Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rafael Benitez Will Bring Good Times To Liverpool - Kenny Dalglish

Manchester United may have levelled Liverpool's record of 18 top-flight titles, but Reds legend Kenny Dalglish believes that the Merseyside men will soon steam ahead against under Rafael Benitez.

Benitez’s troops launched a strong assault on the Red Devils this season, despite coming up short in the end. However, the Scot expects silverware to return to Anfield from next season onwards.

"I hope ‘Rafa’ can build on the good work that he has achieved this season," Dalglish told the Daily Mail.

"We would love to be in Manchester United's position, everybody would, but we have come a lot closer.

"It will give them great belief when they go into next season. There's always expectation, but I believe that this time it'll be justified."

Outlining some of the reasons for optimism, Dalglish said, "Rafa signing his contract, Stevie Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt agreeing to stay, and the Americans [owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks] working more closely - all that is brilliant."

"The performances against the other members of the top four have been brilliant. I'm sure there will be players coming in, too, so there is a lot to look forward to."

Sami Hyypia Already Plotting Liverpool Return

Sami Hyypia is set to bid Liverpool an emotional farewell on Sunday but not before letting it be known that it is his dream to return to the club as coach one day.

Last week it was confirmed that the 35-year-old Finnish centre-back had chosen to extend his career at Bayer Leverkusen after over a decade's service for the Reds.

The defender's departure will be unanimously mourned by the red side of Merseyside, but if all goes according to plan it will be an 'until we meet again' rather than a 'farewell'.

"I'd like to come back to Liverpool one day as a coach, and it was great to hear the manager would like me to return," Hyypia said in the Daily Mirror.

"Coaching has always been in my mind, but I have to take my badges first. I haven't done that yet because I want to keep playing, and I thought at this stage it would be a burden.

"But at the end of my playing career I'll look to take the badges and then see. I've so many memories of Liverpool, and really would love to return one day.

"I think it will only be after I've finally left that I'll be able to sit back and realise what we've done in my 10 years. It's hard to take in now. It is nice to be remembered here."

Xabi Alonso Edges Towards Liverpool Exit

Reports suggest that the Liverpool midfielder, Xabi Alonso, is set to exit the club this summer as his manager, Rafael Benitez, prepares to shape his transfer campaign around potential funds raised by his compatriot's sale.

Alonso was close to agreeing a deal with Juventus last summer and was also linked with Arsenal as Benitez tried desperately to summon the requisite cash to bring Gareth Barry from Aston Villa to Anfield.

However, both moves faltered and the Spanish midfielder went on to enjoy one of his most productive terms in the red shirt.

It seems now though that Liverpool's summer spending hinges on their ability to raise funds through player sales, and Alonso reportedly tops the list of potential departees again this season.

Benitez has a number of summer transfer targets that cannot be acquired without first selling players. Carlos Tevez of Manchester United, David Silva of Valencia, Portsmouth's Glen Johnson and Villa’s Barry have all been linked with Anfield this season.

Alonso could quickly find himself surplus to requirements and was linked recently with a £23 million move to Real Madrid, who look set to appoint Florentino Perez as president on June 17.

However, Liverpool have issued a statement in the past 24 hours after a rumour emerged that terms on the transfer of Alonso to Madrid had been agreed in principle.

It read, “There has been no contact from anyone and Alonso is not for sale.”

Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield this weekend, in what could be Alonso's last appearance for the club.

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool May Break Club Transfer Record This Summer

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has already turned his sights to next season, and how he can improve the squad that ran Manchester United so close in this season's race for the Premier League title, revealing that big money might well be spent in an attempt to overhaul their rivals from the other end of the East Lancs Road.

However, Benitez hinted that, although the Merseysiders would be spending big, they would not be able to match the £30 million spent by United on Dimitar Berbatov, and then, more pointedly, that any mistakes made by the likes of United in the transfer market were offset by their colossal financial muscle - something Liverpool cannot currently match.

"We do not have that sort of money so we have to be cute and clever in the market, then it does not matter if you have money or not. When you have money it is easier because nobody notices your mistakes."

That last line would appear to be a clear dig at Ferguson and United, who have signed their fair share of flops over the years, something that Benitez currently seems at pains to stress, as the propaganda war between him and his opposite number at Old Trafford looks set to rumble on beyond the end of the season.

"If you spend big money on a player and he's not a success, it's worse for us than it is for United. If they make one or two mistakes, because of the difference in money, they can still spend £50 million on other players. The more money you have, the more quality players you can sign," Benitez added, speaking to The Daily Telegraph.

"We've been talking of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for the whole season. We have good players in the squad but the experience of fighting for titles and the quality of players makes a difference. Sometimes that means money, and it is easier if you have it."

With the rumours linking United's Argentine striker Carlos Tevez to Anfield refusing to dissipate, an interesting summer of transfer dealings can perhaps be expected from the two giants, with Manchester City's new spending power tweaking the situation just a little more.

Benitez In £15m Bid To Capture Portsmouth And England Defender

Liverpool have launched a fresh £15million bid to land Portsmouth right back Glen Johnson.

Manager Rafa Benitez identified the England defender as a target this season but did not have anywhere near the budget to land the player.

However, Portsmouth still owe around £7m from the £12m transfer of striker Peter Crouch last summer, and Benitez hopes to use that to good effect in his bargaining for Johnson.

The 24-year-old former Chelsea defender signed an improved four-year contract in January but would jump at the chance of a move to Anfield as Benitez looks to add key signings in preparation for a renewed assault on the Barclays Premier League title.

The Spaniard has been encouraged by his side's progress this season and knows his recruitment this summer is pivotal to Liverpool finally toppling fierce rivals Manchester United.

Pompey's financial problems - with owner Sacha Gaydamak still looking for a buyer - mean they will want to drive the price as high as possible, and Liverpool are wary of being dragged into an auction with other clubs.

Tottenham are known to be interested in Johnson, and there will be other bidders with easier access to funds than Benitez.

Liverpool have earmarked a chunk of their squad as being disposable this summer, and the manager accepts he will have to offload players to fund the signings he wants, which could slow the process.

With Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry and United's Carlos Tevez also on his wish list, Benitez might be forced to prioritise and that could jeopardise the Johnson deal.

One way of raising funds would be to sell Xabi Alonso amid growing interest from Real Madrid. If Benitez decides to sell the Spain midfielder, he would rather do business with Real but he is also weighing up other options.

Allowing Alonso to leave would be unpopular within the Liverpool dressing room and also among fans, who voiced their displeasure over plans to sell him to Juventus last summer to finance a deal for Barry.

They repeatedly chanted for Alonso and against Barry, and both deals subsequently fell through over differences in valuations. But, while Juventus refused to pay £16m after weeks of haggling, Real are unlikely to balk at Liverpool's asking price as they prepare for a new era under president-elect Florentino Perez.

Real are keen to revive their fortunes after trailing Barcelona in La Liga this season and crashing out to Liverpool in the Champions League.

After being heavily criticised by fans for ditching their interest in Alonso and settling instead for the cheaper option of Denmark's Christian Poulsen, Juve could yet re-enter the race and launch a second attempt to sign the 27-year-old.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina last night added more fuel to the controversy over Alonso's possible departure by hailing his form as the main reason for the Merseyside club running United so close in this season's title race.

Reina said: 'Xabi is the player who always seems to have the ball at his feet. He has shown repeatedly that he can pass it five yards or 45, and every time it is just as good, just as accurate.

'This has been his best season so far for Liverpool, and that was the reason why we managed to push United so far in the title race.'

Balague: Silva Is Good But Mata Is Golden

Respected Spanish football correspondent Guillem Balague has backed English clubs in their scouting of Valencia striker Juan Mata.

The 21-year-old has been in sterling form at the Mestalla this season, sealing his reputation with his first international call-up from Vicente del Bosque and eleven goals and thirteen assists in 31 appearances.

With Liverpool on the lookout for someone to partner Fernando Torres, Manchester United keen to replace Carlos Tevez and Chelsea and Arsenal pondering potential replacements for Drogba and Adebayor respectively, Balague has hinted that the 'big four' should keep a close eye on the youngster.

“Mata may not have got much press in England but he has got plenty in Spain. He's been in fantastic form. The good thing about Mata from the club's point of view is that he is one of the lowest earners,” Balague told

“He has been followed by numerous English clubs - I know that for a fact - while Villa has attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“As for Silva, I've still got high hopes that he will go to Liverpool, but the bottom line is that he will go to the first club that comes in for him with the right amount of money.

Tevez Hints At United Stay As Liverpool Offer £50 Million

Carlos Tevez’s future at Manchester United continues to polarise the tabloids, with yesterday’s reports suggesting Liverpool had dwarfed an £18 million Tottenham bid with their own £50 million offer.

While a number of premier league club’s stated their financial claims to the player, the Argentine seemed to backtrack on comments at the weekend that suggested he would certainly leave Old Trafford in the summer.

The former West Ham star said: “Maybe it will be my last game and maybe it won't, I don't know.”

Tevez’s latest claims seem to contradict his comments straight after Manchester United had won the Premier League title following their draw with Arsenal on Saturday.

Tevez spoke with Argentine TV station TYC saying: “I am not going to continue at Manchester United. I feel I have been badly treated.”

“When you don’t agree with the manager in how the club is run its best I leave so as not to clash with Alex Ferguson and the directors.”

Manchester United have made no secret of their desire to keep the diminutive striker, but not at the initial deal put in place two years ago.

Ferguson said: “Carlos has done well for us but the demands originally put to us were unrealistic. We have to be aware of the consequences of the credit crunch.”

“It’s no time to be careless about money. As far as Tevez is concerned, everybody would be best served by the willingness to compromise.”

To further confuse matters, and in light of yesterday’s reports in the Sun that suggested Tottenham had an offer rebuffed after they were told of Liverpool’s bid of £50 million which included agent fees and the player’s wages, Rafa Benitez told the Metro: “We may well break our transfer record, but certainly not Manchester United's.”

“But it does not matter about the prices, it is doing the right thing and finding the right players. The next step is to overcome Manchester United, and that is the hardest. It does all come down to the money they have been able to spend, that is the difference.”

“If we want to reduce this gap we have to be really good in the transfer market”

Rafa Benitez Lauds Departing Liverpool Legend Sami Hyypia

Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia will bid farewell to Anfield when his contract expires in the summer, and will head to the Bundesliga, where he will line up for Bayer Leverkusen. Many on Merseyside will mourn the centre-back's departure including club manager Rafa Benitez.

"Yes, I think Liverpool are losing a legend," the Spaniard told the club's official website.

"For years he has been so good. He has scored important goals and has been very, very good in defence. Clearly we are losing an important player.

"He will get a fantastic reception from the fans. They are amazing and they recognise when someone has been a very good servant to the club.

"He is a fantastic professional and a very good person, and the fans know this.

"It's good as a manager that, when you have a player with his name and experience, he still wants to learn. I have been really pleased working with him."

Hyypia, who has not featured for the Reds' first-team since playing a role in their 4-1 demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford, could well make his farewell appearance at Anfield on Sunday, when Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur in the concluding fixture of the Premier League campaign.