Saturday, May 23, 2009

Soccer-Colossus Hyypia Prepares For Anfield Farewell

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has described Sami Hyypia as a colossus as the Finnish defender prepares to end his 10-year stint at Anfield.

The 35-year-old Hyypia will make his 464th appearance for the club against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday before moving to Bundesliga team Bayer Leverkusen.

"It's difficult to put into words. He's been fantastic for us -- a colossus," Gerrard told Liverpool's website ( He certainly deserves legendary status and he's definitely one of the best players I've ever played with. They're the biggest compliments I can pay Sami."

Hyypia, an instantly recognisable figure at the heart of Liverpool's defence with his towering physique and blonde hair, has become marginalised by the emergence of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger as partners for Jamie Carragher.

After winning the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, two FA Cups and two League Cups, but not the Premier League title the club so craves, Hyypia said he was looking forward to a change.

"I am sad to miss that medal but I don't think I have anything to regret," the Finnish international said of Liverpool's near miss in the title race this year.

"Next season it might happen but I only play 10 games and I wouldn't get a medal anyway. I am sadder for the fans that Liverpool haven't won the Premier League than for myself.

"For 10 years I have played in the same league, in the same stadiums and against the same clubs mainly, so now I have a chance to go to Germany which is a good league."

Liverpool FC Fans Will Give Robbie Keane A Warm Reception

Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp is confident Liverpool fans will give Robbie Keane a warm reception on his return to Anfield.

Keane, 28, endured six frustrating months at the club he supported as a boy before returning to White Hart Lane during the January transfer window.

Redknapp said: “Liverpool fans are special people as far as football supporters go and I’m sure they will give him a terrific reception.”

The Tottenham boss has also backed Liverpool to be in the thick of the title race again next season.

He said: “To think that they only lost two games and have not won the championship is amazing really.

“I’m sure they’ll come back even stronger next season.”

Rafa Benitez Promises That Liverpool Won't Sell Xabi Alonso

Liverpool will not sell Xabi Alonso this summer, manager Rafa Benitez has assured supporters today, as rumours about the classy midfielder's future refuse to dissipate.

The Basque has been one of Liverpool's outstanding performers this campaign, but continues to be linked with a move away from Merseyside, with Juventus touted as a likely destination. There were also reports earlier in the campaign of a rift between Benitez and Alonso, although that seems to have faded into the background somewhat.

The Reds manager told the club's official website today, "It's very clear - Xabi has three years left and we do not want to sell him."

Alonso has made 46 appearances for the club this season, scoring five goals, with his creativity and perceptive passing helping drive on the more high-profile attacking talents the team possesses.

Liverpool Boss Benitez Plans Meticulous Summer Spending - Kenny Dalglish

Any players that Rafael Benitez targets this summer may be likelier to join Liverpool as the Spaniard's own future, together with those of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, have been secured earlier in the year, according to club legend Kenny Dalglish.

The Reds have been linked with a plethora of Premier League stars, and Benitez has already conceded that each penny paid toward his summer signings will have to be money well spent.

Liverpool splashed out in excess of £40 million on Andrea Dossena, Diego Cavalieri, Robbie Keane, and Albert Riera last year, with only the latter bearing fruit, and even then the orchard was not plentiful. Benitez, though, has admitted that such costly errors in the market cannot be repeated.

Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry, cash-strapped Valencia's David Silva remains hot property, dynamic Portsmouth full-back Glen Johnson, Spurs winger Aaron Lennon, Bordeaux's Yoann Gourcuff and Heerenveen's Daniel Pranjic have all been reported targets.

Dalglish is quoted by The Telegraph as confirming that Benitez's decision to commit his long-term future at the club could prove influential in any potential dealings.

"Rafa signing his new contract and Gerrard, Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger agreeing to stay is very positive," he explained.

"Sorting Rafa out early will have given him plenty of opportunity to identify the people he wants to bring in and I am sure he is working diligently to do that.

"You want to see people coming in to help build on the season Liverpool have had."

Second Place In The League Should Have Silver Lining For Liverpool

Football dressing room walls are full of motivational catchphrases rubbishing the runner-up.

You know the sort.

“Winning is everything, second is nowhere.”

“Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.”

“You get nothing for finishing second.” etc. etc.

Except in all but one glaring case, you do get something for finishing second.

Win the five matches it takes to get to the FA Cup final, and you're guaranteed a loser's medal.

Miss a penalty kick in a Champions League final and your chief executive can go up first to have a trinket placed around his neck.

Losing League Cup finalists used to receive a commemorative tankard – presumably to drown their sorrows – nowadays they're guaranteed a handsome medallion.

While on the greatest football stage of all, the World Cup, even the third and fourth placed finishers are rewarded with a memento.

In fact every Cup competition in world football recognises the achievement of finishing second . . . except the toughest one.

Advocates of the English Premier League insist it is the hardest and the best football tournament in the world – but the runners-up receive nothing.

After nine-and-a-half months of gruelling action, after 38 matches in the heat of August and the snow of January, after rotating squad resources to the absolute limit – the Premier League runners-up are left with nothing bar the memory of having pushed the champions to the wire.

For Liverpool it's a particularly galling situation.

Beat Spurs on Sunday and they'll have racked up 86 Premier League points this season.

In 12 of their 18 title winning seasons, that would have been enough for the ultimate glory.

The parameters have changed in the era of the big-four.

Since the Champions League has allowed the rich to get richer, you now need totals like 87 points, 89, 91, 95 and 90 to claim the ultimate prize.

Which should make finishing second in the modern era even more meritorious.

But instead, Liverpool have been reduced to scrambling around in the pursuit of records rather than medals.

It does seem to be a curious oversight.

Surely the introduction of runners-up medals would add greater significance to second place.

As soon as a team clinches the title, the teams immediately below are usually involved in a series of dead rubbers.

Introduce a medal and second place may become slightly more highly regarded.

And if a player still believed it was a meaningless bauble, he could always follow the great Neville Southall's lead in 1991.

While his team-mates trooped up the Wembley steps to collect their Zenith Data Systems Cup loser's medals . . . he remained rooted to his goalpost.

“What do I want one of them for?” he muttered. The Premier League agrees.

Rafa Benitez Makes Peace With Sir Alex Ferguson In Letter After Horror Smash

Rafa Benitez has made peace with Sir Alex Ferguson in a private letter.

The pair have been at loggerheads all year, but the Liverpool boss wrote to Fergie after the Manchester United manager’s grandson was badly injured in a car crash.

Benitez, a father of two girls, wrote offering his help while 10-year-old Charlie Ferguson is at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

An Anfield insider said: "There is an intense football rivalry between them, but that’s all it is - a football rivalry. Everything that has been said has been designed to gain an edge on the pitch. But when it comes to matters like this, Rafa is a family man who understands exactly what Sir Alex is going through.

"He wants to help any way he can. Rafa knows how difficult it must be, and he feels for a fellow manager who he respects as a person and a family man himself."

Charlie underwent a six-hour operation following the crash in which his mother Nadine, ex-wife of Ferguson’s son Darren, was also hurt earlier this month.

The relationship between Benitez and Ferguson broke down when the Liverpool manager launched an extraordinary attack on his rival at the turn of the year. They have since taken regular verbal swipes at each other.

But the letter will help build bridges and another source said: "Rafa wanted Sir Alex to know that if he or his family needed anything while the youngster was in Liverpool, they only had to ask."

Benitez Has Creative Winger Watched

Reports in France are suggesting that Rafa Benitez has had FC Lorient's winger Kevin Gameiro watched on a number of occasions, with reports suggesting the Anfield outfit are considering making a move for the forward.

The 22-year-old has been in superb form for the French minnows helping the club secure a respected mid-table finish in Ligue 1. Gamiero has chipped in with seven goals and 8 assists this season, attracting interest from France's domestic giants Paris Saint Germain and Marseille.

The former French youth international is rumoured to be considering his future after only one year at FC Lorient, with ambitions of forcing his way into the thoughts of French boss Raymond Domenech.

Sammy Lee Warns About Past Liverpool FC Transfer Errors

Sammy Lee admits Liverpool cannot afford to ignore the mistakes of 2002 as they prepare for a “massive” summer.

Rafael Benitez’s side bring down the curtain on their season tomorrow when they entertain Tottenham.

A point will confirm runners-up place behind Manchester United with the Anfield outfit having already reached 83 points, their record total in the Premier League era.

Benitez is already assessing his transfer options with Carlos Tevez, Glen Johnson, David Silva and Gareth Barry all among those the Spaniard has run the rule over.

The last time Liverpool finished second in the table seven years ago, they responded by spending more than £20m on misfits Bruno Cheyrou, El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao and subsequently finished outside the Champions League places the following campaign.

And Lee, who was on then manager Gerard Houllier’s coaching staff in 2002, accepts Liverpool are treading a fine line as they aim to make the final transformation into a potentially championship-winning team.

“Each summer is massive,” said the assistant manager. “There will be activity going on behind the scenes here to bring new people in. You always need to bring in new players to strengthen and improve.

“We hope it’s just fine margins that need looking at rather than sweeping changes. It’s only tweaking that is needed, which is why this summer is going to be important. There is a fine line between success and not having success.

“The final bit is always the hardest part in anything. But we’re fully aware of the task that faces us. To get that little bit extra will be the hardest work for us.”

Lee added: “I was aware of what went on in 2002. That’s why the cliches come in, there’s no way we can afford to take anything for granted. The fact is we’re not 100% happy with the season because we have won nothing. There’s no way we can afford to rest on our laurels.

“If you win things, you don’t dwell on that either. It’s the old Ronnie Moranism, you forget that trophy then move on to the next one. Before we even finished the last game of the season, he told us how many days there were before we came back for pre-season.

“That was the type of mentality we had. We are preparing already for next season and there’s no way anyone here will be resting on their laurels because we have won nothing.”

Tottenham are one of only two teams – Middlesbrough the other – to have beaten Liverpool in the Premier League this season.

If Benitez’s side avoid defeat tomorrow, they will become the first team ever to go through a top-flight season losing as few games without winning the league.

But Lee said: “There certainly has been an improvement but it’s not enough of an improvement as we don’t have any trophies.”

Arsenal Youngsters Thrash Liverpool

Steve Bould's Arsenal youngsters secured an emphatic 4-1 victory over Liverpool in tonight's first leg of the FA Youth Cup final at Emirates Stadium.

Jack Wilshere, a 17-year-old midfielder who has already played for Arsene Wenger's first team, set up Gilles Sunu for the opening goal after 20 minutes.

Then the England Under-19 star doubled the Gunners' advantage when he scored from the penalty spot after half-an-hour.

The 33,000 crowd at Ashburton Grove saw Liverpool pull a goal back through Alex Kacaniklic before half-time.

But Arsenal were not to be denied, and they asserted themselves convincingly after the break.

Playmaker Wilshere schemed another goal when he played in substitute Sanchez Watt to make it 3-1 on 57 minutes.

Then Emmanuel Thomas headed in from a corner to make it 4-1and give the young Reds a huge challenge in the second leg at Anfield next week.