Thursday, August 07, 2008

Yossi Benayoun Sale May Seal Deal For Gareth Barry

YOSSI BENAYOUN will join Roma this month according to the Serie A club’s coach Luciano Spalletti.

Despite Liverpool claiming that the Israeli midfielder is not for sale, Benayoun, who joined the club from West Ham United last summer is one of the players Benitez would consider sacrificing should the right offer come along in order to raise funds to finally seal a deal for Gareth Barry.

Roma have already made one successful raid on Anfield this summer, recruiting Norwegian left-back John Arne Riise for £4million and with Javier Mascherano at the Olympics with Argentina and Steven Gerrard injured, Benitez could be tempted into letting Benayoun go as he looks to add more steel to his midfield.

Spalletti revealed that he will bring two new signings to the Stadio Olimpico, claiming one of whom is Benayoun, whose squad number has been moved up from 11 to 15.

The 28-year-old winger declared earlier this week that he had no desire to leave Anfield, but speculation continues to mount over his future, with Manchester City and former club West Ham also linked with a move for the player who has netted in both of the last two matches, at Rangers and Valerenga.

However, Spalletti insists that Benayoun will be one of two arrivals in the Italian capital this summer.

He said: “There will be two new signings. The names? They’re the names you’ve heard. (Jeremy) Menez (of Monaco) and Benayoun are both top class players.”

Captain Gerrard remains a doubt for next Wednesday’s Champions League third qualifying round tie in Belgium against Standard Liege after a scan yesterday confirmed the club’s initial diagnosis.

Gerrard hobbled out of Tuesday night’s 4-1 win in Norway and is definitely out of tomorrow’s friendly against Lazio at Anfield.

Benitez said: “Scans have confirmed our diagnosis of a thigh strain.

“Steven will be out for more or less a week.”

Gerrard’s injury could help convince Liverpool to part with Benayoun as in-form Xabi Alonso could retain his place in central midfield for the Standard game thus making him cup-tied for Champions League matches and thus a less desirable target for suitors.

It would therefore be less likely that the Spaniard could be sacrificed to help fund the Barry deal.

One player who remains very much part of the Anfield furniture as he prepares to embark on his 10th season at the club is Sami Hyypia and the 34-year-old Finn claims that Liverpool’s more youthful players help to keep him feeling young.

He said: “Of course it gets a little bit more difficult as you get older but I have enjoyed this pre-season. I have played and I feel fit.

“We all get older but there are a lot of young lads who keep me fit in this team.”

Since arriving on Merseyside in 1999 from Dutch club Willem II, Hyypia has won every major domestic and European honour – except one.

With one year left on his contract the centre-back accepts the 2008/09 campaign could provide him with a final chance to land the Premier League title and if it is his last season then he is determined to go out on a high.

He said: “Hopefully it won’t be my last opportunity but of course every year we have high hopes that we’ll be closer to the top. This year is the same.

“We have strengthened the team with good quality players in the summer and hopefully we will be stronger this season.”

With less than a week to go until the start of Liverpool’s competitive fixtures, Hyypia is pleased with the team’s form having played in the second half of the 4-1 victory over Valerenga.

He said: “It was a good work-out for us and that was the main point, to get a good work-out before the season.

“We have been working hard and it showed a little bit against Valerenga. I think we will be ready for next week and the Champions League qualifier.”

Liverpool FC fans Declared ‘Sexiest’ In The Premier League

Liverpool FC players may be physically fit, but now their supporters have been officially declared the “fittest” or sexiest in the Premiership – and that’s official.

The club’s supporters – whose high-profile fans include Daniel Craig, Angelina Jolie, Dr Dre, Mel C and Joss Stone – came top of the domestic table in the attractiveness stakes, following a study conducted by a TV channel and scouts from the top London- based agency, D1 Model Management.

High-definition footage, which is four times clearer than traditional TV images, was used to study faces in the crowd at a Liverpool home match.

The results compared favourably with the results from footage taken in similar circumstances of 19 other sets of supporters in the Premiership last season.

These included fans of Premiership winners Man United in 10th, Everton 16th and Portsmouth, who came bottom.

The survey was carried out by Sky’s High Definition TV division, and spokesperson Tara Hicks said: “It was just a bit of fun, really – we supplied them with crowd footage taken from a home game of every Premiership club and they made their decision about Liverpool fans – both male and female – being the most attractive.

“The serious side of it, I suppose, was to prove that with HD you really can focus in on a face in the crowd without a problem.”

Dean Cleary-Patterson, from D1, who had the final say in the decision, said: “Yes, it’s true that beauty is subjective and in the eye of the beholder, but I have spent 15 years as a top talent spotter for international model agencies which means I’ve worked with some of the heavyweights in the TV world, on the catwalks and advertising so I think I kind of know what I’m talking about.

“But there is also a criteria that you have to typically take into account.

“There are important things to look for such as symmetrical face, the glossiness of the hair and lips being perfectly full.

“I know a good face, a face that can sell. I can take one look at someone and tell them if they are Givenchy or Primark!”

Mr. Cleary Patterson confirmed that D1 representatives would be following up the study to track down some of the unwitting potential models caught on camera and sign them up. “We’re planning something major very soon in the wake of this, and Liverpool is definitely right up there as the first stop,” he said.

Reds Let Trio Remain In Beijing

Liverpool have made it clear they have no intention of forcing their players to return from the Beijing Olympics, despite a ruling by the CAS.

Suggestions Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel and Lucas Leiva would be told to return to England have been discounted by club sources.

The confusion had arisen during the day following a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport upholding an appeal from Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke that allows the clubs to recall their players from the Games.

The argument has centred around the fact the Olympics do not figure in the FIFA schedule.

But Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has taken the view that although he would ideally like to have all his players available for next week's Champions League qualifier and the first day of the Premier League season, he has no intention of denying his young stars the chance of a lifetime to win an Olympic medal.

Liverpool declined to comment officially today on the surprise ruling but Benitez has let it be known he does not want to upset his three players who are about to start the tournament later this week, particularly Mascherano, who wants to win a second gold medal with Argentina.

To recall them now would certainly leave Benitez with three very unhappy players, all of whom have made it clear they want to be in China.

A club source said: "Liverpool want to make it clear that they have no intention of denying their players their wish of playing in the tournament."

Hyypia's Hopes As High As Ever

Liverpool veteran Sami Hyypia is desperate for league success as he nears the end of his illustrious career.

Many would consider it one of the greatest crimes in English football if Hyypia were to end his career without a Premier League medal.

The Finnish defender has been an instrumental figure ever since arriving at Anfield in 1999. Indeed, his £2.6million purchase from Willem II is widely regarded as the best bit of business Gerard Houllier ever did during his time as Liverpool manager.

Hyypia has won almost everything there is to win besides the league title: the Champions League and the UEFA Cup, two FA Cups, two League Cups, two European Super Cups and two Community Shields.

But the 34-year-old has only a runner-up medallion for all his efforts in the league - a situation he is determined to rectify before he hangs up the boots.

And he believes the Merseyside giants have a great chance this season to finally end their 18-year drought.

"Hopefully it won't be my last opportunity but of course every year we have high hopes that we'll be closer to the top," Hyypia was quoted as saying in The Sun.

"This year is the same. We have strengthened the team with good quality players in the summer and hopefully we will be stronger this season."

He added: "Of course it gets a little bit more difficult as you get older but I have enjoyed this pre-season.

"I have played and I feel fit. We all get older but there are a lot of young lads who keep me fit in this team!"

Hammers Join List Of Pennant Admirers

Despite starting a Champions League final, Jermaine Pennant hasn't quite cut it at Liverpool. He has however, got a list of admirers, and West Ham United have emerged as a potential suitor.

Liverpool's wideman, Pennant, 25, has been frozen out of Anfield affairs due to last summer's acquisitions of Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, and Dirk Kuyt. In order to find first-team football again, he would need to move away from the Mersey.

Aston Villa are believed to be interested, so to was Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth, and Blackburn Rovers are also thought to be keen. Newspaper reports even linked Newcastle United with a bid, but it is the East London club at Upton Park who may back up their interest with an official bid.

If Alan Curbishly were to move for Pennant, he would be an immediate replacement for the recently released Fredrick Ljungberg.

Alonso Set To Secure Liverpool Future Following Gerrard Injury

Steven Gerrard's thigh injury will almost certainly scupper any thoughts Liverpool had of selling Xabi Alonso to raise money to sign Gareth Barry. Gerrard returned from Oslo having picked up the injury in the 4-1 win over Valerenga on Tuesday and had a scan and further medical tests yesterday.

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, believes it is "touch and go" whether Gerrard will be fit for the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round tie at Standard Liege next Wednesday, but he is certainly out of the friendly against Lazio tomorrow.

If Gerrard is sidelined, Alonso will have to play, considering that fellow midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva are away at the Olympics. Once the Spaniard becomes cup-tied in the Champions League his value will drop significantly.

Alonso, rated at over £16m by Benitez, is likely to only consider a move to another Champions League side. With the deal to bring Barry to Liverpool seemingly no nearer completion, despite the green light from Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill at the weekend, Benitez may soon have to look at other means of raising the cash.

It was thought that the club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett would provide a short-term loan to allow Benitez to sign Barry then sell players.

It had been expecting the deal would be completed by now, bearing in mind that it was supposed to have been almost tied up last week before O'Neill's self-imposed deadline, which was withdrawn at the weekend. However, any chance of Barry being unveiled at the Lazio game seems long gone.

Benitez has clearly been impressed by Alonso's pre-season form – he has scored two goals in two games – while Yossi Benayoun's desire to stay at Anfield is also obvious. "Xabi scored a good goal after scoring a penalty against Rangers on Saturday so this is very positive," Benitez said after the win over Valerenga. "He is showing that he is a good professional but then we already knew this and I am very pleased with his commitment on the pitch."

If the money is not forthcoming from Liverpool's American owners to push the Barry deal through, Benitez is expected to look elsewhere for finance rather than sell Alonso or Benayoun.

Buying Barry would require him to find half of the £18m fee now, the rest payable in a year. So the likes of Jermaine Pennant and Andriy Voronin are likely to be sold to raise around £9m, but that would mean Barry's move is unlikely to be completed until the end of the transfer window.

Liverpool Owners Set To Provide Money To Buy Barry

Though Gareth Barry was still waiting for news of any breakthrough on his move to Liverpool yesterday, there is a feeling that the club's American owners are willing to provide the cash needed for his purchase. The Tom Hicks camp appears to be relaxed about the issue – perhaps too relaxed for Liverpool's liking – though Barry will be hoping that next week, rather than this, might deliver the moment he has been waiting for.

Hicks and Gillett may be waiting to discover how much cash Rafael Benitez may put towards the purchase of Barry through sales, though the prospect of Xabi Alonso reaping £18m looked less likely than ever yesterday after Steven Gerrard returned from Oslo having picked up a thigh injury in the 4-1 win over Valerenga, which may rule him out of next Wednesday's Champions League third qualifying round, first leg fixture away to Standard Liege.

If Gerrard is not fit for that match then Alonso will have to play, considering that fellow midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas are at the Olympics. Once Alonso becomes cup-tied in the Champions League, his value will drop significantly.

The £6m sale of Andrei Voronin remains a possibility, with several German clubs interested, as does Jermaine Pennant's £4m move, with Blackburn Rovers believed to be among those interested.

Liverpool declined to comment officially on the surprise ruling that allows clubs to withdraw their players from the Olympics after Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke appealed.

l Luke Young is expected to join Aston Villa today in a deal that could bring Middlesbrough £5m, double what the Teessiders paid Charlton for Young just over a year ago. Martin O'Neill requires cover at full back and Young, 29, had a solid first season at Boro. Villa are also trying to sign a left back and Reading's Nicky Shorey is believed to be close to moving to Villa Park.