Thursday, September 04, 2008

Voronin Delight At Hertha Switch

New Hertha Berlin signing Andriy Voronin is excited by the prospect of playing in the Bundesliga after joining on loan from Liverpool.

The Ukraine striker was a deadline-day arrival from Anfield and is looking forward a second stint in Germany having plied his trade there for 12 years before moving to Merseyside in the summer of 2007.

"Hertha is a fine club with a young and very good team. It is a very, very exciting task ahead of me," he told Hertha's official website.

"The team has a lot of potential and good players like Arne Friedrich, Mark Pantelic or Joe Simunic to name but a few.

"Of course it is a brilliant league and the atmosphere is very special, but the difference between the Premier League and the Bundesliga is not huge."

Voronin might be missing out on Champions League football by leaving Liverpool, but the 29-year-old is still confident of a successful season in German capital.

He said: "Hertha are a young team with a lot of potential. Hertha is an ambitious club and I want to play a part in their goals.

"I think qualification for the UEFA Cup is a realistic target, and of course we want to progress as far as possible in this year's competition."

Dubai Investors Yet To Make Fresh Bid

The Dubai investors who attempted to buy Liverpool last year are yet to make an increased offer for the club.

Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, was reported to have sanctioned an increased offer of £500 million to buy Liverpool.

However, sources have now described those claims as inaccurate, and insisted there are no ongoing talks about the possible sale of Liverpool.

With the global banking crisis leaving Liverpool’s American owners unable to finance plans for a new stadium in Stanley Park, the club are in danger of treading water.

Cash flow is not a concern for Dubai International Capital, one of Sheikh Mohammed’s investment arms. But it remains unclear whether Tom Hicks and George Gillett would be prepared to listen to a fresh offer for their shares, should DIC return to the table.

Manchester City’s recent takeover by the Abu Dhabi United group makes the situation of Liverpool’s ownership all the more critical.

With such financial muscle, City can now realistically expect to mount a serious challenge for one of four Champions League places.

Liverpool and Arsenal are most at risk, but the impact of failure to qualify for the Champions League would be much greater at Anfield, where matchday revenues are dwarfed by those raised at the larger and more corporate-friendly Emirates Stadium.

It is estimated Arsenal generate £50 million more than Liverpool every year simply through this means, making the need to leave Anfield all the more pressing.

When they bought the club in 2007, Hicks and Gillett promised work on the new stadium would begin almost immediately.

But with annual interest payments of £30 million and the current financial climate as it is, there are fears on Merseyside that the Texan pair are simply incapable of fulfilling their pledges.

Rafael Benitez Defends Tactics For Aston Villa Game

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez has defended his tactics at Aston Villa.

The Anfield side gained a creditable point from a goalless draw with Martin O'Neill's team.

But the use of striker Robbie Keane out wide on the left provoked a lot of comment.

However Benitez insists it was the right decision.

He said: "We changed the system to play 4-3-3 and give Xabi Alonso freedom, then when he was being pressed we changed to 4-2-3-1. People said, 'Oh, Robbie Keane wasn't playing well on the left.' But we had to think about winning the game, not just one player."

Liverpool were without Steven Gerrard through injury and lost Fernando Torres to a hamstring strain in the first half.

Benitez added: "Getting a draw without them showed the quality in the squad – but it could have been better. Having watched the videos, I thought we could have won. We had four chances – Alonso, Kuyt, Ngog and Keane. They had two and some set-pieces. So, the point was good but it could have been better."

Meanwhile, he is backing his side to improve their form - even though they remain unbeaten in the Premier League and are joint top of the table.

The displays have not been totally convincing and with dates against Manchester United and Everton on the horizon along with the start of the Champions League group stages, Benitez told the club's official website:

"Javier Mascherano, Lucas and Ryan Babel arrived late and I am sure that in a few weeks' time it will be better. We need to have better possession and work on having a higher tempo."

And the manager is optimistic Gerrard, out with a groin strain, could be fit in time for the encounter with United on September 13.

Benitez said: "Steven is okay. He's started with bicycle work and will start jogging, so I think he will be ready soon."

Benitez has also welcomed the competition for places in the squad, which has seen Daniel Agger miss out from playing in defence since the first leg of the Champions League qualifier in Liege.

Benitez said: "Martin Skrtel is a good centre-back, Jamie Carragher is very consistent and Sami Hyypia is a good option also, so Daniel needs to work hard if he wants to play and he knows that.

"We want two players for each position but Daniel has a very good mentality and he will be ready."

Sale Of Liverpool Likely To Be Sooner Rather Than Later

The Arab invasion of the Barclays Premier League seems certain to continue, with Liverpool's American owners weakening in their resistance to selling the club to Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai. Tom Hicks vetoed an attempted sale by George Gillett Jr, his co-chairman at Anfield, this year, but the American tycoons are expected to return to the negotiating table as an unforgiving financial climate takes a toll on their ambitions for the club.

Hicks maintains that he will not sell Liverpool, but the Texan is known to be troubled by the financial storm that has engulfed him and Gillett in the past 12 months. Last week, they blamed the credit crunch for the postponement of building work on a proposed 60,000-capacity stadium in Stanley Park and, with the Premier League stakes raised further by the Abu Dhabi royal family's imminent takeover at Manchester City, Hicks and Gillett are close to conceding that they do not have the resources to fulfil the ambitions they had when they bought Liverpool in February 2007.

There remains a £400 million-plus offer on the table from Sheikh Mohammed, who is leading the bid that was being driven by Dubai International Capital, the private-equity investment arm of the Dubai Government, when Hicks blocked Gillett's attempted sale this year. Hicks is known to be more open to selling Liverpool, but the two sides remain some way apart in their valuation of the club.

Hicks and Gillett are aware that the £350 million refinancing deal they secured through the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia a little more than seven months ago is up for renewal on January 25 next year and that the banks are not certain to grant them the option of a six-month extension. They must decide by January whether to try to prop up their regime for a further six months, or to sell.

The takeover of City could have a knock-on effect, with Liverpool facing greater competition to qualify for next season's Champions League. The club have annual interest payments of £30 million, which last season's revenue of about £20 million from European competition went a long way towards clearing.

Increased competition from an opponents with seemingly unlimited financial resources is likely to heighten the anxiety of Liverpool's owners, who kept a tight hold of the purse strings this summer in the belief that Rafael Benítez's squad was good enough to compete for the Premier League title and at very least to secure the top-four finish that would lead to next season's Champions League. Liverpool's net spend this summer was approximately £18 million, but Benítez remains aggrieved that the board vetoed an £18 million deal to sign Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.

Could Gareth Barry Be At Liverpool FC In January?

FOR all Liverpool’s wheelings and dealings during the transfer window, this summer will forever be remembered for the one player who didn’t go anywhere.

The Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea had barely began to sink in when Rafael Benitez started planning for the new season in earnest with a £10m bid for Gareth Barry.

It would spark a protracted, rancorous, tedious and ultimately futile attempt to bring the Aston Villa midfielder to Anfield.

For whatever reason – and the rights and wrongs of the transfer chase remain fiercely debated and defended at both clubs – the Barry saga cast a long, embarrassing shadow over Liverpool’s summer.

And it also threatened to shatter the uneasy peace that had held among the Anfield corridors of power after a tumultuous previous campaign.

Such was Benitez’s frustration at the club’s owners’ failure to back his pursuit of £18m Barry, he had to be talked out of quitting. Instead, the Spaniard headed for yet more clear-the-air talks with chief executive Rick Parry.

With Xabi Alonso’s future intrinsically linked to that of Barry, it was all very messy and very unnecessary. But don’t be surprised if the chase resumes nearer the January transfer window, when Barry will be available at a greatly reduced price.

Benitez’s other summer priorities were a pair of full-backs, a striker, some wingers and a goalkeeper to provide a realistic challenge to first-choice Pepe Reina between the sticks.

The Anfield manager can feel satisfied – at least in principle – with movements both in and out of the club.

Brazilian keeper Diego Cavalieri arrived from Palmeiras and was encouragingly composed and authoritative during pre-season, with a debut against Crewe Alexandra in the Carling Cup lined up for later this month.

Andrea Dossena, a big-money £7m signing from Udinese, and free transfer Philipp Degen will provide competition on either side of defence, an area Benitez has long since pinpointed for improvement.

Evidence thus far suggests Italy international Dossena will need time to settle at left-back, although he will surely prosper once the team hits its stride after an unsure start to the campaign.

Degen, meanwhile, has already lived up to his injury-prone reputation by succumbing to a groin problem that has prevented him from making his bow. Clearly, it’s unlikely the Switzerland international will prove as dependable as the departed Steve Finnan.

Young striker David Ngog could prove an inspired signing if the Frenchman lives up to the promise of his earlier career.

The main interest, though, has come in the form of the two major attacking players Benitez has brought to the club.

Robbie Keane is the centrepiece of Benitez’s summer rebuild. Second only to Fernando Torres as the most expensive player in Liverpool’s history, the former Tottenham Hotspur man will be expected to strike up a partnership with the Spaniard and fire the goals that can ensure a creditable Premier League title challenge.

To do that, the duo will need the required service, particularly from the wide areas where Liverpool have been desperately crying out for creativity since the start of the campaign.

A successful end to a summer-long pursuit of Espanyol’s Albert Riera will hopefully provide potency down a left flank shorn of John Arne Riise, Harry Kewell and work-permit victim Sebastian Leto.

But the lack of similar threat down the right and the doubts concerning the balance in central midfield may well need to be addressed in January. Gareth Barry, anyone?

Jordy Brouwer Seals Opening Win For Liverpool Reserves

JORDY BROUWER scored the only goal of the game as champions Liverpool Reserves opened the defence of their FA Premiership Reserve League Northern Section title with victory over Middlesbrough Reserves at the Riverside Stadium last night.

Liverpool also saw new boy Phillip Degen come through 45 minutes of the match as the Swiss international right-back works his way back to full fitness following injury.

Gary Ablett’s side won three trophies last term and they started where they left off with victory.

After a slow start Liverpool hit their stride and took the lead on 17 minutes.

Spanish striker Dani Pacheco’s cross was met by Brouwer and despite seeing his first effort hit the bar, the Dutch youngster followed to head home the rebound.

Pacheco hit a post and Stephen Darby had an effort ruled out for offside. But in the end Brouwer’s strike was enough to seal all three points.

LIVERPOOL RESERVES: Gulacsi, Ayala (Degen 45), Darby, San Jose, Huth, Kelly, Bruna, Spearing, Brouwer (Simon 61), Pacheco, Weijl (Irwin 85). Subs: Bouzanis, Crowther.

Jamie Carragher Admits Big-Spending Manchester City Will Be A Threat

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes Manchester City's dramatic transfer deadline day transformation into one of the Premier League's biggest spenders could post a threat to the top four.

The Eastlands takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group was followed immediately by the £33million signing of Brazilian striker Robinho from Real Madrid.

Carragher says manager Mark Hughes has managed to pull off an "amazing" transfer.

"I was watching the transfer news up until 12am to see what was going on. It was an amazing day," the 30 year-old told the club's official website.

"It's like an Abramovic-type thing there, you know. To come in and break the British transfer record in one day is pretty amazing. If they've got that type of wealth and they've got players like Robinho, one of the best players in the world, then it's something you have to think about."

However Carragher remains upbeat about prospects for the season at Anfield following the closing of the transfer window until Janaury. And he has welcomed the arrival of Spanish winger Albert Riera from Espanyol.

He said: "I remember him from City. It's something we've needed after losing John Arne Riise, Harry Kewell and Sebastian Leto. He's got a good left foot.

"The manager obviously knows him a lot better than us players because he has a good link with Paco Herrera, who used to be his coach at Espanyol. Hopefully he can add something that's been missing from the team."

Full back Steve Finnan left Anfield for Spain as part of the deal after five years on Merseyside, with Carragher paying a warm tribute to the departing Republic of Ireland international.

"He has been a great servant," said Carragher. "He and Markus Babbel have been the best full-backs I have played with at this club. He was part of Istanbul and getting us to Athens, as well as the 2006 FA Cup win.

"It was a great signing by Gerard Houllier and I think Steve can be very proud of his Liverpool career."

Benitez Hopes Gerrard Is Fit For Key Clash

Steven Gerrard is currently sidelined and will miss out on England's crucial opening World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia, both away. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez hopes that his talismanic captain will return for the key Premier League crunch game versus Manchester United.

Steven Gerrard recently underwent a groin operation that ruled him out of England's opening World Cup qualifying campaign. The recovery time is expected to be 15 days leaving him uncertain for the visit of League champions Manchester United on the 13th of September.

Rafa Benitez gave the club's official website an update of Gerrard's progress, he said: "Steven is okay. He's started with bicycle work and will start jogging, so I think he will be ready soon."

Fernando Torres too is doubtful for the United game after a hamstring injury prevented him from Spain's games against Bosnia and Armenia.

Olympic call-ups to Lucas, Ryan Babel, and Javier Mascherano meant that they would return to Liverpool late, but Benitez is optimistic that they will be ready: "I am sure that in a few weeks' time it will be better."

Liverpool's Jamie Carragher 'Would Rather Miss For England'

Jamie Carragher says defeat while playing for England, even in the World Cup, hurt less than a loss with Liverpool.

Carragher turned his back on international football last year after being constantly overlooked by then manager Steve McClaren.

The 30-year-old won 34 caps, the last of which saw him miss a penalty as England went out of the 2006 World Cup against Portugal in a shootout.

And while the nation mourned, Carragher was consoled by the fact he "would rather miss for England than LFC."

"Did I care we'd gone out of the tournament? Of course I did. Passionately," writes Carragher in his forthcoming autobiography.

"I've never given less than 100% in any game.

"Despite this, whenever I returned home from disappointing England experiences one unshakeable, overriding thought pushed itself to the forefront of my mind, no matter how much the rest of the nation mourned.

"'At least it wasn't Liverpool,' I'd repeat to myself, over and over.

"The text messages of consolation I received on the coach included one from Kenny Dalglish.

"'I would rather miss for England than LFC,' I wrote back.

"I confess: defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club. I wasn't caring or indifferent, I simply didn't put England's fortunes at the top of my priority list.

"Losing felt like a disappointment rather than a calamity. I was never in love with playing for England in the first place. By the time I stopped I felt a huge weight lifting."

In the book, Carragher also expresses his desire to manage Liverpool when he retires from playing.