Thursday, June 11, 2009

Liverpool Will Not Sell Mascherano - Rafa Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has moved quickly to dismiss speculation linking Javier Mascherano with a move to Barcelona, insisting his player is not available at any price.

Comments from Mascherano's representative Walter Tamer, reported by UK newspaper The Sun yesterday, suggested the midfielder would welcome an approach from the Champions League and Primera Liga champions.

But Benitez was quick to quash any talk of the Argentine leaving Anfield this summer.

"Mascherano has no price," Benitez told the club's official website.

"Barcelona could not afford to match his value to Liverpool Football Club.

"I have spoken to Javier two or three times this summer – the last time was only last week – and he was very happy, very positive."

Benitez went on to declare his surprise in seeing the story emerge yesterday.

"Walter (Tamer) told me that two clubs with big, big names were asking after Mascherano – and I told him to forget it, that Javier was happy in Liverpool and he was not for sale.

"So I was surprised to see the agent's comments today.

"He has a long contract and any club can forget about bidding for him. They can offer £40m or even £50m, we don’t want to sell."

Mascherano first arrived in England with West Ham United, along with fellow countryman Carlos Tevez.

After an unhappy spell at Upton Park though, the Argentine international was snapped up by Liverpool and has become vital to the Premier League runners-up.

Shankly Group Promise Probe Over Munich Songs

A Liverpool FC fans group today vowed to investigate after Reds supporters apparently mocked the Munich disaster at an end-of-season party.

Footage has emerged from the Olympia venue of a room full of supporters singing derogatory references about the 1958 air crash which killed 23 people – many of them Busby Babes.

The clip, now posted on the internet, shows fans at the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) union party repeatedly shouting Munich in the chorus to a song called Horse With No Name.

The crowd appeared to be egged on by a singer performing on stage.

Today Spirit of Shankly condemned the behaviour and stressed the singer was not authorised to appear on the night.

The night had included singers and bands like The Troubadours, The Maybes and former Cast frontman John Power. Also on the bill was Rafa and Steven Gerrard impersonator Darren Farley who became an internet hit and appeared on TV sports shows.

The party was held on the evening of the final league game at Anfield against Spurs.

But Spirit of Shankly said the singer who instigated the Munich references was an unauthorised performer and was not part of the running order.

The union has vowed to tighten procedures and take strict steps to prevent a repeat incident happening at future social SOS events.

A spokesman for the Spirit of Shankly said: “We are aware that video footage has been posted on the internet from the SOS End of season party on 24th May 2009.

“ This footage shows an unscheduled performance which the SOS Events Committee had no prior knowledge of.

“The Events Committee will endeavour to increase back-stage security for future events to ensure impromptu performances like this do not happen again. We are sincerely sorry for anybody who has been offended by this footage, and we do not condone such behaviour.”

Earlier in the evening Liverpool legends Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia appeared at the SOS gathering to honour the Finn’s departure from the club.

The union has become more prominent in recent years and members have been particularly vocal about the Anfield regime of US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

A Horse With No Name was written by the band America and became their most successful single.

Insults have often been traded between Liverpool fans and their rivals with Reds claiming their opponents bait them with songs mocking the 96 who died at Hillsborough.

10,000 Set For London To Attend Hillsborough Justice March

Final preparations are being put in place for a mass march to Parliament demanding justice for those who died at Hillsborough.

More than 25,000 signatures have been gathered on a petition to be handed into for the Prime Minister on June 20.

Around 10,000 people are expected to join the march that will lead campaigners through the streets of London.

Fans from clubs across the country have promised to join Liverpool FC fans calling for someone to be held accountable for the tragedy which claimed 96 lives.

In recent weeks, the families of Kevin Williams, 15, and Graham Roberts, 24, have taken to the streets of Liverpool campaigning for even more signatures.

On June 20, people are asked to meet at Temple Place East at 1pm for a 2pm start which takes in Victoria Embankment, Horse Guard Avenue before six people are allowed into No 10 Downing Street to hand over the petition.

At the end of the march, a mini rally will be held when relatives of those who died may address the crowd.

Organisers are arranging cheap transport to London and banners are being made by marchers.

Today, campaigners said they hoped the recent Cabinet resignations or reshuffles involving Andy Burnham and Jacqui Smith would not derail the government’s vow to release the hidden Hillsborough files.

Mr. Burnham, who was heckled at the recent memorial service at Anfield, was instrumental behind Westminster’s promise to disclose the secret documents.

That message was echoed by the now departed Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, but with both politicians in new jobs, Hillsborough families are anxious that the determination to find answers for the 96 still remains.

Reds fan and march organiser Barry Thompson, said: “The people in these jobs will have different aims and goals.

“Alan Johnson is the new Home Secretary and we want these promises to be honoured.

“It’s about time that somebody put their hand up and took responsibility.

Benitez - I Have Enough Cash

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has revealed he was fully aware of the club's financial problems before he signed his new five-year contract in March.

And a defiant Benitez insists he is happy with his transfer budget and still aims to bring in "one or two" top signings ahead of next season.

The Liverpool boss was speaking in the wake of the release of the club's worrying financial figures last week, underlining the need for prudence in the transfer market.

The damaging financial reality hit home when accounts, for the season 2007-08, showed Kop Holdings lost £42.6million on the year.

Kop Holdings is the company set up by under-fire American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to run Liverpool.

Although the football club made a £10million profit, that money was swallowed up in paying the interest on the loans taken out by the Americans to buy the club.

Benitez reveals he was working last season to tie key players to new contracts, fully aware of the financial straits at the club that would be exposed this summer.

He said: "We spent some money to solve that situation, to guarantee the extension of those contracts. Now we need to improve a little bit because we are in a very good position.

"Yes, we knew it would be difficult, especially as there is a (financial) crisis all around the world.

"But when I decided to sign a five-year extension to my contract, I knew in my own mind that Liverpool is more than just a club, it is the heart of the city. It is our life.

"It means so much to a lot of people. We had to sign, we have to fight, we have to do it because we wanted to do it. The people in Liverpool are always fighters; they have done that all their lives.

"We know that. We also knew that the (financial) situation was not fantastic. But we still have a lot of confidence in our squad and we want to fight (for the title) again next season."

Benitez, who has also dismissed claims he wants Napoli's Argentinian striker Ezequiel Lavezzi, continued: "Every single year, every single week, every single day you can always talk to fans who say they are supporting you, supporting the team.

"You can see the passion is so strong and that makes a massive difference. This city has great passion, Everton fans have similar passion for their club and that is really good and our fans are amazing.

"When I talk with people in Spain (they are aware of it). Now we will go to the Far East in the summer and we will see the same thing, so many people talking about us and the club.

"It shows to me that this place is more than just a football club. It is clear that it is life to so many people."

Martinez Not Keen On England

Javi Martinez has distanced himself from speculation linking him with a move to the Premier League.

The Spain U21 international is said to have impressed a number of English clubs last season, with Liverpool and Manchester City reported to be leading the race for his signature.

However, the 20-year-old insists he has happy at Athletic Bilbao and has no desire to move on.

"The truth is I am not interested in this. I am focused on my club and not interested in rumours," Martinez said.

"Still, I have many years left on my contract.

"I am very happy in Bilbao and want to continue. The truth is that I don't want to move."

Martinez admits he is flattered to be in the thoughts of some of Europe's biggest clubs, but claims the possibility of a move to Anfield or Eastlands holds no appeal.

"It's like if they told you that you are on the right track. It's a pleasure, but that's all," he added.

"It makes me proud that such teams (are interested), but at the end of the day you never know what is real and what isn't.

"That's why I am not fazed by it, even if it is an honour."

Alonso Move On As Benitez Eyes Madrid Starlets As Makeweight

Real Madrid’s alleged pursuit of Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso took yet another twist this morning after reports in Spain suggested the deal is far from over.

Yesterday’s speculation intimated that the former Real Sociedad star wanted to leave Anfield, but Liverpool boss Rafa Beintez would definitely not sanction a move unless the Spanish giants offered ‘ludicrous’ money for the player.

The protracted transfer saga began this time last year after Liverpool tried desperately to bring Aston Villa, now Manchester City’s Gareth Barry to the club. Benitez was subsequently listening to offers for the Spaniard, most notably from Juventus, however they failed to meet the club’s asking price.

Reports in Spain today suggest Benitez would be willing to sell the want-a-away Spanish international if Real Madrid include two of their brightest young players in the deal plus an additional cash payment.

Spanish publication AS, report Benitez wants the Spanish giants to include striker Alvaro Negredo and Alberto Bueno in the deal for Alonso.

Negredo is a 23 year old striker who has spent the last two years at Almeria following a move form the Bernabeu in 2007. The player finished fifth in the Pichichi scoring nineteen league goals. Under his current deal Real Madrid own 50% of any possible deal for the player and they also have a buy back option.

The tall Spaniard recently told Sky Sports: “My future depends on Real Madrid, but I believe that this summer but it is logical that I am interested in playing in the Premier League and especially Liverpool.”

“I believe that playing in England would be a great chance for me as this league is a sensational place for forwards.”

In addition to Negredo, Benitez has earmarked Madrid’s young striker Alberto Bueno as a star of the future. The 21 year old was the tournament’s top scorer in the 2006 Under 19 European Championship, and prior to making his first team debut in the Spanish Cup this season, he had scored 37 goals in 37 games for Real Madrid Castilla, the club’s youth team.

The Spanish reports suggest Benitez is willing to negotiate on the deal, although he is extremely unlikely to accept anything below £30 million.

Publicly Benitez has stated a desire to keep the Anfield favourite, however reports intimate that a player plus cash offer would give the ex-Valencia coach room to bolster his squad particularly as he is unlikely to receive major financial backing in this summer's transfer window.

Florentino Perez has made no secret of his desire to sign Alonso, and although he yesterday admitted such a move would be difficult, it did not stop the wily operator from naming him in his dream Real Madrid XI.

Agger Vows He’ll Fight For His Place

Liverpool’s Daniel Agger has revealed that he committed his future to the club despite not being given any guarantees about first-team football.

The Danish defender finally penned a five-year deal at Anfield last month but with Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel providing fierce competition for places and Rafael Benitez linked with a move for another centre-back this summer, the 24-year-old did not receive any promises from the manager.

Agger said: “In football you can’t get any promises from the manager about when you are going to play, and especially not at a club like Liverpool where we have so many talented players all competing for places.

“I believe I am good enough to play regularly in this team and that’s what I want to do.”

Agger, who made 26 appearances last season, explained why he was happy to agree a new Liverpool contract even though he will have to fight for his place.

He said: “First of all, I believe this team, with the players we have, will be able to challenge for many honours and trophies over the next few years.

“Secondly, I think I have a chance to play in this team, otherwise I would not be staying at the club.

“Thirdly, I really like this city, and I like the people who live here. It’s not the same as my home town, Copenhagen, but I actually really like where I live. That’s important.

“I believe if you have a happy, settled and comfortable life outside the pitch then you’re going to be a much better player on it.

“Of course, if you have a manager who tells you that he is confident in your ability and he believes in you and what you can bring to the team, then that is also important. The manager has done this by coming to me and offering me the contract.

Agger arrived at Anfield in January 2006, just a few months before the FA Cup triumph over West Ham.

However, the Dane played no part in the run to Cardiff and is still waiting for what he would regard as his “first” medal with the club.

It’s a situation Agger is desperate to address.

“Everybody wants medals, they want trophies and they want success,” he said.

“That is what a club like Liverpool should be all about.

“I won both the league and cup in my first season at Brondby. I haven’t won anything at Liverpool so far and that is something I really want to change.

“We won the FA Cup in my first season at the club but I didn’t play a game in the competition that season. So although I have a medal for that victory I don’t count it as my having won it.”

However, Agger is confident there is a piece of silverware on the horizon next season.

“I think you can see on the pitch this season, and especially in the last few games, what playing for this club means for the team,” he said.

“We have showed that we have a winning character now throughout the team.

“We have developed this season a mentality which says that you can’t beat us. Even when we are in a difficult position we have a belief in our ability to change the result.”

Tight Transfer Budget Sees Liverpool Boss Benitez Promote From Within

The financial difficulties of Liverpool's parent company Kop Holdings Ltd, and the knock-on effect this will have on the club's transfer dealings have been well documented, and club boss Rafael Benitez could be preparing for summer of thrift as he has already asked his squad players and younger members to step their game up next season.

Benitez has called on David Ngog, Nabil El Zhar, Ryan Babel, and Emiliano Insua, to show marked improvements next term. He is quoted by The Guardian as saying, "I'm positive because we were talking recently about how Fernando [Torres] and Steven Gerrard didn't play together for a long time.

"Hopefully, they will manage that more next season - and we also have good young players like David Ngog, Nabil El Zhar, Ryan Babel and Emiliano Insua coming through.

"We have a very good squad but we can still improve a little bit. How much - enough to win the title? I'm sure it will be enough to compete."

He continued, "We knew the situation in the world would be difficult this summer. Some clubs were asking for our players so the priority was to extend the contracts of our key ones.

"We spent some money to guarantee this and now we just have to improve a little bit, because we are in a very good position."