Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Official: Sami Hyypia To Swap Liverpool For Bayer Leverkusen

Sami Hyypia, 35, is to leave Liverpool this summer. He has agreed a two-year deal with Bundesliga giants Bayer Leverkusen, the English club's official website confirms.

Hyypia passed a medical earlier today and will join the German side for pre-season training.

The Finnish international proved to be an astute purchase when he was bought for a meagre £2.5 million from Dutch club Willem II in 1999.

He went on to help the Reds lift a Champions League title, a UEFA Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, two FA Cups and two League Cups.

The club's official website hailed the impact of Hyypia. "History will judge the Finn to be one of the club's shrewdest pieces of business - and possibly the best pound for pound signing to arrive at Anfield," it declared.

Rafael Benitez: Sami Hyypia Will Always Be Welcomed Back At Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has told Sami Hyypia that the door is always open should he decide he would like to go back to Anfield in the future.

The 35-year-old defender has opted to join Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen at the end of the season in order to prolong his playing career.

The 97-time capped Finland international had been offered the opportunity to remain at the Merseyside club, but only as cover for the first team with a gradually increasing coaching role.

Benitez has admitted that he wanted Hyypia to stay, but he accepts the 6ft 4in centre-back's decision and has told him there will always be a place for him at Liverpool.

"We had talked with Sami about his future and our idea was to offer him an extension and, afterwards, he would have the chance to become a coach with us," Benitez is quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

"He was pleased to receive the offer but he still has a lot of confidence in himself, he is fit and he wanted to think over all of the offers he received.

"We were trying to keep him and we wanted to, because he deserves the best.

"But he has decided to leave and, in the future, the door will always be open for him to come back at any time."

Having joined Liverpool for around £2.5 million from Willem II in 1999, Hyypia won two FA Cups, two League Cups, a UEFA Cup and a Champions League, scoring 33 goals in 454 appearances.

Liverpool Target Heerenveen Winger Danijel Pranjic

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is looking to add a left winger to his squad in the upcoming transfer window due to the disappointing performances of former Espanyol star Albert Riera, and he has apparently set his sights on the Dutch Eredivisie as a potential source of recruits.

According to Omrop Fryslan, the English giants are closely monitoring the situation of versatile midfielder Danijel Pranjic. The Croatian international currently plays for Heerenveen.

The report claims that the Reds have already contacted Pranjic's agent, Soren Lerby. However, the Premier League outfit have yet to make an official bid for the left footed midfielder.

Pranjic joined Heerenveen in 2005 and quickly developed into an important first team player. He made more than 100 league appearances for the Dutch outfit so far and has been the absolute key man for his club this campaign with sixteen goals in 29 league matches.

The 27-year-old was on the verge of joining Sevilla last winter, but the transfer eventually collapsed due to financial reasons. Heerenveen have reportedly set a €9 million asking price for their star player.

Daniel Agger's Relief At New Liverpool FC Contract

Daniel Agger today told of his relief that the doubts surrounding his future at Anfield are set to come to an end.

The Danish defender has not yet put pen to paper on a new contract but, as revealed in Friday’s ECHO, he has agreed terms on a four year deal which if fulfilled will see him remain with Liverpool until at least 2014.

Agger celebrated the impending signing of his new contract with a characteristically composed performance at the heart of Liverpool’s defence in yesterday’s 3-0 romp against Newcastle and afterwards he revealed his delight that his future is about to be resolved.

And the 24-year-old cites the faith that Rafa Benitez has placed in him as one of the main reasons why he is extending his stay.

“We are close now and of course I would be happy to stay at Liverpool because it is what I’ve been working for for the last few years,” he said.

“I haven’t signed yet but we have agreed some things and we are close.

“Everybody has been in this kind of situation and you know how hard it can be.

“So that has been frustrating but I have kept on working and we are close now.

“It’s important as a player to have the faith of your manager because if you don’t have that then you’re probably not at the right club.”

Like his team-mates, Agger’s main focus continues to be the pursuit of Manchester United.

Liverpool’s win over Newcastle took them back to within three points of the reigning champions and though disappointed the Reds did not score more Agger was pleased with the win and the clean sheet. He added: “We knew before the game that we needed to take three points and that is exactly what we did.

“I think our performances have been good of late and we know that all we can do now is win our own games, we can’t do any more than that.

“We were a bit unlucky not to score more than we did and I think we could have done with getting more because you never know how the season will end and goal difference could still be important.

“The other positive was that we kept a clean sheet because we have conceded too many goals by our own standards in the last few games.”

Mark Lawrenson: Time For Daniel Agger To Step Up For Liverpool FC

So Daniel Agger has finally heard what he’s been dying to hear for months – that Rafael Benitez wants him.

Now he has to show how much he wants the responsibility of being Liverpool’s main defender.

The end of Sami Hyypia’s Liverpool career edged closer with yesterday’s move to Levrkusen and Jamie Carragher can’t go on forever. If he starts to be used more sparingly before he eventually retires, things are going to get very quiet in that back-line.

So it needs a leader, an organiser, someone who takes responsibility.

Now he has assurances over his long-term future at the club, these are the traits that Agger needs to develop once he signs his new deal at Anfield.

Let’s assume that Benitez is looking to pair him with Martin Skrtel and that this is the centre-back partnership that takes the club into the next decade.

For me, that is potentially the perfect match-up in the heart of a defence. A ‘good cop, bad cop’ scenario.

Roles played perfectly by Carvalho and Terry at Chelsea, Vidic and Ferdinand at Manchester United.

David Amoo Strike Hands Liverpool Victory

David Amoo’s strike gave Liverpool under-18s a winning return to league action after their FA Youth Cup exploits.

The London-born winger scored the only goal of the game as Liverpool won 1-0 at Barnsley on Saturday.

It was their first FA Premier Academy League fixture for four weeks as they look to finish third in the North West section to provide a boost ahead of the two-legged Youth Cup final with Arsenal at the end of the month in a two-legged final.

Liverpool had numerous chances, but it was Amoo’s effort, firing in from a tight angle on the right just before half-time gave them all three points.

Amoo had another chance himself to score, while Lauri Dalla Valle and Tom Ince both went close to increasing the lead before the break. Dalla Valle, Ince, Alex Cooper and Michael Roberts all went close after the break but in the end Amoo’s effort was enough to take the points.

McAuley said: “It was a really pleasing performance in many ways. It was not the most exciting game on a bone- hard pitch. They weren’t the best playing conditions but at the same time the boys showed a tremendous attitude for the 90 minutes against a Barnsley side, who you know are going to be physical, strong and get the ball forward.

We had to battle for 90 minutes, which we did do. We got a goal just before half-time through David Amoo on an individual run and it could have been four by half- time. Then in the second half we had more chances, but didn’t take them. The boys were fantastic with their attitude and with four or five schoolboys in the side it was a pleasing result. That winning mentality was there throughout. We played our football when we could and the attitude was first- class from first to last.”

With three matches left in the league, Liverpool travel to Sunderland this Saturday and will look to move a step close to finishing third.

Liverpool have the same points as fourth-placed Everton and are three points behind third-placed West Bromwich Albion, who have both played all their fixtures. A win and a draw from their final three matches would see Liverpool secure that third spot.

McAuley said: “People are naturally going to be thinking about the Youth Cup at the end of the month. But it is always the way at our football club that the next game is the most important.

“We stress that to the boys and we will get to the Youth Cup eventually, but it is always at the back of their minds. But as long as it stays there they will be fine.

“We want to keep the mentality right and buoyant for the game. There is lots to build on for the rest of the month.We have been near the top of the table all season. In March and April we started playing the youngsters because we had to with injuries and so on. We blooded the youngsters and results were a little indifferent with a few draws, but now these kids are holding their own.

“The good thing is that there are four or five of the Youth team not available and the schoolboys have come in to take their chances very well. That bodes well for next season. It is about development and eventually getting them up to a good standard and that is happening.”

Midfielder Adam Pepper will definitely miss the Youth Cup final against Arsenal with a ruptured groin.

McAuley said: “It is unfortunate. Adam has played in all the Youth Cup games and is a very good midfield player. He is tidy, busy and it means us altering the team slightly to accommodate another player and we will do that. But we are going to miss Adam because he is infectious. He is a local player and knows what it means to play for Liverpool and that is what we are all about.”

Striker Dalla Valle is away on international duty with Finland in a UEFA European Championship qualifying tournament, while Amoo along with Steve Irwin, Dean Bouzanis and Daniel Ayala are all away with the reserves for their friendly with Ajax on Friday.

Nathan Eccleston is making progress after a virus and may be able to return this week, while Alex Kacaniklic could also be back after a slight hamstring strain.

James Bond Star Daniel Craig Enjoys Liverpool FC Victory Over Newcastle

Daniel Craig was spotted in the crowd at Anfield yesterday afternoon and looked to be enjoying Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Newcastle.

The Wirral born star, who is a keen Reds fan, was in the VIP box with his Japanese American film producer girlfriend Satsuki Mitchell.

Wearing a black leather jacket and matching black flat cap, the Bond star was sitting inches away from Liverpool FC Chief Executive Rick Parry.