Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Xabi Alonso Sets Deadline To Finalise Move From Liverpool To Real Madrid

Xabi Alonso has reportedly told his agent he wants his future resolved by July 19.

The Liverpool midfielder, who has been on international duty with Spain at the Confederations Cup in South Africa, met his representative Inaki Ibanez immediately after flying back to Madrid yesterday.

Real Madrid hope to sign the 27-year-old, but face a determined effort by Anfield boss Rafael Benitez to keep him.

Alonso went straight to lunch with Ibanez at Madrid's Hotel Melia Barajas after getting off a 10-hour flight from Johannesburg.

The former Real Sociedad player is said to be keen on a move to the Bernabeu and, after the meeting, told Spanish newspaper AS: 'I don't know what will happen. The clubs now have to negotiate.'

Alonso insisted in a separate interview that the transfer 'was not impossible', though the two clubs are some distance apart on a fee.

Madrid are considering a £55million combined bid for Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Arbeloa, but are prepared to negotiate players separately as Liverpool are unlikely to even contemplate losing both Alonso and Mascherano.

In a bid to scare off suitors, Benitez has quoted a price-tag of £50m for Alonso, but sources in Spain say the actual valuation coming out of Merseyside is £35m.

Madrid have bid £20m and are reluctant to go above £25m.

However, if Alonso forces the matter, the two sides could quickly converge. Liverpool report for pre-season training on July 6 but Alonso will be given extra time off because of his Spain duty.

He has already moved on to San Sebastian to start vacations but is apparently due to join up with Liverpool on July 19 ahead of their Asia tour.

AS say Alonso is keen for a resolution before then so that he can search for a new home in the Spanish capital.

Alvaro Arbeloa To Complete Switch From Liverpool To Real Madrid This Week

According to a report in the British broadsheet The Independent, Alvaro Arbeloa may move from Premier League outfit Liverpool to Primera Division giants Real Madrid at some point this week.

On Sunday, quotes attributed to the 26-year-old's agent suggested that the player is keen to complete a transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer.

It is thought that the 6ft right-back could be available to purchase for as little as €5.9 million (£5m) as his contract at Anfield is due to expire next summer, when he will be available on a free-transfer.

Although Reds manager Rafa Benitez may be reluctant to let the nine-time capped Spain international leave, he has already made a move in the transfer market to bring in a readymade replacement in the form of €20 million (£17m) signing Glen Johnson from Portsmouth.

Since joining the Merseyside-based club from Deportivo La Coruna for €4m (£3.3m) in 2007, Arbeloa has scored twice in 98 first-team appearances.

Juve Revisit Alonso Idea

According to Tuttosport, the Juventus board have given Alessio Secco the all clear to sign Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso.

The Bianconeri tried to buy Alonso last year, only for Claudio Ranieri to turn his attention to Christian Poulsen.

Tuttosport understands Juventus want the 27-year-old Spain international to anchor their midfield so Diego can fully express his talent.

A new bid for Alonso was apparently prepared four days ago as talks with Udinese for Gaetano D'Agostino began to deteriorate.

The Bianconeri face serious competition in the race to sign Alonso, who is being valued at £21m amid interest from Real Madrid.

Juventus will need to sell players if they are to raise enough funds to complete the transfer.

Poulsen is the one of the players who is up for sale.

However, at the weekend he rejected a move to Fenerbahce and insisted he wants to stay in Bianconero.

Reds Must Keep Stars To Win - Torres

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres believes the club have to hang on to the likes of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano if they are to depose Manchester United as Barclays Premier League champions.

The two midfielders are major targets for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively but Torres is in agreement with manager Rafael Benitez that neither should be sold - despite potential offers in excess of £25millon each.

Yesterday Alonso failed to pledge his full commitment to the Merseysiders while Barca president Joan Laporta again hinted they were willing to use Mascherano's international team-mate Lionel Messi to lure the Argentina captain away from Anfield.

The increasing speculation about the two is a concern for Torres, who himself signed an improved contract with the club towards the end of last season.

"I worry about losing my team-mates but if we can keep our best players and bring in some more, we'll be even stronger for next season," he said.

"The important thing is we're getting closer to the title. It's been frustrating for me because three years without a trophy for Liverpool is too long.

"The next one is coming, though - I'm sure of it. Man United have been the strongest team in Europe but they've lost an important player (Real Madrid-bound Cristiano Ronaldo), so maybe it's our time now.

"My ambition is to win trophies with Liverpool. We must win something next season.

"And then, with Spain, it's obvious that the 2010 World Cup is our big challenge. I hope 2009-10 will be a great season for me."

Liverpool Pondering Matias De Federico Move

Liverpool are weighing up a potential move for Argentine sensation Matias De Federico.

The 19-year-old Huracan star is attracting the interest of clubs all around Europe following his impressive performances this season.

Now, according to Sport.co.uk, Rafael Benitez's Reds are seriously considering swooping for the player.

When informed of the interest in him from England, De Federico expressed his admiration for the Premier League.

The young forward said, "I like to watch the English Premier League, it is very fast and I think that it would suit my speed well."

De Federico has already made his senior debut for Argentina, a game he marked by scoring a spectacular opener against Panama.

Real Madrid To Offer Cash Plus Negredo For Liverpool’s Alonso?

Spanish giants Real Madrid are considering using striker Alvaro Negredo - plus a considerable amount of cash - as bait to entice Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez to release midfield playmaker Xabi Alonso. Real have made their interest in Alonso no secret, but Benitez maintains that the Spanish international is not available at any price.

However, with Benitez thought to be searching for new attacking options to provide back-up for Fernando Torres, the Spanish striker may have emerged as a possible target for the Red’s boss.

The 23-year-old has enjoyed two successful seasons with Almeria, scoring 19 league goals for them last season, but Real Madrid are ready to activate the buy-back option included as a condition of his transfer in 2007.

Negredo admits the prospect of a move to Liverpool excites him, stating recently: "To play next to Fernando Torres at Anfield is a dream and any player would accept that. But I prefer to talk about reality and I have not spoken with Rafa Benitez, but I do know that some contact exists between the clubs."

He added: "My future depends on Real Madrid, but I believe that this summer I will be out of Almeria. I am grateful to Almeria because they have given me my chance to play in the Primera Liga.”

"But it is logical that I am interested in playing in the Premier League and especially Liverpool. I believe that playing in England would be a great chance for me as this league is a sensational place for forwards."

Any deal would also include a hefty price tag for Alonso, with straight cash deals of £30-35 million being quoted in the British press.

The 27-year-old has enjoyed a sensational season for Liverpool and managed to stake a claim for a regular place in the Spain midfield, an area of the team boasting an abundance of talent at the moment with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva amongst others.

Kentaro And Pitch To Sell Liverpool Pre-Season Media Rights

Rights agencies Kentaro and Pitch International have agreed a new deal to jointly sell the media rights for four Liverpool FC pre-season friendly matches.

Between July 22 and August 8, Liverpool play the Thai national team in Thailand, the Singapore national team in Singapore, FC Lyn Oslo in Norway, and Atletico Madrid at Anfield.

The rights add to Kentaro's pre-season football portfolio which already includes the Emirates Cup – featuring Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Glasgow Rangers and Paris St Germain – as well as matches involving other top English Premier League teams, including Chelsea and Manchester United.

Torres Not Expecting Villa Buy

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres accepts the club's lack of financial muscle means they are unlikely to be able to compete for star signings like international team-mate David Villa but he believes that will not affect their chances of winning trophies.

The Reds have been linked with the £40million Valencia forward but it seems he is destined to remain in Spain with Barcelona and Real Madrid vying for his signature.

Torres expressed a wish for Villa to join him at Anfield - he has recommended him and fellow Valencia pair David Silva and Juan Mata to manager Rafael Benitez - but knows it is a distant prospect with Liverpool's transfer fund dwarfed by the Spanish giants and also Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

However, regardless of finances the Spain striker is confident Liverpool can overcome United, whom they came a close second to in last season's Barclays Premier League.

"I don't know about Liverpool's financial situation but I know we don't have the same money as Manchester United or Chelsea,'' he said.

"We're fighting them with less money every season. That's not a problem for us - we're a strong team and we'll win trophies with money or without it.

"The important thing is we're getting closer to the title. It's been frustrating for me because three years without a trophy for Liverpool is too long. The next one is coming, though - I'm sure of it.

"I know Rafa is working hard to bring in good players but I'm pretty sure David Villa will be too expensive for us.

"He is an outstanding striker and if Liverpool could sign anyone, I'd ask for him. He's been in sensational form this season.

"But, to be honest, we have Steven Gerrard playing behind the striker and he scores 20 goals a season, so we don't really need another forward. We just need to keep our best players.''

That may be easier said than done as Real are reportedly planning to sign midfielder Xabi Alonso and defender Alvaro Arbeloa in a £35million swoop with Barcelona eyeing a move for Javier Mascherano despite Benitez putting a £50million price tag on the Argentina captain.

Now Spain's involvement in the Confederations Cup is over Benitez plans talks with Alonso over his future. The Liverpool boss is determined to hold on to his central midfielders and will resist all approaches to sign them.

The speculation is a concern for Torres, who signed an improved deal at Anfield at end of last season and would like to see a number of his Spain team-mates follow suit.

"I worry about losing my team-mates but if we can keep our best players and bring in some more, we'll be even stronger for next season,'' he told ZOO Magazine.

"It'd be fantastic if we play together for many years because Liverpool are the team with the second-most players in the Spain squad.

"It's important for Spanish players to play in the Premier League and Serie A as it makes us more complete footballers.''

Liverpool FC Under Pressure Over Xabi Alonso And Javier Mascherano

The battle for Liverpool FC’s first-choice centre midfielders is set to continue after Real Madrid and Barcelona refused to concede defeat.

Real are keen to lure Xabi Alonso to the Bernabeu while European champions Barcelona believe they can find a place for Javier Mascherano in their treble-winning side.

Liverpool FC boss Rafa Benitez does not want to lose either but the sums being suggested - £30million for Alonso and £25million for Mascherano - may mean some difficult decisions have to be taken at Anfield.

Speculation about the future of Alonso has been rife ever since Liverpool considered selling him last summer to fund the Gareth Barry transfer that never came off.

The Spain midfielder went on to have one of his best seasons for the club but rumours persisted about his unhappiness over his supposed treatment by Benitez.

Benitez plans to have talks with the 27-year-old now Spain’s involvement in the Confederations Cup is over but he may not be able to persuade Alonso to commit himself to the club.

"I don’t close any door in that area, so we’ll see what happens," was the player’s response to questions about his future.

"Last year I was close to joining Juventus, I do not have a defined career plan. It is always good that several clubs want you - it’s better than no-one wanting you - but I can’t do too much about it.

"I know that I have to do my work well and, in the future, I’ll decide what I have to decide."

That is hardly the definitive statement Benitez is looking for and discussions may be difficult as the pair’s relationship is not as friendly as it could be despite their shared nationality.

"My relationship with Benitez is professional, like he has with any other player. I leave it at that - professional," the former Real Sociedad player told Spain’s Don Balon magazine.

Alonso also admitted that while he has settled on Merseyside he still misses some home comforts.

"I’ve already been in England five years and the truth is I have adapted well," he added.

"I am happy here, although from the beginning I have longed for certain things and continue to do so."

Mascherano is equally in demand with Barcelona seemingly not put off by the £50million price tag Benitez put on him to try to ward off the attention of the Champions League winners.

The Catalan club appear to be mounting a charm offensive with Mascherano’s international team-mate Lionel Messi the focal point.

Despite giving defensive midfielder Yaya Toure a new contract Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reiterated his interest in the Argentina captain.

"Mascherano is a close friend of Leo Messi. We will see what happens. He’s a player I like very much," he told icat FM.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Xabi Alonso Will Confront Rafa Benitez This Week About Liverpool Future

Xabi Alonso, voted man of the match in Spain’s 3-2 victory over South Africa in the Confederations Cup third-place playoff, is set to meet with Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez to clear up his future once and for all.

The midfielder, who scored the winning goal in extra-time against Bafana Bafana, is still being hotly tracked by Real Madrid, and certain quarters of the Spanish press are convinced that he wants to join Florentino Perez’s revolution.

According to AS, Alonso spoke to Benitez on the telephone last week, asking the gaffer to allow him to move to the Santiago Bernabeu, only to be told, “I will not sell you to Madrid for less than €40 million.”

It is now believed that Xabi, who will touch down in Spain with La Seleccion later on Monday, will seek a meeting with Benitez sometime this week to clarify his future.

Speaking to reporters after the South Africa game, he said, “I myself do not know what my future is. I do not know if I will play in Madrid or not.”

Many around the Anfield camp feel that it’s only a matter of time before the 27-year-old makes his exit, especially after he reportedly bid farewell to certain staff members of the club.

The Spanish paper, meanwhile, is speculating that Madrid and Liverpool could reach an agreement of around €35m for the transfer fee.

If Los Blancos do wish to sign Xabi, they will have to move quickly, as arch rivals Barcelona have their eyes set on his team-mate, Javier Mascherano, and it is believed that Benitez will only let one or the other leave Merseyside.

Johnson's In, Money's Fine, Sun's Shining, What Now?

Glen Johnson has completed his estimated £18m pound move from Portsmouth to Liverpool, becoming the first transfer signing to arrive at Anfield in this summer of a thousand random names.

Johnson was away on holiday when the negotiations took place, but upon arriving back in England he quickly whisked away 'up north to put his John Hancock on a four year contract, putting to bed any rumours about us not having enough money to compete.

On those rumours - the RBS took the unusual step of writing to Liverpool fans reassuring them that there was nothing wrong with the way the club was being run. While we all agree there's very little right in the way the business is done, what with us all coming from a world that is very quickly discovering the pitfalls and perils of being in debt, the fact is that Liverpool is turning in a profit, and that any debt worries belong to the Yanks and not us.

Incidentally, I've been seeing some ridiculous accusations flying around at Rafa for spending £18million on a right back. How can Rafa win?

Every year the press slate us for taking the cheap option with signings like Voronin, Degen, Pennant, Bellamy, Riera, Aurelio, Zenden, Ngog, Arbeloa and others being greeted with a fanfare of disapproval from supposed 'neutrals'

So when we do go and spend big money, those same 'neutrals' complain that we're over spending. Calling £20m for Torres a gamble, booing over our funding of the third-party style of ownership by buying Mascherano for £18m (um, therefore removing him from third party ownership) and bitching about us 'tapping up' Keane, which we sort of confessed to (a donation to a charity of Spurs choice) but it's not like Spurs weren't compensated handsomely, wasn't it? We made a small loss on Keane, and if we were to sell Torres or Mascherano now it'd be at a huge profit. Yes, Rafa clearly knows nothing about spending big money.

So, why all this antagonism in the media about the fee for Johnson? I mean, Chelsea and City matched the bid, but we don't hear anyone vindicting them about it, do we? No, because we are apparently poor, and must remain so in the eyes of the media.

We're not allowed to spend £18million on a full back! That's something rich teams at the top of the table do.

Liverpool Star Celebrates Ronaldo’s Departure

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher believes Manchester United selling Cristiano Ronaldo has undoubtedly benefited themselves as well as title chasing Chelsea and Arsenal.

Having helped Liverpool lose just two games in the league all year, Carragher is as confident as ever of beating Manchester United to nineteen league titles, despite seeing them draw level on eighteen apiece last campaign.

Carragher told the Star: “It’s hard to win the Premier League as our top four sides, plus Barcelona, probably make up the best five sides in Europe."

“But that’s the challenge we face as United face their own challenge in carrying on without Ronaldo.”

“He’s a great player and I think he will be a big miss for the Premier League. “

“He made a big difference to Manchester United, even though they have a lot of other great players. And I think he was one of them.”

“We all know it will be difficult for them to replace Ronaldo, no doubt."

“But maybe they will do it a different way and get two or three players."

“But, as I’ve said, it will be so difficult to replace someone like him."

“Hopefully they won’t bring in someone as good as Ronaldo.”

Although he admitted Ronaldo’s absence would be difficult to replace for the English Champions, the Liverpool stalwart also suggested their manager undoubtedly knew what he was doing.

Carragher added: “I’m sure Sir Alex knows what he is doing…”

Rafa's Second Signing Could Be His Most Important

I honestly whole heartedly believe that we have the strongest starting 11 in Europe.

Why? Well we currently have Europe's best keeper in Reina, three of the best center backs in the league in Carragher, Daniel Agger and Skrtel, as well as one of the best left backs in the league in Aurelio and a very promising left back in Insua.

Now we have the premier league’s best right back in Johnson and the world’s best defensive midfielder in Mascherano, as well as one of the best players in Europe this season in Alonso, along with 07-08s Champions League top scorers (including qualifiers) in Kuyt who has the best stamina of any player in Europe.

A top notch winger able to break down most defences in Riera, the world’s best midfielder in Gerrard as well as the world’s best striker in Torres.

People always talk about depth being the difference between us and the title, but the difference this year has been the one and only once, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now like Jamie Carragher, I believe that on the 1st of July when Ronaldo signs for Real Madrid, the pendulum will finally swing our way.

Now that the scum have sold Ronaldo, they've lost one of their main advantages on us, someone that can break down teams when there drawing in boring games against teams that put 10 men behind the ball. The sort of teams that have lost us the league.

People say that Ronaldo doesn't perform in the big games, but you dont need him to.

To go back to one of the many title costing games of the season, let’s remember the 28th of January 2009. A groggy evening at the JJB stadium with over 25 shots on goal, a Yossi strike put us 1 up. And in the final minutes, Wigan's one and only shot on target came through a penalty, costing us 2 points.

Now to take Ronaldo as an example, someone who may not perform in big games, but who scored (in need of clarification) 47% of Manchester United's match winning goals this season.

To add another winger, in the form of David Silva or his team mate Juan Manuel Mata, would add another dimension to our team, the short skilful players that can change a game with one touch.

United may bring in 4 players worth 20m each from the Ronaldo money, but I can’t see that replacing him, adding more depth to their squad will only improve an area that they are already superior. The only way I could see United making up for the sale of Ronaldo, is by spending at least a 3rd of the 80mil on a player experienced in our league of Ronaldo's calibre. Now I can’t see that happening as I can’t imagine Torres/Gerrard/Fabregas/Lampard joining United.

We need a young skilful talented promising goal scoring match changing winger to step up to the plate and give us that spark when others can’t. Now I'm not saying we would have to pay anywhere near Ronaldo's fee, but someone like David Silva, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla or Jesus Navas to name a few.

If Rafa can hold onto the likes of Mascherano and Alonso keeping our starting eleven in place but adding one more skilful match winning winger I can see us bringing home number nineteen.

Arbeloa Wants Reds Exit - Agent

Alvaro Arbeloa's agent claims the Liverpool defender is keen to leave Anfield to join Real Madrid.

The Spanish international's future at Liverpool is in doubt following Liverpool's big-money capture of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth.

Liverpool are in talks with Arbeloa over a new deal with the full-back entering the final year of his contract, but Reds boss Rafa Benitez has refused to rule out a transfer for the former Deportivo La Coruna man.

Real Madrid have confirmed their interest in Arbeloa along with team-mate Xabi Alonso and Arbeloa's representative Manuel Garcia Quilon believes Liverpool should let him move on.

"Alvaro has a year left on his current deal and Rafa Benitez knows that it's best to let him go now," Garcia Quilon told the Sunday Mirror.

"The career of a football player has many stages and he is qualified to play anywhere."

Alonso Strikes Winner For Spain

Xabi Alonso's free-kick in extra-time enabled Spain to beat South Africa 3-2 and clinch third place in the Confederations Cup.

European champions Spain, whose 35-match unbeaten run came to a shock end against the United States in the semi-finals, were lethargic for much of the encounter and appeared to be heading for another defeat when Katlego Mphela put the tournament hosts ahead after 73 minutes.

But two goals in the final three minutes from substitute Daniel Guiza turned the match around only for Mphela to send the game into extra-time with a blistering free-kick.

Spain sealed it when Liverpool midfielder Alonso curled a 107th-minute free-kick from the left into the area which eluded everyone and ended up in the bottom right-hand corner.

Marseille Would Let Cana Leave

Marseille will not stand in the way of captain Lorik Cana if the midfielder decides to leave the Stade Velodrome.

Cana has been an ever-present for Marseille since joining from Paris St Germain in 2005 and has played over 100 league games for the Ligue 1 giants.

Reports suggest the Albania international is keen to move on, with Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and Bundesliga sides Hamburg and Wolfsburg said to be interested.

Marseille sporting director Jose Anigo claims they would not force the 25-year-old to see out the remaining three years of his contract.

"It's not that he's shown his desire to leave," Anigo told L'Equipe.

"It's simply that at a given moment it's been four years that Lorik is here and he has the right to want to experience other things.

"Today we're open to his transfer, if something happens we'll listen."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Real Madrid On The Alert As Xabi Alonso Says His Liverpool Goodbyes

Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez could be about to land one of his favourite players, Xabi Alonso, after having tracked the Liverpool midfielder since 2004.

According to The Times, the Merseysiders have hurriedly slapped a €41 million (₤35m) price tag on the 27-year-old after he reportedly bid farewell to certain members of the Reds staff.

Madrid have yet to pounce by making any official offers but it is well documented that Los Blancos’ new administration have made the ex-Real Sociedad man one of their prime objectives in the transfer market. They have reportedly made various offers in the recent past, ranging anywhere from €20m to €25m plus player exchanges, although they conceded defeat when Liverpool announced that he was not for sale.

Alonso has had a rocky relationship with manager, Rafa Benitez ever since the gaffer persistently went after Gareth Barry last summer. But the player has still declared that he is happy to remain at Anfield, although he would constantly admit that his future is unclear.

Torres Sees Three Amigos At Anfield

The timing, coming as it did in the week of Spain's surprising defeat to the USA, was perhaps a little curious, but Fernando Torres believes that if Liverpool are to win the Premier League next season, they must become more like his national side.

It is not hard to pinpoint where Liverpool lost ground on Manchester United last season. Although they beat the champions twice, and finished the season unbeaten in the League against the other members of the Big Four, their challenge was undermined by home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham, Hull and Manchester City. Had just two of those been converted into victories, the title would have been theirs.

"We have to improve at home," Torres said. "We lost a lot of points at home against teams in the middle of the table. If we can get 10 more points at home I think at the end of the season we can win the Premier League. It was frustrating but football is difficult against these kinds of teams. We need players with quality to try to win these kinds of games and I hope Liverpool will bring in players like this. I hope Liverpool will bring in players like [David] Silva, [Juan Manuel] Mata or [David] Villa: small players with quality – like Manchester United had [Carlos] Tevez or [Paul] Scholes.

"It's players like this who can make the difference. These are clever players. Yossi Benayoun plays like this, and I hope we can bring more like that so we have different options."

Had he recommended his international team-mates to Rafa Benitez? "Of course," he said. "But I don't know if we have the money." He has mentioned Villa as a dream partner plenty of times before, while accepting that he is far more likely to join a Spanish club this summer. Silva and Mata, though, are more realistic targets as Valencia's ongoing financial problems force them to offload.

Mata, at 21, was used mainly as a left-winger last season, but can also operate as a second striker, meaning he would not merely provide competition for Albert Riera, but could also cover for Steven Gerrard in the central role behind Torres. The 23-year-old Silva, similarly, is versatile enough to play in any of the attacking midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1, and is known to be a favourite of other senior (and not necessarily Spanish) members of the Liverpool squad.

Both are under six feet tall and neither could be described as physically robust, but for Torres it is their imagination that makes them stand out. "English football is very difficult because it's very physical and at a high tempo," he said. "With Spain we play with quality, passing the ball, slow, don't lose the ball. And in England we play with more pace, we try to arrive in the opposition area as soon as possible. Liverpool have a fantastic team to play against the big teams; we are competitive. But maybe against those other kind of teams we are not good enough. We have to improve that."

The need for sides to have a Plan B was demonstrated on Wednesday, as Spain's 15-match winning run came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to the USA. "We had to lose sometime," Torres said, and given the balance of the game and the chances Spain missed, he is probably right not to be concerned.

That said, though, USA showed that by defending deep, and shutting off the space for Xavi to exploit, Spain are not invincible. "We decided we were going to keep it tight in the middle," explained the goalkeeper Tim Howard. "If they wanted to play wide, fine, we'll try and get guys out there and close down the crosses as much as we could but that wasn't the priority. We just said, 'Right, we're going to deal with as many crosses as you can swing in because we believe we're better at clearing these balls'."

With Watford's Jay DeMerit outstanding and Torres perhaps not quite at his best, the policy worked, with neither Riera nor Sergio Ramos able to provide the necessary quality of service. Spain, perhaps, could have done with being more direct, just as Liverpool sometimes need more imagination. Versatility, always, is vital.

Liverpool Legend Rob Jones: Glen Johnson Is The Perfect Right-Back

Liverpool legend Rob Jones has stated that the club have signed England's best right-back in Glen Johnson.

The England international joined the Reds from Portsmouth yesterday for a fee of around £18 million, and Jones feels the money will prove to be well spent.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Jones said, "I think Johnson is an excellent player. We're getting a good defender and someone who loves to go forward too, which is something I think Liverpool have perhaps been missing.

"He's got virtually everything to his game and I think that's why the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea were fighting over him.

"Johnson is strong in most areas; he's good at going forward, has good pace, is strong and his defending has really come in the last couple of years.

"He's the all-round right-back and will strengthen the team. It's obvious Rafa rates him very highly."

Despite the defender's poor spell at Chelsea, Jones feels the 24-year-old has enough experience to be a big hit at Anfield.

"When he first went to Chelsea, he was perhaps a little bit too young and things didn't work out too well for him," continued the former England international.

"However, I've watched him in a few games since he went to Portsmouth and he's played really well and has even been scoring goals.

"I think he's got what it takes to cut it at a top club like Liverpool. He will have learned from his time at Chelsea and is a more experienced player now.

"I believe now is the right time for him to come to club as big as Liverpool."

Jones, who made a total of 243 appearances for the Reds, argued that Johnson is currently the best right-back in England.

"Johnson is the best English right-back around, definitely. He's strong, quick and good going forward and defending.

"Benitez has certainly gone for one of the very best there is."

Johnson made a total of 58 Premier League appearances during his permanent two year spell with Pompey.

Jermaine Pennant Could Swap Liverpool For Everton

Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant may be about to swap the red half of Merseyside for the blue half, according to the News of the World.

The British tabloid claims that Pennant, who spent last season on loan at Portsmouth, is considering making the controversial move this summer when he will become a free agent.

The winger’s contract at Liverpool expires on July 1, meaning he will be available on a free transfer, news that has reportedly interested Toffees boss David Moyes.

However, one stumbling block could be the player himself who is believed to be unwilling to upset the Liverpool fans by making the move across Stanley Park.

Indeed, the report quotes a 'friend' of Pennant as saying, “Jermaine wouldn't want to do anything to upset the Liverpool fans who have always been good to him.”

The 26-year-old signed for the Reds in 2006 but failed to nail down a place in the starting XI at Anfield and was sent out on loan last season.

His performances are believed to have attracted a number of clubs with Sunderland, Wigan Athletic and Manchester City also reported to be interested in the winger.

Xabi Alonso’s Real Madrid Move Depends On David Villa

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso’s move to Real Madrid may depend on whether Los Merengues manage to prise David Villa away from Valencia, according to the News of the World.

The British tabloid claims that Los Blancos will sign Alonso from Liverpool if they miss out on Villa, as cash-splashing president Florentino Perez is desperate to sign more Spanish players.

The striker had appeared destined for a move to the Bernabeu, and indeed has admitted that it is his preferred destination, yet that deal now appears to have stalled.

To cloud matters further, European champions Barcelona are believed to have entered the race to sign Villa, meaning his future remains the subject of much debate.

Yet, should Madrid ultimately fail to sign the Spainish international striker, the NOTW claims that they will then redouble their efforts to bring Alonso to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The paper also adds that Los Merengues will be willing to meet Liverpool’s asking price of €30 million for their midfielder.

Whilst Reds boss Rafael Benitez continues to insist that Alonso is not for sale, should the club receive a substantial offer for the midfielder it would have to be taken seriously.

Reds May Still Keep Arbeloa

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists the signing of Glen Johnson does not necessarily mean Alvaro Arbeloa's days at Anfield are numbered.

England right-back Johnson, 24, has completed his move from Portsmouth for a fee believed to be £17million, although much of that will be offset by money still owed from Peter Crouch's transfer to Fratton Park last summer.

Johnson's arrival increases the likelihood of Arbeloa leaving this summer, with Real Madrid ready to make a move.

But Benitez has not ruled out the possibility of the 26-year-old staying.

"Arbeloa was a good player for us last year. He has one year left on his contract and we have offered him an extension and we're talking," Benitez told the club's website.

"He is our player but if there is a good offer we have to consider it.

"We have two or three clubs asking about him. He would like to stay but he knows the competition will be hard."

Benitez has already accepted he paid over the odds for Johnson, but stressed there were many factors which made the deal the right one for the club.

After a summer which has already seen the £59million transfer of Kaka and the £80million move of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid the Liverpool boss is happy with the outlay on his first signing of the summer.

"We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy," said Benitez.

"Manchester City and Chelsea were there - they were making offers. We had to be quick and the club acted quickly.

"It was down to the player whether he chose us or City or Chelsea and he chose us.

"It was very clear from talking to him that he wanted to play for Liverpool."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

OFFICIAL: Glen Johnson Joins Liverpool From Portsmouth

Liverpool have confirmed that Glen Johnson has joined them today from Portsmouth, in a deal reportedly worth £18.5 million, though there has apparently been some negotiation around the fee due to Pompey still owing the Merseysiders money from the deal that took Peter Crouch to the South Coast.

Johnson has signed a four-year deal at Anfield.

Reds manager Rafa Benitez was clearly pleased with the signing, telling the club's official website, "He was important at Chelsea and in the last year at Portsmouth he has improved and is much better. One of the main things is his mentality - it's really good. He is a winner. I was impressed with the conversations I had with him. He wants to improve."

As for the reasons he was brought to Anfield, Benitez chose to highlight not only the player's obvious quality, but also the fact the he is English, which is important with new rules concerning foreign players on the immediate horizon.

"We were thinking about bringing in players with quality - that's the first thing," he added.

"He is also English and that is important for the Champions League list. We were thinking about improving the team and Johnson is a very good player who will do that.

"We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy. Manchester City and Chelsea were there - they were making offers.

"We had to be quick and the club acted quickly. It was down to the player whether he chose us or City or Chelsea and he chose us. It was very clear from talking to him that he wanted to play for Liverpool."

The manager also did not rule out further acquisitions for the Mersey men, though he took a typically cautious line when he explained, "We are working and trying to bring new players in but we are happy with the squad we have at the moment.

"We were thinking about improving and with Johnson we have improved. Like I have already said, we could buy one more player without selling anyone. We now have to wait.

Why Glen Johnson Can Pay Liverpool FC's Transfer Cash Right Back

It was almost as if Rafa Benitez had been there before. In the ECHO this week, the Liverpool manager felt compelled to explain the reasons for the £17million he shelled out to bring in a right-back.

”Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more,” admitted the Liverpool boss following his capture of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth, confirmed last night when the 24-year-old signed a four-year deal.

“You can’t compete in the top four of the Premier League unless you spend some money.”

Spoken with the calm assurance and matter-of-fact reasoning of someone completely at ease with smashing the club record fee for a defender.

As the Spaniard should be by now, of course. He currently has four players on his books who, at the time of purchase, were the costliest defenders in Anfield history.

The one thing that sets Johnson apart from Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Andrea Dossena, however, is the amount he beat the previous record by.

With the best part of £10million being added on to the former highest price, that was paid to Udinese for Italian left-back Dossena last summer, the pressure on both Johnson and Benitez has been raised a fair few notches.

And yet that situation is nothing new in L4 history.

It was 15 years ago that Roy Evans not only broke the club transfer record – as well as the bank – on defenders twice in the space of two days, he almost beat the British mark too.

John Scales came from Wimbledon for £3.5million followed swiftly by Phil Babb from Coventry for £100,000 more.

It was only weeks earlier that the British record was set at £4million by Chris Sutton’s move from Blackburn to Norwich CIty, while Babb’s fee was the same amount his Irish team-mate Roy Keane had gone for a year earlier when moving form Nottingham Forest to Manchester United.

And Evans had deemed both his new centre-backs to be more expensive than Alan Shearer, whose market value at that time might have been rising rapidly, but only cost £3.3m when he left Southampton for Blackburn in 1992.

Evans’s gamble didn’t pay off and one League Cup was all he had to show for his four years in charge, in which he failed to re-establish Liverpool’s domestic dominance.

But there are examples which should give Johnson considerably more heart.

Not least Mark Lawrenson. In the days when £1million fees were still big news, eyebrows were raised when £900,000 was forked out to Brighton for the centre-back in 1981.

However, he made a seamless transition into the Liverpool success story – because the pressure of being the club’s record signing never registered with him.

“What Glen Johnson needs to do is be himself, not think of himself as the £17million man,” said Johnson.

“Nobody goes on about Fernando Torres’s transfer fee now do they? He’s just Torres, world class striker, not Torres record signing.

“It’s a lot of money for a defender but the thing is, he’s not just a defender. When I signed, Bob Paisley told everyone I could play in a few different positions and that made it look like a wiser investment.

“That took the pressure off me straight away and I think Benitez could do the same with Johnson.

“He’s not just a right-back, he can attack and go forward as well. In fact, a full-back in the modern game is one of the most versatile and valuable roles anyway.

“They have as much of the ball as anyone else these days and being on the ball is where Johnson is at his most comfortable so he should be okay. So I don’t think the £17m Liverpool have spent should be seen as particularly extravagant.”

Lawrenson also believes the nature of the market could help to explain why Johnson has lined the Pompey pockets so heavily.

This is the summer of £80million world record transfer fees, just as the buys of Scales and Babb came hot on the heels of the cash-happy Premier League revolution.

Back in 1979, the British transfer record doubled from £500,000 to £1million in the space of a month when Trevor Francis joined Nottingham Forest – and that inflated climate also helped to make Lawrenson’s price tag more justifiable. There were a few million pound playrs about when I joined Liverpool,” he added. “Trevor Francis was the first but there was Steve Daly and Andy Gray just after that so by that time anything under £1m wasn’t big news.

In fact, the media I did at the time, I wasn’t really asked about the transfer fee.

“I can’t see that happening to Johnson, the way things are hyped these days, I’m sure a big thing will be made of the price tag when he gets round to doing interviews.

“But it’s not his fault, it’s just circumstances. This is a lad who is England’s first choice right-back and players like that – well, you just can’t pinch them anymore.”

Glen Johnson came through the ranks at West Ham’s academy.

After a loan spell at London neighbours Millwall, the promising full-back broke into the Hammers first team.

Johnson made just 16 appearances before moving to Chelsea in 2003 for £6m, becoming the first major signing of the Roman Abramovich era.

In November 2003, he made his international debut against Denmark.

The Londoner enjoyed a good first season at Stamford Bridge but fell out of favour when Jose Mourinho took charge, losing his place to Paulo Ferreira.

In 2006, Harry Redknapp, who had worked with Johnson since he was 15, took him on an initial year’s loan at Portsmouth before securing a permanaent £4m deal.

Johnson recaptured his form that he showed in his early days at West Ham and was a key member of Pompey’s FA Cup winning side. However, his medal was stolen from his wash bag in the team’s hotel.

Johnson’s performances did not go unnoticed and he was rewarded with a recall to the England squad in January last year.

The 24-year-old has 13 caps under his belt and has been an ever present in Capello’s squads.

Johnson runs a soccer school in his hometown of Dartford, Kent, to help keep children out of trouble.

Although not renowned for his goalscoring ability Johnson came runner-up in Match of the Day’s goal of the season award, behind Fernando Torres.

Benitez Reveals Arbeloa Isterest

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has revealed that there are "two or three" clubs showing an interest in Alvaro Arbeloa.

The defender is facing an uncertain future following the arrival of England right-back Glen Johnson on a four-year deal from Portsmouth.

Benitez is keen for Arbeloa to stay at Anfield but admits that, with the Spain international having only 12 months remaining on his contract, he could listen to offers.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with bringing the 26-year-old back to the Bernabeu, where he was a member of the squad between 2004 and 2005.

And Benitez claims clubs have made enquiries, telling Liverpool's official website: "Arbeloa was a good player for us last year.

"The thing is, he has one year left on his contract. We have offered him an extension and we're talking.

"He is our player but if there is a good offer we have to consider it. We have two or three clubs asking about him.

"He would like to stay but he knows the competition will be hard."

Child's Play Turns Serious For Aurelio

Fabio Aurelio looks set to miss the start of the season for Liverpool after damaging his knee playing football with his children.

Brazilian left-back Aurelio, 29, is now facing the prospect of surgery and several months on the sidelines in a move that could impact upon the future of Andrea Dossena.

Aurelio’s spell at Anfield has been scarred by a succession of injury problems.

Defender Aurelio, who is entering the final year of his contract, is understood to have twisted a knee playing with son, Fabio junior, and daughter Victoria.

The latest setback is a blow for manager Rafa Benitez who must now evaluate whether he can afford to lose Dossena, who has been courted by Juventus.

Italy international Dossena and Argentinian Emiliano Insua are the only other recognised left-backs at Anfield.

Xabi Alonso Appears Ready To Leave Liverpool

Liverpool placed a £35 million valuation on Xabi Alonso last night after the Spain midfield player said his goodbyes to some members of the club's staff. However, Real Madrid, with whom the player has been linked, have not yet made an official offer.

Alonso's relationship with Rafael Benítez has been troubled since the Liverpool manager began his pursuit of Gareth Barry last year. Although Benítez wants to keep the 27-year-old, there is a growing acceptance at Anfield that the player is likely to move to Real.

Benítez has justified paying up to £18.5 million to Portsmouth for Glen Johnson, who has joined on a four-year contract, because the right back was English. The manager has offered a new contract to Álvaro Arbeloa, who has one year left on his deal, but is also wanted by Real.

“We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy,” Benítez said. “We could buy one more player without selling anyone.”

Liverpool FC's Martin Skrtel Gets Back To Work In The Gym

Martin Skrtel is seemingly raring to go and can’t wait for the new Premier League campaign, according to his official website.

The Reds defender has already started his pre-season back home in Slovakia, training twice a day before his planned return to Liverpool on July 4.

On his own personal site, the solid centre half reveals he’s already fighting off any unwanted holiday flab.

The latest blog on the site, www.martin-skrtel.com, reads:

‘While he has spent a few weeks doing nothing back home, now it is time to get ready for the upcoming season. “I was just coming from gym when you called me,” he said with a smile.

He keeps training twice a day these days and he is certainly not very happy about it:

“Oh yes. It was so pleasant to spend a few days just doing nothing. Now I go to gym in the mornings and it takes some time to get used to it. But don’t worry I’ll be fine,” he laughs again.’

The site editor goes on to ask: ‘How about a certain Glen Johnson? How does it feel to lose your crown as the most expensive LFC defender of all time? (He is also trying to forget about the £7m we paid for Dossena)

“Well, to be honest I don’t mind,” says Skrtel.

“He is a very good player and he will definitely be a success.”

There are certain things in life you know are just wrong; supporting Man United, eating things off the floor and sleeping with your best mate’s missus to name just a few.

Another obvious one is rattling the cage of a real life gangster, unless, of course, it seems if you’re a Bulgarian shot-stopper.

Liverpool youth keeper Nikolay Mihaylov is reportedly under armed guard in his home country following a row with a Mafia godfather over a model.

The 20-year-old has yet to make a first-team appearance for the Reds, spending last season on loan at Dutch side FC Twente – managed by former England boss Steve McClaren, but is believed to be under protection by minders following an acid attack on his £170,000 Ferrari.

Reports in Bulgaria claim a row had broken out between ŠMihaylov and local mob godfather Georgi Stoilov after the latter began dating the keeper's ex-girlfriend, model Nikoleta Lozanova.

Mihaylov is thought to have joked that if his new partner was a Ferrari, Nikoleta must be a broken down Trabant.

However, the jibe appears to have back-fired badly, with the Anfield prospect’s sports car being targeted and forcing Mihaylov into hiding.

The former Levski Sofia player, who has been capped once for his country, could be in line to become Liverpool's No 2 next season behind Pepe Reina, with the futures of Charles Itandje and Diego Cavalieri currently uncertain.

That is if he makes it back in one piece!

Andrea Dossena And Andriy Voronin Want To Stay At Liverpool FC

Rafa Benitez’s summer transfer plans could be frustrated by players keen to kickstart their stalled Anfield careers.

The Reds boss was hoping to generate funds in the close season by offloading fringe players like Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena.

But after yesterday’s announcement by Voronin that he intends to return to “conquer the Premier League, Dossena’s agent has now claimed his client is happy to stay and fight for his place.

The defender was widely expected to return to Serie A, with Juventus his most likely suitors.

But agent Roberto La Florio said: “I have not met (Juventus sporting director) Alessio Secco and I don’t have an appointment set up with him in the near future.

“At this time I don’t know if Dossena will join Juventus.

“In any case the lad (Dossena) is also happy at Liverpool.”

Dossena has had a mixed start to his Liverpool career, starting six of the first eight matches of the season, but then finding his senior appearances less frequent, although he hit back to score goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Next season he could find himself competing for a starting place with impressive Argentinian youngster Emiliano Insua and Brazilian star Fabio Aurelio.

Liverpool FC's Istanbul Miracle Set To Hit The Stage

I may not remember many birthdays, anniversaries or even what I did last Thursday for that matter, but one date I will never forget is May 25.

Like most Reds that’s hands down the best day of the year, the anniversary of the greatest day of my life.

For the past four years I’ve celebrated in the same fashion; half a dozen bottles of Efes beer and the DVD of our night in Istanbul.

Even now recalling those couple of days makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I forced myself to wait an entire year before watching the game again after 2005 and now it’s an annual treat that I look forward to in the closing weeks of the season.

“So what if the title has gone and we’re not going to be in Rome again, I’ve got a date with a kebab and my Champions of Europe DVD,” that kind of thing.

However, I am hoping to break from tradition next month (if I can get a ticket) and join thousands of other Reds with a pilgrimage to the Empire Theatre.

Big Red Nicky Allt’s new play is a celebration of all things Istanbul and hits the stage for a practically sold-out nine-day run from July 9.

“It is hard graft at the minute mate,” Nicky said when I called him for a taster yesterday.

“It feels great though. I can’t wait to see what Reds fans think.”

Based around the greatest final in football history, the tale is centred around two lads and dads and the rest of the travelling Kop hoping to bring Old Big Ears home for good.

Throw in a big bag of money, a sexy chambermaid and Hitler’s cufflinks and, as we’ve come to expect from the writer – who along with Dave Kirkby brought us Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels, it’s got all the hallmarks of another Scouse comedy classic.

I’ve also heard unconfirmed whispers the play even features never before seen footage of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez which makes it unmissable for all Reds.

The full details of the script are more closely guarded than Nando’s hairdryer but one thing is for sure, finding a ticket come next week is going to be tougher than landing a season ticket on the Kop.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Liverpool Debt Not A Problem, Say Bankers

The Royal Bank of Scotland has taken the remarkable step of writing to Liverpool supporters to explain its continued financial support for the club's unpopular owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The bailed-out bank has faced severe criticism from Liverpool supporters angered at plans to extend the Americans' £350m credit facility with the RBS and Wachovia ahead of a 24 July deadline. Fans' protests coincided with revelations that Hicks and Gillett's parent company, Kop Football (Holdings) Limited, suffered a £42.6m loss for the year ending July 2008. However, in a response that effectively confirms the banks are content to refinance again next month, the RBS insists the club is "financially healthy", able to meet its debt obligations "comfortably" and revealed it hopes to continue its relationship with Liverpool "for many years to come".

It also stressed the government does not make commercial decisions for the bank since last year's rescue package. This follows attempts by a local MP, Peter Kilfoyle, to pressure the government into blocking the refinancing deal due to the absence of the proposed new stadium on Stanley Park and the repercussions for the regeneration of the area.

"The club does not suffer the burden of debt implied by a lot of the recent press reports and, in our view and that of the executive management of the club, it is financially healthy and able to service comfortably its debt obligations from cash flow generated by its playing and commercial activities," the RBS explained. "It is in our commercial interest to support the club in the manner described above so that it can continue to perform successfully on and off the pitch."

The debt on the club, according to the RBS, is lower than the debt on the parent company to ensure that Hicks and Gillett are legally responsible for the majority of the loans on Liverpool. Representatives of the Spirit of Shankly supporters group, however, claim a similar situation did not prevent Southampton falling into financial peril. The RBS states Liverpool are legally responsible for loans used to repay the debt Hicks and Gillett inherited following their takeover which, in February 2007, stood at £44.8m. "We took great care when making our original loan in early 2007 and when refinancing it last January to distinguish between obligations of the club and obligations of its parent company, the latter being secured by personal guarantees and collateral from the owners and a pledge of the shares they own in the club," added the bank.

Gillett and Hicks will be asked to increase their personal guarantees under the next refinancing deal, with the former agreeing a £333m deal for his stake in the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey franchise last weekend.

James McKenna, a spokesman for Spirit of Shankly, said: "We have been explaining our stance to the RBS about why they shouldn't refinance with Gillett and Hicks and we are very surprised with their response. We were expecting them to talk behind closed doors but the response gives fans a greater insight into how the debt is structured. Maybe if Gillett and Hicks had been more open the situation might be different, but it appears the only reason the RBS are happy is because of the interest repayments they are getting from Liverpool Football Club. The letter also claims the RBS attaches great value in being associated with Liverpool, but there are not many in Liverpool who want to be associated with Hicks and Gillett."

Andrea Dossena May Leave Liverpool To Keep World Cup Hopes Alive

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez may be witness to a busier transfer window than he had bargained for as the representative of Andrea Dossena has revealed that his client could express a wish to leave the club in order to cement his place in the Italian national side for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Dossena would therefore join Alvaro Arbeloa, who has been linked with a switch to Real Madrid, who have returned to their 'Galactico' style of spending.

Roberto La Florio is reported to have informed the press, “It would be easier for Marcello Lippi to follow him if he was playing in Serie A which is why I said we would consider a move from Anfield.

“But Andrea is tied to the Reds for the next three years and it is up to them to decide.

“Fabio Aurelio is out injured now so we need to take a decision pretty soon,” he concluded.

Should Dossena secure his departure, Benitez will need to suitably reinforce his left-flank, as well as perhaps replacing Arbeloa, who could be keen to join Real as he would be subject to a decrease in playing time due to the arrival of England international Glen Johnson.

Liverpool Flop Andriy Voronin Desperate To Establish Premier League Credentials

Liverpool forward Andriy Voronin, purchased by Rafael Benitez in 2007 on a free transfer from Bayer Leverkusen but failed to make a sustained impact in the Spaniard's first XI so was consequently farmed out on loan to Hertha Berlin, is eager to "conquer" the Premier League upon his return to Anfield.

He explained to the Daily Mail, "It wasn't a bad season in Germany but now I am coming back to conquer England. I'm a person who likes to face new challenges. It's time to prove to myself and to those people who think I can score a lot of goals only in Bundesliga, that it's not so.

"Liverpool is one of the world's strongest clubs. To play for it is a great honour for any footballer," he said.

"I know it's not going to be easy but I feel ready for a real fight to get into the first choice team," he declared.

Voronin has two years left on his Liverpool contract. During his one-year loan spell back in the Bundesliga he struck 11 times from 20 league appearances, contributing a host of assists, too.

Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant Could Move Abroad

Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant is set to consider his options this summer as his contract expires.

The former Arsenal youngster spent the second half of the season on loan at Portsmouth, and his agent revealed there is interest from home and abroad.

Pennant's agent, Sky Andrew, told Sky Sports News, "Now he is thinking about what his next move is going to be, whether in England or abroad."

Rumours in January linked Pennant with a move to Real Madrid and Andrew confirmed there was a chance of Pennant joining the Spanish giants.

"We have the episode in January where there was a fee agreed with [Real] Madrid for him to go there but that didn't happen," he said.

Madrid seem to be looking to a higher calibre of player this summer after the record breaking signings of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, however, Pennant will doubtless have attracted several other clubs to chase him.

Carlsberg Clause Halts Liverpool's Search For New Shirt Sponsor

The Reds want to cash-in on a new, big-money deal, but they'll have to wait a while before they can ditch their current benefactors.

Liverpool's 17-year partnership with their major sponsor, Carlsberg, is one of the longest in the game, so much so that the beer giant's logo has become an iconic emblem for the Anfield club.

However, The Daily Express reports that the Reds, who are battling financial problems under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, are now aiming to increase revenue by landing a more profitable shirt deal.

The Merseyside outfit currently collects around £10 million per year - plus performance-based extras - from the Danish brewery, a figure which pales in comparison to their main rivals.

Manchester United, for example, will rake in a mammoth £80m per season from their new sponsor, Aon, while Chelsea have a £50m deal with Samsung.

Unfortunately for Liverpool, though, Carlsberg holds an exclusivity agreement which prevents the club from even considering other options until July.

Only after that agreement expires will the scouse side's commercial director, Ian Ayre (pictured), be free to enter talks with other companies in view of attaining a more rewarding deal.

Liverpool's current contract with Carlsberg, which has been pushing to win the naming rights to the club's planned Stanley Park stadium, runs until 2010.

Robert Kraft: Lack Of A Salary Cap Stopped Me From Buying Liverpool

The man who owns the New England Patriots gridiron franchise has revealed that he thinks investing in English football just doesn't make sense in the absence of a salary cap.

Liverpool came very close to being owned by another American businessman a few years ago, but Robert Kraft, a man who has overseen the resurgence of the New England Patriots in the NFL over the last decade, didn't buy the club because he felt that there were too many flaws with the way football was run in England to make it worthwhile.

In particular he has identified the lack of a salary cap in the Premier League as a major factor in his decision not to buy the club. Kraft feels it makes the league a somewhat boring proposition in sporting terms, with teams unable to break the stifling grip of the top four clubs, something he perceives as basically unfair for the dedicated fans of remaining outfits.

"I wanted to do it," The Times reports him as saying. "I met with David Moores [the former Liverpool owner], who is a fine gentlemen, and we came very close to buying it very close. But in the end, my instinct was that, without a salary cap, I wouldn't do it.

"I'd like to see a salary cap come to the English Premier League. If it did, I'd buy a team in a minute. We think we know how to run a sports franchise, and if were playing by the same rules, then it's not just about who has the most [money].

"I loved the fans. Just like Patriot fans, they are loyal, passionate, which has zero book value on your balance sheet but is worth a lot. I wasn't sure how we'd build a stadium, but we built one in Foxboro [Massachusetts] in 18 months so we know how to do it. But the more important issue was the salary cap. If the salary cap was there, then we would have done it.

"Green Bay, Kansas City or Arizona who went to the Super Bowl last year have to believe that they can win. In the Premier League you can see that there will always be a few teams that are dominant, and I don't know that it's fair to the passionate fans in the other cities."

As it turned out, Kraft's fellow countrymen George Gillett and Tom Hicks ended up buying the Reds, to the chagrin of a significant section of the Anfield support, who feel that the debts the duo have run up since their purchase represent a severe weakening of the club.

Nevertheless, Kraft revealed that he could be tempted by another club, if they became available.

"I would be interested in other teams in the Premier League, but Liverpool was a unique franchise, with a great following," he added.

"The coach of my Major League Soccer team is Stevie Nicol, who played up there. We sort of have stuff sent to us all the time, but I think, deep down, until there's some sort of salary cap structure, I'm not sure it's a great business deal.

"I don't like to go into a team because of real estate. If you buy a team in a sports league, winning is the bottom line. You win, everything else comes. I want to be in a position to compete equally to win."

Liverpool FC Star Jamie Carragher Joins Campaign To Save Bootle Stadium From Demolition

Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher sent a clear message to Sefton council over the future of Bootle Stadium which is due to be demolished - "Re-open it."

Bootle-born Carragher last night joined more than 200 angry Bootle residents at a mass protest on the Maguire Avenue site and said he would be "devastated" if the campaign to re-open it failed.

He told the Bootle Times: "We need to make sure that the council reverses the decision and re-open the stadium for the people of Bootle. You can clearly see the strength of feeling at this turnout and it's only a Wednesday night.

"I would be devastated if it wasn't re-opened because I know how important it is to the community and especially the children in the area. I know because I'm from Bootle and I used to use it.

"I played football here and I was always down here using the facilities when I was a kid. My dad had football teams down here.

"I know a lot of people are now in need of the facilities and they have to look elsewhere: My wife's uncle (Peter Hart) has been affected by the closure and he can't use it. There is nothing here now and this was the only sports centre in this area for the kids.

"My boxing trainer (Tommy Ferrigan) from when I was growing up wanted to start a boxing club here and he can't do that either. These are the reasons why it needs to be re-opened."

He added: "If it was re-opened it would be giving the kids around here something good to do and get involved in because it offered so much - there were so many activities you could do like use the gym and play badminton. It was fantastic.

"Its closure means there is less chance that today’s kids to go on and do what I did.

"And at a time when every council is talking about child obesity being an issue and we're making sure that they eat healthily then that is all the more reason to re-open it.

"The stadium should be saved. It would be a waste if it goes. We need to keep it open. It's very important for the people of Bootle."

The site, off Southport Road, offered a variety of activities such as squash, basketball and trampolining and also provided facilities for sports teams using the playing fields opposite the building.

Last week, the Bootle Stadium Community Group Ltd had a £1.9m lottery bid for funding rejected.

The group’s chiefs think the bid failed because their plans were too detailed.

Calling on the council for help will be a tricky task in light of last week's revelations that Sefton plans to cut back its budget by £10m by April next year as the recession bites.

The council decided the stadium should be bulldozed in April this year following safety concerns, but the decision to close it was taken in 2006 by the Lib Dems and the Tories.

Leader of Sefton Council cllr Tony Robertson (Lib Dem) said the closure was prompted by budget cuts and because they could only fund five leisure facilities across the borough. They were: Bootle Leisure Centre, Maghull, Crosby, Formby, and Southport.

But Labour leader Peter Dowd said the site should not have closed: "We opposed this from the start and the Lib Dems and Tories decided to close it along with five other facilities in Bootle, including a youth club. But the council only needed £70,000 to keep the stadium running over the course of a year. It was only a small amount of money and they decide to close it."

Despite money being a council drawback cllr Lord Ronnie Fearn admitted yesterday the demolition will cost £200,000.

But treasurer of the Bootle Stadium Community Group, Charlie Dagnall, 63, is still hopeful the mass gathering can sway the minds of the borough's cabinet chiefs. He said: "All the people here show the level of support we have and many couldn't make it down here. We hope they get the money because we all need it.

"Having Jamie here increases the profile of the cause."

Carragher’s sentiments were echoed by many people who once ran sports clubs at the stadium.

Caroline Armstrong, an organiser of a trampoline group, said: "The kids came from everywhere for the trampolining and now they can't. I would love for it to be open again."

Colette Nielsen of Crosby Stuart girls, said: "If this building is demolished then there are no facilities for our girls."

Bernard Delorenzo of the Trojans baseball team said: "We played here for 20 years because it has a diamond for us to use. American baseball is not a regular sport in England and this was the only place we could play at. We played teams from all over the country and now we can't because it's closed. It needs re-opening."

Cab driver John Seddon, 34, said: "The cab drivers used to play badminton here but we now can't. Everywhere is fully booked up and we can't get in anywhere."

Joan Kielty, 68, of the over 50s club said: "The facilities here were great but now we go elsewhere and it's just not the same."

Nikki Brady, secretary of Bootle Stadium Community Group Ltd, said: "The police have told us that crime in the area has increased since the closure of the stadium. That's a great reason to re-open it."

Frankie Meadow, 50, has spent 25 years in youth football and explained the facilities elsewhere are poor: "What we have now is not very good for the 24 teams we have. We need changing rooms and a toilet for the girls. The stadium is ideal and it should re-open."

Would-be stadium boxing trainer Tommy Ferrigan, 56, said: "There is nothing wrong with the building. The brickwork is great. Why knock such a good building down when it had everything? It had youth clubs and a function room. It should be kept open."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Season Shape-Up - Liverpool


Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has found himself in the position of fending off interest in his stars rather than bring in new players. Benitez has seen a number of his top names linked with moves away from Anfield with the Spaniard fighting to keep hold of midfield pair Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.

Alonso, who was arguably Liverpool's player of the season last term, has again found his future on Merseyside the subject of conjecture for a second successive summer with big-spending Real Madrid hoping to lure the Spanish schemer back to his homeland.

Real and Barcelona have both been linked with Mascherano leaving Benitez facing the horror of losing his first-choice midfield.

Benitez is determined to keep the pair having already seen long-term target Gareth Barry slip through his fingers with the England international heading to cash-rich Manchester City.

Fernando Torres has been linked with a shock move to Manchester United in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo's impending departure from Old Trafford, but it is certain any approach for the Spanish hit-man would be given short shrift.

Liverpool have enjoyed success in the transfer market already this summer beating title rivals Chelsea to the signing of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth.

Both clubs agreed fees with Portsmouth for Johnson, but Benitez got one over Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti by persuading him to make the move to Merseyside rather than Stamford Bridge.

Johnson has agreed a £17.5million switch to Anfield and although Benitez admits he has paid over the odds for the England international the full-back will add to Liverpool's defensive strength.

Benitez has claimed Liverpool have funds available for one more big signing without selling and Valencia winger David Silva is thought to be his top target.


Not much. There are not too many changes needed to the Liverpool squad with just a little tinkering required to transform Benitez's side into champions.

The spine of the team is strong with just a couple of additions needed to provide cover in case of injuries.

Liverpool led the way in the title race for much of last season, losing only twice all campaign, but they still saw arch-rivals Manchester United match their record of 18 league titles.

Their biggest problem last term was that they ended up drawing more than Rolf Harris and these dropped points ultimately cost them the championship.

Benitez has addressed the need to enhance the right-side of the team with Johnson adding to the defensive and attacking options of the starting XI.

The full-back was one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League last term and his buccaneering runs down the right will provide a major outlet for the Reds' midfield.

A striker to provide cover for Torres is a must, with the Spaniard sorely missed when injured last term.

A move for Robbie Keane failed to work with the Irishman cutting a hasty return to Tottenham after less than six months at Liverpool.

David Ngog is still too raw to be seen as a replacement for Torres and Benitez must add to his attacking options to take the goalscoring burden off the shoulders of Torres and Reds skipper Steven Gerrard.

With sides defending in numbers against the Reds at Anfield, Benitez needs that someone who can produce that little something different to open sides up.

A new left-sided winger could be brought in as Albert Riera went off the boil in the second half of the season after a bright start to his Liverpool career.

Valencia winger Silva has been continually linked with a move to Liverpool, with Benitez not hiding his admiration for the Spanish international.

Silva is expected to leave cash-strapped Valencia this summer, but Liverpool could find themselves priced out of a move for the talented wide-man.


Benitez has already got one of his top targets in the shape of Johnson and who else he gets will depend on how much money is left for him to deal with. Cash is believed to be in shortage in the Anfield coffers, with Benitez maybe being forced to raise his own funds by offloading some of his fringe members.

The likes of Andrea Dossena, Ryan Babel, Andriy Voronin, Sebastien Leto, and Philipp Degen could all be offloaded to try and boost Benitez's transfer kitty.

If money can be raised then a move for long-term target Silva could be made as Benitez looks to bring in the winger to provide the ammunition for Torres and co.

Middlesbrough forward Tuncay Sanli has been mooted as a possible target with the Turkish ace providing a cheaper option to his other striking targets.

Benitez's targets could change depending on the futures of Alonso and Mascherano. Should either pair move on Benitez could have substantial funds given to him to bring in a replacement.

Athletic Bilbao starlet Javi Martinez could be an ideal replacement for Alonso if Real Madrid get their way and tempt Liverpool into selling the midfielder.

A new defender may be drafted in as a replacement for Sami Hyypia, but with Daniel Agger agreeing a new contract this is not a major priority.

Liverpool Hold Out For Real Madrid To Increase Bid For Alvaro Arbeloa

Liverpool have rejected a €5m (£4.23m) bid from Real Madrid for Alvaro Arbeloa, but will allow the defender to return to the Bernabéu providing they recoup £5m for the Spain international.

Real, who have also lined up a €30m offer for Xabi Alonso, made their first official move for the Liverpool right-back following talks with the player's agent, Manuel García Quillón. The bid was instantly rejected by Rafael Benítez, who is also represented by Quillón, but Liverpool are likely to settle for a marginal increase with Arbeloa approaching the final 12 months of his Anfield contract.

The 26-year-old has also made no secret of his desire to sign for Real, where he failed to make an impact on the first team before leaving for Deportivo La Coruña in 2006. "I am especially proud of what the club is doing," Arbeloa reiterated. "It is a big project with the return of Florentino [Pérez, as president] and obviously if Madrid is fixed on you it makes you proud."

Arbeloa has proven an astute ­purchase since joining Liverpool for £2.6m in January 2007 but will be usurped as the club's first-choice right-back by Glen Johnson. Benítez is looking to offset the £17m cost of the England international, who has passed a medical at Liverpool and will sign a four-year contract on his return from holiday, by selling the likes of Arbeloa and Andrea Dossena, while Portsmouth will write off the £7m they owe for Peter Crouch as part of the Johnson deal.

The Spain defender is currently in South Africa for the Confederations Cup and admits his future will be resolved after the tournament ends on Sunday. Arbeloa added: "I would be lying if I said I was sure to start the season with Liverpool. I'll be able to think about all this by next Monday."

Pepe Reina: Don't Compare Me With Liverpool Legend Ray Clemence

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has asserted that comparisons between him and the great Ray Clemence are a little premature, despite the clutch of records the Spaniard has broken over the last year, and added that he would rather develop his own reputation, rather than live in the shadow of legends.

"You will hear people talking about different eras and likening successful sides of the past to successful teams of the present," he told LFC Magazine.

"I'm not sure it's fair to do that. I'm not even sure what system Liverpool used when Clemence played or whether teams were attacking more or less than they do today.

"There are so many things that you have to consider.

"What I do know is that Clemence was probably the best goalkeeper in Liverpool's history. Of course, my aim is to achieve just half of what Clemence did with Liverpool. If I manage that it will be a successful time for the club."

Reina became the quickest goalkeeper in the Reds' history to reach 100 clean sheets, taking just 197 games to reach a milestone that took Clemence 200 matches. The Spanish international modestly shrugs off the plaudits that have been directed his way in recent times though, and prefers to highlight the contributions of his team-mates to that extraordinary shut-out record.

"I appreciate all the nice things people have said about me," he added.

"I feel I have improved many things in my game during the four years I have been at Liverpool. But I still have plenty of things to clear and am still young in terms of being a goalkeeper.

"I am only 26 so still have a pretty long way to go. Hopefully that will be with Liverpool.

"I'm pleased to go into the history books alongside someone like Clemence. You have to be pleased with that. But it's not all down to Pepe Reina. It has to be shared with my team-mates and especially the defenders.

"It's down to all the lads and the people who play in front of me. They make my job a lot easier so full credit to them.

"Where a striker is always looking to score, defenders and goalkeepers are always wishing to keep a clean sheet. It is better to win 1-0 than 2-1."

Reds Explore Options In Setanta Demise

Liverpool have stressed they remain committed to the club's television channel despite the collapse of Setanta, the platform on which it was broadcast.

The Irish company went off the air just before 6pm having gone into administration earlier.

Liverpool will continue to broadcast via their website and are hopeful of getting the channel back on television screens as soon as possible.

"LFC TV is currently broadcasting as normal and will continue to do so until further notice," said a club statement.

"However, following the announcement that Setanta GB is no longer trading, there may be some disruption to our service for UK television viewers.

"While we continue to produce live and pre-recorded content for the channel as normal, we are urgently investigating all possibilities available to us in returning to broadcasting in the British Isles as quickly as possible.

"We're continuing to monitor developments but wish to point out that our online and international viewers should remain unaffected and that Liverpool Football Club remains committed to the future of LFC TV."

Lionel Messi Asks Liverpool FC's Javier Mascherano To Join Barcelona

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has maintained the pressure in the tug-of-war for Javier Mascherano by reiterating his desire for the Liverpool man to join him.

Argentina captain Mascherano is a major target for Barcelona and even though manager Rafael Benitez is insisting the player is happy at Anfield and that he does not want to sell him.

Messi has spoken in the past of his wish to link up with his international team-mate at club level and he repeated that sentiment yesterday.

“Of course I would like him to join, who would not want to play with great players like Javier,” Messi said. “I hope he can come here.”

There has been speculation suggesting Mascherano wants to become one of Liverpool’s highest earners and that his wife has not settled on Merseyside.

But the player himself spoke in glowing terms about Benitez and the relationship he has with the manager who rescued him from a miserable spell in West Ham’s reserves just over two years ago.

Benitez is determined to keep the combative Argentinian but it appears Barcelona are not yet ready to give up their pursuit of the 25-year-old.

The Liverpool boss is facing attacks on all sides from Spanish clubs with Real Madrid stepping up their bid to sign Xabi Alonso.

Rumours of a £30m bid have been circulating as returning Real president Florentino Perez continues to try to spend his way to success.

Sean McGuire: Liverpool FC Must Wake Up To Financial Reality

George Gillett’s sale of his 80% stake in an ice hockey franchise in order to raise enough cash to support Liverpool’s banking requirements should be a huge wake-up call for the club.

And it is a problem that cannot be answered simply by buying more players or extending Rafa’s contract or doing any of the other easy things that clubs do as a kind of sporting default.

The club’s auditors, KPMG, recently expressed grave concerns over the financial viability of the business, and it is that aspect of the life of the club – not what happens on the pitch – that needs immediate attention.

It is crazy that a club like Liverpool cannot generate much bigger global revenues to support the football operation and grow the value of the whole business.

The mad cash merry-go-round of the Premier League is fine when the money is in the bank, but when costs start to exceed revenues there is a much bigger problem than just scoring goals or winning matches.

Liverpool need to act on this with a sense of urgency and a credible plan for sustained revenue growth, and perhaps, a wee bit of sensible cost control thrown in.

This includes avoiding too many more transfer dealings that see £17m spent on a player who is only marginally, if at all, better than the player leaving for around £5m.

United Legend Envious Of Liverpool’s New Signing

Manchester United legend Paul Parker, a man replaced by Gary Neville at Old Trafford, believes Liverpool have signed one of the best right-backs in world football Glen Johnson.

The former West Ham and Portsmouth defender is rated by Parker as potentially the best in his position in the world.

Parker told The News: “Glen Johnson is not only the best right back for England – he's also the best in the league.”

“In fact, I'd go so far as to say he could be the best in the world. I really think that. Some people rave about Ashley Cole being one of the best in the world but Johnson on the other side has all the attributes to be even better than him.”

“People also go on about European and South American full backs, but Glen beats them all for me.”

“As a former right-back, I watch him and I can tell you he is one of the very, very best there is and the lad can only keep on improving.”

“I'm trying to think of a Premier League right-back who comes close.”

“Sir Alex Ferguson raves about Rafael De Silva but he is nothing more than a prospect at the moment. Then there's Joe Bosingwa, who is an excellent player but not the same standard as Glen.”

“As for English rivals, I thought Micah Richards was going to go on but he's really gone off the boil.”

“Then there's Wes Brown, but he is not going to give you enough going forwards and is always a better centre half.”

“For me, Glen is comfortably ahead of all of them.”