Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fernando Torres Speaks Of Delight At Awards Nomination

FERNANDO TORRES has declared his delight at being named among the favourites to win this year's European footballer of the year award – admitting he never thought it would happen.

Liverpool’s Spanish striker is among several of the world's best players up for the award, including Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Torres insists he thought the Ballon d'Or was for players “from another galaxy” and that winning the title would be like “climbing to the top of Everest and touching the sky”.

He said: “When I have watched the Ballon d'Or presentation on television I saw the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho and Kaka.

“I told myself that trophy was for players from another galaxy - now I am among the candidates, and I cannot believe it.

“Winning the award would be like climbing to the top of Everest and touching the sky.”

After scoring 33 goals in his debut season at Anfield, Torres said his form has been down to how well he has settled.

He added: “I am at ease in England. I wanted to play there so strongly, to discover the Premier League.

“At Liverpool I have started a second life. It is great.”

Torres also strengthened his claims with the starring role he played as Spain won Euro 2008, scoring the winning goal in the final against Germany.

Liverpool Owe Successful Start To Rafa Benitez, Says Alvaro Arbeloa

Alvaro Arbeloa believes Liverpool's success this term is down to Rafa Benitez's no-nonsense approach.

Defender Arbeloa insists the Reds' start - they are joint top on 17 points along with Chelsea - could not have happened without Benitez constantly getting on his players' backs to perform.

He said: "Although we are winning, Rafa asks us for more and more. He insists you cannot relax if you want to win a league as hard as this one."

Arbeloa was linked with a summer move, but he says he could not be happier that he opted to stay at Anfield. He added: "I am now living the best moments I have had since I came to Liverpool."

Carra: We Understand What It Takes

Jamie Carragher believes he and his teammates now have a better understanding of what it takes to win the league – but he wishes everyone would 'stop talking about our great start'.

The 30-year-old points to the way 10-man Liverpool launched a last-minute smash and grab on Man City as proof they now have the killer instinct to be contenders.

The result sealed our best ever start to a Premier League campaign but, despite recognising some positive signs, Carragher is keen to keep things in perspective.

"We scored the winning goal after Martin Skrtel went off and it was 10 v 10," said the vice-captain. "We had no centre-back, it was just me.

"We could easily have dropped Xabi Alonso back but a few lads said, 'No, we'll keep men forward and go for it. We're aware, now, you've got to go for wins in this league. Draws kill you.

"People should stop saying we've made a great start, though. I'm thinking, 'We've only played seven games and we're Liverpool. Shouldn't we be up there? Am I missing something?' We're not Hull. If we're still up there in March we can talk about it, until then focus on doing our best in every game. Actions speak louder than words."

Meanwhile, Carragher has revealed some of the defensive secrets which have helped Pepe Reina win the Golden Glove award for most Premier League clean sheets three times.

"Rafa has taken defence to another level," said the centre-back. "He goes into every detail, tiny little things like body positions, how to react when the opposition use different formations. Basically, he's trying to copy the AC Milan of Franco Baresi.

"He can change systems five times in a game. In Robbie Keane's first match he ended up on the left wing because Rafa noticed something about Lazio which made him want three in the middle – and that was just a friendly."

Rafa: Kuyt Is The Key

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has paid tribute to Dirk Kuyt who he has claimed is an integral part of his team.

The Dutchman is often criticised for his lack of goals, however he has been finding the back of the net in recent games, much to his manager's delight.

His last minute winner against Manchester City sealed an impressive comeback for the Reds and he also opened the scoring against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.

Yet speaking to, the Reds manager explained he was a vital part of the team and how impressed he was by the hard work he put in.

“His teamwork is amazing,” said the Spaniard, “When you talk about a team, that's the most important thing.”

Kuyt’s goal against City was his first in the league since last November and Benitez admitted it was an important goal, not just for the team, but for the player too.

“He was scoring goals in the Champions League and now he's scored in the league. I think it was important for him and in the end it was important for us too,” admitted the Liverpool boss, “Everyone, especially all his teammates, will be really pleased for him because it is amazing how he works every day, every training session and every game.”

Whilst Kuyt was initially signed as a striker, Benitez has employed the Dutchman in a deeper role and he admitted it was a position he performed well. The Spaniard explained: “If you have players with offensive mentality, you need players who can do the ugly jobs. You need to work hard in defence. As a striker, Kuyt is doing his defensive work very well and also scoring important goals.”

Benitez also admitted that whilst Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard usually stole the headlines, Kuyt’s hard work was just as important. He concluded: “Players like Kuyt are key. You can use the quality of people like Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard, but you always need players working really hard.”

Fernando Torres Could Leave Liverpool If Rafa Benitez Isn't Given New Deal

Liverpool's failure to offer Rafa Benitez a new contract is offering encouragement to rival clubs that Fernando Torres can be prised from Anfield.

Manchester City have been linked to a bid, following summer speculation that Chelsea also wanted Torres.

There hasn't been any hint from Torres or his advisers that he has any interest in a move. But there is concern among Liverpool's Spanish contingent that their manager's long-term future has not yet been secured.

Liverpool's fans also fear American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett may have to cash in on their most prized asset because of credit-crunch pressures and their failure to secure financing for the proposed new stadium at Stanley Park.

The Americans have to find about £20million every year just to service the £250m debts they took out to buy the club.

Sunday Mirror Sport reported last month that Liverpool had failed to deliver on Hicks's promise to hand Benitez (below) a new deal. In a strange twist to the saga, a source close to the Texan said all questions regarding the manager's future should now be directed to chief executive Rick Parry.

"Tom has asked me to pass back any enquiries regarding the manager to the club and Rick Parry," said the spokesman.

That represents a major U-turn on Hicks's stance earlier this year, when his call for Parry to step down from his position was backed up by the vow to extend Benitez's contract by a further 12 months.

One theory is that the Americans are now resigned to selling the club after months of fighting off interest from Dubai International Capital and want to leave Benitez's future in the hands of new owners.

But with Juventus now keeping tabs on Benitez's situation as the pressure on current coach Claudio Ranieri increases, which would be a major gamble to take.

It's a policy that also threatens to cause unrest in the dressing-room and undermine Liverpool's excellent start to the season.

Torres showed City last week what a reported £200,000-a-week salary would buy, scoring twice as the Reds came from 2-0 down to win at Eastlands.

City have since distanced themselves from claims in Spain that they made contact with Liverpool.

But agents claiming to be working on behalf of the Blues did make enquiries about Torres's availability - and were rebuffed by the player.

Yet while Benitez's future remains unclear it is likely that those clubs coveting Torres will not go away.

Liverpool Youngster Set For Latics Switch

Liverpool under 18`s captain Joe Kennedy is currently training with Wigan Athletic giving Latics boss Steve Bruce the opportunity to cast his eye over the 17 year old centre back with a view to a permanent switch to the JJB.

Kennedy is in his 2nd year with Liverpool and highly regarded by youth manager Hugh McAuley who says:

'Joe is a local lad and the captain. He came a long way in his first year with us last season. His game improved tremendously and he is very quick for his size.

'Joe works hard in training and there is a real honesty about his game. He always tries hard and gives 100 per cent. He is an example to the young players here both in terms of attitude and behaviour on and off the field.'

Dubai Retain Liverpool Interest Despite Charlton Talks

Liverpool could still end up in the hands of Dubai's ruling family regardless of their proposed takeover of Charlton.

The Championship club last week announced the receipt on an indicative offer from Zabeel Investments. The involvement of Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, son of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed, has been interpreted as the termination of the long standing pursuit of Liverpool.

Dubai, however, remains intent on buying Liverpool whenever the club's current owners are prepared to sell. Tom Hicks and George Gillett rejected an offer in the region of £500m earlier this year, but remain under pressure to fund the debt with which they purchased the club and to obtain finance for a new stadium.

'Nothing has changed,' said a source. 'The Maktoums still intend to takeover Liverpool and the possible purchase of Charlton certainly has no bearing on it."

Liverpool Eye Cavenaghi

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is reportedly set to test Bordeaux’s resolve with a £13 million bid for Fernando Cavenaghi, though the French-club remain committed to retaining the striker’s services.

The Argentina international has been a huge hit at the club since his move in January 2007 following a disappointing spell in Russia with Spartak Moscow, netting 22 goals in 35 matches last term and, famously, 10 times in 9 games during a purple patch.

And while Reds manager Benitez has a number of options at his disposal in the striking department, the former Valencia boss is reportedly keen to offload Dirk Kuyt to make way for a more prolific goalscorer to ease the pressure on Fernando Torres.

How much money Benitez has at his disposal when the transfer window re-opens on 1st January remains to be seen, though Cavenaghi’s price could rocket should other clubs become embroiled in a tug-of-war.

The 25-year old is thought to be keen on a move to England, joining compatriots such as Carlos Tevez and Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano in the Premier League.