Saturday, June 06, 2009

Rafa Benítez Will Not Have Transfer Budget Cut Despite Liverpool's Losses

Rafael Benítez's transfer budget will not be reduced as a result of the alarming losses suffered by Liverpool's parent company, Kop Football (Holdings) Limited, though its limitations were exposed again when his main target, David Silva, opened talks on a proposed move to Real Madrid.

Kop's £42.6m losses for the year ending July 2008 raised not only accountants' fears for the company should Tom Hicks and George Gillett fail to secure a refinancing deal this July, but supporters' concerns for the impact on Liverpool's spending power. As was the case even before the Americans purchased Liverpool from David Moores, chairman and majority shareholder in 2007, the club has this year again budgeted for a net spend of £20m plus whatever the manager can raise through player sales. Liverpool have signed Albert Riera and other players since July 2008 – and are expected to spend around £40m in total again this summer.

Hicks and Gillett are acutely aware of the need for Champions League football each season, with its riches essential to the club's increasing turnover, but while Benítez's budget compares favourably with most Premier League clubs, Arsenal included, its static level highlights how others are leaving Liverpool trailing in this summer's market.

Liverpool expect to post another record turnover next year, following £164.2m this time round, on the back of their Premier League title challenge and run to the Champions League quarter-finals, yet Benítez is already in danger this summer of missing out on three of his transfer priorities. Gareth Barry, whom the Spaniard has pursued for 12 months, declined Benítez's advances on Monday in favour of Manchester City. The Abu Dhabi-backed club paid the £12m transfer fee up front to Aston Villa, whereas Liverpool intended to spread the payments over the course of a five-year contract, and Barry's salary, believed to be in excess of £100,000 a week at City, dwarfs what was on offer at Anfield.

Chelsea have now emerged as serious rivals for Benítez's interest in the Ports­mouth right-back, Glen Johnson, but it is the prospect of losing Silva that will most perturb the Liverpool manager should Real seal a deal for the Valencia winger. Benítez has earmarked the Spain international as a marquee signing for this summer and the Liverpool chief scout, Eduardo Macia, who signed Silva for Valencia as a schoolboy, sounded out a possible move earlier this year. The Liverpool manager had hoped Valencia's financial problems would encourage a swift deal for approximately £17m for Silva but, with Real now entering the race, the price is likely to rise and leave Benítez waiting on sales before he can match their offer.

Silva's agent, Julio Llorente, met Real officials at the Bernabéu yesterday. "I do not know about anything that has happened because I have been at my home in Canary Islands and I have not spoken to my agent," Silva insisted. "Valencia should not worry, though. The fact that a team like Real Madrid is interested is good for Valencia and for me. For now, I am focused on the national team, I expect that everything will turn out well. It is an honour that a team like Real Madrid are interested, but for the time being, I am with Valencia."

Andrea Dossena, a £7m flop from Udinese last summer, has confirmed he may be among those sold to swell Benítez's budget. "I would run to Juve," the Italian defender said. "They showed an interest in me last year, but then Liverpool stepped in and wrapped things up in less than an hour. In England they play continuously and the hardest training session does not last more than 40 minutes, but I need to train longer. Now I truly hope to join Juve and start a new life."

Xabi Alonso, who could also leave depending on the offers he attracts, admitted Benítez's predicament is no surprise to the Liverpool players. "We were aware that the situation was difficult economically and that it could affect the planning of the team," he said. "But I don't know the full details and it is not my place to comment [on the club's finances]."

Lawrenson Fears Liverpool Decline

Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson fears the club could be left behind by their rivals as a result of the financial situation at Anfield.

The club's owners lost £42.6m last year and he is worried that could affect their ability to buy new players.

"One or two of the top clubs are already doing the business, and buying players," Lawrenson told BBC Sport.

"If Liverpool have to wait they're already going to be behind the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea."

Lawrenson added it would be a "great blow" to the Anfield side if they started next season with a weaker squad than this year "because that isn't going to win the Premier League".

The loss was mainly caused by the £36m of interest payments that Kop Football Holdings - the company set up by American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks to buy and run the club - had to make to service the debt it took on when buying the club in March 2007.

Accounts for the year showed the club itself made a profit of £10.2m with a record turnover of £160m.

But auditors KPMG LLP warned that the need to refinance loans of £350m by 24 July "may cast significant doubt on the group's and parent company's ability to continue as a going concern".

Liverpool have already seen long-term target Gareth Barry sign for Manchester City for £12m and there are concerns that the financial situation could lead to them missing out on other high-profile targets.

"If Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City are after the same players as Liverpool it's going to be extremely difficult," said Lawrenson.

"We're already hearing that Chelsea have a new manager and Abramovich might bankroll Ancelotti with money to spend, Manchester United will be buying players, Arsenal will also be in the market and Man City will be busier than anyone.

"The great problem is that it looks at the moment as if Liverpool are going to have to sell quite a few players just to get the two or three very high profile match-winners in."

Xabi Alonso - who played a significant role in the side last season - has already been touted as a target for both Real Madrid and Manchester City, whilst Javier Mascherano is reportedly on Barcelona's wish list.

Liverpool finished second in the Premier League this season with 86 points, their best total since winning the title in 1988, and a 10-point improvement on the 2007-08 season.

"As the Premier League runners-up, they have Champions League football to offer to potential targets, and all the history and passion that goes with the badge remains a strong draw," says BBC sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar.

"There's also a healthy revenue stream and (manager) Rafa Benitez surely wouldn't be staying if he thought there was no money to spend.

"However, there must be a feeling that until the re-financing issue is resolved, the directors aren't going to want to go hell for leather at the transfer market with cash falling out of their pockets."

Prior to the takeover by Hicks and Gillett, Liverpool operated with a much smaller level of debt.

But in borrowing money to finance their purchase the American duo considerably increased the sums owed - roughly £250m themselves and £100m attached to the club - at a time which coincided with a seismic downturn in global financial conditions.

"The club are separate to a degree from the biggest part of the risk, but of course, they're still linked," says Farquhar.

"The club's directors say they're confident they will be able to either re-negotiate the deadline, or re-finance by 24 July, and privately may well think the auditors have gone a bit over the top."

Hicks and Gillett have been scouring the globe to find investors for the club but Rogan Taylor, creator of Share Liverpool FC, a group aimed at recruiting fans to purchase the club, believes the only way Liverpool can move forward is if they are taken over by fresh investors.

"There's no way anybody is going to lend the Americans that kind of money when the club is in such deep debt," Taylor told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I expect in various parts of the world, people are looking quite closely at the situation and I wouldn't be surprised if there's some marked changes.

"Share Liverpool FC are keen to be involved and we can probably raise between £25m and £45m, so we need to come in with a major partner.

"It is an opportunity though. Let's get rid of these American no-marks and get on with life."

Hicks and Gillett have become increasingly unpopular among Reds fans since they took the club over in March last year, drawing criticism for their treatment of Benitez and their financial management of the club.

Plans for a proposed new 60,000-seat stadium have undergone two re-designs already.

In their accounts, Hicks and Gillett say they are "committed to building a new stadium and actively seeking funding to complete the project".

But they admit that "the opening of the new stadium will be delayed until 2012".

Liverpool FC Not Going Bust, Say Hicks And Gillett

Liverpool’s owners have vowed the club is not going bust despite losses of nearly £41m in 2008.

Latest accounts for Kop Football (Holdings) Ltd showed debt rising by £77m to £359m.

Auditors also cast doubt on the Anfield club’s future as a “going concern.”

But owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett today dismissed that analysis as merely “accountancy-speak.”

Sources close to Liverpool said the club was hugely buoyed by the Reds’ recent financial performance.

And they claimed Liverpool was in less debt than the rest of the Big Four Premiership clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

But angry fans today urged the Royal Bank of Scotland not to extend a loan to the club’s owners – who in turn said they remained committed to building a 73,000 capacity stadium in Stanley Park, work that should start when the current credit crunch begins to lift.

A club source said: “We would not have spent £18m on the planning process and a huge feasibility study if we were not fully behind this project.

“The club’s performance, profit and turnover is very strong.”

Anfield insiders say the likely reduced costs of raw materials after the recession will make the progress of the stadium swift.

They promised to meet a July 24 deadline to refinance the club, to continue to plough equity into Liverpool and put forward new transfer funds.

The Anfield hierarchy dismissed suggestions Liverpool may struggle to refinance the £350m debt by July, adding that ‘constructive consultation’ was under way between the owners and the banks. However, leading football financial experts believe in the long term they need a huge influx of cash from outside or they will have to sell up.

In January Kuwaiti billionaire Nasser Al-Kharafi offered £425m for overall control but the Americans only want to sell 50%.

“It is quite difficult but not impossible to get debt refinanced but it is absolutely not the ideal time to be negotiating debt positions,” said Vinay Bedi, of investment management firm Brewin Dolphin based in Newcastle.

“They wouldn’t be short of banks to turn to but the bank would make it very much on their terms – all companies that have restructured their debt deals in the last few weeks have got very onerous restrictions.”

However, Bedi does not believe the club is close to going under.

“It does create an element of financial risk to the business because it is not a good position, but the credibility of English football would be badly tarnished,” he added.

“For one of the top four clubs to be in this position is not particularly ideal, but I wouldn’t have thought the bank would want to call in the debt. I don’t think anyone genuinely believes Liverpool will not be playing in the Premier League and Champions League next season – it is just a question of who is running it and how it is structured.”

Bedi said that if Hicks and Gillett did decide to sell there would be a number of interested parties – at the right price.

“From an overseas point of view there are probably people to buy it as there is a better economic attraction because of the exchange rate,” he said. “The Premier League is still the best market for marketing yourself across the world and the fact Liverpool are one of the key clubs in the Champions League makes it an added attraction.”

Another leading analyst, Professor Tom Cannon, believes Hicks and Gillett may have to sell their interest in their American sport franchises or even cash in on some of Liverpool’s most saleable assets. Midfielder Xabi Alonso is a reported £23m target for Real Madrid while Argentina captain Javier Mascherano is interesting Champions League winners Barca.

Liverpool Left To Tumble Into £420m Black Hole

The financial black hole otherwise known as Kop Football Limited – or KFL, the holding company of Liverpool – owed a total of £421.6m to creditors at the end of the 2007-08 financial year, but Liverpool’s manager, Rafa Benitez, will still be given summer transfer funds of around £20m plus whatever he makes in sales, according to sources close to the club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Yet unease at the financial problems at Anfield persists, as does doubt over whether the American pair will be able to remain in control for much longer. They continue to seek fresh investment and are open-minded about selling up. Of the £421.6m owed by KFL, £58.247m was due, at a nominal 10 per cent rate of annual interest, to a Caribbean-based holding firm, Kop Football (Cayman), also controlled by Hicks and Gillett.

The KFL accounts, to 31 July 2008, showed a yearly loss of £42.6m, mainly because of interest of £36.5m to repay bank loans the Americans used to buy Liverpool in their unpopular “leveraged” buyout. The pair now face a deadline date of 24 July to refinance £350m in loans with the Royal Bank of Scotland, a process they expect to negotiate smoothly, although a fans’ group called last night for RBS to refuse to finance the pair any longer.

Liverpool’s auditors, KPMG, caused alarm when stating that the refinancing issue was “a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt on the group’s and parent company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

The Spirit of Shankly group has now urged supporters to write to the RBS branch that holds Liverpool’s account and to lobby local MPs “urging them to step in and prevent the taxpayer-owned bank from refinancing the loans taken out by Hicks and Gillett. It is these loans that helped them to buy – and to remain in ownership of – Liverpool Football Club. The release of Liverpool’s accounts show, yet again, the huge debt levels and crippling interest payments facing the club. This has, unsurprisingly, angered fans, who have never accepted Tom Hicks and George Gillett as ‘fit and proper’ owners. The open opposition to the current regime at the club, which has existed since they first started breaching their promises to the fans, is now one of open revolt.”

KFL’s debts increased by £77.5m in a year, partly because of £18.7m spent in the period on work relating to the proposed new stadium in Stanley Park, including on architects’ fees. “This is for a stadium that is as far away as ever from being started, let alone finished,” said one source.

Liverpool also wrote off £10.3m in the financial year 2006-07 on money spent on previous stadium designs that were ditched. In all at least £30m has been spent on a stadium, now planned as a 73,000-seat arena, that has yet even to be subject to feasibility studies over issues including traffic.

The debts that KFL had accumulated by the end of July 2008 are likely to have grown since. The accounts say it “has received £21.3m from Cayman to fund player transfers since the year end.”

Insiders close to Hicks and Gillett insist that the club is not in peril, and that the money being poured in via Cayman highlights devotion to the club and a willingness to fund it. Hicks and Gillett do not, yet, intend to ask KFL to pay interest or repay capital to the Cayman arm of their business.

One source close to Hicks said: “The wider picture is that Tom and George own an asset that is performing well, that they have invested a lot of money in, and that as a result of their investment has just enjoyed one of its best seasons in ages, finishing second in the Premier League. There is nothing they can say to minimise or mitigate the debt, and the accounts are there for everyone to see. But they believe the club is going in the right direction.

“Six months ago there was a chief executive [Rick Parry, about to depart] whose relationship with at least one owner [Hicks] was untenable. The manager’s position was in doubt, which meant the players felt unstable. The owners were not getting on and commercially the club was standing still. Things look very different now. Rafa has a new deal, the players are happy and settled and there is money for more squad investment. Tom and George are united in their ambitions.

“Most clubs have debt. Liverpool’s is lower than any of their major competitors in the Premier League. As for the stadium, there are major construction projects on hold all over the world because of the credit situation.”

Sammy Lee: A Watchdog, Not A Lapdog

Walk through the door marked “Assistant Manager” at Melwood, Liverpool’s training ground, and you find yourself in the looking-glass world of Sammy Lee. Flattery falls flat and references to his trophy-laden playing days are dismissed. If I was to write that Lee works feverishly hard, understands the Liverpool philosophy better than anyone, is admirably modest and surprisingly inspirational, he would be livid. But I will risk it.

Lee is addicted to his job – “it’s not a job, it’s a vocation” – and has refreshed his Uefa Pro Licence more than it needs refreshing. “I’ve got every qualification you can get,” he said. No doubt Rafael Benitez saw a kindred spirit; Lee says they share the same intensity. It helped, too, that Lee speaks Spanish, learnt while a player at Osasuna. “My Spanish isn’t great but it’s better than my English – Rafa says that,” Lee said.

Benitez appointed Lee a year ago, the former Liverpool midfield player having opted not to hang around Anfield after Gérard Houllier was dismissed, to be replaced by Benítez, in 2004. “I was the only one who wasn’t sacked,” Lee said. “I left of my own accord. I felt if I was an integral part of the success in that regime, then I was an integral part of the failure. I felt it was the honourable thing to do.”

And he carries on being honourable. When pressed, he says his best quality is his loyalty. “Loyalty is paramount,” he said. “You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you haven’t got loyalty, you may as well forget it.”

So, is Lee’s primary loyalty to Liverpool or Benitez? “Rafa has the club solely at heart so I have no problem having a great loyalty to him,” Lee said. “He is the best man for this job, so there is no conflict of interest. If my beliefs were radically different to Rafa’s, then he wouldn’t employ me. I know he’s the best man to guide this club to the success it deserves.”

When Benítez was accused by Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, of a lack of respect after a gesture made during Liverpool’s defeat of Blackburn Rovers in April, Lee faced the media.

“If I didn’t believe that was the right thing to do then we’d have to part company,” he said. “On the door it says ‘Assistant Manager’ and I’ll assist Rafa in any way, shape or form. I know what went on the day and it had nothing to do with the opposition. The Liverpool way is to fight our corner when necessary. It is also about respect and humility.”

Similarly Lee defends the so-called rant Benítez issued against Ferguson’s attitude to the Respect campaign. “They were facts and Rafa felt at the time he wanted to bring them out and for people to know them,” he said. “We know where we fell short [on the pitch] and it was nothing to do with that period.”

Lee’s credentials – he was signed by Bob Paisley in 1976 – mean he should know how Benítez fits into the Anfield hall of fame. “Rafa is trying to instill a lot of Shankly-isms, Paisley-isms, the Liverpool way, which is about winning and competing with dignity,” he said. “It’s about fighting for the principles you believe in. Rafa does not bury his head in the sand about the past; he wants to embrace the past and take it forward.”

But is that preparation under Benítez all about statistics; does he have intuition? “He’s got that,” Lee said. “People don’t know that about Rafa, they think he’s analytical but he’s a very emotional man, a very caring man, a family man.”

Even so, the impression is that Benítez puts those qualities on hold during a match. Lee disputes this. “He has his gut feelings,” he said. “In football you have to be adaptable. He’s got intuition and that ability to change things. He knows what he wants but he can see things in the course of 45 or 90 minutes. He bounces things off us. It’s a consensus of opinion. That’s the good thing about the man; he listens to people and the great men do.”

Liverpool appeared to evolve before our eyes this season, developing into a side that could embarrass United at Old Trafford and be marked out as the most entertaining of teams. The change of gear came about, Lee says, because of the five goals scored in two legs against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

“Post Madrid, there was a surge of confidence, having beaten one of the best clubs in the world,” he said. “If any of the players had any sort of doubts, then those games gave them an added sense of belief. Maybe it was a watershed moment for many.”

Lee is not best pleased that this season’s team photo will have no trophies in it but, perhaps as among Liverpool fans, there is no despondency. It has, he says, been a joy to watch the team improve.

John Terry Makes Plea For Jamie Carragher Return To England Squad

It said something about the paucity of top-class English central defenders yesterday when John Terry offered Jamie Carragher as a solution to a growing problem that could have devastating consequences for Fabio Capello’s plans for the World Cup finals next summer.

The England manager holds Carragher in a similarly high regard, but, having already made three unsuccessful overtures towards the Liverpool defender, he is unlikely to follow the captain’s lead by urging him to come out of retirement once again.

Capello’s first-choice pairing of Terry and Rio Ferdinand is up there with anything that will be on show in South Africa, but there is no guarantee that they will remain fit, particularly in an intense tournament at the end of a long season.

Terry and Ferdinand will have started together in only five of Capello’s 14 matches in charge after today’s World Cup qualifying match against Kazakhstan, in which England go in search of a sixth successive win in six games in group six. This in itself demonstrates that they cannot be relied upon next summer.

In recent years, England’s stock of centre backs has been the envy of the world — it took Terry an age finally to oust Sol Campell, for example — but no longer. Capello wears the look of an elder son whose inheritance has already been spent.

Campbell no longer has the pace that is required at the highest level, a series of injuries have effectively ended the international careers of Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate and Carragher chose to exile himself as a result of frustration over limited opportunities and seemingly endless travel.

Matthew Upson is likely to partner Terry against Kazakhstan this evening, in the absence of Ferdinand with a calf injury, but neither the West Ham United defender, Joleon Lescott nor Phil Jagielka, both from Everton, have shown that they belong at the highest level. Terry admitted as much yesterday, by effectively issuing an SOS for a man who retired after winning his 34th cap while playing at right back against Brazil two years ago.

“I think we could do with Carragher back in the squad,” Terry said. “That’s down to Carra to come back out of retirement. We all understood his frustration, but we’d all like him to come out of retirement.

“I spoke to Carra at the time, but it’s his decision. I don’t want to sit here and speak for him. Going into the World Cup, it’d be great if he did come back and make the competition even more difficult for all of us.

However, there are other options. “There’s still Matty [Upson], who everyone’s speaking highly of, and he’s had a very good year. Joleon’s done very well again and Gary Cahill has come into the squad. It’s down to Carra to come out and make a statement, really.”

Capello claimed to be unconcerned, although his actions speak louder than his words because calling up King for the recent friendly international against Slovakia was hardly a ringing endorsement of his existing squad.

Despite the lack of personnel for the position, the Italian will not repeat the mistakes of Sven-Göran Eriksson, who took David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to the previous two World Cups when they were unfit. “If you’re not fully fit, this manager doesn’t care who you are, he’ll leave you behind,” Terry said. “He’s got that ruthlessness about him.”

Capello’s only dilemma this evening revolves around who to play on the right wing, with Theo Walcott likely to return for the first time in eight months — despite recent indifferent form for Arsenal — not least because Shaun Wright-Phillips has been struggling to shake off a knee injury.

Robert Green will make his first start in England’s other problem position, with Capello hoping that the West Ham United goalkeeper will be able to put sufficient pressure on David James, who is suffering from a neck injury. If James had retired from international football after being exiled by Steve McClaren, England really would be in trouble.

Liverpool Boss Benitez Faces An Uphill Struggle To Keep Mascherano Out Of Barca's Clutches

Rafa Benitez is struggling to hang on to unsettled midfielder Javier Mascherano in a new blow that further compounds the financial crisis engulfing Anfield.

Already reeling from mounting debts that are hampering plans for strengthening his Liverpool squad, Benitez is now facing an uphill struggle to keep Mascherano from Barcelona’s clutches.

The Argentina skipper’s wife, who is currently back home in South America, has struggled to settle on Merseyside. And Mascherano feels he has fallen behind others on pay after a recent round of rises at Anfield.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has discussed a £22million move for Mascherano, 25 on Monday. As Benitez braces himself for another raid on his Liverpool squad in the wake of Real Madrid’s £20m bid for Xabi Alonso, he can only hope takeover talks involving Indian company GMR come to fruition and rescue his transfer strategy.

With Gareth Barry lost to Manchester City and Valencia winger David Silva reportedly in talks with Real Madrid, he appears to be relying on beating Chelsea to Portsmouth right back Glen Johnson for any sort of significant breakthrough.

Even then, a £15m-plus asking price would wipe out his budget, unless GMR, who hold the franchise for the Delhi Daredevils cricket team in the Indian Premier League, buy out co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

They may be in for some hard bargaining, though, after the under-fire Americans adopted a defiant stance over claims from the club’s auditors that there was ‘significant doubt’ over the ability of parent company Kop Football (Holdings) Ltd to continue as a going concern.

Hicks and Gillett dismissed the warning, as ‘accountancy speak’ and insisted that, even with a £77m increase to £359m, Liverpool’s level of debt was lower than the rest of the Barclays Premier League’s top four.

They reiterated their determination not only to meet a July 24 deadline for refinancing but to push through plans for a 73,000- capacity stadium at nearby Stanley Park.

Arshavin Tips Liverpool To Sign Anyukov

Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin has tipped Liverpool’s Rafael Benitez to sign his former Zenit St Petersburg teammate Aleksandr Anyukov and hinted that Sir Alex Ferguson should look towards Igor Akinfeev if he wants to replace Edwin van der Sar in the Manchester United goal.

Speaking ahead of Russia’s World Cup qualification match with Finland, the 28-year-old playmaker fielded questions from local press about life in England and also which players he felt could follow him to the Premier League.

“Given that Van der Sar will not be around forever, Ferguson is most in need of a goalkeeper,” Arshavin stated.

“I therefore advise him to sign Akinfeev…and Liverpool? Perhaps Anyukov.”

Anyukov, a right sided wing-back, has been a favourite of Guus Hiddink in the Russian national team for several years as well as accumulating both domestic and UEFA Cup titles with Zenit St Petersburg.

A steely competitor, the 26-year-old is known for his runs and effervescent wing-play.

Hammill Could Return To Barnsley

Liverpool winger Adam Hammill wants to prove himself at Anfield, but has not ruled out a return to Barnsley next season.

The 21-year-old made 14 appearances for Simon Davey's side last season and scored a crucial goal in the last-day win at Plymouth before heading back to the North West.

Hammill told the Star: "I've heard a lot of rumours that there are quite a few clubs interested in me, which is flattering, but I've never taken interest in those stories.

"All I know is that I've been told to return to training with Liverpool on July 6 and then hopefully I'll get a chance to chat to the manager and discuss my future.

"I really enjoyed my time with Barnsley. It was probably one of the best loan spells I've had. I'd really consider going back there."

He added: "I've always said I want to be a Liverpool player. It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid, but because it's such a big club it's always going to be difficult to break into the first team. I'll have to see what happens."

Kleber Won't Discuss Liverpool Offer

Cruzeiro forward Kleber has said that he does not want to answer any more questions about a possible move to Liverpool with his club insisting that they want to keep him.

The 25-year-old has been persistently linked with a move to Anfield for the 2009/10 season.

"I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's getting boring. If I play badly in a couple of days, the fans will start saying I want to quit," he said to Radio Globo BH.

"If I had an offer and if it's profitable for both me and Cruzeiro, my agent (Giuseppe Dioguardi) and (club president) Zeze (Perrella) will try to sort it out."

Club spokesman Guilherme Mendes said that Kleber will not leave the Mineirao for less than 15million Euros.

Kleber was signed by the Belo Horizonte side from Dynamo Kiev earlier this year in a swap deal for forward Guilherme which saw the Ukrainian side pay an additional 5million Euros.

Mendes said: "Firstly, Cruzeiro has no interest in negotiating for forward Kleber. He was signed and inked a long-term contract with the club and Cruzeiro expects he will win a number of titles in our shirt.

"Neither Cruzeiro nor the player's agent have been made an offer from any European club at this time. There have only been discussions between the player's agent and Zeze about what would happen if a 7million euro offer was made.

"Cruzeiro told him that the club would not discuss any offers of less than 15million Euros."

Kleber has scored 19 goals in 21 appearances for Cruzeiro.