Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fergie Surprised By Keane's Anfield Switch

Sir Alex Ferguson has kicked off the mind games ahead of this weekend's North West derby, labelling Liverpool's £20million capture of Robbie Keane a "big surprise".

Keane moved to Anfield from Tottenham Hotspur in July for what would have been a Reds record fee had they not paid £21million for a certain Spaniard the previous year.

It was the first big-money deal of what was initially a slow summer on the transfer front, and the Irish striker was heralded as the final piece of Rafael Benitez's jigsaw puzzle.

The likes of Ian Rush, Liverpool's all-time leading goalscorer, declared that Keane's experience and nous would transform the Merseysiders into a team capable of winning the Premier League, let alone challenging for it.

The 28-year-old has endured a relatively slow start to his Reds career, however, failing to find the net at all to date.

And Ferguson has rubbed salt into the wound by hinting that the ex-Internazionale hitman was a curious signing.

He said in The Sun: “The big surprise was Liverpool paying £20million for Keane.”

The United boss's statement may seem utterly innocuous on the surface, but developments later in the summer give his words a plethora of potential connotations.

For Keane's Mersey move was comfortably eclipsed in both financial and shock value, with Manchester City landing Robinho for £32million and Dimitar Berbatov arriving at Old Trafford for just under £31million.

Ferguson's insistence that Keane was a more surprising signing than Robinho would seem to suggest that he questions the price-tag or believes Benitez ought to have spent his cash on other areas of the pitch.

Indeed, press and public alike have begun asking similar questions of the Spanish tactician's summer spending. Liverpool's dearth of wide options was exposed against Aston Villa recently when Keane was forced to play on the left wing, while even in his regular position the former Leeds star causes problems.

One of the highlights of the Reds' 2007-08 campaign was the attacking partnership that formed between Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. The pair netted 51 goals between them and racked up numerous direct assists to become one of the most exciting tag-teams in Europe.

However, Keane playing his normal second-striker role could disrupt the rapport Gerrard and Torres have developed; and while Keane and Torres have shown glimpses of their potential together, it is yet to produce anything like what the skipper and El Nino did last season.

That is one interpretation of Ferguson's words, in any case. Whether Benitez and Keane reach the same conclusion remains to be seen, but they may prefer to do their talking during Saturday's clash at Anfield.

Kuyt Keen For New Deal

Dirk Kuyt hopes to secure a new deal at Liverpool and insists he does not want to leave Anfield.

The Holland forward was strongly linked with Hamburg before the end of the summer transfer window and it was rumoured he could be sold to finance a move for Aston Villa's Gareth Barry.

And Kuyt - a fans' favourite on Merseyside due to his work ethic and European goalscoring record - has hinted at an interest in working with Hamburg boss and fellow Dutchman Martin Jol in the future.

However, Kuyt - under contract with the Reds until 2010 - is adamant that he does not want to leave Liverpool anytime soon.

"Martin Jol is one of the best Dutch coaches, someone who I want to work with possibly in the future," Kuyt told Sportweek.

"However, it has never come into my mind to leave Liverpool. I am happy here.

"Hamburg is, of course, not a small club, but it cannot be compared with Liverpool.

"My contract still has two more years to run, hopefully a new deal will follow."

Liverpool Can Cope Without Gerrard Or Torres Against United, Says Arbeloa

Alvaro Arbeloa insists Liverpool can still beat Manchester United without Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres.

The key duo faces a race against time to prove their fitness ahead of Saturday's Premier League showdown.

Club captain Gerrard is recovering from groin surgery, while striker Torres is struggling with a hamstring strain.

Arbeloa is confident that Rafa Benitez's side can cope if they are ruled out of the Anfield clash.

The Spain international told the club's official website: 'Fernando and Stevie are really important for us and they are probably our best players. But we have a really good squad and know we have other really good players too. We can still beat Manchester United without Fernando and Stevie.

'It will be a hard game for us, but it will also be tough for them. Their defenders have to play against players like Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Keane.

'This is really important for us because we have a fantastic team with great players. I think we can be successful. We now have people like Robbie Keane, who is a really good player, and Albert Riera too.'

Liverpool Boss Benitez Gives Hyypia Explanation, Terms UEFA New Rule A ‘Mistake’

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has pointed out that the UEFA rule stating that at least eight home-grown players are mandatory in the squad for the Champions League, was the reason why he had to leave Sami Hyypia out of the group stages. The Spanish tactician, however, questioned the rule for Europe’s premier club competition.

Experienced Finland international centre-back Hyypia was surprised as he found no place in the Reds squad for the group stages.

"It was really difficult decision, but we had to do it. With the rule saying that you need more or less eight British - or local - players in the squads, we needed to decide which three centre-backs to have for the Champions League," Benitez told

Benitez felt that the new rule by the UEFA is a mistake, as he said: "Clearly I think it is a mistake. When you play in the Champions League, you need the best players you have on the pitch. It is not about where you are from, it is about the best players. I would understand if this rule came in for the Premier League, but not for the Champions League."

Benitez however, believes the squad will be used to the maximum in the entire season depending upon the progress the Reds make in the Cup competitions.

He said: "We now have four centre-backs who are good enough so they have to compete. And obviously it depends on the number of games we play and how we progress in the cup competitions too, so there could be a lot of games for many of our players."

Robbie Keane Becomes Latest Liverpool Player To Be Burgled

Robbie Keane has become the latest Liverpool player to fall victim to burglars, according to reports.

The Republic of Ireland forward's penthouse apartment was broken into while he was away on international duty for his country's 2-1 win over Georgia on Saturday.

The thieves broke into the flat he shares with his wife, Claudine, and are believed to have stolen an expensive watch and jewellery.

Keane, 28, had been using the city centre property in Liverpool while he searches for a home after his £20 million move from Tottenham Hotspur. Over the past two years six Liverpool players, including Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch, who has since signed for Portsmouth, have been burgled while playing for the club.

Rafa Waits On Gerrard And Torres

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will give Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres until the last minute to prove their fitness for this weekend's clash with Manchester United.

The star pair are battling to be fit for the first big title showdown of the season after picking up knocks last month.

Torres is hoping to shake off the hamstring strain he picked up in the goalless draw at Aston Villa, while Gerrard is recovering from groin surgery.

Gerrard appeared to rule himself out of the Anfield showdown at United by claiming earlier this week he was unlikely to be fit.

However, Benitez has refused to count the England midfielder out of his plans just yet.

"It is always more difficult to prepare for the match with injuries because you know that if they are fit we will use them, but in this case you never know," he told the club's official website

"It is better to avoid saying whether they can be available - it is difficult to say if they can play or not because they may have not played for 10 or 15 days. But they are both working hard with the physios and are improving, so there's still some time to decide."

On Gerrard, Benitez added: "You never know, he is still progressing. The key is the fitness of the player - it makes a massive difference if he has confidence. That is the main thing for him."

If the duo fail to recover in time, Benitez is confident the rest of his squad can rise to the challenge of facing the champions.

"Clearly we have enough quality in the squad, so it is always important to look to the other players and sometimes they can give more to you than the big names.

"They can have the same quality and passion and they also have a lot to prove to the supporters."

Holland Coach Ready To Keep Unhappy Kuyt On The Bench, Admits Van Marwijk

Holland coach Bert van Marwijk has played down reports of a rift with Dirk Kuyt after the Liverpool forward voiced his dissatisfaction at being relegated to the bench.

Speaking to Sportweek magazine ahead of Holland's World Cup qualifier against FYR Macedonia on Wednesday, Kuyt lamented the decision of Van Marwijk to leave him on the bench for Saturday's friendly against Australia, branding it "unacceptable".

'I have to be on the team,' said Kuyt.

'I just want to play and think that I should play. I'm going to make sure I'm going to play.

'I will not be resigned to my fate, and will never accept my role as 12th man. Being a substitute is unacceptable to me."

But Van Marwijk was unfazed by the 28-year-old's outburst, and insisted Kuyt was not directing any criticism in his direction.

'Those words are really aimed at himself," Van Marwijk told Voetbal International.

'Dirk just looks in the mirror and wants to get more out of his career. He demands a starting place from himself, not from me. That only means that he is a good sportsman.

'Not a single coach benefits from reserves who think it's fine to sit on the bench. Every player must have the ambition to win a starting place.

'As coach, you can only be happy about that kind of player.

'Van Marwijk also agreed with Kuyt's assertion that the quality of football at international level "is not as high" as that found at club level.

'Dirk is of course completely right that the level of training at top European teams is higher,' Van Marwijk conceded.

'But that is logical, isn't it?

'The club team consists of only internationals, and they come together on the training pitch each day.

'That is a luxury you don't have with the national team, so it is normal that the level is lower."

Liverpool’s Alonso Move To Arsenal Could Be On In January?

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso could yet leave the Anfield side when transfer window reopens in January, the player’s agent suggested.

The Spanish international was fiercely linked with a move out of the Merseyside club in the just-concluded summer transfer window.

However, boss Rafa Benitez did not get any offer matching his asking price of £16 million with Juventus and Arsenal being linked but apparently shying away from the price tag, and the 26-year-old also maintained he was happy to stay with the Reds.

However, it seems that the future of Alonso is yet to be resolved as his agent Inaki Ibanez refused to dispel the doubts on his client’s long-term prospect.

"January is a long time away," he is quoted as saying in the Telegraph.

"At the moment Xabi is concentrating on playing well for Liverpool. No agreement was reached to sell him, so mentally he is a Liverpool player.

"But we will see what happens in January."