Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rafael Benitez Hoping Fernando Torres And Steven Gerrard Return Safely To Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will be desperately hoping the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres return unharmed from international duty as three of his players are already doubtful for Saturday's Premier League game at Fulham.

Sami Hyypia and Yossi Benayoun picked up injuries at the weekend, the Finnish defender injuring a knee against Wales and the Israeli captain carried off with a calf problem during their 1-1 draw with Greece.

Hyypia has returned to Liverpool but will not be able to train for at least two days, while Benayoun has remained with his national team-mates and Benitez admits he is unlikely to play any part at Craven Cottage.

Benitez will also face a headache over Javier Mascherano – who will captain Argentina tonight in Bolivia – because he not only has to endure a 12-hour flight back from La Paz but must also deal with the effects of playing at more than 3,600 metres above sea level.

Milan Star Kaka Hails Liverpool Icon Steven Gerrard

AC Milan and Brazil star Kaka has stated that he feels Liverpool forward Steven Gerrard is one of the world's finest players, hailing the England man as possessing all the attributes of the modern footballer.

Gerrard has been in supreme form recently, helping his club to an almost incredible run of results by handing out thrashings to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Aston Villa in successive fixtures prior to the international break.

The Liverpool-born star also played well in England's weekend friendly at Wembley with Slovakia, with a particular feature of his performance being his fluent interchanges with Wayne Rooney.

Such versatility and 'football intelligence' is another factor in former Real Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane recently opining that Gerrard was perhaps now the finest player in the world.

That opinion was shared to an extent by Kaka, when he was questioned by British football magazine Four-Four-Two recently as to who he thought was the best player in the world.

"That’s a difficult question," he replied. "If I had to choose three, I would pick Cristiano Ronaldo, because of his skill and speed; Messi, because of his flair and skills; and Steven Gerrard, who for me is the complete modern player."

Kaka went on to assertively refute the notion that the signing of David Beckham by Milan was turning the club into a version of the 'Galacticos' days at Real Madrid, claiming, "I don’t believe you can call AC Milan the new Galacticos.

"We’ve always been a team full of big names and stars, so nothing has changed there.

"David Beckham’s arrival has helped us a lot, thanks to his skills, his quality and his professionalism. He is an amazing player, with a lot of talent. And I think I can learn a lot from playing with him."

Liverpool Midfielder Xabi Alonso: English Football Likes The Spectacular

Xabi Alonso feels that his time at Liverpool has shown him that there is a vastly different footballing mentality in England to most of the rest of Europe, with the fans appreciating the spectacular aspects of the game more than the simple, basic facets of football.

Speaking to Spanish journalist Guillem Balague's official website, in an interview about tactics with former Reds great Jan Molby, Alonso felt the midfielder's role had changed from the 'box-to-box', all-action, defending and attacking players of the 1980's, like his father, with the position now possessing several subtle variations.

"Now, teams employ 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 – its more about keeping in position than getting into the box," he explained.

"I hardly ever get in the box. You have to know your role and accept it, because that's what is best for the team.

"I really enjoy it where I am because I want to be involved in every part of the game and in this position you are right in the middle. You're close to attack, close to the wings, defence; you get more touches than anyone else. Michael Carrick can do that for England. But the football culture is quite different here in England.

"In England, those qualities of playing it simple, being in the right position, reading the game, knowing the right moment to make things happen around you are not appreciated. Making a tackle, a run into the box, the spectacular things are more appreciated."

Alonso also highlighted that although players like Steven Gerrard could get the crowd going with spectacular tackles, such interventions were not his style.

"Sometimes that kind of last-ditch tackle can get the crowd excited and you get a push from that," he added. "It's important to play with that psychological side of the game, but it depends on the quality of the player.

"Stevie is great when he makes those kind of tackles, Carra [Jamie Carragher] and [Javier] Mascherano, too. With me it's different."

And the Spain international also reiterated just how much it would mean to Liverpool to win the Premier League this season, comparing it to his nation winning international glory last summer.

He concluded, "It makes you feel the responsibility you have. People are really anxious for us to have the chance to win the Premiership. And that motivates me even more than I already am.

"It would be similar to Spain winning a major tournament. It would take the weight, the burden, off everyone’s shoulders."

Aguero Will Have To Leave Atletico Madrid Some Day - Torres

Fernando Torres has admitted today that he thinks Sergio Aguero will have to leave Atletico Madrid at some stage in order to further his career.

The Argentine has impressed with the Spanish side and has attracted the interest of many of the top clubs around Europe.

Whilst he has stated on many occasions that he doesn't want to leave Atletico, the rumours have persisted, and with a top four finish not a guarantee by any means this season, he could even be off this summer.

Torres, who finally left Atleti to join Liverpool two seasons ago, told La Razon that he thinks the day will come when Aguero will leave too.

"Kun is growing to be one of the best players at Atletico and the moment will come when he realizes he has to leave," he explained.

"I am sure that Kun feels very happy there but the time will arrive when he thinks it has finished, and the big clubs do not always wait for you. A moment will come when a decision has to be made and the club will have to understand it...If he is lucky, they will understand it as they did with me."

Certainly the Atletico fans still have a special place for Torres and there is no doubt that he is still loved at the club.

He revealed that Atletico still has a place in his heart and that he will return some day, but that "one thing does not have to do with the other".

"I had to find what was best for my career and the decision to leave was the right one. Perhaps today I even think I could have left earlier, it wouldn't change anything. I knew the club I was going to and I believe that I made the right choice," he concluded.

Liverpool Are Europe's Best, Says AC Milan Boss Carlo Ancelotti

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has claimed Liverpool are the best team in Europe. And he has named Chelsea's Guus Hiddink as his favourite coach.

The Italian, who is wanted by Real Madrid and Chelsea next season, famously lost the 2005 Champions League final to Rafa Benitez's side - despite leading 3- 0 at half- time in Istanbul.

He gained revenge two years later with a 2- 1 win in Athens but is still full of admiration for the team and their boss. "

Liverpool are the hardest team to play against in Europe," he said. " Benitez is a great coach. He has a well- organised defence and the perfect counter- attack. "

To play against them is always dangerous. Manchester United are stronger, but they let you play. Liverpool don't." Ancelotti has a contract at Milan until 2010 and repeated yesterday that he wants to stay.

“I have still not found a good reason to leave Milan," said the 49- year- old former Reggina, Parma and Juventus coach.

"I feel good here and want to stay here for a long time." Ancelotti also plans to keep his top stars. "With Kaka and Pato, Milan can push on having great seasons," he said. "Kaka will stay."

But the revelation of his close friendship with Hiddink is intriguing as the temporary Chelsea boss stated last week he will continue as a consultant at the club and have a say in his successor.

Ancelotti said: "Hiddink is the coach I regard most highly. Professionally he is really good. He has done well everywhere he has gone. I like him as a person."

No Regrets For Ngog

David Ngog has insisted he does not regret joining Liverpool, despite struggling for first-team football this season.

Ngog signed for the Reds from Paris Saint Germain last summer and has made 10 Premier League appearances, scoring one goal, since the switch.

And the Frenchman, who turns 20 on Wednesday, believes he is in the right environment to develop as a striker.

He told L'Equipe: "It has not been an easy choice (joining Liverpool from PSG), but I don't regret it.

"I am fine at Liverpool and everyone welcomed me. You have everything in that club to improve. It is very enriching.

"I am young and I still need to learn. I try to improve step by step. It is the aim of any player to reach the highest level. So I want to score to help the team."

Ngog also reserved praise for manager Rafa Benitez and in-form captain Steven Gerrard.

He added: "Benitez brings a lot, setting up a good rapport between the players. Gerrard is an example who pushes everyone to the top."

Voronin Aims For Liverpool Return

Ukraine forward Andriy Voronin is hoping to use Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against England to prove his worth to Liverpool.

The 29-year-old was loaned to Hertha Berlin this season where he has scored 11 goals in 20 starts for the table-topping Bundesliga side.

"I would love to come back to Liverpool," said Voronin, who had spent one year at Anfield.

"Not as number five or six or to sit on the bench or to watch the match."

The striker admitted that Hertha were one of the suitors interested in signing him on a full-time basis.

"There are certain offers, I'm going to discuss them with my agent and take it from there," he added.

Voronin added that he thought the recruitment of Robbie Keane by Liverpool and a leg injury hindered his prospects at the club.

"I don't think I was given a fair chance," he said.

"If it were not for the transfer of Robbie Keane I think I could have shown much more of what I was capable of. I also had three months of injury with a hamstring tear.

"With that sort of injury you need a long time to recover and have to start proving yourself again."

Doubts Persist Over Daniel Agger’s Anfield Future

Daniel Agger has cast further doubt over his long-term Liverpool future by declaring Rafael Benitez’s public desire to keep him as “tactical”.

The Denmark international is out of contract next summer and has yet to decide whether or not to sign a new contract at Anfield.

Agger has missed most of the last 18 months through injury and is no longer guaranteed a regular starting role following the emergence of Martin Skrtel.

The centre-back has already stated he will not be influenced by Benitez ending months of speculation over his own future by signing a new five-year deal.

AC Milan are expected to make a concerted effort to sign Agger during the transfer window having previously been linked with an £8million move.

And although Benitez this weekend reiterated his desire for Agger to stay, the 24-year-old is reserving any judgement until meeting with the Liverpool manager.

“Agger knows what I think of him,” said Benitez. “If he stays fit, he will have as good a chance of playing as anyone, maybe more.”

Agger responded yesterday: “Benitez would like to extend my contract – that is clear. What he said is probably tactical.

“For me personally, what I can find out from him when we meet is most important.

“I don’t see it that he’s been keeping me on the sidelines, it’s the injuries that have been keeping me on the sidelines.

“I have never tried to hide that I’d like to be at the club and I feel good enough to play for the team.

“I have plenty of time because my contract won’t expire until next summer, and it would be stupid to rush anything.”

Benitez will keep his fingers crossed that his players will come through the latest round of international fixtures unscathed this evening.

Both Yossi Benayoun and Sami Hyypia picked up knocks over the weekend, the former carried off with a calf problem during Israel’s 1-1 draw with Greece while the latter injured his knee helping Finland to a 2-0 victory in Wales.

Benayoun has remained with his country ahead of tonight’s return match in Athens, but Hyypia has returned to Melwood for treatment and is a doubt for Saturday’s Premier League visit to Fulham.

“Yossi has a problem with cramps in his calf and he is in contact with our doctor and physios,” said Benitez. “We will see how he is for the next game but he has to be careful.

“Sami has a problem with his knee. The feedback we have is that it isn’t serious but he won’t train for a couple of days.

“I was talking with Sami and he was telling me he will be ready for the next game.

“He has already started working very hard to be fit again.

“It was a good decision by the Finland national team to let Sami come back to us. They were very sensible and he is now working with our physios.”