of up to £400million, they are also looking to finance a new stadium too, that could cost up to £250million.

Add Juan Solares' (Valencia owner) desire to sell the club, together with the possible need to sell their star players such as Silva, Villa, and Joaquin, and you may see a club in the midst of a mini-crisis.

Reports in today's The Sun focus on Rafa Benitez's attempt at exploiting Valencia's situation by swooping for star winger David Silva.

Silva was recently subject to a bid from Sevilla. A fee of £17million was rejected by club president Juan Villalonga, which infuriated owner Solares.

If Liverpool were to place a figure within this region, then they might be able to get their man.

It is expected that some of the money from the Crouch deal will fund the Silva bid.

Reds Receive Mystery Bid For Arbeloa

An unnamed Spanish club has offered Liverpool £6million for unsettled defender Alvaro Arbeloa, according to The People.

Arbeloa has been recently linked with a return to his homeland after supposedly confiding in manager Rafael Benitez that he is dissatisfied with life on Merseyside.

The Spain full-back, along with fellow EURO 2008-winners Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Jose Reina, commenced pre-season training on Friday after enjoying an extended holiday.

The 25-year-old was only a bit-part player for la Furia Roja last month, and he may fear that a similar fate awaits him at club level following the arrival of Swiss right-back Philipp Degen at Anfield.

However, it would seem the Real Madrid product has been offered an avenue back to La Liga, although the identity of the prospective buyer remains shrouded in mystery.

Arbeloa’s departure would be a big blow for the Reds, as his £2.5million purchase from Deportivo La Coruna last year has proven to be one of Benitez’s shrewdest.

Humble Man Who Never Walked Alone

Good Bob Paisley was laid to rest in his parish churchyard yesterday as Liverpool supporters respected his family's request for privacy, and there were fewer than 100 gathered outside when the simple coffin, adorned with red and white roses, was carried into St Peter's, Woolton. There will be a more acclaiming memorial service in the city in the spring.

His widow Jessie, their three children and seven grand-children led the mourners, who included a number of players from Paisley's record-breaking teams as well as the four managers who succeeded him - Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Roy Evans.

Two of those, Fagan and Evans, would have been ruminating through moist eyes on the days when all the blazing red fires that were too hot for Europe were lit in the Anfield bootroom, which, legend has it, was instituted by the late Bill Shankly after he arrived to manage the dingy Second Division club at Christmas 1959 and kept on the two backroom boys from the previous regime, Fagan and Paisley.

By touching fluke this very day is published a biography, Shankly by Stephen F Kelly, which celebrates the founder of the feast. Kelly writes: "If there was any magic, it came from that small group who gathered within its four walls... all that came out of that bootroom was plain common sense."

And you can just picture it: a pot of tea on the hob, Shankly in his woolly cardie, Paisley in his slippers, Fagan and Ronnie Moran still in their tracksuits. "Young so-and-so didn't look too bright this morning," Paisley would mutter in his north-east vernacular. "Probably out too late last night," someone else would suggest. "Better have a word," Shankly would add. "Or give him a run in the reserve..."

Cosy little natters at elevenses which, in their way, girdled the globe - as pictures of yesterday's funeral will have. The Geordie adopted - and how! - by the Scousers knew he would be buried at St Peter's, which he and Jessie attended each Sunday for years. St Peter's! To the end he would tell of the finest night of his career, after Liverpool had won the first of their European Cups, soundly thrashing Borussia Mönchengladbach in Rome. The party afterwards was at the Holiday Inn, just down from St Peter's itself. It was the last of its type. It was still (just) the age of soccer's innocence then. The press was invited and the world and his wife were allowed to gatecrash so long as they were decked in red.

A number of the obits to Paisley mentioned that, however much the champagne bubbled, the beaming manager bursting out of his ill-fitting Burton's blue suit refused to take a drink, so he could "drink in the atmosphere and the achievement".

Well, true in fact but not in theory. Halfway through the do a big mitt gripped my arm fondly. "A Keating's a boy who should know," said Bob. "D'you think there's any chance of getting a bottle of Guinness round here?" I searched every nook. The St Peter's Holiday Inn did not stock Guinness. "Ah me," said Bob, "that means only me and the Pope up the road and Horace [Yates, the teetotal sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post] over there are the only three sober men in Rome tonight."

By then the joint was dancing. Lo and behold, they struck up the Gay Gordons. Paisley joined in one set with us, grin on full beam, then went to bed, a happy man, the very happiest of men. Before he pattered off to the lift to get into those favourite slippers he had said something passingly matter-of-fact and prophetic. No football club in those days was sponsored but the spivs were talking such revolution. "Sponsors?" Bob winced as we walked to the lift. "Sign up with them and they'll be picking the team for you inside a fortnight." And so it has come to pass. RIP.

Rafinha Back On Liverpool Radar

Brazilian fullback Rafinha is once again being linked with a possible transfer to Premier League side Liverpool.

He has long been linked with a move to the Merseyside giants with Reds boss Rafa Benitez a confirmed admirer of the Schalke right back.

With Alvaro Arbeloa being linked with a move back to Spain following a mystery £6 million bid, money could well be available for the purchase of Rafinha.

The Brazilian is also in dispute with his club at the moment over the Olympics, and his future at the Bundesliga club is far for certain.

He was called up by coach Carlos Dunga for the summer’s Olympic tournament, but was told by Schalke he couldn’t go. However, Rafinha has gone against the club’s wishes and travelled regardless.

Any parting of the ways at the Veltins Arena will surely awake the interest of Liverpool amongst others.