Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Liverpool Football Club Is A Way Of Life - Rafa Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has acknowledged that his team must show more fighting spirit next season if they are to end the club's long wait for a league title, and has asserted that it his aim to inculcate that mentality as soon as possible.

The coach also drew parallels between the club's situation and the way in which the city of Liverpool has always been known as a place where people do not take a backward step, where they face adversity together and beat it.

"When I decided to sign a new contract I did it because Liverpool Football Club is more than a club," he told The Liverpool Echo.
“It is the heart of the city. It is our life and for the people here it means so much. I thought I had to sign. We have to fight. We have to do it.

"The people in this city are always fighting and have been fighting all their lives. We want to do the same.

"We know the situation is not fantastic but I have a lot of confidence in our squad and we want to fight like we did this year."

Liverpool are beset by financial problems at the moment, largely as a result of the ownership of American businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett, whose holding company made significant losses and whose decision to buy the club has left it saddled with huge debts.

And the Spaniard also affirmed that he felt the supporters had every reason to feel optimistic about the season ahead, despite the club's limited capability to compete in the transfer market.

"We have a very good squad but we can still improve a little bit," he added.
"How much can we improve? Enough to the win the title? I’m sure it will be enough to compete. Like this year we will try to compete on all fronts until the end."

Liverpool FC Boss Rafa Benitez Happy With Summer Transfer Kitty

Rafa Benitez today insisted he has got enough cash to splash to turn Liverpool into Premier League champions.

The Reds’ summer spending is expected to be dwarfed by a number of their rivals but the Spaniard is in fighting mood – and confident he will land his main transfer targets.

“We knew it could be difficult because there is a crisis all around the world,” he said.

“Clearly we don’t have too much to spend but I think we have enough money to add the one or two players that we need.

“I’m very happy with the squad we’ve got.

“This season has been really good and we’ve competed on all fronts.

“If we can sign one or two players then I’m really positive that we can improve.”

Benitez, who signed a new five-year contract back in March, will celebrate five years as Liverpool manager next week.

He admits he is relishing the challenge of taking the club to the next level.

“When I decided to sign a new contract I did it because Liverpool Football Club is more than a club,” he said.

“It is the heart of the city. It is our life and for the people here it means so much.

“I thought I had to sign. We have to fight. We have to do it.”

Tom Hicks And George Gillett Set To Refinance Liverpool Loan

Liverpool's beleaguered co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, look set to ­refinance their £350m loan with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia from next month's deadline, the ­Guardian has learned. The extension could cost up to £3.5m for the arrangement fee, with ­interest payments – approximately 4% above the banking rate – similar to the terms on their current facility.

It was announced last week that Hicks' and Gillett's parent company, Kop ­Football (Holdings) Limited, suffered a £42.6m loss for the year ending July 2008 despite a record turnover of £164.2m. A Liverpool supporters group, Spirit of Shankly, has launched a protest campaign to dissuade RBS from extending the loan beyond the 24 July deadline.

However, the two banks are willing to extend their loan, given rising income at a club who finished second in the Premier League last season, qualifying for the lucrative Champions League for a ­seventh season in a row. "Banks won't want to jeopardise growth through ­taking control," a source close to the situation said.

Facing multi-billion pound losses, banks are pushing unprofitable companies into insolvency or demanding ­control through a debt-for-equity swap. In Spain the local savings bank Bancaja has ­practically taken control of Valencia, who have about £500m of debt. However, the source added: "It doesn't make sense to take control of a business that's performing well; this approach could be applicable to Liverpool."

The refinancing deal will buy Hicks and Gillett time as they attempt to avoid having to sell Liverpool, although their prospects of borrowing a further £400m to build a new stadium on Stanley Park have receded. Last week's accounts included a warning from the accountants, KPMG, that there would be "significant doubt on the group's and parent company's ability to continue as a going concern" without an extension to the £350m loan. A source close to Hicks responded that the Texan was "very relaxed" and "confident".

Real Madrid Give Up Chase For Liverpool Star Xabi Alonso

Hot on the tail of securing the services of Brazilian star Kaka for an impressive six years, newly appointed Real Madrid president Florentino Perez spoke to Telemadrid about the players that he has been linked with of late.

Perez admitted that Los Blancos are looking to bring in an estimated six new players, but the 62-year-old conceded that attempts to sign Liverpool midfielder and Spain international Xabi Alonso could be entirely in vain.

"He [Xabi Alonso] is a great player but he also plays in a big team and I haven't heard any news that they plan to sell him," he said.

"It's obvious that [Liverpool manager Rafael] Benitez is counting on keeping him. That's normal, he's a good player and it wouldn't be easy to replace him."

Since taking over, Perez has openly laid his cards on the table when it comes to his intentions in the Spanish capital. The honcho stated that at least nine players are regarded as dead weight, and will be let go as he looks to continue rebuilding the club in a glamourous fashion.

"The squad has 28 players. We can bring in six new and only register 25," he concluded.

Rafa Benitez To Fine Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano After Agent’s Barcelona Transfer Claims

Rafa Benitez is ready to fine Javier Mascherano after his agent claimed the player was desperate for a move to Barcelona.

The new European Cup winners started tracking Mascherano earlier in the season when he was struggling to tie down a regular midfield spot at Liverpool.

Agent Walter Tamer said yesterday: “I believe that a transfer would be feasible.

“If Barca really want him, he will sign for them.

“If a club like Barcelona want to bring you into their ranks after having completed such a brilliant season and having won everything, obviously as a player you are going to say, ‘Yes, I want to play there’.

“It is an honour for Javier that a club like Barca pay such close attention to him, especially after the incredible season they had.

“He would have a very easy job at Barca. Sometimes we talk and joke that the only thing he has to do is run, rob the ball and pass it on to all the superstars in front of him.”

Benitez insists Mascherano has three years left on his contract and will not be allowed to leave.

But the Anfield gaffer has some work to do to persuade another midfielder, Xabi Alonso, that he is still wanted on Merseyside.

Alonso has grown disillusioned after Benitez tried to sell him, and now wants a move to Real Madrid, who will make a firm offer for the Spanish international within the next week.

Benitez can do without outside interference affecting plans he has been working on since being told his budget earlier in the year.

When Benitez agreed his new contract in March, he was told he would have a minimum of £20million to spend this summer plus any cash he generates himself in the market.

He is bullish about bringing in the two big-name stars he believes will enable Liverpool to wrest the Premier League title from Manchester United.

“I’m positive we have a squad to compete because we were close even though Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard didn’t play together for a long time this season,” said Benitez.

“We have a very good squad and we can still improve a little bit. I’m sure we can improve enough to compete.

“Some clubs were asking for our players, so our priority was to extend the contracts of our key players – those players who are the spine of the team.

“We spent some money to guarantee this and now we are in a very good position.”

With the likes of Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena, Andriy Voronin and Sebastian Leto all up for sale, Benitez could raise another £20m for his kitty.

And that will allow him to bid for Valencia winger David Silva, plus a top-class defender such as Portsmouth’s England international Glen Johnson or Spain centre-back Raul Albiol.

Benitez is also looking to bring in back-up players and Middlesbrough striker Tuncay has appeared on his radar.

Liverpool FC Legends To Finally Receive World Cup Winners Medals

Liverpool football legends Ian Callaghan and Gerry Byrne will finally receive their World Cup winner’s medals today – more than 40 years late.

They are among the “back-up boys of ‘66” who will be honoured by Gordon Brown at Downing Street after a long campaign to recognise the squad players who missed out on the Wembley final.

Callaghan, a Toxteth-born winger, played in one of the early games of the 1966 tournament, but fell victim to a change of tactics that saw England become the “wingless wonders”.

Left-back Byrne – who, like Callaghan, spent his entire playing career at Anfield – unfortunately never made it onto the pitch throughout the tournament.

A medal will also be awarded to Manchester United winger John Connelly, who began his career at his home-town club of St Helens, in the Lancashire Combination League.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Mr Brown told the Daily Post: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome Gerry Byrne, Ian Callaghan and the other players to Downing Street.

“It is absolutely right we recognise their role in England’s 1966 World Cup success – one of our finest sporting moments.

“They are real football heroes and have made this country proud.”

Striker Jimmy Greaves, defender Jimmy Armfield and goalkeeper Peter Bonetti will also be honoured.

FIFA, football’s governing body, agreed to mint special replica medals for the players who missed out on the 1966 final, plus England’s coaching staff.

Between 1930 and 1970, only the 11 victorious players who played in the final received a winner’s medal.

It meant only the players who beat West Germany 4-2 on that famous day at Wembley were honoured, including Roger Hunt, another Liverpool player.

Now the new policy will also hand a record third medal to Pele, who triumphed in 1958 and 1970, but was injured for Brazil’s 1962 final win.

Callaghan, who made a record 640 appearances for Liverpool between 1960 and 1978, helped England beat France 2-0 in one of the group games, but lost his place to future Everton star Alan Ball.

He went to win only four England caps, while Byrne – who famously played through the pain of a broken collarbone to help Liverpool win the 1965 FA Cup Final – represented his country only twice.

Tranmere's John Acherberg Lands ‘Dream Move’ To Liverpool FC

Tranmere stalwart John Achterberg has spoken of his joy at landing a ‘dream job’ at Liverpool as he departs Prenton Park after 11 years.

The Dutchman, who turns 38 next month, will move to the Anfield outfit as a goalkeeping coach, working primarily with the reserves and youth teams under Xavi Valero’s stewardship.

Achterberg, who made more than 300 appearances for Rovers since arriving in England from FC Eindhoven in 1998, was player-goalkeeping coach at Tranmere, acting as understudy in the first team to Danny Coyne.

He becomes the latest big name to depart the Wirral club this summer following the exits of captain Antony Kay, assistant manager Peter Shirtliff plus manager Ronnie Moore – who was sacked on Friday despite taking Tranmere to the brink of the play-offs on a reduced budget from the previous season.

Achterberg said: “This is a dream chance – I need to take it with both hands.

“It’s a massive wrench for me to leave Tranmere after so many years, the fans there have always been so great to me and hopefully they always will be.

“I’d like to think that the Tranmere fans will understand my move however as I’m joining one of the best clubs in the world.”

The Utrecht-born keeper was the longest-serving player at Prenton Park having been signed to replace the Everton-bound Steve Simonsen but had lost his regular number one spot in recent seasons with his role at the club being more focused on his increasing coaching commitments.

With numerous changes in personnel both on and off the pitch at Tranmere in recent weeks, Achterberg had faced an uncertain future with the League One outfit and needed no convincing when Liverpool came calling.

He said: “A chance like this doesn’t come along too often.

“Coaching is the future for myself, I’d been doing more and more of it at Tranmere in recent years and that’s where I needed to progress.

“In the same way you want to play at the best club possible as a player you want to do the same as a coach.

“When you hear a whisper that Liverpool might want you there’s not much thinking needed in your decision – you need to do what is best for yourself.”

Achterberg, who was awarded a testimonial game at Prenton Park against an Everton XI last season, will be reunited at Melwood with former Tranmere colleague John McMahon who has left his job as assistant manager at Shrewsbury Town to replace Gary Ablett as Liverpool’s reserve team manager.

He said: “It will be nice to work with John.

“I’ve always got on really well with him and have a very positive work relationship.

“I can’t wait to start. I’ve already met Rafa (Benitez) twice and I’ll be speaking to Xavi (Valero) soon to discuss our plans for training.”