Saturday, March 28, 2009

Liverpool FC Out Of The Chase For Valencia's £30m David Silva

Liverpool have pulled out of the race to sign David Silva after Rafa Benitez baulked at Valencia’s £30m asking price.

The Reds boss confirmed to the Post that Liverpool made an inquiry for the Valencia midfielder but is not planning to follow it up with a firm offer.

Benitez said: “It is true that we were asking about the situation with him but we are not happy with the situation now and

he will not be a target for us.

“We have to work hard and we are trying to have conversations and trying to progress but it’s not easy to sign any player now.

“The most important thing now is to make progress with the contracts of our own players.

“We are working hard on that because this is our priority.”

While the Anfield club did make tentative moves for Silva, his Valencia team mate Raul Albiol wasn’t featured on Benitez’s shopping list.

“He is another good player but he is not our target,” said the Reds boss.

Voronin Forced To Wait

Hertha Berlin have yet to reach an agreement with on-loan Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin regarding his long-term future.

The Ukraine international is currently on a season-long loan in Germany after flopping at Anfield following his arrival in 2007 from Bayer Leverkusen.

Voronin has made no secret of his desire to stay in the Bundesliga, but it is reported that a permanent transfer has yet to be decided as talks have stalled.

It is understood that Voronin was keen to have his future settled by the end of March, but the 29-year-old will be forced to wait for a conclusion.

"We are on the look-out for solutions," Hertha general manager Dieter Hoeness told Kicker when asked about a deal for Voronin.

Liverpool FC's Martin Skrtel Backed To Stop Man Utd's Wayne Rooney

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss has backed Martin Skrtel to stop England’s Wayne Rooney once more when they face England at Wembley tomorrow.

The Liverpool defender, named Slovakia’s Player of the Year on Thursday, has kept Rooney quiet in two league victories over Manchester United this season.

Skrtel is likely to face another battle against the United striker in tomorrow’s friendly but Weiss is confident the Liverpool defender can stop him yet again.

"I believe he knows Rooney quite well and he can stop him all the time," said Weiss. "We believe he can do it again tomorrow.

"Skrtel is a very tough player and he knows how to handle Rooney. I believe that he will show that again against England.

"We hope he will show his performance in the best way. He has just won the Slovakian Player of the Year award so it will be a big boost for his confidence."

Rooney’s temperament has come under fire since he was sent off against Fulham last Saturday for throwing the ball at referee Phil Dowd.

It prompted Dowd to issue the furious Rooney with a second yellow card and the player then thumped the corner flag as he walked to the dressing rooms.

But Weiss is hoping the United striker will play the game in the right spirit at Wembley.

"He is an excellent player and this is a friendly match so I hope we won’t see too much anger in his performance," he said.

Weiss is also hoping for a better outcome than he experienced on his last visit to Wembley.

In April 1990, Weiss was a member of the Czechoslovakia side beaten 4-2 by England in a game that saw Steve Bull score twice with others from Stuart Pearce and Paul Gascoigne.

Weiss is hoping that his Slovakia side can come away with a better result against today’s England stars.

"When I was a player here we lost 4-2 and I remember Paul Gascoigne was playing for them," recalled Weiss. "I hope it will be better tomorrow but it is still an amazing feeling to be here as a coach."

But while Weiss accepts tomorrow’s game is high profile, his mind is more firmly fixed on Wednesday’s Group Three World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic in Prague.

Tomorrow is a prestige game and we would like to have nice memories but Wednesday’s match is for points and that is the main thing for us," he said.

Meanwhile, midfielder Stanislav Sestak is looking forward to playing against the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Beckham.

But the Slovakia midfielder insists they are not just coming to swap shirts with the superstar opposition.

"It is nice to play here against these famous people, it is an honour for us," said Sestak. "It is not every day we can play against England, so we are looking forward to it.

"Beckham is the famous one and everybody would like his shirt but we are here to play the game and not swap shirts."

Liverpool FC Owner Tom Hicks Out To Find Partners

Tom Hicks is looking to sell a big minority stake in his Texas Rangers baseball team.

Hicks, who co-owns Liverpool with George Gillett, has announced that he wants potential investors for the Rangers and his Dallas Stars ice hockey team, in which he has 95 per cent stakes.

He said: “I’m looking quietly, and have been for the last four or five months, for minority investors to come back into to the Rangers.

“I’m doing the same thing with the Stars.

"At the end of the day, I’ll still have 51-to-60% of the ballclub and have new partners.

"That doesn’t change anything.

I started out owning 55% and over the past 10 years I’ve been slowly buying out partners that wanted to sell.

“It’s not a big deal at all.

“I don’t think I need to own 95% of any team..

"There aren’t many owners who own 95%..

"In times like these, you like to reduce your debt and diversify your investments.”

Hicks owns 95% of both the Rangers and the Stars.

He is willing to let up to 49% of each club be owned by minority investors, allowing him to keep majority ownership.

The development comes after Gillett called in leading banks to conduct a review his global assets.

The Reds co-owners have until July 24 to refinance a £350m debt they arranged with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia just over a year ago.

Sammy Lee Should Tell Liverpool Boys To Take One Game At Time

Sammy Lee has given an original take on football’s most hackneyed phrase.

When asked what he thought of Liverpool’s chances of winning trophies in May he replied: "We need to take one game at a time. I know it’s a cliche but cliches are the sayings that have held true over time. It’s simple - all you do is look at the next game."

A wise mantra which the Anfield veteran needs to pummel into the heads of some of the Spanish lads.

This is Xavi Alonso’s take on the Premier League: "We have demonstrated this season that we are superior to United. It’s not impossible to imagine we could win all of our next eight matches while United lose two."

And this is how Alvaro Arbeloa hopes the Champions League will pan out after Liverpool have waltzed past Chelsea: "We’re waiting to see if we meet Barcelona to take them down a peg or two."

There’s clearly a peg or two needs to be taken down Shankly-style at Melwood, Sammy. With the words: "Fulham. Away. Next Saturday. That’s it."

Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez Strengthens Backroom Spine

Rafael Benitez has moved quickly to assert his enhanced authority at Liverpool by launching a strategic review of the club's academy and securing two-year contract extensions for five members of his backroom team.

Assistant manager Sammy Lee, first team coach Mauricio Pellegrino, goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero, fitness coach Paco de Miguel and chief scout Eduardo Macia have all been secured to new contracts.

Benitez, who committed himself to a new five-year deal last week, has also appointed former Anfield chief scout Frank McParland to undertake a root-and-branch review of the club's Kirkby-based academy.

Benitez said: "When I signed my new contract, it was agreed I'd have a more significant influence at the academy and this is an important step in assessing the future direction we will need to take.

"I value Frank's opinions. He will liaise closely with the staff at the academy to produce a comprehensive analysis of the operation there before reporting back."

Benitez added: "I said when I signed my own deal that it was a priority to sort out the future of the technical staff. Continuity is essential if we are to build on the progress we have made this season and move the club forward."

Why England Must Make Space For Steven Gerrard's Talent

Steven Gerrard is the best player in the world in his position for Liverpool.

Forget Cristiano Ronaldo or even Lionel Messi. Gerrard is No.1 in my book. That role just behind Fernando Torres for Liverpool is perfect for Gerrard and he runs amok for his club, outshining the best players in the world in the Champions League.

Gerrard has been rampant in recent weeks and shows just what a quality player he is. He is different class. But it still mystifies me as to why no England manager has ever properly let him off the leash.

Even Fabio Capello has often stuck him out wide left, cutting in when the opportunity arises.

That is not the free role that he enjoys for Liverpool. Nowhere near it, in fact.

But Gerrard’s talent commands it because he is the best there is and the best player England have. Most countries would build their team around their best player, not England.

If that means playing Gerrard just behind Wayne Rooney then so be it but that’s the way it should be.

If you have one striker then Theo Walcott becomes even more important on the right. But you have to make space for Gerrard’s pace, talent and ability in the free role. He can destroy teams on his own.

Gerrard’s speed, drive and goals make him an irresistible force for Liverpool - and it should be for England too.

Capello - Gerrard Is The Best

England manager Fabio Capello believes Steven Gerrard is at the 'very top of his game'.

The Liverpool captain has hit stunning form over the past month and has been a major factor in his club's renewed challenge for the Premier League title and continued presence in the UEFA Champions League.

Gerrard, who has been playing as a second striker for the Reds, was recently described by French legend Zinedine Zidane as one of the best players in the world, and that sentiment has been echoed by Capello.

The England boss is expected to play Gerrard in a roaming role on the left of midfield in Saturday's friendly with Slovakia, and he is in no doubt about the 28-year-old's ability to perform at the highest level.

"Zidane said Gerrard was one of the best in the world and I agree with him," said the Italian.

"It is a fantastic time for him. He is at the very top of his game."

Capello used Gerrard as a support forward in a meeting with France in 2008, and the England boss is not surprised to see the man from Merseyside thriving in the position.

He added: "Against France last year I put Steven Gerrard into the team as a second striker and everyone said, 'why?'.

"Now Steven Gerrard is doing well for Liverpool as a second striker and people ask me, 'why am I not playing him there?' Thank you for supporting me at that time.

"Also, the last time he played - in Belarus last October - he scored one, nearly got another and played very well. So I don't know why we are speaking about Gerrard's position in the team."

Hansen Urges Liverpool To Pile More Pressure On Manchester United

The battle between the two North-West giants is intensifying, and ex-Liverpool great Hansen says Rafa's team must keep cranking up the pressure on United by winning their matches.

Ex-Liverpool central defender turned leading pundit Alan Hansen is urging his former club to put Manchester United under psychological pressure by reclaiming top spot in the Premier League next weekend, even if only temporarily.

Hansen believes Liverpool have an advantage over United of playing the day before their rivals. The Merseyside Reds are at Fulham on Saturday April 4, while United's Red Devils, who lead by a point and have a game in hand, host Aston Villa the following afternoon.

"To be honest, it is unbelievable to think Liverpool could be top of the Premier League on April 4 given some of the setbacks we've had,” Hansen told Liverpool's official website.

"At one stage we looked the most likely to win it, then it was doom and gloom because we couldn't win it, and now we are right back in the title race."

The former Scotland international now feels that Liverpool have the initiative after their recent emphatic victories over United and Aston Villa.

"Liverpool are in the ascendancy and we've got the momentum. The big thing for us is to keep that going because in the past we've come off the rails in key games," he said.

"It doesn't look like that will happen this season because of the way we're going for the throats of the opposition and that is great to see.

"Every game now is massive, not just for Liverpool but Manchester United too. It's going to be nip and tuck, and all Liverpool must do is keep on piling that pressure on United.”

Hansen added, "What the players need to do when they return from international duty is carry on where they've left off in our next game at Fulham."

Albert Riera Must Build On Aston Villa Performance – Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has long had trouble finding a suitable recruit who can provide an added dimension from the flanks, offering balance and width.

A return to his native Spain to pluck Albert Riera from Espanyol ensued over the summer and, though the 26-year-old looks much-improved than the product that strolled out at Manchester City in 2006, he can still seemingly add more to his game.

His tally of five goals in all competitions, together with a handful of assists needs to be built upon if Liverpool are going to challenge Manchester United for the title, and Benitez is urging Riera to use his display against Aston Villa as a benchmark to return to.

"He has had some good games but, because the team was playing really well, this could be his best game so far," 'Rafa' explained to the club's official website.

"I thought he started really well against Manchester United in his first game and he has scored some good goals for us. Riera has quality but he has to be more consistent. Clearly he is a player with ability and he can score great goals.

"When he is playing well he can beat anyone so that is what you always expect from a winger.

"He is playing with confidence."