Friday, July 31, 2009

Liverpool Want €35M 'Plus Five' From Real Madrid For Xabi Alonso - Report

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is today reported as having handed in an official transfer request to his club, as his proposed switch to Real Madrid edges closer to becoming a reality.

High-profile Spanish journalist Guillem Balague has told Sky Sports News today that the Spanish giants are once again talking to the Reds about the transfer, though there is a significant disparity between each club's valuation of the player.

"Real Madrid and Liverpool are talking about the future of the player," Balague said. "There's been an offer made by Real Madrid of €25 million which, funnily enough, is inferior to the offer made about three weeks ago, the last time they talked when there was a fax with an offer of €27 million.

"Now it's 25, and Liverpool are asking for €35 million, plus five (million). So there is still a big difference between what Real Madrid are offering and what Liverpool want.

"But the news is both clubs are talking for the first time in three weeks."

Balague also intimated that the process of the move was likely to be quick, with Liverpool in particular wanting the matter resolved as soon as possible. Now that Los Blancos have concluded the deal taking Gabriel Henize to Olympique de Marseille, they will begin to move with more alacrity regrading Alonso, the reporter feels.

Liverpool Confirm Xabi Alonso Transfer Request

Xabi Alonso's move from Liverpool to Real Madrid appears to be imminent after a source at the Merseyside club confirmed that the Spanish midfielder had submitted a transfer request.

The 28 year-old, who arrived for training on Thursday, expects to hold talks with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez as Real are believed to be preparing a new, improved bid.

Alonso had previously only told Benitez verbally that he wanted to leave the club.

Now if Madrid produce an offer of at least £28 million, the chances are that Benitez will agree to sell the man he signed from Real Sociedad for £10 million in August 2004.

Alonso flew back from Spain on Thursday, having spent three days with his family in San Sebastian, determined to end a summer-long saga over his future.

Benitez has defiantly refused to let Alonso leave, and Real's only official bid of £24million was rejected. But a formal transfer request changes the situation.

Since that first bid, both parties have been engaged in a war of words over the deal, with Real president Florentino Perez maintaining that Liverpool's valuation was much too high.

Benitez had talks with Alonso during Liverpool's Far East tour last week, and tried to convince the player to stay, underlining the fans' delirious response to the player in Bangkok and Singapore as a reason to think again.

But on Liverpool's return to the UK, Benitez told Alonso that he wanted the uncertainty around the player's future to be sorted out before the weekend, one way or another.

Now the deadlock looks like being broken, just 24 hours after the two clubs agreed a £3.5 million fee for Anfield full-back Alvaro Arbeloa to move to Real.

By the time that the Alonso fee is in Liverpool's bank, and also £4 million for Andrea Dossena's move to Napoli, Benitez will have around £40 million to spend on the transfer market.

Benitez has already raised around £8 million from the sales of Arbeloa, Sebastian Leto, Jack Hobbs and Paul Anderson.

He has been linked with Wigan midfielder Lee Cattermole, Hull defender Michael Turner, Valencia's David Silva and Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani.

Benitez is aware that the new Premier League season is little more than a fortnight away, and he needs to move quickly to find a replacement for Alonso otherwise the club's preparation for the campaign will be disrupted.

Alvaro Arbeloa Praises Liverpool FC – As He Signs Up For Real Madrid

Alvaro Arbeloa thanked Liverpool for making him a "much better player" after completing his move back to Real Madrid last night.

The 26-year-old revealed he set his heart on a return to the Bernabeu as soon as he discovered the Spanish giants were interested in him.

Arbeloa, who made 99 appearances for the Reds after signing for £2.5m from Deportivo La Coruna in January 2007, put the finishing touches on his move after Madrid agreed a £3.5million deal with Reds boss Rafa Benitez.

"Liverpool are a club with an impressive history, with lots of success," he said after completing his medical in Madrid. "In England they are the team with the most titles, so I've already experienced that pressure and I hope that will help me now with this challenge, which is clearly the biggest in my career.

"I think I've become a better footballer and also matured. When you play at a club like Liverpool you have the chance to play with great players, I've also been called up by Spain and we've won the European Championships so in these years I've learned a huge amount.

"It's made me a much better player and I hope to be able to show it, which in the end is the important thing."

Arbeloa is Real's seventh summer signing since Florentino Perez returned to the presidency in June, following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Negredo and Esteban Granero.

But Arbeloa is no stranger to Madrid, as he spent five years working his way up through the youth ranks before moving to Deportivo in 2006, and then onto Liverpool six months later.

The defender failed to establish himself in the first team during his previous spell at the Bernabeu, making just a couple of senior appearances, so when the chance arose for a second bite at the cherry, Arbeloa admits he was determined to take it.

"Since the door was opened to the possibility of coming here I was hoping for it to happen with all my heart, and I'm very happy to be able to return.

"Not even in your best dreams can you imagine that you are going to be in the Real Madrid first team," he said.

"Moreover, when you leave the club with the feeling of not being able to be in the first team, you know that it's very difficult to return, so for me, when this opportunity presented itself, my first objective was to take it and fortunately I'm here.

"I'm delighted and eager to take this opportunity and get out onto the pitch to train, to play and to enjoy it.

"I think that any kid would take advantage of the chance to come to Real Madrid."

Liverpool In Rome To Close Alberto Aquilani Deal - Report

Liverpool are working diligently for Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani, and they have taken swift action amid reports that Xabi Alonso has handed in a transfer request.

According to Il Messaggero, a Liverpool emissary arrived in the capital on Wednesday night in order to engage the Italian international.

The report suggests the five-time European champions are ready to offer the player a deal as uncertainty over Alonso's future continues to grow.

The Reds will offer Aquilani a five-year deal, and they are ready to entice Roma into selling by making a €20million offer.

Coach Luciano Spalletti did admit Aquilani could be one of the players on his way out last week, and the club appear eager to cash in.

Reports in England this morning have further fuelled the Aquilani talk. The Times claims Alonso has handed in a transfer request in order to engineer a move to Real Madrid.

It appears the Spaniard's penchant for the new Galacticos has propelled the English side into making their move for the Italian.

Alberto Aquilani Wants To Stay At Roma - Report

Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani is unlikely to leave the club and join Liverpool as far as his agent Franco Zavaglia is concerned.

Il Messaggero claimed the Reds were in Rome trying to close a deal for the Italian midfielder. It is said an offer of €20 million, plus a five-year deal for the player was being discussed.

However, Franco Zavaglia made it clear that he is unaware of any deal for his client, suggesting there would not be any move. claim they spoke to the agent and he denied the Liverpool deal, insisting he has not heard from the Premier League side.

Furthermore, the agent made it clear that Aquilani wants to stay in Rome after signing an extension with the club earlier this summer.

Zavaglia also confirmed his client's recovery from ankle surgery is going according to plan.

Media reports have consistently linked the Italian to Liverpool as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, should he join Real Madrid.

Rafael Benitez: Liverpool Goalkeeper Pepe Reina Is Best In Premier League

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes Pepe Reina is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.

Reina has been the undisputed first-choice keeper at Anfield since arriving from Villarreal in 2005 and fast became a fans' favorite.

Benitez feels consistency is one of the Spaniard's key attributes, especially as he is not as frequently tested as other shot-stoppers.

"Pepe is a fantastic keeper," Benitez told LFC Magazine.

"Right now, I think he is the best keeper in the Premier League. He is very consistent.

"For a top side, it can sometimes be harder to have a keeper that can perform so consistently at the level Pepe does because he is not as exposed as some keepers.

"Sometimes he has just one or two saves to make in a game and is not always so busy. But to be as good as he has been tells us what a fantastic keeper he is."

Reina will be hopeful of adding to his clean sheet tally, which passed 100 last season, when Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on August 16.

Napoli To Close Deal For Liverpool's Andrea Dossena By Monday – Report

Napoli are hoping to close negotiations with Liverpool for Andrea Dossena by Monday, according to

The Italians have agreed a fee with the Premier League giants, and they have been locked in talks with Dossena over his personal terms. Following a progressive start towards an agreement, the talks have started to stumble.

On Wednesday, Napoli confirmed there was some distance between what they had offered Dossena and what he is demanding.

The report suggests the stopper wants around €2 million-per-season in wages, but the Azzurri are offering €1.3m.

Despite this hurdle, president Aurelio De Laurentiis is hoping to tie up a deal by early next week. The Italian bigwig wants a complete squad so he can present it during a sponsorship event in the port city on Monday.

It is said Napoli will pay the Reds around €4.5m for the Italian.

Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish Lauds Summer Recruit Glen Johnson

Glen Johnson could be the player who helps push Liverpool closer to the Premier League crown, according to club legend Kenny Dalglish, who was a relentless trophy magnet as both a player and manager.

Johnson's style, a roaming right-back who can act almost as an auxiliary playmaker occupying the flank, is in keeping with the Anfield tradition, claims Dalglish, who also believes that the former Portsmouth player’s Britishness will see him adapt to life on Merseyside with ease.

"Attacking full-backs have always been important to the way Liverpool sides have played," Dalglish informed local newspaper The Liverpool Echo. "Historically, even going back to the days of [Bill] Shankly, we have always been a club who have put great faith in players in those positions having a certain comfort on the ball.

"Even in teams where there were out-and-out wingers, you could normally rely on the full-backs getting forward to join in with the attack.

"I think Glen Johnson will prove to be an excellent acquisition over the course of his Anfield career. I also think that he can improve as a defender at Liverpool. He’s proven he can attack with the best of them, and he’s secured the position of first-choice full-back at international level under Fabio Capello, so he can defend.

"But working on things with [manager Rafael Benitez] and having a player of the experience of [Jamie] Carragher playing in the same back four will benefit him in the long run.

"Ultimately, the more threat you carry going forward, the better that will be for our prospects this season.

"He’s British, so there’s no cultural barrier to him settling down at Melwood, and he’ll know most of the boys having played with them for England or against them in the league and cups.

"It’s all positive," the 58-year-old concluded.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fans Still Hope To Buy Liverpool

ShareLiverpoolFC founder Rogan Taylor has not given up hope of buying Liverpool in a joint venture with fans' group the Spirit of Shankly.

Liverpool's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett received a 12-month extension on £350m worth of bank loans secured against the club last week.

But Taylor told BBC Radio Merseyside: "It's another season and it will have to be restructured again.

"It costs you a lot of money when banks do this for you."

Taylor, a football academic at the University of Liverpool, is not convinced the renegotiation of debt between the American owners, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia is a good thing.

"Debt is being added to debt and that's a deeply depressing situation for Liverpool fans," said Taylor.

Taylor believes the concept of ShareLiverpoolFC, where fans would pay £500 for one share and run the club along the lines of FC Barcelona, is a viable alternative.

"The ShareLiverpoolFC - Spirit of Shankly proposal offers an opportunity to get the club on a firm basis.

"If the club was considerably less in debt and had a firm, long-term basis for paying back what debt there was in it, borrowing the money to build the stadium wouldn't be a particularly difficult issue."

Taylor's initial proposal sought Liverpool fans willing to pay £5,000 for a single share, which has since been reduced to 10% of that figure.

Questions have been raised about the viability of a fans' takeover on such a large scale but despite the doubters, Taylor is adamant it can be done.

"It's a one-off piece of Liverpool FC through ShareLiverpoolFC," he said.

"Nobody will ever own more of it than you do, now that's got intrinsic value hasn't it?

"Because these are not simple issues it's sometimes difficult for people to grasp," said Taylor.

Liverpool Look To Cattermole & Turner As Xabi Alonso Nears Real Madrid

Reports from the UK indicate that Real Madrid are nearer than ever to realising their ambition of signing Xabi Alonso from Liverpool, who in turn have already singled out the midfielder's potential replacement.

The Reds and the Blancos have refused to budge from their respective valuations of the Basque star all summer, but it is thought that a middle-ground figure of around €34 million could be agreed by the weekend.

Alonso's departure would leave a sizeable hole in Liverpool's midfield, given the enormous impact he had last season, and recent reports have suggested that Roma's Alberto Aquilani could fill the void.

However, it would seem that Rafael Benitez - who has stated that he wants Xabi to stay put - will turn to English alternatives if his prized playmaker returns to his homeland.

The Reds were briefly linked with Lee Cattermole in the not-too-distant past, and now The Daily Mail claims that they could use part of Alonso's transfer fee to fund a £12m bid for the Wigan Athletic youngster.

Furthermore, the newspaper suggests that Benitez will attempt to bolster his back line by offering Hull City £5.5m for their star centre-back, Michael Turner.

The Latics have already knocked back an approach for Cattermole from Steve Bruce's Sunderland, while Tigers boss Phil Brown has stated that the club won't consider anything less than a "ridiculous bid" for Turner.

Liverpool In Negotiations With Roma For Alberto Aquilani

Liverpool are in negotiations with Roma concerning the potential switch of Alberto Aquilani to Anfield, adding further fuel to the speculation that Xabi Alonso is set to depart the club soon.

Reds manager Rafa Bentiez has reportedly told Alonso, who continues to be linked with Real Madrid, that he must get his future sorted out by the end of the week, but it seems a possible replacement for the Basque has already been lined up.

British broadsheet newspaper The Guardian claims that Liverpool are in talks regarding bringing Aquilani to England, as Benitez is under pressure to find a replacement for Alonso quickly, as the English season begins on August 15.

A possible price tag of £16 million for the 25-year-old has been mooted in some quarters, with Roma hinting last week that they would be prepared to sell the player should the right offer come in.

Dossena Move On Hold

Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena's proposed move to Napoli has been delayed due to the player's wage demands.

The Reds have accepted a £4million offer for the Italy international, who failed to make an impact in his debut campaign in England.

Napoli sporting director Pierpaolo Marino insists there will be further talks with the full-back, but his £2million-a-year salary at Anfield is a problem.

Marino said: "Dossena? We have taken a break in order to reflect on this. The move is therefore on hold.

"There are no immediate prospects. The president [Aurelio De Laurentiis] has spoken to [Rafa] Benitez, but there is some distance with the player."

Liverpool FC Teenager Victor Palsson’s Shock And Awe To Play Alongside Steven Gerrard

Icelandic teenager Victor Palsson was so overawed to be playing alongside Steven Gerrard last week he had to ask the Liverpool star if he minded him being captain of the reserves.

Palsson, 18, only joined Liverpool in January from Danish side Aarhus and looks set to be installed as the skipper of the Anfield club’s second string this season. He held on to the armband on Tuesday night when he captained the side to a 1-0 pre-season friendly victory at Cambridge United.

But when Gerrard turned up last week at short notice following his court case to play in the second string’s 2-2 draw at Tranmere, Palsson was not sure how to react.

The Iceland under-19 said: “It was all a bit of a surprise, we were all excited. But when Steven Gerrard turned up in the dressing room I felt I had to ask him whether he minded that I was to have the captain’s armband and not him.

“(Reserve team manager) John McMahon wanted me to do the job, and Steven was very good about it and told me to get on with it.”

The midfielder added: “Playing alongside him was a great experience, he was talking to me and helping me all the time.”

Palsson is rated highly at Liverpool, as is Argentinean starlet Gerardo Bruna, the former Real Madrid player scoring the winner at Cambridge.

The reserves’ next game is a friendly away to Notts County tomorrow.

Albert Riera Determined To Improve At Liverpool This Season

Liverpool winger Albert Riera is looking to build on his impressive displays at the club last season, and to improve once more over the forthcoming season, now that he has fully acclimatised to English football.

Riera played 40 games for the Reds last season, scoring five goals, and the 27-year-old is hoping to help the Merseysiders go one better than their runners-up spot last season, and end the long wait for a league title, with the team's results against the 'big four' last season showing that they were capable of doing so.

"I always think I can be better, but I think for my first season at Anfield I did okay," the Balearic Islander told 'Pool's official website.

"It's never easy for a player moving to a new club. Adapting wasn't as difficult for me because I'd been in England before. I can improve and I have to. I know that and I will be trying to do that in the new season.

"The Champions League and Premier League are massive and I enjoy taking part in them. The fact that we had some terrific results against good opponents obviously helps. We did well against United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid, home and away.

"The only real disappointment in those big games came when we faced Chelsea at home in the European Cup. Apart from that, the other results show that we are a good team and are ready to fight for the title. We were able to go away from home against top sides and do well. That's what you need."

Riera also asserted that he feels Rafa Benitez's side do have the mentality to handle the pressure of a title challenge, despite many observers feeling that they choked slightly when the heat rose in last season's race for the Premier League crown.

"I realised straight away when I came here that the mentality was different to what I'd experienced. It is a winning attitude and that means pressure is no problem for us," he add.

"I think you always have to improve, all of us. You do that by working harder. I'm sure we will all be doing exactly that."

Krisztian Nemeth Hoping For Liverpool Breakthrough This Season

Liverpool striker Krisztian Nemeth is optimistic that his good showing in the Reds' pre-season tour of Asia is an indicator that he is set to make an impression on the Anfield first team this year.

Nemeth has attracted plaudits for his performances in the Reds' pre-season fixtures, and capped his tour of Asia by bagging a brace in the side's 5-0 drubbing of Singapore.

After spending much of last season on the sidelines following good performances in the title-winning Liverpool reserve team in 2007-08, the 20-year-old now hopes he can move things up a level in the season to come.

"Last year I was injured - I hope this year will be better," the player told the Reds' official website.

"I am young and I have been learning every day out here. The Singapore game was very good after two weeks' hard work. Every day we've had two training sessions - it's been really hard.

"But we showed in this game that we are getting fit. We enjoyed it.

"Dirk [Kuyt] gave me two very good passes and I was happy to score. I'm happy, I've enjoyed myself and the fans in Asia have been unbelievable."

Real Madrid Complete Alvaro Arbeloa Transfer From Liverpool

Real Madrid have confirmed on their official website that they have reached an agreement with Liverpool for the transfer of Alvaro Arbeloa.

The full-back will sign a five-year contract after successfully passing his medicals on Wednesday.

Dr. Carlos Diez, who administered the examinations which included blood and urine tests as well as electrocardiogram, radiology and musculoskeletal scans, said, “He’s been subjected to a standard examination.

“The results of every test are very satisfactory. He’s delighted about playing for Real Madrid. It’s always been his dream and he can’t wait to join his team-mates.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool released a statement on their own website confirming that Madrid will pay ₤3.5 million, or €4m, for Arbeloa, but did not elaborate on how the payment will be made, considering it was the only stumbling block prior to the agreement.

The 26-year-old is the third player from the Madrid youth academy to be brought back to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, after Alvaro Negredo and Esteban Granero.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Liverpool Set Focus On Youngsters

Liverpool reserve-team manager John McMahon says the club are aiming to develop more players capable of breaking into the first team.

Current Reds skipper Steven Gerrard was the last notable player to graduate from reserve and youth level and hold down a regular first-team place.

"The total aim is to produce players to play in Liverpool's first-team," he told BBC Radio Merseyside.

McMahon replaced former reserve coach Gary Ablett in June.

"There's a big squad and obviously everyone's not going to get games, so some players will be looking to go out on loan," he added.

McMahon, who is the younger brother of former Liverpool midfielder Steve, joins the Liverpool coaching team after a successful three-year spell at Shrewsbury Town.

He initially worked as number two to Gary Peters at the League Two club before assisting current manager Paul Simpson.

In his time at the New Meadow he helped Shrewsbury reach two League Two play-off finals, but now he is at Anfield McMahon knows the priorities of his job have changed.

"Everyone's here for the same thing," he said. "From the academy right through to the reserves, and that's producing players for the first-team."

McMahon was brought in as part of a number of backroom changes at Anfield this summer, which has also seen former boss Kenny Dalglish take up a senior role at the club's academy.

McMahon is joined in the dug-out by former Tranmere Rovers goalkeeper John Achterberg.

The two men worked together at Prenton Park when McMahon, who was then a youth-team coach at Rovers, took up the role of caretaker manager following the departures of Ray Mathias and Brian Little.

And McMahon is delighted to be linking up with the Dutchman again.

"John's a great character and a workaholic so it's a great appointment for Liverpool Football Club," he said.

Mark Lawrenson: Selling Xabi Alonso Will Not Ruin Liverpool FC's Title Bid

Those fans in Thailand certainly made their feelings clear to Xabi Alonso on the issue of whether they wanted him to stay at Liverpool or not.

And they were right in urging him to make a decision. But what they don’t realise is, it doesn’t matter what he says either way.

If he stays, great. He proved last season that he can rise above all the transfer talk and deliver top class performances.

If he goes? Well, all I would say is, if you’re going to go, go now.

The disruption caused by Alonso’s departure can be minimal but only if the saga isn’t allowed to drag on, certainly not into the new season.

The last thing Rafael Benitez needs is the type of scenario Arsenal had for years with Patrick Vieira, one of those tedious ‘is he, isn’t he?’ situations.

If Real Madrid want him so much then and the player wants to join them, the deal should be pushed through as soon as possible.

Because I don’t think selling Alonso will have a detrimental effect on any potential title challenge for next season.

The existing players won’t be affected. They have the confidence and belief that they can challenge Manchester United and will carry that into the new campaign regardless.

Selling Alonso might give the supporters a bit of a headache on how the manager replaces him – but I actually think it gives Benitez the opportunity to make his side a more potent attacking threat.

I know Benitez has previously denied interest in David Villa but this player, or someone of his ilk, would be ideal I think, once the money from any sale of Alonso is being splashed around the market.

I see absolutely no problem with Steven Gerrard dropping a hit deeper to allow a top quality striker – especially one with Villa’s understanding of Torres’s game – to add more firepower.

It’s all very well asking Gerrard to play as the back-up forward to Torres, but what happens if the Spaniard’s injury problems resurface?

Who have Liverpool currently got who can have the same impact?

Benitez might be happy with the form being shown by some of his squad strikers in this pre- season, but then David Ngog proved last year that it doesn’t necessarily translate into the real business. Krisztian Nemeth might have looked good in scoring twice the other day but this was a friendly.

It wasn’t ultra competitive and the opposition was sub-standard anyway, so it doesn’t mean he’s ready.

And if Benitez is so pleased to have “one of the best players in the German League” back in his squad, why did he let Andriy Voronin go in the first place? Because he can’t cut it, that’s why.

So I would say, let Alonso go now, take the money and, while there’s still plenty of time, spend it on someone who can turn those draws – so costly in last season’s final analysis – into victories.

Alonso might be the best passer at the club but even he hasn’t got the attacking prowess to be a genuine match-winner.

So it’s time to cash in and get someone who is.

Reds Close To Winning Xabi Alonso Battle

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez claims he is ready to walk away from his summer-long pursuit of Xabi Alonso – because Liverpool won’t play ball!

Reds boss Rafa Benitez has refused to budge from his £30million valuation of the Spanish international.

But that is way above Real’s estimation and Perez insists that despite his club’s massive outlay on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka this summer, they will not pay over the odds for any remaining targets.

“Some people obviously thought that because we said we wanted more Spanish players, they could ask for fees which don’t correspond to reality,” he said.

“A year ago, certain players we’ve asked about would have cost less than half the price we’re being quoted now.

“If necessary, we’ll find the Spanish players we would like for the squad in our youth system.”

Then, in a strong message to Liverpool, Perez added: “We made huge attempts at the start to sign players who had won the Ballon d'Or or the World Footballer of the Year award.

“But the arrivals of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo have confused some people who obviously thought that, because we said we wanted more Spanish players, they could ask for fees which don't correspond to reality.”

Perez also suggested any deal for Alonso would be dependent on the club selling a number of their players deemed surplus to requirements.

He continued: “We brought in a lot of players, our prime objectives, at the start and now we have the absurd number of 29 players in our squad, when we can only register 25 for the league.

“It has been more difficult than we expected encouraging players to look at other options. At this point, for a player to arrive, at least one would have to leave.

“There is a financial element to that, but it is mainly a technical one. We cannot have so many players who would not have chance to play. It has to be one in, one out for us at the moment.”

Benitez is adamant he will not lower his asking price, and Alonso’s reluctance to publicly state his desire to quit Anfield has left the Reds holding all the aces during negotiations.

Agent: Reds Accept Dossena Bid

Andrea Dossena's prospective Anfield exit is a step closer after Liverpool accepted an offer from Napoli, according to the defender's agent.

The Italy international is believed to be keen on a return to Seria A after struggling to make an impact in England following his move from Udinese last summer.

Reports suggest Napoli's offer is in the region of 5million euros (£4.3m), a significant loss on a player boss Rafael Benitez paid 10million euros for just twelve months ago.

Representatives of the left-back have suggested the offer has been accepted and Dossena is expected to complete the move later this week.

"Liverpool have accepted (Napoli chairman) Aurelio De Laurentiis' offer," his agent told Radio Kiss Kiss.

"It's now just a matter of days. The two clubs are in agreement, Liverpool accepted Napoli's offer but I can't say any more.

"With regards to Andrea there are no problems, it's only a matter of days. As soon as Napoli call us, we will finalize it."

Pepe Reina: Liverpool Must Be More Consistent

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has echoed a refrain which is becoming increasingly common around Anfield in recent months, and asserted that the Reds must discover the means to be more consistent if they are to end the club's long wait for a league title.

It is 20 years since the Mersey men were last crowned champions of England, and the Spanish keeper believes that recording better results against those sides lower down the Premier League table is the crucial factor in finding the few extra points the Reds require in order to wrest the Premier League crown out of the hands of fierce rivals Manchester United.

Liverpool managed an impressive set of results against the other 'top four' sides last season, but often struggled against so-called 'lesser' teams, recording a run of draws against the likes of Stoke City, West Ham United and Wigan Athletic that did irreparable harm to their bid for last season's league title.

Reina is convinced that such a record requires drastic improvement if Rafa Benitez's men are to be triumphant over the course of the coming campaign.

"To get 14 points out of 18 against the top three - they are numbers which are not very common," he told Sky Sports News.

"So sometimes you win [games] between the top four or the top five, but the thing is we have to win against the bottom ten."

Liverpool Can End Long Wait For A Premier League Title - Yossi Benayoun

Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun has asserted that Rafa Benitez's side is now strong enough to end the Anfield outfit's long wait for a league title, and will bring the Premier League crown to Merseyside this season.

Twenty seasons have passed since the Reds' last league championship win, and Liverpool supporters have - in that time - been forced to watch as their bitter rivals from the other end of the East Lancs Road, Manchester United, have enjoyed domination of the domestic crown.

Nevertheless, the Israeli international feels that with a little self-belief, Benitez's team can push on and finally end the drought come next May.

"The Premier League is very strong," he told Sky Sports News. "It's still Manchester [United], Chelsea and Arsenal, and Manchester City are getting stronger, so we know it's going to be difficult.

"But we believe in ourselves. We just to get better and to try to improve all the time and I think we have a good chance."

Liverpool flew home today after completing their tour of Asia with a 5-0 rout of Singapore at the weekend.

Liverpool Have Returned Stronger From Asia - Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher believes that Liverpool's pre-season tour of Asia, where they experienced high temperatures and humidity in their fixtures, has been a valuable exercise, and has improved fitness and strength levels in the squad.

"The main thing at this stage is getting fitness and coming out here and playing in these conditions has definitely helped," the talismanic defender told the club's official website.

Liverpool concluded their tour with a 5-0 thrashing of Singapore on Sunday, a result which followed a 1-1 draw with Thailand, allowing them to end on a high note after a frustrating run of results in their pre-season so far.

"Having not won any of our first three games it was nice to get a win and score a few for the supporters," Carragher added.

"It was just a great way to end the trip. It's been brilliant and the support we have here is just amazing. It has grown even more since the last time we were here."

The Reds also collected some silverware from the trip, with the win over Singapore meaning that Carragher, as stand-in skipper on the tour, was presented with the Merlion Cup.

The former England international is hoping that club captain Steven Gerrard is given plenty of opportunity to emulate that feat in the coming season, with Carragher hopeful that the club can bring some trophies back to Anfield.

"Hopefully Stevie will be the one picking up trophies when the real stuff is handed out in 10 months," he concluded.

Steven Gerrard's Wife Alex Curran Declares Liverpool Too 'Rough' For A Night Out

Steven Gerrard’s wife Alex Curran has risked angering the whole of the city her husband plays football for by declaring it ‘rough’.

The party animal WAG from Aintree, Merseyside, says she doesn’t go out in Liverpool nightclubs anymore because they ‘attract the wrong type of people’.

The 26-year-old’s comments, made in a magazine interview, come just as she and Liverpool captain, Gerrard, were spotted enjoying a night out in London, and days after he was cleared of affray.

In an interview with new! magazine, she said: “It's not the same any more. To be honest, it's rough.

“Everywhere new that opens attracts the wrong type of people. It's not nice, so I haven't bothered to go out.”

The comments are bound to upset Liverpudlians who are famously proud of their home town.

Last week Gerrard – who married Alex in June 2007 - was acquitted of assault after a five-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Gerrard, 29, admitted he repeatedly punched a man in a drunken row over music being played at the Lounge Inn, in Southport, leaving him with a black eye, a missing tooth and a head wound that required stitches.

But the midfielder insisted he punched 34-year-old Marcus McGee in self-defense, saying he thought he was about to be attacked.

The jury accepted his version of events after an hour of deliberations.

The judge told the £5million-a-year player that while he had been 'unwise' to pursue the 'trivial' dispute over what songs were played during a night out, he left the dock with his reputation intact.

The footballer was applauded by fans who also shouted 'Come on Rocky' as he emerged from court in the clear.

The charge had carried the threat of a three-year prison sentence which would have been a crushing blow to Gerrard's playing career as well as his lucrative endorsement deals.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rafa Quiet On Alonso

Rafa Benitez remained tight-lipped when quizzed on whether his side's 5-0 defeat of Singapore on Sunday represented Xabi Alonso's last appearance in a Liverpool shirt.

The Spanish midfielder, publically courted by Real Madrid all summer, came on for the final 13 minutes for his first pre-season appearance.

Benitez has repeatedly stated his intent to keep Alonso at Anfield but when asked if the player would still be in England next season, he felt the question would be better directed at the 27-year-old.

"It's a question that you have to ask him," he said.

"Honestly, we've been talking about this for two months but I think that it is a question for him and not for us.

"He has three years on his contract and we know he is a great player - that's why we signed him and renewed his contract. So you have to ask him."

Benitez declared himself delighted with his team's performance in the final game of their tour of Asia and was especially pleased with the promise shown by 20-year-old Krisztian Nemeth.

Nemeth came off the substitutes' bench to score twice in the Lion City and has clearly made a favorable impression on his manager.

"He was really good two years ago for the reserve team, scoring a lot of goals but last year he had some problems with injuries," added Benitez.

"But he showed today that he's a good finisher and a player with a future.

"It depends on the players always. If they're knocking on the door and they knock really hard, then I have to hear. This is important and it depends on them."

Benitez insisted that he will be leaving Asia with happy memories.

"The fans have been amazing and it felt for us like we were back at Anfield," he said.

"People here have been treating us with a lot of respect and you can see the passion. Sometimes you say it's too far (to travel to Asia) and you have one week away from your families but you can see the faces of the fans and you feel good to be out here.

"When you've got fans saying that they've been waiting eight years to see you, you have to be pleased to be here."

Such is the passion for the club in Asia that Benitez believes his side will enjoy a significant advantage if the Premier League ever manages to get its plan to play a 39th game in the region off the ground.

"We normally play around 60 games a year so if were to play more games, it would have to be organized properly. But it's not our decision - the coaches and managers have to prepare the teams so it depends on other people.

"But if we have to play with these fans behind us all the time, it will be like playing at home."

Dossena In Talks Over Napoli Switch, Says Agent

Andrea Dossena’s agent says the Liverpool FC defender is keen to sign for Napoli and that the two clubs are in negotiations.

Dossena only moved to Anfield last season from Udinese but has failed to settle in and is likely to find himself even more surplus to requirements following the arrival of Glen Johnson on Merseyside.

The Italy full-back is reportedly keen on a return to Serie A and would welcome a move to Napoli who finished 12th in the league last season.

"We want to close the deal, we will reach an agreement," Federico Pastorello told "Napoli’s offer is five million euros (£4.3million) plus bonuses.

"It’s a deal the two clubs are sorting out, we’re waiting for news.

"Napoli know how much Andrea earns, a significant sum, but less than two million.

"Our intention is to reach an agreement. We will not even have a problem with giving up image rights.

"The player is currently in Singapore with Liverpool, he is also awaiting news.

"Although he loves being at a great club like Liverpool, he would welcome the opportunity to join Napoli with great enthusiasm."

A stumbling block could be Liverpool FC’s reluctance to accept a bid of half the 10million euros (£8.6million) they paid for the 27-year-old barely 12 months ago.

Hicks And Gillett Refinance Liverpool FC Bank Loan

Liverpool FC’s American owners have concluded a deal re-finance the bank loan they took out to buy the club in 2007.

Co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are not expected to issue a statement, but the deal is believed to be for another year and will involve them paying back £60m of the original debt.

Negotiations between the Royal Bank of Scotland, Wachovia and the owners have continued for months the worldwide credit crunch has made them tortuous.

There has been real fear that the banks would call in the loan, while both Hicks and Gillett have searched for someone to take a minority stake in the club for around £100m to no avail.

But a source close to the owners has confirmed that the deal has now been concluded, and before last weekend’s deadline for re-financing the package expired.

The owners have reduced the £290m they owed to £230m, with £60m being repaid, half immediately.

Hicks, 63, and Gillett, 70, purchased Liverpool in 2007 for £174m, taking on £44.8m of liabilities.

At the time they maintained that financing the debt would not fall on the club. But that attitude changed, and Liverpool now have to find around £40m a year to service the debt, a situation that has enraged fans’ groups and impacted on boss Rafael Benitez’s transfer budget.

The owners have also failed to find the money to build the club’s new stadium with preliminary work on the Stanley Park venture halting during last season.

Extra cash for the stadium "did not form part of any discussions" claimed the source, although there is still a projected date for completion of 2012.

In the run-up to the new deal being concluded, Gillett has sold his 80% stake in the Montreal Canadians ice hockey club for US dollars 580million (£350million), while Hicks is trying to off-load the Texas Rangers baseball team.

It is Hicks who has seemingly experienced most difficulty in coming up with financial backing of late, and he recently defaulted on interest payments on a US dollars 515m (£312million) loan in the States recently.

Prior to the current credit crunch, loans of the size Hicks and Gillett took for Liverpool would be expected to re-financed over three or five years.

But City sources doubt this new deal would be for more than a year in the current climate.

Hicks and Gillett had a one-year arrangement when they first bought the club, and then negotiated another year with a six-month option.

They were granted that option, which expired at the weekend. But critics, particularly fans’ groups, will see this new agreement as just papering over the cracks of a regime that has not been able to take the club forward in the face of tough financial competition from Chelsea, Manchester United, the Spanish giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and now Manchester City.

Rogan Taylor, spokesman for the ShareLiverpool group who re-launched their own takeover plans last week for, in effect, a fans' co-operative, said: ``The deal we are hearing about for the re-financing of the Americans' loans is really what we expected.

"These are the indications we have had from RBS for a while, I would be interested to know really what Wachovia’s view is. It has been rumoured that they were very unsure about this new deal.

"It is little more than an expensive fix - just sticking plaster and making things more difficult for the club to progress in the long run.

"It is still very short term, year to year, if that. The owners are not able to take the club forward."

He added: "We produced our own plans again last week, and that is based over a much longer period and aimed at the banks.

"There can be political pressure here. We, the tax payers, own RBS and maybe they will eventually see that they can get most of their money back with our scheme and it is a much longer-termed plan."

Balague: No Chance Liverpool Will Sign Silva

Liverpool will not be signing Valencia winger David Silva this summer, despite reputed interest from Manchester United, that is the view of Spanish based journalist Guillem Balague.

Reports in this morning’s Daily Mail suggests Manchester United and Liverpool are ready to go head-to-head for the Spanish international, with the former expected to make a bid for the player later this week, however esteemed Spanish journalist Guillem Balague believes this is not the case.

Writing on his official website, Balague said: “Speculation has resurfaced and in the last few days the player has once again been linked with a move to Anfield.”

“We can clear all of the above up by saying that, at this moment in time, neither Liverpool, nor any other English club, have had any recent contact with Valencia over David Silva.”

“As far as Liverpool are concerned, I am still being told that there is no chance that they will be making a move for David Silva at this time.”

“Most of the transfer money available has been spent on Glen Johnson (this includes revenue from the sale of Keane, and debts owed to Liverpool by Portsmouth for the transfer of Peter Crouch that were factored into the Johnson deal).”

“Considerable funds have also been dedicated to the renewal and extension of many current player’s contracts at Anfield - including Benayoun.”

“In fact, I understand that, had he been sold, David Silva was considered as a replacement for the Israeli, but now that Yossi is staying at the club - the signing of Silva is even less of a possibility.”

“Although there have been no formal contact between Liverpool and Valencia in relation to David Silva recently, the channels of communication remain open between Anfield and the player’s representatives - so as with anything in football, we can never say never, but nothing appears likely at this time.”

On Manchester United’s alleged interest in the player Balague said the following: “It has even been suggested that Manchester United are also interested in David Silva, and I have been advised that the player will be under very close scrutiny when Valencia take on Ferguson’s men next month.”

The respected pundit, who features regularly on Sky Sports’ Revista de la Liga, also tried to clear up the financial turmoil Valencia currently reside in, and in particular how they can possibly hold onto the likes of Silva.

He continued: “Another question that many have been asking and one that relates to the above, not to mention David Villa is: ‘how on earth can Valencia possibly keep hold of the pair when the club are in such dire financial circumstances and have previously admitted that they must sell to avoid financial meltdown?’”

“Unfortunately, there is no logical or rational explanation, and at times the situation at Valencia is as baffling to us here as it appears to you.”

“In many ways the Mestalla club remind me of Newcastle United: a club where what counts is the opinion of the public, an anonymous body that defies all financial and sporting logic and one that rules the club with its heart rather than its head.”

“The problem at Valencia is that nobody wants to be the pantomime villain and risk the wrath of the fans by actually selling their favourite players.”

“Consequently, the club remain in a mess financially and the players concerned are growing deeply frustrated and unsettled - particularly David Villa, who we will have more on tomorrow.”

Benitez Points To Positives

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is confident his squad are beginning to display the benefits from their pre-season activities.

The Reds recorded a first victory in four warm-up matches as they hammered Singapore 5-0 in the Far East on Sunday.

Benitez believes his players have benefited from the tour of Asia and that they are shaping up well ahead of the new Premier League campaign.

Liverpool, who have flown back to England, now face Espanyol on 2nd August as they continue preparations and their boss is in a positive frame of mind.

"We've been here (Asia) for a week and you could see that the team was stronger and fitter," Benitez told the club's official website after the win over Singapore.

"It was a good game, especially in the second half when we had more space and they were a bit tired. We could go forward and create more chances.

"We worked hard and played at a high tempo with a professional mentality. We won and scored a lot of goals so I think that will make the next game easier.

"You can see that some of our players are a little bit tired, but the mentality and attitude was good.

"If we can play these kind of games with this intensity, it will be really good to improve the condition of the players. We need to be a little bit sharper but I feel it's just a question of time."

Singapore Coach Radojko Avramovic Hails Liverpool's Second-Half Show

Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic paid tribute to Liverpool as the English giants crushed his team 5-0 in a Sunday evening exhibition.

The Lions put up a good show in the first half at the National Stadium but their resistance was broke just before the break thanks to Andriy Voronin.

The visitors went to town in the second half as Albert Riera, Fernando Torres and a brace from Krisztian Nemeth made it a 5-0 thrashing.

“In the first-half, we played as a team, stayed compact and did very well but in the second-half, fitness into play and the players couldn’t cope,” said Avramovic after the game.

“Plus, Liverpool have quality. They made a few changes, fresh players came in and caused problems down our left side.”

There were some positives for the hosts especially as 18-year-old Hariss Harun impressed.

“Hariss and Fahrudin controlled the area in front of our back four in the first-half.

“He has a good future ahead of him but he must learn and tonight was a good game for him to see what quality players do, especially in terms of receiving the ball, changing sides and passing.

“Younger players must look at the Liverpool players and try to play like them.”

Rafael Benitez Hails Krisztian Nemeth After Brace

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has showed his pleasure at his side's 5-0 friendly win against Singapore this afternoon.

The Reds finished their tour of Asia with a easy victory over the Singapore side, with Andriy Voronin, Fernando Torres, Albert Riera and Kristian Nemeth all getting on the scoresheet.

20-year-old Nemeth was singled out for special praise by Benitez, who thinks the Hungary Under-21 international is a natural goalscorer.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Benitez said, "Nemeth is a great finisher. He has scored a lot of goals in the reserve team and today he showed why.

The Spaniard also stated that he thought it was an enjoyable game and that he was pleased with the outcome.

"It was a good game," he added.

"We worked hard and played at a high tempo, with a professional mentality.

"I think we are improving physically every single day.

"Some of the players returned late from international duty, so it was important for them to play for 30 minutes.

"You can see that some of them are a little bit tired, but the mentality and attitude was good, and it was a very good game."

The Reds will now travel back to Europe, where they will continue their pre-season campaign against Spanish Primera Division side Espanyol in a week's time.

Rafael Yuste Admits Barcelona Admiration For Liverpool Midfielder Mascherano

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, who recently admitted that he would like a move to Spanish champions Barcelona after reports surfaced that he was unsettled in England, is a player that the Blaugrana would be interested in taking to La Liga, according to their vice-president of sport Rafael Yuste.

"I can confirm that Javier Mascherano is a fantastic player that personally I like a lot," he told Sky Sports News. "But we have not listed [him].

"We have a lot of players who want to come to Barcelona. Mascherano is a fantastic player, of course, but he is today at Liverpool and he's playing very well.

"The future we cannot predict. We are just here today attending the match. He's a nice player - yes."

Barca were competing in the Wembley Cup today, where they beat Egyptian outfit Al Ahly 4-1.

Liverpool, meanwhile, hammered Singapore 5-0 in their latest game on their pre-season tour of Asia, with Mascherano making a second-half appearance as a substitute.

Live Hand Grenade Found Outside Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish's House

Merseyside Police are investigating the discovery of a live hand grenade on a wall outside the home of Liverpool's iconic former player and manager Kenny Dalglish, who has recently returned to work at Anfield in an ambassadorial and youth development role.

The discovery was made at the address in Southport, Merseyside, on Sunday night, by police investigating an ongoing series of incidents, related to witness intimidation, that are completely unconnected to Dalglish.

The Army Bomb Disposal Team were called to the location, which was cordoned off by police.

"The device was removed and made safe and is currently undergoing forensic examination," a Merseyside Police spokeswoman is reported as saying by the Press Association.

"The road remains cordoned off at its junction with Sandringham Road and high-visibility patrols have been stepped up in the area to reassure the public.

"Detectives believe this incident is linked to a series of other recent incidents in this area and not to the owner of the property where the device was found."

The alarm was raised at 10.15pm, but it is unknown whether anyone was in the Dalglish household at the time.

Two men in their twenties were later arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Match Report: Singapore 0 - 5 LiverpooL

Young Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth scored twice and Xabi Alonso made his first pre-season appearance as Liverpool beat Singapore 5-0 at the National Stadium.

Seeking their first pre-season victory after draws with Thailand and Swiss side St Gallen and a 1-0 loss to Rapid Vienna, the Reds gave a disjointed appearance in the first half but took the lead with the final kick before half-time when Andriy Voronin's long-range effort found the net.

Albert Riera extended the advantage early in the second half before Nemeth struck twice in the final 17 minutes with a Fernando Torres effort wedged in between.

With Rafael Benitez including a number of unfamiliar faces including goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri, defenders Mikel Dominguez and Philipp Degen and forward David Ngog in his starting line-up, the Reds struggled to assert themselves in the first half against a defensively-minded Singapore side.

Ryan Babel rose above the Singapore defense to put a header straight at goalkeeper Hassan Sunny after seven minutes but apart from that, there was little to entertain the crowd in the first half as the Premier League side were restricted to shots from distance.

There were some moments of concern for the Reds as Javier Mascherano twice went to ground after heavy challenges by Mustafic Fahrudin and Noh Alam Shah and the hosts nearly took a shock lead in the 22nd minute when Shi Jiayi's through pass released Shahril Ishak whose weak shot was easily saved by Cavalieri.

But in stoppage time at the end of the half, Liverpool's opening goal arrived from out of the blue as Voronin got past the challenge of Fahrudin and, with the Singapore defense backing off, fired in an innocuous low shot that crept past a late-diving Hassan.

Buoyed by the unexpected goal, Liverpool were much improved after the break and extended their lead 10 minutes into the second half when Mascherano floated in a fine cross from the right for Riera, who chested the ball down at the far post before firing a low shot past Hassan.

The fans were clamouring for an appearance by Torres and got their wish just after the hour when he was brought on with Dirk Kuyt in place of Yossi Benayoun and Ngog.

It was the Dutchman that would make the bigger impression though setting up the last three goals, beginning in the 73rd minute when he crossed from the right for 20-year-old Nemeth to slide the ball past Hassan to make it 3-0.

Alonso came on in the 77th minute for Daniel Agger and just three minutes later started the move that ended with Kuyt crossing for an unmarked Torres to apply the finishing touch from point blank range for his first pre-season goal.

And with seven minutes left, another Kuyt cross found Nemeth, who headed home his second of the game.

Liverpool's Benitez Wowed By Singapore Fans' Adulation

Even Liverpool's normally impassive manager Rafa Benitez could not fail to be moved by the adulation and adoration of the club's local fans during a boat ride along the Singapore River on Saturday.

Benitez, who started the cruise inside the boat politely acknowledging fans through the window, ended up standing at the bow smiling and waving as enthusiastic fans cheered his name, sang songs and waved banners written in his honor.

The Spaniard, whose team are in the city-state for Sunday's friendly against Singapore, stayed outside the boat's sheltered comfort for about 15 minutes despite the crippling heat. He was joined by former Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish, who has recently returned to the Premier League club as an ambassador and director of the youth academy.

Other ex-Liverpool players in attendance were Sammy Lee, assistant coach to Benitez, and Steve McMahon, whose company the Profitable Group was responsible for bringing the 18-time English champions to Singapore for the second time in 10 years.

In another boat, carrying most of the players, goalkeeper Pepe Reina was the main livewire, engaging in good-natured banter with the hundreds of fans that thronged the riverbank.

When one supporter exhorted him to win the league title, which the club has not done since 1990, the Spanish goalkeeper replied: "Jump into the water and we'll do it for you!"

However, not all the players were as enthusiastic as Reina. Spain striker Fernando Torres, the obvious crowd favorite, waved politely several times but mostly stayed inside.

Other players were even more elusive, such as pony-tailed Andriy Voronin, recently returned from a season-long loan spell at Hertha Berlin, who kept his headphones over his ears.

Liverpool, Premier League runners-up last season, are in Asia for a two-match tour of Thailand and Singapore. They drew 1-1 with Thailand's national side on Wednesday.

The boat ride was part of the team's promotional events that have seen the players showing up at the country's many suburban shopping malls, signing autographs and holding clinics.

The team was divided into three vessels, decked with banners proclaiming "The Kop Comes to Asia", which sailed down the Singapore River into the heart of the city.

They meandered through the Central Business District, past entertainment centers Boat and Clarke Quay and the Esplanade.

However, the man most Liverpool fans wanted to see -- captain and inspiration Steven Gerrard -- was absent due to a court case for affray. He was acquitted in Liverpool on Friday.

"I'm sorry for the fans that he can't come. We have to protect the player and the best thing for him to do is to rest at home," Benitez had told an earlier news conference.

Hundreds of fans lined the riverbank, dressed in the club's famous red shirts and waving banners professing loyalty to the Merseyside team and lauding their achievements.

Some supporters ran along the two km stretch of the river screaming at their favorite players.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them in the flesh and to get this close," gushed secretary Stacey Lee, 22. "And they even responded to me when I called out their names."

Real Madrid Boss Pellegrini Non-Committal On Alonso Rumours

Manuel Pellegrini has given his latest thoughts on Xabi Alonso, as well as Real Madrid's failure to sell their excess players.

The Alonso saga is still no closer to completion and the latest twist was Rafa Benitez's claims that he had asked Alonso to stay at Anfield. Responding to those rumors, Pellegrini told Marca, "I do not have an opinion about what he said."

"He has his reasons and opinions, he knows his player and his club.

"I will not speak about other club's players, and definitely not about other manager's statements."

Pellegrini then touched on the indication he had given earlier that July 27 was the deadline by which he wanted his final squad assembled.

"A week ago, I said that the 27th was the ideal day for the squad to be finalized.

"But I also said that nothing should be rushed. What is important is to make correct decisions.

"If that takes time, it must be taken.

Finally, Pellegrini talked about the players that the club had yet to sell, stating, "I am not too concerned that there are still a lot of players left, but it is not ideal."

"I had hoped our squad could be finalized by now, but there is still a great environment at training.

"My job is to coach everyone."

Fernando Torres Fired Up

Fernando Torres plans to cash in on the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo as the Premier League's most fearsome hitman.

But the Liverpool superstar admits he'll only hit the glorious heights of the ex-United winger if he inspires the Kop to their Premier League holy grail.

Torres believes the title race has been blown wide open thanks to Ronaldo's £80million departure from Old Trafford.

He is relishing the prospect of filling his boots with the kind of title winning goals United had become accustomed to - and will now sorely miss.

"Of course, it's my ambition to be seen in that way, but to do that we must win trophies," said Torres.

"I know only then will people be able to speak the same way about Liverpool and me as they have done Ronaldo and United.

"First we have to win trophies as a team and to do that we have to have a fantastic season. It's true we have one of our best chances to win the title for a long time, but it's still time to be careful.

"People are saying United will be a lot weaker without Ronaldo, but I don't think so. They are still a fantastic team but of course we have a big chance.

"Maybe with Ronaldo leaving United it's not so easy to see one big favorite this time.

"We think this can be the year for Liverpool, but we know how difficult it's going to be. Chelsea are the same side as last season and Arsenal are strong.

"We are also strong, and with a great signing like Glen Johnson joining us we feel we'll be even stronger. I hope Xabi Alonso stays too because he's one of the best midfielders in the world."

Torres has vowed to ensure last season's injury woes are a thing of the past. The 25-year-old said: "It's my aim to be fit for every game this season.

"It's hard to say I feel fresher now than last season because I've only just started training again after the Confederations Cup.

"By the start of the season I'm going to be 100 per cent. I hope last season's injury problems are well behind me."

Relief For Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez believes Fernando Torres is now clear of the injury problems that plagued the Spanish striker last season.

A succession of hamstring injuries undermined Liverpool's title challenge and left the Kop boss frustrated.

Benitez said: "We are trying to keep Torres fit and last year we had a specific plan. But now it is a case where I don't think he will have special treatment.

"We have all the medical staff and coaches checking everything. He has been away with Spain in the Confederations Cup so we have to be careful."

Benitez will hold talks with Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano over the next 24 hours and is confident one if not both will stay at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard Cheered By Fans As He's Cleared Of Affray In Bar Brawl Court Case

Steven Gerrard was cheered by supporters as he left court a free man yesterday, after being cleared of attacking a man in a bar brawl.

The England star admitted punching Marcus McGee three times but a jury took 75 minutes to find him not guilty of affray.

With his hands clasped behind his back, the Liverpool captain, who has scored more than 100 goals for the Reds, stood alone in the dock as the verdict was announced.

Gerrard, 29, showed no emotion as he learned he had been cleared.

The Judge, Henry Globe QC, the Recorder of Liverpool, told him: "You can walk away from this court with your reputation intact."

A relieved-looking Gerrard emerged from Liverpool crown court to cheers, applause and shouts of, "Come on, Rocky."

He told the fans: "Can I just say how pleased I am with today's verdict. I would like to put this case behind me.

"I am really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on football now.

"I would just like to say a big thank you to my legal team, my friends and family and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for supporting me. Thank you."

Club manager Rafa Benitez echoed his relief yesterday.

Benitez, who is in Singapore for Liverpool's pre-season match there on Sunday, said: "We are really pleased. Now he can just concentrate on playing football."

And Gerrard wasted no time getting back on the pitch. He played for Liverpool XI against Tranmere Rovers last night, scoring in their 2-2 draw. He had not joined the rest of the first team squad in Singapore because of his trial.

But his team-mates heard the verdict during a training session at the Singapore National Stadium. Led by Jamie Carragher, the squad linked arms and danced as fans started chanting Gerrard's name.

Gerrard always maintained he was acting in self-defense when he clashed with Mr McGee in the Lounge Inn bar in Southport, Merseyside, on December 29 last year. But Mr. McGee spoke of his fury last night at the verdict.

He said: "I can't believe this. What message does this give to any young lad who goes into a pub at the weekend?"

Gerrard and a group of friends had gone to the Lounge Inn following Liverpool's 5-1 victory over Newcastle United, during which he had scored twice. CCTV footage showed his party drinking beer, dancing and singing football songs.

But after Gerrard argued with McGee over the music a fight broke out. CCTV footage showed him landing three uppercuts at Mr. McGee, before being dragged away.

The fight continued without him and later a second brawl broke out, not involving Gerrard.

Mr. McGee, 34, lost a front crown and needed stitches to a head wound as a result of his injuries.

Five of Gerrard's pals admitted affray earlier this week and a sixth admitted threatening behavior.

But Gerrard always insisted he was trying to resolve the dispute and that he only lashed out at Mr. McGee in self-defense.

He told the jury: "I am sorry about the whole incident." The judge had reminded the jury to put aside their football loyalties while considering the evidence.

After the verdict, he told Gerrard: "With hindsight you may agree it was unwise of you to have approached Marcus McGee in an attempt to speak to him about your earlier trivial disagreement.

"However, that is far cry from saying you were criminally responsible for the violence which thereafter erupted."

He said that CCTV proved it was his pal John Doran who had launched the initial assault.

Gerrard's friends Ian Smith, 19, Doran, 29, Paul McGrattan, 31, and Accrington Stanley footballers Robert Grant, 19, and Ian Dunbavin, 28, all admitted affray.

Another friend John McGrattan, 34, admitted threatening behaviour. They will be sentenced next month.

Liverpool Players Jump For Joy On Hearing Their Captain Steven Gerrard Is Free

Steven Gerrard’s jubilant Liverpool team-mates last night celebrated their skipper’s not-guilty verdict like one of his winning goals.

The ecstatic players jumped in the air, roaring with delight when they were told he had been cleared of affray as they trained 6,700 miles away in Singapore’s national stadium.

Several hundred Reds fans watching the session immediately started singing Gerrard’s name.

Boss Rafa Benitez said: "We’re really pleased. He’s very important for us and he can now focus just on football. We’ve been supporting him all the time and were waiting for this decision."

Gerrard, 29, who was forced to miss the two-match Asia tour to attend his trial, said: "I’m glad to put this case behind me. I’m really looking forward to the season and concentrating on my football."

Jason McAteer: Steven Gerrard Will Not Be Affected By Court Case

Steven Gerrard will be totally unfazed by his court case, according to former team-mate Jason McAteer.

Liverpool skipper Gerrard played against Tranmere Rovers on Friday - the day he was acquitted of affray at Liverpool Crown Court.

And McAteer, who is the assistant boss at Prenton Park, said: "Steven Gerrard is an absolute credit to Liverpool and to himself and he will just be pleased this is over and done with.

"He will put this behind him, I am sure. The best place to be sometimes is out on the pitch, away from all the distractions, so Stevie will be absolutely fine. He is very mentally tough and this will not affect him.

"I expect Stevie to have another amazing season for Liverpool.

"He never lets them down."

Barcelona's Josep Guardiola Holds Little Hope Of Signing Liverpool's Javier Mascherano

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has admitted it will be difficult to sign Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano this summer.

The Spanish league champions have been linked with a move for the Argentinean midfielder consistently this summer, with the player's agent Walter Tamer claiming that he would prefer a move to the Camp Nou.

But Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is, of course, reluctant to sell Mascherano and has previously stated that the player has no price and is extremely important to the club.

And while Guardiola was full of praise for Mascherano, he also declared his belief that signing the player is unlikely, given Benitez's stance.

"Of course we know Mascherano, he's a huge player," Guardiola told Sky Sports News, after Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the Wembley Cup.

"He's at a huge team, with a great manager in Benitez.

"But if he [Benitez] wants to keep Mascherano, then it is a problem."

Barcelona are, meanwhile, set to complete the signing of Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Samuel Eto'o ready to go the other way in the deal.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gerrard Makes Scoring Return

Steven Gerrard swept away the stress of his courtroom battle to score a trademark goal on his return to action on Friday night.

Just hours after being found not guilty of affray by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court, the Reds captain made a surprise appearance in a pre-season friendly at Tranmere.

In a Liverpool XI otherwise comprised of reserves and youth players, Gerrard scored his team's first equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Prenton Park, blasting home a low drive from outside the box.

The news will have been welcomed on the other side of the world, where Rafael Benitez and the rest of his first-team players are currently engaged in a pre-season tour of the Far East.

Benitez was told of Gerrard's acquittal during a training session and said: "We are really pleased. He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football.

"We are all pleased at the club and over here at the training camp.

We have been supporting him all the time and were just waiting for the decision. Now he can concentrate just on football and hopefully play at the same level as last year."

This has not been the smoothest of pre-seasons for Benitez, and the Far East tour this week has been dogged by a succession of problems.

Injuries to Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar which forced the players to return to England for treatment have come on top of the continued transfer saga surrounding Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Arbeloa.

But as he prepared his side for Sunday's friendly against Singapore, Benitez was relieved that the cloud hanging over Gerrard has now been swept away after he was acquitted at Liverpool Crown Court following an incident in Southport on December 29 last year.

Gerrard has missed the Far East trip because of the week-long trial, and will be reunited with his team-mates next week when Liverpool return to the UK.

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Gerrard said: "Can I just say how pleased I am with today's verdict.

"I'd like to put this case behind me. I'm really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on football.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to my legal team, my friends and family and to everyone at Liverpool Football Club for supporting me."

Benitez also confirmed that Real Madrid target Alonso was fit following an ankle injury and ready to play against Singapore.

Benitez, who also has Yossi Benayoun back from an ankle problem, said: "I am very happy to have Yossi and Xabi back. They are working very hard, the tempo of the session was fantastic and the fans really enjoyed it.

"We are trying to step up our training every day, especially for the international players. Today we had three teams playing against each other. It was good competition and pleasing for me to see."

Real Madrid To Sign Alvaro Arbeloa From Liverpool Next Week

Real Madrid could be set to sign Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa as early as next week.

The Spanish right-back could be about to make a return to his native country in a deal worth around €5 million (£4.5m), according to a report in The Sun today.

Officials at the Santiago Bernabeu have recently expressed their ongoing interest in signing the former Deportiva La Coruna stopper this summer.

Los Merengues' sporting director, Jorge Valdano, said, "Arbeloa is a basic part of our plans."

Fellow director Miguel Pardeza commented in the last few days, "Liverpool do not really have the desire to let him go, even though he has just a year left on his contract.

"But there is a month to go in the market and anything can change, and I would not deny that we would very much like to have Arbeloa."

Meanwhile, Arbeloa's agent, Manuel Garcia Quillon, has said he expects the matter to be resolved soon.

"Discussions with Real are not over and I expect a solution early next week," Quillon said.

Liverpool have already installed a replacement for Arbeloa in the form of ex-Portsmouth defender Glen Johnson.

Ryan Babel Can Be One Of Premier League's Best - Liverpool Legend John Barnes

Liverpool legend John Barnes believes Ryan Babel could be a key player for the club next season.

The Dutch wide-man hasn't quite cemented himself a first-team place since joining the Reds, but started his pre-season well this summer, scoring against Thailand on Wednesday.

Barnes, now manager at Tranmere Rovers, believes Babel is capable of becoming one of the very best in England and could be pivotal to this season's Premier League push.

"Ryan is a fantastic player," Barnes told the club's official website.

"What we need to do is find how to get the best out of him because getting the right environment which suits the players is the most important thing.

"He is a great player and if we can find the right blend and formation for him to show us what he can do I believe he can be one of the best players in the Premier League."

Barnes was also full of praise for Reds manager Rafael Benitez and is optimistic the club can add a 19th league title to their trophy cabinet this season.

He continued, "You look at what Liverpool achieved coming so close last year and it just goes to show what a great job 'Rafa' has done at the club. We want to have a serious challenge year in year out and hopefully this next season will be the one."

Liverpool FC Legend Kenny Dalglish Defends Manager Rafa Benitez’s Singapore Rotation

Some Singaporeans are going to be left crying into their Tiger beer tomorrow. There is clamour here for Rafa Benitez to throw all his star names into action from the start when they take on the national team (noon kick-off UK time).

Liverpool’s visit has even managed to knock swine flu off the front pages with The New Paper dedicating seven pages of coverage to the Reds’ stay in the former British colony.

Their front page headline yesterday issued the plea: “Dear Rafa, Please play your best 11”.

Inside they urged fans desperate to see their heroes to sign an online petition, saying: “How would you feel if the likes of Glen Johnson, Javier Mascherano and Pepe Reina only play a half, Fernando Torres plays just 10 minutes and Xabi Alonso doesn’t play at all?

“That was exactly what happened on Wednesday when the Reds played against Thailand.

“With captain Steven Gerrard already missing the tour and Martin Skrtel out injured, don’t you think you deserve the biggest bang for your buck?”

However, they aren’t going to get their way.

Benitez used 26 players against Thailand in Bangkok and it’s likely to be a similar story tomorrow.

With 30 degree heat and intense humidity, few are likely to feature for more than a half.

To fans here this might be the biggest match of their life but for Benitez it is just another step on the road to ensuring the Reds are ready for the start of the Premier League in three weeks.

Reds legend Kenny Dalglish, who is on the tour in his role as club ambassador, believes any criticism of the manager’s selection policy is unfair.

“The most important match coming up is the one against Tottenham,” he said.

“That is the one the players are being prepared for.

“It’s been difficult for Rafa to manage the situation with players coming back to start pre-season at different times with different levels of fitness.

“The Spanish lads and Andrea Dossena only rejoined the squad last weekend.

“You could never expect any player to come back and after two days training start a game, let alone play the full 90 minutes.

“The fact those players played any part at all in Thailand was a real bonus for everyone.

“I’m sure it will be much the same on Sunday. The players will have another couple of days training and 15 or 20 minutes game time behind them.

“They might be better prepared to play for a bit longer but the best person to make that judgement is Rafa.

“I don’t think the people in Thailand or Singapore should take it any other way.

“It’s certainly not Rafa trying to be ungrateful or disrespectful in any shape or form. It’s just a fact of life.

“Wherever these games had been played it would have been exactly the same.

“Rafa knows the players best and the last thing he wants is for anyone to not be fit for the first game against Tottenham.

“We’ve already lost Martin Skrtel with a hamstring injury and we have to protect against losing anyone else.

“I know Rafa will manage the situation well with his knowledge and intelligence. The best team for a particular game might not be the biggest names.”

Dalglish was speaking alongside Xabi Alonso at an Adidas coaching clinic held at Victoria Junior College yesterday.

They were joined by Liverpool academy coaches Mike Garrity and Carl Macauley who put the youngsters through their paces.

One of the many banners welcoming the stars read ‘Don’t go Alonso, don’t be like Owen’.

Uncertainty over the future of both Alonso and Javier Mascherano is dragging on but Dalglish insists it’s had no impact on the Reds’ preparations.

“I don’t think it has any affect at all,” he added. “The players are used to speculation. It’s a fact of life and you have just got to get on with it.

“From what I’ve seen the players are doing superbly well. They have trained well and look in good shape. I just think it’s fantastic for Liverpool to come here and get closer to the people who support this football club.

“It’s a great thrill for the children to see the likes of Xabi Alonso and spend a bit of time with him.”

Tomorrow’s opponents Singapore are ranked 127th in the world – 10 places below Thailand – but they have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since former Notts County keeper Raddy Avramovic took over in 2003.

The Lions held Australia to a goalless draw here last year and for the first time they reached the third round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Having knocked out Palestine and Tajikistan their hopes were dashed as they finished third in the group stage behind Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

Their squad includes English-born duo John Wilkinson and Daniel Bennett.

Wilkinson is a 29-year-old former Exeter City midfielder who opted for Singaporean citizenship after marrying a local girl, while Bennett changed his nationality in 2002 and the defender has had two spells with Wrexham.

Skrtel Injury Worry For Liverpool

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel could miss the start of the Premier League season after suffering an injury in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Thailand.

A scan revealed the 24-year-old has strained his hamstring and he is expected to be out for three weeks.

Striker Nabil El Zhar, 22, also limped off in the same game after spraining a medial ligament in his right knee, which will keep him out for four weeks.

Both players have flown home and will miss Sunday's match against Singapore.

Full-back Glen Johnson will also sit out the final friendly of the club's Far Eastern tour in order to rest his Achilles injury.

However, Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso and Israeli star Yossi Benayoun successfully came through training after recovering from ankle injuries and will be available to play.

Liverpool get their season underway on Sunday, 16 August against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, a match which Skrtel is now doubtful for.

The Slovakia international featured 30 times for Liverpool last season and his absence would be a major blow to manager Rafael Benitez.

El Zhar has only started four games since arriving at Anfield from French side St Etienne in 2006 but Benitez recently handed the Moroccan a new deal to tie him to the club until 2012.

Midfielder Steven Gerrard, who missed the Reds' Far East pre-season tour in order to attend a court case, will not join up with the club for the Singapore game despite being found not guilty of affray.

"We were in touch with him every day and knew what was happening and we were confident everything would be okay," said Benitez.

"Now we need to take care of him, he must rest.

"I have to protect my players. We have already lost two to injury, Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar."

Fans in Asia had been disappointed at missing out on seeing Gerrard whose image was used prominently in promotional material to sell tickets.

"I'm sorry for the fans that we can't bring Gerrard but he is the captain of the team so he is a key player for the rest of the season," added Benitez.

"I hope the fans can respect the decision. We have other big names like Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano and they are all here."