Monday, March 16, 2009

Liverpool's Fernando Torres Tells Real Madrid To Forget About Signing Steven Gerrard

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres has warned Steven Gerrard’s many admirers that the skipper could never be persuaded to leave the club.

Media speculation is mounting that Real Madrid have made the midfielder their top transfer target and reports have even suggested that they are willing to offer £80 million for Gerrard.

However, Torres is adamant that his team-mate is going nowhere and that nothing could tempt him to leave Merseyside.

“There isn't a team in the world that Steven wouldn't get into - so yes, I am sure he has his admirers,” the striker told the Sunday Mirror.

“But there are some players who love their club so much that they won't leave no matter what money is thrown around.

“We saw Kaka stay at AC Milan and that was nice to see in these times.

“Like Stevie, Kaka is one of the best players and in the same way he loves Milan, Stevie loves Liverpool.

“It's not about how we would get him to stay, he would never leave.

“The fans love him, the manager loves him, and he is our captain. Trust me when I say he is going nowhere.”

Gerrard scored twice in midweek at Anfield as Rafael Benitez’s Reds sunk Real 4-0, and his display even meant that Madrid fans were singing the midfielder’s name at the end of the game.

Yet Torres insisted that this would not sway the England international whose heart belongs to the Kop.

The former Atletico Madrid man explained, “They may have been chanting his name, but nobody will chant his name louder than the Liverpool fans and I know the relationship he has with our supporters. They are his family.”

Torres also insisted that Gerrard is without doubt one of the greatest players in the world.

“He is the best player I have ever played with, and I have played with some great players with Spain and Liverpool,” added the Spaniard.

“He could easily be the best player in the world.”

The 24-year-old also took time out to pledge his future to Liverpool and insisted that the win over Real Madrid had vindicated his decision to join the Merseysiders.

“This is the reason why I came to Liverpool,” he added.

“I made it clear the only club I'd leave Atletico for was Liverpool and now I can see why.

“Tuesday was a statement we are not be taken lightly. We know the defeat of Madrid means nothing now. It doesn't matter who we draw now - there is no easy game - but there is serious belief in the Liverpool dressing room we can win a sixth European Cup.”

Liverpool Prepare Move For Middlesbrough's David Wheater

Liverpool are looking to shore up their defence for the future and are now being linked with a reported move for Middlesbrough's powerful defender David Wheater, according to The Mirror.

The young centre-back has been a revelation over the past couple of seasons for Boro and has been attracting interest from England's top four.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is looking for a long term replacement for ageing central defender Sami Hyypia, and seems to feel that Boro's young and rapidly developing defender is the answer.

The Teessiders' boss Gareth Southgate has stated that he does not want to sell the England Under-21 international, but could be forced into a deal as the club have racked up £93 million worth of debt, and the sale of Wheater could ease that financial strain.

The 22-year-old would command a transfer fee of around £10 million, and as the Teeside club are in real danger of being relegated from the Premier League this season, Southgate might be forced to cash in on his defender in the summer.

The Redcar born player is a proud product of Boro's famed youth academy, and his talent has been realised at international level, with England coach Fabio Capello calling him up to the full England squad last October when John Terry and Ashley Cole withdrew due to injury.

Wheater has been a first team player at the Riverside since 2004 when he was promoted from the club's youth academy, and he has gone on to make 63 Premier League appearances for the club, scoring five goals in the process.

Liverpool Boss Benitez Urges Teams To Attack Manchester United

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez thinks that his side's 4-1 mauling of Manchester United at Old Trafford yesterday has given a guiding a light for the rest of the Premier League to follow. Benitez says his team have shown that the Red Devils are vulnerable and can be unsettled.

He argues that if sides attack United, as Liverpool did yesterday, then they will enjoy more success than they thought possible. United's defenders, he states, are rarely put under serious pressure but when they are, Ferdinand and Vidic do have a tendancy to wobble.

"We have shown the way," the Reds manager told The Manchester Evening News.

"United have been playing with so much confidence. At least people will now see that they can lose.

"The message is there for everyone. In attack they are fantastic. You can see the quality they have. But, in defence, they have some weaknesses and we tried to exploit them."

Despite recording their biggest victory at Old Trafford since 1936, Liverpool will still need United to falter significantly for them to have a realistic hope of taking the title this season. There is still a four point deficit to United, who also have a game in hand.

Liverpool FC Legend Barnes Backs Benitez

Liverpool great John Barnes believes Rafael Benitez remains the right man to lead the Reds forward.

Despite a successful week, Benitez’s future is uncertain, with a new contract still to be agreed despite protracted negotiations.

But Barnes, now coach of the Jamaica national side, said: “I think he is as good as anybody else. I don’t think a new manager coming in would win the league for Liverpool necessarily.

“We all know United have a stronger squad – they are better placed than Liverpool are at the moment.

“So a new manager coming in isn’t necessarily going to improve that situation. I think Rafa’s the right person, definitely.”

Rafa Benitez: Man Utd Must Now See Liverpool As Contenders

Rafael Benitez reckons Sir Alex Ferguson must now accept Liverpool as a major threat to Manchester United’s domestic supremacy.

And the Spaniard feels his team have shown the rest of the Premier League how to beat the leaders.

United were subjected to a 4-1 home humiliation on Saturday as Liverpool notched their biggest win at Old Trafford in 73 years to give them renewed hope of catching the Premier League leaders.

It was the first time Benitez had come face-to-face with Sir Alex Ferguson since his fact-filled attack on the United manager in January.

But the Spaniard dismissed any suggestion it played a part in their weekend walloping of the European and World champions – and that United will now regard Liverpool as serious challengers.

“I can guarantee you that I was calm and I am calm,” said Benitez. “The players on the pitch can win and they can lose and the manager can affect things but I didn’t see a big difference when I was talking about the facts and I don’t now.

“Ferguson’s a fantastic manager with a very good team and we will try to improve and be as close as possible. Hopefully he will see Liverpool as a new contender.”

Asked if he spoke to Ferguson after the game, Benitez added: “No, I shook hands and that’s it. He was not talking about bad blood.

“Maybe sometimes my English is not good enough or I don’t understand the Scottish accent.”

It was Benitez’s first triumph away at United since taking charge at Anfield in the summer of 2004 and marked the 100th victory of his tenure.

For United, the defeat was their first in the league since November and ended their unbeaten home record and a run of 11 consecutive top-flight wins.

And Benitez believes Liverpool’s win – which ensured their first double over United since the 2001-02 season – has demonstrated how the Old Trafford side can be beaten.

“We have shown the way,” said Benitez. “United have been playing with so much confidence. At least people will now see that they can lose.

“The message is there for everyone. In attack they are fantastic. You can see the quality they have. But in defence they have some weaknesses and we tried to exploit them.

“They have a lot of quality in attack, they are strong in defence and they have plenty of possession. But when they don’t have the ball and you move the ball quickly and play behind the defenders, you know you can beat them.

“We knew that they are really good at playing between the lines with penetrating passes so we needed to stop these passes, and put the midfielders under pressure every time they were going to receive the ball.

“Then we tried to play simple and go forward quickly, because it’s an offensive team and they are always high.

“Targeting Vidic was one of the ideas. We knew that maybe with the movement of Torres we could create problems for the defenders.”

Benitez added: “Now we have confidence we are playing well so we have to enjoy this situation and try to get three points in every game until the end of the season.

“I don’t think we can talk about different philosophies compared to United. The mentality of our club it to win, to win everything and I think United have the same mentality.

“You can play in a different way if you have different players, the money is a massive difference. You have to try to get the best from your players but if you have these resources sometimes it’s easier.

“If you cannot spend big money on players you have to work hard as a team. This is the mentality we have now. If we can add some good players in the future we will improve and maybe we can maybe we can get closer or overtake them.”

Manchester United Fall Into Liverpool's Trap

In the eyes of Rafael Benítez, it is war; not his rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson, but sport in general. Long before the writings of Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, became required reading for more enlightened managers, Benítez devoted his teenage years to finding common strands between his twin passions of football and Stratego, a military board game at which he was devilishly proficient.

Four days after Liverpool stunned Real Madrid, Benítez and his players achieved another remarkable four-goal success, this time storming the fortress of Old Trafford with a barrage of surface-to-surface missiles. Three of their four goals on Saturday stemmed from the kind of up-and-under clearances that seemed to belong firmly in the “hit and hope” category — at least until the Liverpool manager, more than a little eager afterwards to share his battle plan with anyone who was listening, suggested that he had successfully identified and exposed Manchester United’s Achilles’ heel.

Ferguson will snort at the idea, having lavished praise on a defence that recently kept clean sheets in 14 consecutive Barclays Premier League matches, but was this really, as the United manager suggested, “just one of those days”? The initial assessment suggested so, with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic just happening to make more mistakes in a single afternoon than they have all season, but Benítez’s explanation of a simple approach to the game, one that involved cutting off United’s supply and then getting the ball forward quickly to try to turn around the central defenders, brought thoughts of cause and effect to mind.

Goal one: Martin Skrtel, in his own penalty area, clears the danger with a huge punt that goes so high that Vidic, waiting just beyond the halfway line, misjudges its flight in the sun. Now chasing back towards goal, Vidic panics under pressure from Fernando Torres, who marches through and clips a shot past Edwin van der Sar, equalising for Liverpool just five minutes after Cristiano Ronaldo, with a penalty, had given United the lead.

Goal two: Sami Hyypia elegantly brings down the ball and passes back to José Manuel Reina, who instantly kicks a clearance high into the United half. Steven Gerrard, left unattended in the no man’s land between the United midfield and back four, flicks it on to Torres, who turns and sends the ball forward into the path of Gerrard, by now in full flight down the inside-right channel.

As Gerrard bursts past Patrice Evra into the penalty area, he is brought down, to inevitable consequence. Gerrard keeps his nerve from the penalty spot to put Liverpool 2-1 up at half-time. Goal three: not an upand-under this time, but still a long pass as Lucas Leiva chips a diagonal ball from the left-hand touchline to Dirk Kuyt, whose clever header takes Evra out of position and leaves Vidic isolated in support of Gerrard. The Liverpool captain gets to the ball first and is wrestled to the floor. Vidic, having denied a clear goalscoring opportunity, ends his abysmal afternoon with a red card, his third of the season. United’s punishment is compounded when Fábio Aurélio beats Van der Sar with the free kick.

Goal four: with the game in stoppage time, Reina hits another long kick, which, with the help of a strong wind, is misjudged by Ferdinand and John O’Shea and carries almost as far as the United penalty area. Andrea Dossena, the substitute, races through to lob Van der Sar in front of what is now a half-empty Stretford End and crown Liverpool’s biggest win at Old Trafford since November 1936, when the Merseyside club had Matt Busby at right half.

It was a hugely impressive result, but Benítez, always looking beyond the battle just won, pondered whether it may prove even more significant in the war — in terms of its impact on United’s mindset and, importantly, that of their forthcoming opponents.

When Liverpool ended Chelsea’s 4½ unbeaten home sequence in the Premier League in October, Ferguson predicted — correctly as it turned out — that the West London club, stripped of their aura of impregnability, would run into problems.

Benítez will hope that this result has a similar effect on a United team, who, despite remaining strong favourites to retain the title, may have a few doubts where previously there was the confidence accumulated from 11 consecutive wins in the league.

United were made to look awful on Saturday, with Vidic, a leading contender for the PFA Player of the Year award, the worst of a bad lot. Opponents — Fulham, Aston Villa and Sunderland in the Premier League and Everton in the FA Cup semi-final — may also examine how Aurélio stood up to the threat of Ronaldo, who, his penalty aside, offered nothing; how Michael Carrick was knocked from his stride by Javier Mascherano; how ordinary Carlos Tévez and Wayne Rooney can look when starved of service and space in which to run.

Tévez, like the disappointing Anderson, seems better as an impact substitute in games such as these. As it was, the simultaneous introduction of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov in the second half seemed to calm Liverpool’s nerves, such was the loss of energy that it brought about.

“I think they have weaknesses,” Benítez said matter-of-factly. “They have a lot of quality in attack, which is the main thing. They are strong in defence because they have plenty of possession, but when they don’t have the ball and you move the ball quickly and play behind the defenders, you know you can beat them.

“We knew that they are really good at playing between the lines with penetrating passes, so we needed to stop these passes and put the midfielders under pressure every time they were going to receive the ball and, after, try to play simple and go forward quickly because it’s an offensive team and they always [defend] high.”

There you go, then. Further details are available, free of charge, on application to Señor Benítez at Anfield, Liverpool, L4 0TH. Mercifully for United, though, no other club have players of the calibre of Gerrard and Torres to expose the chinks in their armour.

Manchester United (4-4-2): E van der Sar 4 - J O’Shea 4, R Ferdinand 4, N Vidic 3, P Evra 4 - C Ronaldo 4, M Carrick 5, Anderson 4, Park Ji Sung 6 - C Tévez 4, W Rooney 6. Substitutes: P Scholes (for Anderson, 74min), R Giggs (for Carrick, 74), D Berbatov (for Park, 74). Not used: B Foster, J Evans, D Fletcher, Nani. Next: Fulham (a)

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): J M Reina 4 - J Carragher 7, S Hyypia 8, M Skrtel 7, F Aurélio 8 - J Mascherano 7, Lucas Leiva 6 - D Kuyt 6, S Gerrard 8, A Riera 4 - F Torres 8. Substitutes: A Dossena 6 (for Riera, 68), R Babel (for Torres, 82), N El-Zhar (for Gerrard, 90). Not used: D Cavalieri, E Insua, D Ngog. Next: Aston Villa (h)

Liverpool Sweat On Fitness Of Fernando Torres The Tormentor

Most footballers, when they are shown the red card, shuffle disconsolately off the field, perhaps making a detour to take out their frustration on a water bottle standing innocently on the touchline.

When Nemanja Vidic was sent off by Alan Wiley midway through the second half of Manchester United's game against Liverpool, there was no slow walk of shame for him.

Rather he sprinted away, apparently keen to break the all-comers' record for the Old Trafford tunnel dash. And no wonder. The foresquare Serbian defender, many judges' choice as Footballer of the Year, was given the most embarrassing afternoon of his United career by Fernando Torres. Distracted, discomforted, disoriented and responsible for two of Liverpool's goals, he ended up looking like someone who could not wait to get away and bury his head in a towel. Indeed, at the pace he ran off, it was the first time he had got anywhere ahead of Torres all afternoon.

If nothing else, Sir Alex Ferguson's analysis after this rout that his was the better team suggests that his powers of self-deception are not on the wane. Liverpool were as dominant here as they had been against Real Madrid the previous Tuesday.

Eight goals in five days against Europe's most elevated powers: their manager Rafael Benitez must be looking forward to the next round of contract negotiations now. The reason for all this was Torres. The way he bore down on Vidic as he attempted to control a hit-and-hope clearance dropping over his shoulder resembled something from a David Attenborough documentary: the injured wildebeest targeted by the electric-heeled cheetah. And, as Torres arrived on his heels, the conclusion of the drama was never in doubt.

Sadly for Benitez's ambition, the sudden realisation that he has at his disposal a team that can destroy the very best may have come too late for the Premier League title. United still remain four points ahead with a game in hand, and whatever Steven Gerrard's artful insistence that this result might give United's forthcoming opponents heart and hope to do Liverpool a favour, it is unlikely to happen. The run-in is not sufficiently laced with traps to suggest United will falter. They can even afford another accident like Saturday against Arsenal on May 16, and still do it.

Where Liverpool might be able to stifle Mancunian ambition, however, is in Europe. Should the two clubs meet in the Champions League – either in the next round or further down the path to Rome – Benitez will be convinced he holds the upper hand. Frankly, with Torres in form like this, he knows they can beat anyone.

Muscular, brave and so quick he must set speed cameras flashing when he takes the dog for a walk, he has emerged rested from his lengthy injury lay-off. However much Ferguson has been able to maintain his squad's freshness by shrewd rotation, players like Vidic, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick are beginning to show the effects of a lengthy season.

Here, Evra was horribly compromised by Gerrard and gave away a penalty, while Carrick rarely moved the ball with the intelligence he was displaying a month ago. Torres, on the other hand, looks as if he has just emerged from his summer break. What we saw on Saturday was vindication of what Benitez has maintained throughout this most fractured of seasons on Merseyside: with Torres on this form he has a side to beat anyone.

Liverpool's problem will now be keeping him fit. They have no one else even close to his quality in reserve. However much the crowing Anfield throng enjoyed their moment (I was texted the first smirking gag two minutes after the final whistle) they will be entirely aware of this truth: rarely in their history have Liverpool been so dependent on the health of one man.

Liverpool Praised By Wesley Sneijder After Stunning Champions League Performance

Wesley Sneijder, the Real Madrid midfielder, has delivered a stunning verdict on Liverpool after their Champions League demolition of the Spanish giants.

The devastated Holland international said: "I've never been shown up so much in a team I've played for and that hurts."

The 4-0 rout at Anfield was Real's worst ever Champions League result. Sneijder added: "We were shown up. We could not match the Liverpool players. They were better, faster and had more aggression.

"They were right at the top of form for any club in Europe judging by last Tuesday's performance."

The travelling army of Madrid fans were stunned by their capitulation.

Sneijder added: "In terms of international football, Liverpool are superior in every way. I could go on and on. All we can do is go back to the drawing board.

"We have to focus on La Liga again and producing results in Spain. The fact is that the English are ruling Europe."

Former LFC Defender Neil “Razor” Ruddock Could Have Home Repossessed

Tough tackling ex Liverpool FC defender Neil “Razor” Ruddock could have his house repossessed.

Ruddock, 40, who appeared in ITV’s I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here, is more than £10,000 in arrears on his mortgage.

The Kop favourite who earned £11,000 a week as a player could lose the Essex house that starred in Celebrity Wife Swap.

Ruddock shares the house, in St Leonards, East Sussex, with model girlfriend Leah Newman, 27, and their daughter Pebbles, two.

Last night he blamed a messy divorce from ex-wife Sarah, 39.

He said: "I've lost money because of my ex-wife and kids. Not all of it, but most of it. My advice is, don't get divorced. Don't get caught with your trousers down.

"It has been a bad situation and there's been a mix-up between me, the bank and the mortgage company. I'm still hoping everything can be sorted."