Sunday, May 31, 2009

Steven Gerrard Confident That Liverpool Will Fight For Trophies Next Season

Liverpool's talismanic captain Steven Gerrard is convinced that his side will be a much improved unit next season that will be competing for silverware, and points to their league record this campaign as evidence that they are a fine team that only requires minor tweaking in order to collect some tangible rewards.

"You look at the points tally," he stated to Sky Sports News. "We finished the season with 86 points. Usually that's enough to be crowned champions.

"But Manchester United have played at a terrific standard this year and unfortunately we've finished runners-up. But we're very close.

"I'm sure the manager will want to strengthen the team and the squad over the summer.

"I don't think there's many changes that need making, but we need to freshen things up like all the other teams do, and I feel as if we can fight for all the big trophies next year."

The England international refused to be drawn on which areas that the Reds need to improve, preferring to trust his manager's judgement, although he didn't think that too much change was required.

"I think that's for Rafa to answer," he affirmed. "I'm sure he's already working on what part of the squad needs strengthening. I think if you look at Manchester United's squad and Chelsea's squad and you look at how strong their benches are, and even how strong the players are that aren't even making their eighteens, then we're off that at moment.

"We're maybe two or three players away from having a squad on a level par with them two. I feel that's how close we are."

Liverpool Players Tell Rafael Benitez To Sign Michael Owen

Michael Owen could be set for a shock return to Anfield, according to a report in the Sunday People.

The British tabloid claims that senior Liverpool players have urged manager Rafael Benitez to sign the Newcastle United striker who is out of contract at St James’ Park.

The players reportedly believe that Owen is worth a gamble, particularly as he is available on a free transfer, and that he would be warmly welcomed back to the club by the fans.

Owen spent eight years on Merseyside, winning an FA Cup, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup before moving to Real Madrid in 2004.

However, since returning to England with Newcastle, he has been plagued by injury and has struggled for his best form this season as the Magpies dropped out of the Premier League.

The striker looks certain to walk away from Tyneside this summer and make an instant return to the top-flight, with both Everton and Tottenham Hotspur both linked with the player.

Whilst Owen would no doubt welcome a return to Anfield, Benitez has previously insisted he is not interested in signing the Newcastle man.

However, the Sunday People insists that Owen could still return to Liverpool with the players seeing him as a perfect back up for striker Fernando Torres.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard: I Am Still Improving As A Player

After receiving the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award at a gala dinner in London on Friday, Steven Gerrard suggested that he is yet to reach his peak.

Indeed, the Liverpool captain hinted that he will only continue to become a better player, insisting that he is still improving in training as he strives to realise his potential.

"The coaches are always driving me on, trying to improve me as a player. I’m 29 now and I still feel I can get better," Gerrard, who celebrates his birthday on Saturday, was quoted as saying by The Guardian on Friday.

"I am still learning every single day in training, working on parts of my game, am still very hungry and ambitious.

"There is still a lot to achieve for me personally, for Liverpool and England, so hopefully next year is going to be a lot bigger for me trophy wise."

Meanwhile, England head coach Fabio Capello urged the attacking midfielder to take his club form into the World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra in June.

"Steve, you have played a fantastic season, and scored a lot of goals. Now, please, just two more to help us towards South Africa," Capello remarked.

Fernando Torres: Liverpool Should Sign Valencia's Villa & Silva

Fernando Torres has urged Liverpool to sign Valencia duo David Silva and David Villa during the close-season.

It is thought that Los Che may have to cash-in on a number of their most prised assets this summer in order to help ease some of the huge debts they have reportedly accrued.

The 25-year-old is confident that his team-mates at international level would provide the Reds with that extra bit of quality required to mount a serious challenge for silverware on more than one front next season.

"Villa and Silva would complement Liverpool greatly," Torres told Spanish sports newspaper Marca.

Following Barcelona's victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final on Wednesday, the debate has continued over which league is stronger; the Premier League or Primera Division.

"It is difficult to say which league is better, but The Premiership (sic) is more competitive because the British are becoming stronger and players are coming to England," Torres remarked.

The 6ft 1in striker also insisted that should Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez ever move to Real Madrid, there is no chance that he will follow.

Torres says he is happy to continue playing for the Merseyside outfit before returning to Los Blancos' local rivals Atletico Madrid, who he represented between 2001 and 2007 after rising through their youth ranks.

"I would not follow in his [Benitez's] footsteps, It would be important to end my career where it started [at Atletico]," Torres added.

"I have improved a lot [at Liverpool]. I managed to score more goals than any other foreigner in his first year in The Premiership and was third in the Golden Ball."

Real Madrid & Liverpool Reach Xabi Alonso Agreement

Liverpool and Real Madrid have reached an agreement over Xabi Alonso, and the player will be presented next week, according to reports.

According to Sport, the two clubs have settled on terms and all the remains is the player's signature. The initial transfer fee is €25 million, but the fee could increase depending on whether or not Liverpool can come to an agreement with Gabriel Heinze, who could be part of the deal.

Alonso is expected to sign a five-year contract and will be presented next week, when he will be in Madrid for the Spanish training camp ahead of the Confederations Cup.

It is believed that Liverpool also tried to involve Alvaro Negredo in the discussions, but that was not a viable option, since Madrid would have had to pay €15 million just to exercise their buy-out clause with Almeria.

Rumours are also suggesting that Florentino Perez will present his new coach next Monday, with Manuel Pellegrini the overwhelming favourite.

Alonso is likely to be the first of many signings over the summer, with Perez expected to spend in excess of €300 million.

Pierpaolo Marino: Napoli Not Interested In Liverpool Bids For Lavezzi

Napoli sporting director Pierpaolo Marino insists he has have never received an offer from Liverpool for Lavezzi, and he has no intention of selling the hitman.

The Argentinean has been hotly tipped to make the move to the Premier League this summer and, according to reports, Liverpool are keen to land him.

Lavezzi's agent Alejandro Mazzoni claimed his client could be leaving the San Paolo for Anfield, but Marino has other ideas, contrary to opinions which have been expressed so far.

"I have never received offers from Liverpool, and we are not interested in receiving any," Marino told Il Corriere Dello Sport.

"I know the rules of the game, and I will not fall into the trap of commenting on something which doesn't exist.

"We have never thought about parting company with Lavezzi or [Marek] Hamsik."

Reports suggested Liverpool had made a bid for Lavezzi, only to have it turned down, but Marino's words imply that the Italian side have not been tempted by the Reds.

Lavezzi's Napoli future seems safe for now, but the speculation is likely to continue.

Liverpool Have Not Signed Juventude's Zezinho

Liverpool have not signed Brazilian starlet Zezinho from Juventude, according to the South American club's president, Sergio Florian.

Reds manager Rafa Benitez has reportedly been keeping tabs on the player, but a deal has not yet materialised, it seems.

"They [Liverpool] have already put money in the bank? I don't know anything about this," Florian is reported as saying by Sky Sports.

"In truth, nothing has happened, no type of business. I can't say anything more about this because they're nothing but enquiries."

Rumours had circulated that the move was a done deal, though it is clear that the switch has not yet taken place. The attacker has represented his country at Under-17 level.

Rafa Benitez Set For Transfer Boost With Liverpool Set To Seal £350m Refinancing Deal

Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are set to issue a statement of intent about their long-term commitment to the club by landing a £350million refinancing deal.

Sunday Mirror Sport can reveal that accountants from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wells Fargo are currently examining Liverpool's financial figures with a view to agreeing a loan package that will ease the pressure on the two Americans.

The move could also bring an improved summer transfer budget for manager Rafa Benitez, who has made Carlos Tevez his No.1 target, but is unable to meet the £25.5m price being asked by the Argentine's owners.

The deal will hinge on Hicks and Gillett pouring more of their own personal finance into Anfield - and the pair are looking to raise funds by selling off some of their other sporting interests in the United States.

Hicks is ready to sell his majority stake in baseball club Texas Rangers while Gillett is searching for a buyer for the ice hockey outfit Montreal Canadiens to gen-eratcash. But with Liverpool set to announce record turnover and increased profits of almost £40m this week, there is increased confidence that the club can easily service a new loan agreement.

An insider said: "Despite claims to the contrary, both owners have spent about £80m of their own money on Liverpool over the past two years.

"They have done so because they are committed to the club and because they always believed a new refinancing package would be agreed.

"The new deal is now very close to happening." The existing loan taken out to finance the initial purchase of the club is set to expire in July - and there were worries that the credit crunch would force Hicks and Gillett to sell.

But both men have healed the personal rift which saw Gillett trying to find a buyer for his 50 per cent stake in the club. And there was a growing confidence inside Anfield that they could win an extension of the loan facility anyway thanks to the club's profitability.

But now they are on the verge of agreeing a deal that will give them the scope to press ahead with their ambitious plans.

Top of the agenda will be to find investors to fund a new stadium at Stanley Park.