Saturday, October 04, 2008

Keane Says Leaving Spurs Was Right Decision

Liverpool striker Robbie Keane says he was correct in leaving the lily whites to join the Reds this summer.

Robbie Keane who so often found the net for Tottenham Hotspur joined Liverpool in a £20million over the summer but only opened his Red account in 'Pool's midweek Champions League clash over PSV.

The Republic of Ireland international claims he was right in leaving Spurs to further his career and challenge for top honours. While Tottenham are languishing at the foot of the table with only two points, Liverpool are flourishing near the head; are undefeated; and have already enjoyed derby day and Manchester United victories.

Keane told the club's official website: "I knew I was making the right move, I always knew it was right for me. This is why I came to Liverpool... to challenge for the big honours."

"Since I've come here everyone at the whole club has been great to me. The fans have been fantastic and hopefully I've paid them back a little bit now," he said reflecting on his first goal.

"It's nice to get the first one out of the way because it stops people talking about it. That's been the annoying thing because as a player I don't worry about it."

"I know I'll score goals and I don't get myself down about it when it doesn't happen. But now I'm getting more confident every game and I know more goals will come."

Rafa To Kill Off Rotation Policy

Rafa Benitez has conceded that his rotation policy may have been detrimental to Liverpool's past title chances and admits that he will now keep a spine of a team together.

In seasons gone by Rafa Benitez has been criticised for his rotation policy as his constant tinkering has long been believed to be responsible for Liverpool's erratic form.

Decisions to drop key personnel such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres proved costly as the Reds dropped points in games they should have won.

Liverpool are enjoying an unbeaten start this season and Benitez has conceded that if he wants that to continue then he will need to ax his policy of rotation in favour of keeping a team spine together.

"We have the experience of last season... I won’t make many changes. If some players are on fire, maybe it is a good moment to keep them playing," he is quoted by KopTV as saying.

"Normally we try to check how the players are physically, mentally and also how the team is tactically – and then we decide whether we will change more or less players," he continued.

"But now we are in a good position so I do not think that I will change too many. When some players are playing well, but are tired, you say ‘okay maybe we will have to keep them in.’ But then you play them, they are tired and you have to change them in a game!"

"You never know. If you win, you can say ‘okay fantastic decision,’ but I don’t think I will change too many players."

"When we were analysing things this week we knew we had four days between the Everton match and this one and four days between this match and the Manchester City game. Three days is not enough, four days is better."

Kuyt Unworried About Barren Prem Run

Dirk Kuyt says as long as Liverpool are winning then his own goal-scoring record is erroneous.

Dutchman Dirk Kuyt has developed a habit of scoring goals in Europe, but struggles to find the net in the Premier League, while kitting out in the famous Liverpool red.

The forward added to his Champions League haul on Wednesday night with one of Liverpool's three goals against PSV Eindhoven.

Kuyt though insists that as long as Liverpool are winning his own ability to score goals is irrelevant, and told the club's official website:

"A lot of people talk about scoring goals in the Champions League or Premier League, but for me it's just about winning the games. We have made a really good start to the season here at Liverpool. We're joint top of the league and have six points in the Champions League. This is the most important thing.

"We can talk every week about goals but the most important thing is winning games. I know I'll score goals in the Premier League but to me, whether or not I get an assist or a goal, it doesn't matter that much. I just want to win games."

"It's always special to play and score against a side from your own country. I think PSV are the best side in Holland and have been for a few years," he added.

"I had a bit of luck after the corner but sometimes you need that to score a goal... I don't think we played our best game but we were in control for 90 minutes. PSV aren't the same side they were a few years ago but they are still a decent team."

"Tonight we passed the ball very well and deserved to win the game and it's quite different from last year. That is what we wanted, that is what we talked about," he continued.

Regarding team-mate Robbie Keane opening his Liverpool account, Kuyt said: "It was great to see Robbie get his first goal and see how happy he was. He deserved it. He has played really well in these last few games for Liverpool and I am sure he will score a lot more for us."

Mascherano Ready For Robinho War

Liverpool's gritty Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano is relishing the prospect of another battle with Manchester City's Brazilian trickster Robinho.

Javier Mascherano claims that he knows all about Manchester City forward Robinho as the pair faced each other numerous times while excelling through the youth ranks for their respective nations: Argentina; and Brazil.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has said that Mascherano was rested in the midweek Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven so that he would be fresh for the side's City of Manchester Stadium visit, and Mascherano said he is relishing the opportunity to come up against his old foe.

"I have played against him many times," Mascherano explained to "I know him and he's a fantastic player with a lot of quality. Obviously the Premier League is the most difficult league, so maybe he'll find it tough."

"Having said this, he's already played some good games there," he continued. "We know they have a good team and they're stronger than last year, obviously. They have a good manager and are improving a little bit more than before.

"I remember all our games at Man City have been very difficult. We need to be very careful but of course we need to win if we want to stay at the top of the table."

"If you want to fight for the Premier League you can't lose many points. We know it'll be difficult to win there but I am confident we have the players to win," he concluded.

Confidence High At Anfield, Claims Rafa

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has claimed that because of their recent form, confidence his sky high in Anfield, and consequently the Reds fear no one in the world.

For the first time in Rafa Benitez's tenure, Liverpool overcame Manchester United. Couple that victory with the Spaniard's seventh derby day victory over Everton and 'Pool have capped an impressive start to the new Premier League campaign.

Liverpool are currently heading the league - together with Chelsea - and have translated their domestic form onto the European stage.

As a consequence of their fine form, Benitez has declared that his side are oozing with confidence and hailed his potential world beating side.

"When you are winning big games in succession, when you are playing well, the confidence grows – especially when those games you have won include victories against Manchester United and Everton," Benitez told the club's official website.

"The confidence is high and we aim to keep it that way. The wins over United and Everton have shown the team that they can beat anyone."

"Last season people were saying we could not beat the top three, but we deserved to beat United and it was the same against Everton. Those wins show how much we have improved," he said.

Madrid Confirm Agger Interest

Real Madrid have revealed that they will attempt to sign Daniel Agger from Liverpool during the January transfer window.

Reports have emerged over the last few days that los Merengues are looking to increase the depth of their defence as they seek to retain their La Liga title and reclaim their Champions League crown.

On the surface, the Bernabeu has no dearth of options at the back; Fabio Cannavaro, Christoph Metzelder, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Ramos and Pepe are all highly regarded defenders.

But Metzelder has struggled to settle in Madrid, Pepe has suffered series of injuries and Ramos is preferred at right-back. Combine that with Cannavaro's advancing years and Garay's relative lack of experience, and the need for reinforcement becomes apparent.

Werder Bremen's Per Mertesacker was mentioned as a potential target in the Spanish press this week, but Agger is the clear favourite to fill the void in Bernd Schuster's squad.

The Danish international is one of the most promising defenders in Europe, and yet he has struggled to get on the pitch this season with Liverpool.

After making his mark during the previous campaign, the 23-year-old missed almost the entire 2007-08 season due to a metatarsal problem. He has since returned to fitness but has failed to dislodge Martin Skrtel, the Slovakian star who has become a Kop favourite since arriving from Zenit St. Petersburg in January.

Rumours have arisen of an ever-widening rift between Agger and Rafael Benitez, although the manager has fervently denied such claims and insisted that the club are hoping to extend the player's contract.

The Merseyside giants will have to act fast, however, as los Blancos confirmed yesterday that their sights have been set on the former Brondby man for quite some time.

Real vice-president Jose Angel Sanchez said in The Sun: “Agger’s a player we have been looking at for a long time and it’s likely we will bid for him in January.

“He’s a world-class player and would fit into our system without a doubt. We need a defender and a striker — and Agger tops our list.”

It turns out that Madrid had initially planned to purchase Agger during the summer, along with Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, the tedious saga surrounding Ronaldo and the complicated nature of Robinho's deadline-day departure for Manchester City meant no deal was reached with either of England's North-West giants.

“We already had plans about buying Agger this summer, along with some other players,” Sanchez continued.

“But the Robinho situation took so much attention and demanded so many resources from the club that we had to drop the plans for putting in a bid for him and the others we had in mind.”

Liverpool will be highly reluctant to sell given Sami Hyypia, the ageing Finn who was omitted from the Champions League roster, is realistically their only remaining option in central defence.

Rafa Agger-ieved At Real Rumours

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger will not be joining Real Madrid according to his manager Rafa Benitez.

Real Madrid made their interest in the player known overnight as they seek defensive cover for Pepe and the departing Fabio Cannavaro.

The Spanish champions earmarked Daniel Agger as their ideal candidate and declared their intention to sign the player in the January transfer window through vice-president Jose Angel Sanchez.

However, their attempts to secure the signature of the Danish international have met a strong rebuttal from Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.

Although Agger is currently out of favour at Anfield, Benitez insisted that the 22 year-old would be moving nowhere, and that his future lay at Liverpool.

Agger has recently threatened to invoke a 'Webster Clause' - whereby he would be entitled to buy his own way out of his Liverpool deal, which is due to expire in 2010.

However, since the threat, Benitez has made the right noises about a new contract and first team football.

To Liverpool's official website, Benitez declared today: "The situation is very simple, Daniel Agger is our player and he is not for sale.
"His future is at Anfield and nowhere else. He knows my ideas because we have talked with him and he has a long future with us.

"We do not want to lose our concentration just before we play Manchester City by talking about other things but it is important that people know that Agger is not for sale."

Liverpool To Face January Fight With Man City To Keep Hold Of Torres?

Liverpool could face a fight to hold on to Spanish International Fernando Torres in the January transfer window, with reports that Manchester City sent a fax on the final day of the summer transfer window enquiring about the Spaniard, according to The Telegraph.

Since the takeover at the Eastlands Stadium by the ADUG, City have been linked with a host of Europe’s top stars, with Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal and Argentine striker Sergio Aguero amongst the names along with Torres.

It is highly unlikely that the fax received any attention whatsoever when it arrived at Anfield, with Reds boss Rafa Benitez in no way ready to sell the forward, who only joined the Merseyside club from Atletico Madrid last summer.

However, with Liverpool’s American co-owners having to renegotiate their loan structure in January, which is reportedly going to cause some financial concern. Liverpool might not be able to resist the sort of figure that the new regime at City could offer for their top-scorer in the Premier League last season.

Javier Mascherano Tells Manchester City: You Can't Buy Instant Success

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has told ambitious Manchester City it will take them longer to be Barclays Premier League title contenders than they think.

The Eastlands club are awash with money following their takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and the club’s new owners quickly made noises about signing top stars and challenging for a Champions League spot and even the Premier League crown.

But as the midfielder prepares to compete against a familiar South American face in City’s £32.5million signing Robinho, the Argentinian suggests that Sunday’s opponents are still short of being genuine contenders.

Mascherano said: “We know they have a good team and they are stronger than last season, obviously.

“They have a good manager and are improving a little bit more than before.

“They are looking to be in the top four and if they have the chance to fight for the title they will go for it.

“But we know how difficult it is in the Premier League, so maybe they will need a little bit more time to fight for titles.”

Mascherano’s colleague Dirk Kuyt has already dismissed fanciful claims from Eastlands that they can compete to sign players like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

A deadline-day bid for the Spaniard was ignored by Liverpool, and Kuyt said: “Of course it is possible to sign big players, but nobody at Liverpool would want to join City because we are a bigger club.

“If they want big players already at big clubs, they will find that the difficult thing.”

Mascherano’s initial aim will be to stop Robinho in his tracks. He reveals he has played against the Brazilian many times, the pair having grown up together in South American football.

Mascherano, like Robinho now 24, said: “I have played against him many times. I know him and he is a fantastic player with a lot of quality.

“But obviously the Premier League is the most difficult league, so maybe he will find it tough. Having said that, he has already played some good games here.”

Benitez Urges Liverpool To Go On Winning Run Even As Man City Boss Hughes Installs The Reds As Contenders

While manager Rafa Benitez has urged Liverpool to prove their Premiership title credentials with a victory on Sunday at Manchester City, his counterpart Mark Hughes has already installed the Reds as the contenders for this season’s league glory.

The Reds have made a strong start to the campaign and in their first six games have taken 14 points to be tied with leaders Chelsea. The Merseysiders however, come across a City side with big attacking threat in the form of Brazil star Robinho and Co at the weekend; and Benitez wants his side to keep their form going and improve upon last season’s draw in the corresponding fixture.

"If you want to be a contender in the league, you have to be consistent – you have to win games in a row," Benitez, whose side has also won both their group games in the Champions League, told a pre-match press conference.

"It was clear last season that we were in a good moment but it finished 0-0 even though we had a lot of chances. It is important to do the right things this year."

Hughes - Reds Are Contenders

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes believes Liverpool are serious challengers for this year's Premier League title.

Despite being one of the biggest names in English football, the Reds have often flattered to deceive in league competition and fallen short when it matters.

Hughes believes Liverpool have something about them this season and that after 18 years of hurt their time might have come to reclaim the crown of English champions.

However, Hughes believes his impressive City side have enough quality and guile to upset the Reds' quest when they meet this Sunday.

"Liverpool have been a top four side for a number of years now. They have a huge history of winning trophies," said Hughes.

"I sense that this season they will have a real go at trying to win the Premier League.

"Liverpool have had a great start. They look confident, strong and assured. They will run the top teams very close.

"It is a big test for us as they are playing exceptionally well at the moment.

"Hopefully we will be in a position to cause them problems as we have some good players in key areas of the park."

Benitez Warns Man City About Perils Of New Wealth

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez warned Manchester City ahead of Sunday's Premier League meeting that its newfound wealth will be exploited by clubs only willing to sell their players at excessive prices.

Man City's new Abu Dhabi owners are planning to splurge on players in January to turn the long underachieving club into a global force. They began their mission last month with the surprise capture of Brazil forward Robinho.

By contrast, Benitez operates within the constraints of budget set by owners who have piled debt on to Liverpool.

While Benitez has clashed with his American co-owners over their lack of support in the transfer market, he said being a shrewd operator can deliver the goods.

"When you don't have money you know you have to analyze everything in the market and say this player is cheap and good,'' Benitez said.”People think when you have money it is easier to buy better players, but the market is smaller.

"You don't have too many top-class players, and it's more difficult because everyone knows that you have money so will ask for more.''

Benitez doesn't see Robinho alone transforming City after signing from Real Madrid for a British record 32.5 million pounds (US$58.5 million; £40 million).

"Players need time. It is not easy to sign top-class players from all around the world and expect them to start playing very well from the first game,'' the Spaniard said. "It is more difficult than that.''

That has been evident on the pitch after less than two weeks of UAE ownership.

Mark Hughes' side has been eliminated from the League Cup by lowly opposition, lost at Wigan in the Premier League, and qualified for the UEFA Cup group stage with an unconvincing win over Omonia Nicosia.

"I do not know when they can become genuine title contenders,'' Benitez said.”They are a good team with good players and a good manager - so why not? They can be top of the table, but there are other teams that have spent big money like Aston Villa.

"Other teams are trying to do the same. But you must realize how hard the Premier League is to win.''

Liverpool has been trying to win a 19th English league title since 1990 without success, although the Reds are only currently being kept off the top by Chelsea on goal difference after their best start to a domestic campaign in 12 years.

Key to that have been Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, who notched up his 100th Liverpool goal in Wednesday's Champions League victory over PSV Eindhoven.

Man City want them both, but Benitez can't see Gerrard ever leaving.

"Gerrard is playing well and if we are improving he will be very, very happy here,'' Benitez said.”The key is that he wants to stay here, that is the most important thing. It is not a question of money.

"He has a commitment with the club and the fans, and as a local lad he would prefer to stay here.''

Aldridge Raises Liverpool Concern

John Aldridge fears for Liverpool's future if the club's American owners fail to resolve their financial issues.

George Gillett and Tom Hicks have come under fire from Liverpool fans worried over transfer spending and their treatment of manager Rafael Benitez.

Plans for a new stadium have been beset by delays and Aldridge is concerned by the direction the club is heading.

"The club's not really getting run at at the moment; it's getting neglected," the former Reds striker told BBC Sport.

"Whilst the Americans have their problems, the club is getting deeper and deeper into trouble, especially with the new stadium and everything else."

Liverpool are second in the Premier League going into Sunday's match at big-spending Manchester City, but Aldridge is worried about matters elsewhere.

The proposed new stadium adjacent to the club's current home has had two re-designs and the loans the pair took out to buy the club have had to be refinanced.

"On the pitch (Liverpool) are not doing too badly, they're holding their own, but the stadium is nowhere near to what it should be at this time," he said.

"But that is just part of what's happened unfortunately.

"Liverpool Football Club never do their business in public, but over the last 12 months or so it has become publicised.

"The Americans have done a lot of homework, but they obviously don't know the true history and how the club goes about itself."

Liverpool supporters have become increasingly frustrated at the way the club is being run and before the recent 2-1 victory at home to Manchester United, the Spirit of Shankly group organised a march in protest against Hicks and Gillett.

Since taking over there have been cracks in their relationship with Benitez and in the summer the Spaniard was frustrated at the board for not sanctioning an £18m move for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

However, despite missing out on Barry, the Liverpool boss is believed to have spent about £40m in the summer, including the capture of Robbie Keane from Tottenham for £20.3m.

The Americans also oversaw the club record signing of Fernando Torres the previous summer and in February they sanctioned a permanent deal for midfielder Javier Mascherano, who is thought to have cost the club about £18m.

Matters came to a head at the beginning of 2008 when Hicks revealed he had spoken with former Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann about the possibility of taking over at Anfield.

Gillett has also spoken about how the relationship between himself and the Texan had become "unworkable", before saying in June that communication had "substantially improved".

However, despite their off-field problems, Liverpool remain unbeaten in the Premier League after six games and sit level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table.

Sunday's trip to Eastlands provides a contrast to the situation at Anfield after Man City's recent takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Backed by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, City appear to have bountiful resources in their pursuit of success and Aldridge is fearful at the effect that could have on Liverpool's future.

"All of a sudden they (Manchester City) have got this sugar daddy who is going to make them into a force," he said.

"We've hung on to third or fourth spot in the last few years, and done well in Europe, but that's a must now because Man City are going to come into the fold.

"If we get pushed out of that top four, all of a sudden the stadium problems escalate and the board problems escalate.

"We could be in a bit of the mess. We're in a bit of a mess at the moment, on the pitch we're OK, but you can see it getting worse."

Aldridge is keen for the club to come under new ownership and has given his backing to an initiative set-up by lifelong Liverpool fan Rogan Taylor, which would see the club owned by its fans.

Share Liverpool FC aims to get 100,000 supporters to pledge £5,000 each so they could launch a takeover and former Republic of Ireland international Aldridge, who has been appointed to the board of the scheme, believes the idea is not as far-fetched as it may appear.

"Unfortunately there are a lot of pessimists who don't think we've got a cat in hell's chance of doing it, but we're all very positive," said the 50-year-old.

"The people Rogan's got involved are very clever, astute businessmen and they could run Liverpool Football club now.

"The problem is we need to get the money in place ASAP to give ourselves a chance.

"We might not be able to go in 100%, but in the next year or so we could get a percentage of the club.

"That would put us in a good position to go forward and the people who are looking at us and might not be too sure could jump on the bandwagon."