Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pacheco Lifts Lid On Barca Departure

Liverpool youngster Daniel Pacheco has revealed the reasons behind his decision to leave Barcelona last year.

Pacheco was one of the hottest prospects in Barca's youth system, which has recently produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Giovani Dos Santos.

But the 17-year-old waved goodbye to Catalunya in the summer of 2007 to embark on his English adventure, just as Cesc Fabregas did several years beforehand when he signed on for Arsenal.

And the prodigiously gifted forward confessed that he left Camp Nou for the same reasons as his fellow Spaniard: because he felt that some of the club's native talents were being marginalised by the influx of overseas prospects.

"It's a similar situation to the likes of Cesc Fabregas," Pacheco told Liverpool's official website. "Some Spanish clubs bring players in from South America then don't pay as much attention to the homegrown players.

"Barcelona was a fantastic place for me but it was an easy decision to come to Liverpool. I'd been there four years and my girlfriend was there but I wanted to come to England.

"I played every week at Barcelona but the problem was with the contract. The club kept saying I'd get a contract but I never saw it."

Pacheco has established himself as one of the most promising players in Liverpool's reserve set-up, especially after his stunning performances during pre-season.

The youngster revelled in the opportunity to play alongside the first-team regulars, and he revealed that he received some particularly encouraging words from a somewhat surprising source.

"You always learn a lot in every session with the first team. They are massive players but they always help you and give you advice," Pacheco said.

"In pre-season a lot of the Spanish players were away so I was spending time with Yossi Benayoun, Fabio Aurelio and Javier Mascherano. Everyone really, but these three speak Spanish.

"Yossi knows I like to play like him. He always tells me that I'm a good player and that when I have time I can run and take players on. But he tells me that when there is no time and opposition players are close I must pass and move."

Pacheco is just one of several young guns expected to make the grade at Anfield, with Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth and French forward David N'Gog also tipped for very bright futures.

I Joined Leeds Thinking I Would Become The Boss, Reveals Liverpool Legend Ian Rush

Liverpool legend Ian Rush has revealed that he joined Leeds United expecting to be groomed as their future manager when he realised his Anfield playing days were over.

The Welshman took up his new career at Elland Road in 1996 but the grand plan was scuppered when his mentor, Howard Wilkinson, was sacked less than a month into the season.

Rush, then 34, rejected offers from Manchester City and Sunderland when he realised his playing days were over at Liverpool because he felt there were better long-term opportunities at Leeds.

'What made the offer so appealing was that I would understudy Howard with a view to succeeding him as manager within two to three years,' the player reveals in Rush: The Autobiography.

'Having got over the emotion of the actual leaving, I felt strangely detached from Anfield and a loyalty to Leeds.

'My aim was to work towards gaining the UEFA Pro Licence. I felt I would learn a lot under Howard, who was widely respected throughout the game.

'Under Howard, Leeds won the League Championship in 1992. He remains the last Englishman to have steered a club to the title but, for me, his greatest achievement was the youth policy he had instigated at Elland Road.

Wilkinson got Rush involved with training the club's impressive academy, which at the time included Ian Harte, Harry Kewell, Paul Robinson and Jonathan Woodgate.

Things started to change when Wilkinson was replaced by George Graham and Rush left for Newcastle after just one season at the Leeds, where he scored three times in 36 Premiership games.

He eventually went on to manage Chester City in the 2004-05 season but resigned before the end of the campaign.

I Left Liverpool For Juve, Not For Benitez Problems - Sissoko

Juventus midfielder Momo Sissoko admits he never had any problems with Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez and he left the club because it was his dream to join Juventus and not because he didn't get along with everyone at Anfield.

The Mali international signed for the Old Lady in January in a €13m deal and his good performances since then saw him rewarded with a contract extension.

His move from Liverpool was not all smooth though, as speculation was rife that he left on bad terms.

However, Sissoko has now rubbished the rumours and he has set the record straight.

"It's not true that I left Liverpool because I had problems with the coach or because I didn't play much," Sissoko told Calcio 2000.

"I never had problems with Benitez. I have a great relationship with him and he still calls me to see how I get on.

"Juve was a choice from me. I have always admired the Bianconeri since I was young and I remember Zinedine Zidane when he played here. I fell in love with Juve then.

"I always new this was a great club and that it would get back to great levels. Juve have the will to win and never give up.

"I think we are stronger than last year as a result of the new players who came in and we have a more complete and robust squad. Poulsen? He is great and I have never played in a team with four great strikers like we have here."

Sissoko also believes Juve are stronger than bitter rivals Inter, despite the poor start to the season.

"On paper we are stronger than Inter but then things have been different on the pitch," added the midfielder.

"The Champions League? I won it with Liverpool and now I want to win it with Juventus."

The midfielder has established himself well with the Bianconeri but he has looked a little shaky at times this term.

The Old Lady has been struggling so far and a good result against Napoli on Saturday is the minimum neccessary to get their Scudetto hunt back up and running.

Alonso Quiet On Barca Rumours

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso has refused to speculate on rumours claiming he is being lined up as a potential replacement for Yaya Toure at Barcelona.

Alonso was strongly linked with a transfer to Juventus over the summer, but a move to Serie A failed to materialise.

Reports emanating from Spain have suggested the 26-year-old could be a target of Barca with Ivory Coast international Toure unhappy with his inconsistent role at Camp Nou.

It is suggested Barca could swoop for Alonso if Toure, who has been linked with Arsenal and Juve in the past, demands a move in the January transfer window.

Alonso, who signed at Anfield from Real Sociedad in 2004, told the Spanish media: "I am content at Liverpool and I have still not decided on a concrete date for my return to Primera Liga."

Reds Must Not Relax Against Latics

RAFAEL BENITEZ has warned Liverpool to heed the lessons of last season when they entertain Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

As Premier League action resumes following the international break, the Anfield outfit are aiming to pick up where they left off by keeping pace with Chelsea at the top of the table.

Benitez’s side remain unbeaten and have lost just four of their last 46 top-flight matches, a run stretching back to the tail end of the 2006-07 campaign.

However, last season’s efforts to launch a credible championship challenge were undermined by a number of damaging draws, particularly at Anfield.

Wigan were responsible for one such outcome in January when Titus Bramble’s unlikely 80th-minute volley equalised an earlier Fernando Torres effort.

It’s a result that still rankles with Benitez and, after Liverpool were held to a goalless draw by Stoke City in their previous home league game, the Spaniard has urged his players to be on their guard at the weekend.

“We know not to take anything for granted against Wigan because two points slipped away against them last season of course,” said Benitez.

“It was a bad game. I think we deserved to win but anyway, you have to score a second goal and finish the game if you want to avoid these situations.

“We know the Premier League is very difficult and all the teams have something and can be strong in the air and play with determination. When they come to Anfield you know it will be really difficult so we have to be alert and be careful next time.

“But the team has more confidence now and I think we can approach the games thinking about just to finish it as soon as possible.”

Liverpool Will Play Champions League Tie In Madrid After Uefa U-turn

Uefa will bow to a storm of protest and scrap a decision to switch Liverpool's Champions League tie from Madrid next week.

European football's governing body had told Atletico Madrid their next two home games in the competition must be played 180 miles from their Vicente Calderon Stadium as a punishment for racist chanting.

But the ruling came after thousands of Reds fans had paid out for flights to the Spanish capital and booked hotels for Wednesday's match.

And late last night sources close to UEFA confirmed the ban will be delayed because it was imposed too late to make sensible alternative arrangements, particularly when it came to key security issues.

In a day of frantic negotiation, UEFA at first refused to budge, insisting the abuse aimed at Marseille players during a Champions League match at Atletico on October 1 warranted drastic action.

That effectively meant travelling fans might have only 24 hours to change plans.

Atletico's appeal was due to be heard on Sunday, with a decision on an alternative venue possibly being delayed until Monday.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe and the FAall appealed for the ban on Atletico to start after the Reds' visit.

They all argued Liverpool fans would be hit hardest by being left out of pocket.

Atletico yesterday argued it was simply too late to make alternative arrangements to move the game 300km from Madrid because they would not be able to get adequate policing and security.

It seems UEFA have taken all the protests on board and are willing to delay the punishment. That is likely to be confirmed this morning.

Liverpool's role appears to have been the key to the decision.

Many in UEFA expected them to back the ban because it looked likely to make their visit easier without a hostile home crowd behind Atletico.

But despite that, Liverpool argued there was no time for their fans - with up to 5,000 travelling - to make alternative arrangements and without major financial loss.

Uefa also fined Atletico £120,000 for the racist abuse and banished their coach Javier Aquirre to the stands for two games for repeatedly swearing at Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena.

That means he will not be in the dug-out against Liverpool.

The French club's team bus was also attacked on the way to the airport.

The ban will begin in two weeks' time when PSV Eindhoven are the visitors. It will be Atletico's final group game at home, so the punishment would carry over to the knockout stage should they get that far.

A repeat of the incident within the next five years would trigger a one-game home ban Benitez said: "Our supporters follow us all over Europe at great expense. That's why we were so worried by this ruling.

Torres Doubt For Atletico

Fernando Torres is a major doubt to face his former club Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League next week.

The Liverpool striker limped out of Spain's win in Belgium after just 16 minutes and was visibly upset.

The injury is to his right leg with conflicting reports in Spain about whether it is his hamstring or thigh. If it is the former, then it may be the same injury he sustained against Aston Villa earlier in the season which saw him ruled out for two weeks.

Initial reports in Spain suggest that the injury, although not serious, is likely to sideline him for 10 days - which would rule him out of Saturday's home meeting with Wigan in the Premier League and the return to Atletico, his former club.

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque admitted Torres was upset with the injury.

"I am very sad for Torres," he said. "This is undoubtedly a very big blow for him."

Spain team doctor Oscar Celada confirmed Torres left the field in some distress.

"He has intense pain in the back part of the thigh," said Celada.

"It is difficult to diagnose now exactly the extent, if it is a question of a strain or a small tear.

"If it is a strain then he could be out for about a week."

Torres' Liverpool team-mates Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa admitted losing the striker, who has started the new Premier League season in fine style, is a big blow.

"For us it is undoubtedly bad news for both the international squad and Liverpool," said Alonso.

"We have to wait and see what the tests say, but we do not stop now until around Christmas, and we have a big calendar coming up with Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, and we cannot let up.

"It is not the first time this has happened for him with the national side, and it is a blow to have an injury when he is in such a good streak of form."

Arbeloa added: "It is bad news to have a new muscle injury at a time like this.

"We hope it is nothing too serious and hope he will soon be playing for Liverpool because he is very important."

Torres is now almost certainly out of the weekend Premier League clash with Wigan at Anfield, but it remains be seen whether he has enough time to recover for the Atletico clash.

Further bad news for Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez came from Scandinavia as Ryan Babel limped out of Holland's win against Norway after just 26 minutes.

As yet the Dutch authorities have not confirmed the extent of the injury to the forward.