Monday, August 11, 2008

DIC Back In The Frame

Reports from the Middle East indicate that Dubai International Capital (DIC) are ready to re-launch their Liverpool takeover bid, as tensions mount between manager Rafael Benitez and the club's current owners.

DIC attempted to take control of the Merseyside club in March, but their £400million bid was rebuffed despite the widening rift between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The Arab firm had planned to buy out Gillett's majority stake with the aim of then challenging Hicks for sole ownership by offering up cash for the club's new stadium, which the Americans have so far struggled to do.

But Hicks, the more prominent of the co-owners, vetoed that deal and relations have since improved between him and his business partner.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the pair's associations with Benitez.

The Spanish tactician has had to operate under strict sell-before-buy guidelines in the transfer market, and to his credit had been doing so with a minimum of fuss as he offloaded the likes of John Arne Riise and Peter Crouch before signing Andrea Dossena and Robbie Keane.

However, Benitez had been under the impression that he would be allowed to fork out the £18million required to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa without selling Xabi Alonso, whose proposed move to Juventus collapsed earlier in the summer.

Either the owners have reneged on their promise or a massive miscommunication has occurred, because Hicks and Gillett have told the manager that Barry is not needed while Alonso is still in the squad.

It is not the first time during the Americans' short reign at the club that Benitez has been told certain targets are off-limits, and this latest case will only further infuriate both he and the fans - who, despite their backing of Alonso, have been equally supportive of Rafa's designs for the team's progress.

Hence, a DIC takeover would be widely welcomed, and Dubai newspaper The National claims that the firm are set to refresh their bid.

A source close to the DIC directors said: "Just because it is has been a quiet summer does not mean DIC have lost interest. They are happy that things have now become low key, and they are awaiting developments."

Keane - Liverpool Plus Barry To Win League

Sunderland manager Roy Keane believes Liverpool will be favourites for the Premier League title should they secure the signing of Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry.

In a saga to match that of Cristiano Ronaldo's mooted move to Real Madrid, Villa have rejected three offers from The Reds as they hold out for the £18 million asking price they have placed on the 27-year old's head.

Should a deal be completed, it will not be the first big-money arrival at Anfield following the £20 million purchase of Robbie Keane, but The Black Cats manager believes Barry could be the final piece in the jigsaw as Liverpool aim to end their long wait for the league title.

“They have to beat the Uniteds, Chelseas and Arsenals to win a trophy. They haven’t done that in recent seasons - it’s as simple as that," Keane said.

“That’s why they have paid £19m for Robbie and are ready to buy again with Gareth Barry.”

“They are both very good players and you need these sort of players to win crunch games. That is why they are going for big money.”

“Trust me, if Liverpool win the league this season they won’t look back and say they spent over the odds for Robbie Keane.

“When Chelsea were winning trophies nobody mentioned to Mourinho how much he had spent.

“Of course I would have taken Robbie in a flash. He would certainly bring something to our team - without a shadow of a doubt.

“My job is to get Sunderland into the top six and playing European football so that we can attract the Robbie Keanes of this world.”

Liverpool Deny Rift About Barry

Liverpool have denied there is a rift between manager Rafa Benitez and the club's American owners over the proposed signing of Gareth Barry.

Yet chief executive Rick Parry has confirmed that owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks think Aston Villa's £18m asking price for Barry is inflated.

"On this occasion Liverpool think the price quoted is too high," Parry said.

Benitez has made no secret of his eagerness to add the England international to his squad.

Reports had claimed Benitez was at odds with Hicks and Gillett over the player's signing. This is not about questioning the manager's judgement or the ability of a particular player

Benitez was said to be willing to pay the £18m asking price for Barry, while the American owners believed it was too much for the 27-year-old.

But Liverpool issued a statement on their website late on Saturday in which Parry said: "This is not about questioning the manager's judgement or the ability of a particular player.

"The owners have clearly demonstrated throughout the year they are willing to back Rafa in the transfer market and will continue to do so.

"It is obviously the selling club's prerogative to put whatever price they want on the player, but on this occasion Liverpool think the price quoted is too high."

After Liverpool beat Lazio 1-0 in a friendly on Friday, Benitez reiterated his desire to sign Barry.

"The situation is not a question of money," he said. "He is English and can play three different positions, but I am talking about someone who can play on the left."

Barry can play in central midfield, on the left side of midfield and at left-back.

Benitez Won't Change Much For Liege

Rafa Benitez has revealed his starting XI against Standard Liege on Wednesday is unlikely to differ too much from that which took to the field against Lazio.

Most of the club's big guns were on display on Friday night, aside from our three Olympians and Steven Gerrard, who faces a race against time to be fit for the Belgium trip due to a thigh strain.

If the skipper doesn't recover in time, it could be Damien Plessis who again fills the midfield void.

Benitez said: "More or less the side that played against Lazio will be the one that plays in the Champions League on Wednesday in Belgium.

"Most of the senior players were involved, this will be the side that plays against Standard Liege.

"The situation has been very difficult for us, we have had a lot of players returning to training late after international games in the summer and now we have players at the Olympics.

"It has given me a chance to see the young players during pre-season, and I am sure that the future of the club is guaranteed.

"I believe we are ready for the Champions League tie, the experienced players are ready. But we know that we have quality from the young players.

"I have not decided whether any more will go out on loan, it depends on whether we sell anyone else. If we do not bring anyone else in, maybe we do not need to loan any of the youngsters."

Keane Eyes CL Proper After Home Bow

Robbie Keane claims he will never forget the night he first stepped out in front of the Kop wearing a red shirt - and the Irishman now has his sights on another career landmark.

It is well-documented that the Dublin-born striker grew up dreaming of emulating the likes of Ian Rush and John Aldridge by leading Liverpool's attack at Anfield.

After three run-outs on the road, Keane finally made his home bow against Lazio on Friday night, and though he didn't mark it with a goal, the 28-year-old insists it was just how he imagined.

"It was nice to get my Anfield debut - it was a childhood dream," he told "It was great to step out and look at the Kop – it's something I've always dreamed of, you know. It is something I will never forget.

"It's nice to get it out of the way, but obviously the most important thing is the win. That gives us confidence going into next week and all the players are now looking forward to the challenge of the Champions League and Premier League."

Next up for Keane is a trip to Belgium for Wednesday night's Champions League third qualifying round.

The Republic of Ireland captain has never appeared in the competition proper and doesn't intend to let the chance of doing so in 2008-09 slip away.

"Of course I'm looking forward to Champions League football. Liverpool is a massive club and we're expected to beat teams, so I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said.

"I certainly am ready. Ask any player and they'll tell you that pre-season is just about getting fitness. Now the real business starts.

"Whenever Liverpool were playing in the Champions League or in a game which had no effect on Tottenham, I'd be cheering them on.

"The Champions League is part of why I wanted to come here. This is my opportunity now.

"I've not had a chance to go to any European games at Anfield since I was a kid.

"Once you're playing it becomes difficult, especially when I was playing in the UEFA Cup with Spurs, which would usually be a day later.

"I'm looking forward to every game, whether we're playing Manchester United or Wycombe away in the cup, but obviously I can't wait for the Champions League."

The Lazio friendly provided a third opportunity for Keane and Torres to acquaint themselves with one another.

Though still to get off the mark since signing from Spurs, the new boy feels an understanding is already developing – and predicts the duo will be firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later.

"It's only going to get better as we play games and get to know each other. As the games go along we will get better and hopefully we can score a lot of goals together for this club."

U-18S Crash To Opening Defeat

There was disappointment for Liverpool Under-18s as they lost 3-0 to Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol in their opening game of the Villarreal tournament.

Nathan Eccleston had a great chance in the opening minute of the game when he found himself clean through but was denied by a good save, and that was at good as it got for Liverpool.

Hughie McAuley then suffered a blow when German Christopher Buchtmann was forced to leave the field after 10 minutes with a knee injury.

"We made some poor mistakes and I have to say that on the night they were better than us," McAuley told

"We didn't play as well as we have been doing in pre-season and we didn't pass the ball like we normally do.

"We created some decent chances but Nathan and Marvin Pourie couldn't take them and we gave away some poor goals.

"I will be looking for a response from the players when we face Real Madrid tonight. That will be a big test for us."

Liverpool team: Chris Oldfield, Jack Metcalf, Christopher Buchtmann (Michael Roberts 10), Andre Wisdom (Under-16), Joe Kennedy, Astrit Ajdarevic, David Amoo (James Ellison 83), Adam Pepper, Lauri Dalla Valle (Marvin Pourie 45), Nathan Eccleston, Alex Kacaniklic (Thomas Ince 65).