Friday, June 12, 2009

Cash-Strapped Liverpool Land Potentially Lucrative Deal

Liverpool, whose American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are desperately trying to arrange a US$500 million refinancing, have signed a potentially lucrative deal in India.

The club will partner with the Abhijeet Kadam Memorial Foundation to establish the Abhijit Kadam Football Development Centre. It will be based at Bharati Vidyapeeth University, and will offer youngsters the chance to combine studies with coaching from Liverpool’s coaches.

Courses taught at the club-sponsored school will include coaching, refereeing and Sports Science. Though the partnership itself offers no immediate financial reward for Liverpool, such schools are increasingly seen as a massively effective way to maximize a club’s brand in any given country. Should Liverpool become the soccer club to successfully make an impact in India, a country of more than a billion people, then potential revenues could be huge.

The opening of the school is just the first step in Liverpool’s ambitions in India. The club’s commercial director Ian Ayre said, “This project brings football with first class education and an ambition to feed the Indian game. It’s certainly an exciting start and one of a variety of key projects that Liverpool will unveil in the Indian market over the coming months. “

Ryan Babel: Give Me One Last Chance At Liverpool FC

Ryan Babel wants another chance to prove he can become more than just an Anfield supersub next season.

The Dutch youngster has struggled for consistency since his £11 million move from Ajax two years ago and looked likely to be made available this summer.

But after ending his season with a substitute appearance for Holland last night, he insisted he wants to stay at Anfield and fight for his future.

The Dutchman could fetch around £10m in the transfer market, but his agent Winnie Haatrecht said: “Ryan is very happy at Liverpool and clearly doesn't want to leave.

"He still has a three-year contract.”

Babel's impact since he arrived at Anfield has been largely as a goalscoring substitute.

His goal at West Ham in May was his ninth from the subs' bench, halfway to David Fairclough's incredible club record of 18 supersub strikes. But boss Rafa Benitez made it clear he would be happy if Babel failed to match Fairclough’s achievement after challenging the player to establish himself as a permanent fixture in his starting line-up.

“Ryan has done well as an impact player, which is not easy when you are young, but we think he can do more than that,” Benitez said.

“Our view of Ryan is a player who starts games and has an impact from the beginning. But first of all he has to improve tactically.”

Babel started only 13 times last season, and was left out of the squad altogether twice in the final month of the campaign.

But when Benitez spoke recently about young players who he hoped could make an impact next season, he pointedly included the Dutch youngster.

“I'm positive because we were talking recently about how Fernando [Torres] and Steven Gerrard didn't play together for a long time,” he said.

“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.”

Babel reprised a familiar role last night, coming on as a substitute as Holland celebrated their qualification for the World Cup finals with a 2-0 win over Norway.

Lucas Bulking Up For Next Liverpool FC Title Challenge

Brazilian midfielder Lucas believes next season can be the best of his Liverpool career – because he's won a gruelling weighting game.

The international midfielder admits he was a lightweight when he made his £6m switch from Gremio in the summer of 2007.

But after piling on the pounds he now feels equipped to handle the rigours of the English Premier League.

“I have gained some weight this season and that has helped me be more prepared to play with the demands you face in England,” he explained.

“I have gained four kilos since I arrived and that's a lot. In my first season, being very honest, I had a problem with physical games. Last season, with the extra weight I feel I can challenge anyone physically and can go from one box to the other like I did in Brazil.

“Maybe it has taken me 18 months to get my body physically into the shape that it needed to be in to play to my best in England, but I feel that it is coming now for me and I am excited about my future prospects at Liverpool.”

Lucas also believed that being able to complete a full pre-season programme at Anfield for the first time would give him an added edge.

“I missed a lot of the pre-season first time with Liverpool because I was away at the Olympics with Brazil,” he explained.

“That meant that I started the pre-season, then I went away, and when I came back to the club it was hard to catch up. I had missed a lot of the important work that the boys all did together.

“Next season I will be here for the whole of the pre-season programme and I believe that will help me play to the very best of my ability when we start again in August.

“I will enjoy the rest in the summer, but already I am looking at coming back and being a better player next season.”

Lucas has never lost the support of his manager, Rafael Benitez, while he also received numerous plaudits from influential players at Anfield last season.

But there were times when he bore the brunt of fans' frustration – but he believes the experience has helped mould him into a better, stronger player.

“As an individual player I feel that I have become a better player this season, definitely,” he added.

“Everyone has bad days at the office when they feel that maybe they haven't played to 100 per cent of what they are capable of.

“I have had those days, too. Of course I have because we all have them.

“I think this has been the season which has taught me the most about myself. I have had bad moments over the last year with the crowd.

“It was hard at times, but it will all be helpful for me in the long term.

“Mentally I'm a better player. I've had the tough times and I've coped well with it and come through the other side.

“I wasn't worried about silencing people. In football you will always have your critics but you have to just keep going and hopefully when they see that you are playing well, trying hard and always doing your best, they will come onto your side.

“From my point of view, next season will be my best for Liverpool. I feel better physically and mentally at this moment than I have felt before at Liverpool.”

Barcelona Make Enquiry To Liverpool About Yossi Benayoun

It appears that Barcelona have grown tired of watching bitter enemies Real Madrid hog all the limelight in the transfer market this past week.

The Blaugrana are set to make their first formal approach in the summer trade period after reportedly submitting an enquiry to Liverpool regarding the availability of winger Yossi Benayoun.

According to, sources close to the Israeli international have revealed that Barca officials have also contacted the Reds to request an asking price. It is believed that the Catalans have pin-pointed the 29-year-old as a replacement for squad players Alexander Hleb and Eidur Gudjohnsen, and a possible fall-back plan in case they fail to acquire Franck Ribery.

Benayoun enjoyed a fine season at Anfield last term and he is already being tracked by other clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and Manchester City. Although his exact valuation is unknown, it is reported to be around the region of €8 million (₤6.8m).

Lavezzi Agent Insistent On Reds Bid

Ezequiel Lavezzi's agent insists Serie A club Napoli have received an offer from Liverpool for the Argentina striker.

Napoli general director Pierpaolo Marino said on Thursday his club had not received any bids for Lavezzi while Reds boss Rafael Benitez has also denied any interest in the South American star.

However, Lavezzi's agent Alejandro Mazzoni said: "Pierpaolo Marino continues to lie.

"I reiterate that a FIFA agent presented Napoli with an offer from Liverpool for Lavezzi.

"This was a formal procedure as the player cannot be contacted directly (by the interested club) because he is under contract with Napoli."

Lavezzi has been linked with a move away from Napoli this month following a dispute with his club over a contract extension.

The 24-year-old, who joined the Naples-based outfit in the summer of 2007, scored seven league goals this season.

Lavezzi is under contract with Napoli until June 2012.

Negredo Open To Reds Move

Alvaro Negredo has revealed that if he is forced to leave Real Madrid then Liverpool or Valencia would be great destinations, but his first choice is stay at the Bernabeu.

The 23-year-old striker has been bought back by Los Merengues after two years with Almeria and there is some confusion about whether he will stay or be sold as part of another deal.

Reports have linked Negredo with an immediate move away from the Spanish capital, but the player himself wants to show that he could be the forward that Madrid need if he is given the chance.

"I am delighted that they are going exercise it because my dream is to triumph in Madrid," he told AS.

"I still do not know what will happen, but the fact they have decided to buy me back is testament to my work over the last two seasons that I feel has been good.

"Now I want to stay with Madrid.

"He [Florentino Perez] called me to tell me of the intention to exercise the buy-back clause. He told me to rest and that when I returned we would see what happens.

"My first option is to stay, but we will have to see how many forwards there are at Madrid. For a player like me, who comes from the youth team, it is difficult to win a place.

"What I need is to play games and I want to be able to do that with Madrid."

Valencia are reported to want Negredo as part of a deal that could see David Villa head to Real Madrid and the young striker would not object if the Mestalla was his new home.

"If I do have to go then Valencia would a great option. They are a big club and they have Unai Emery as coach, who I had a great relationship with at Almeria," he continued.

"Whatever happens, if Madrid do not want me I will not see myself as a bargaining chip for them to use.

"Technically they may think that, but I would not see myself like that because I will go where I think is best for my career.

"It would hurt a bit. The club has spoken about having more Spanish players and for the time being they are showing me respect and that means a lot.

"But if they decide to sell me then I will not leave with any problems."

Liverpool have also been linked with a move for Negredo and while he has not hidden the fact he would like to play with Fernando Torres, he is not pushing for a move to Anfield.

"I have already said that I think that is a great club and it would be incredible to play alongside Torres. But I prefer not to talk about that, because for now I am a Madrid player," he added.

Hope For Benitez As Winger’s Bayern Deal Falls To Pieces

Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez may still have a chance of signing Heerenveen’s Danijel Pranjic after claims in the Dutch media hinted that the Croat’s move to Bayern Munich was on the verge of collapse following a breakdown over negotiations.

Reports earlier in the week made clear that a deal between the respective parties was already sealed and this was further backed up by comments from Pranjic himself who spoke in the aftermath of a successful medical claiming his pride at moving to the Allianz Arena.

Nevetheless, Voetbal International now suggests that the €8m price-tag set by Heerenveen exceeds the €6m budgeted by the Bavarians for the deal. With neither party apparently willing to back down Pranjic’s dream move could be destroyed, leaving him desperately seeking a new club.

Benitez Admits Valencia Sorrow

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has expressed his sadness at the financial downfall of his former club Valencia.

The Spaniard won two Primera Division titles during his spell in charge at Estadio Mestalla but has slammed the handling of the club since his departure.

Valencia finished sixth this season but look set for a player exodus as the club battle against financial meltdown.

The expected big-money sales of star players David Villa and David Silva could help balance the books and Benitez believes their new president can turn things around.

"From my exit of Valencia the club have committed many errors and the new president Manuel Llorente is the correct person for the solution of the crisis," Benitez told Spanish newspaper Superdeporte.

"I have problems with Llorente but that is the past and now is forgotten.

"All clubs need to move with much intelligence in the market during this summer of crisis."

Benitez was sharp to dismiss links of a move for Silva and insists that although he would one day welcome a return to Valencia, he is currently very committed to his job at Liverpool.

"I do not speak about Silva for to avoid more confusion in these times of rumours," he said.

"In Liverpool I am happy because I am working with a group very committed in its objectives."

Liverpool finished runners-up in this season's campaign and although finishing the season trophyless, the club accumulated their highest ever Premier League points tally.

Benitez added: "Liverpool have developed in a very good season. We have used a different style in comparison with Man Utd or Chelsea.

"For me it is clear that today it is more difficult and complicated to win the Premier League than La Liga.

"The arrival of the millionaires to the Premier League changes the schemes. Manchester City and Portsmouth could generate many problems to the habitual title candidates."

Liverpool FC Are ‘Out Of My Mind’, Says Man City's Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry claimed last night he had no worries about swapping title-chasing Liverpool for mid-table Manchester City – and that he believes he can turn Mark Hughes’s side into title contenders.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez thought he had agreed a deal for Barry to join his Premier League runners-up from Aston Villa this summer.

But Barry produced a remarkable U-turn and completed a £12million switch to Eastlands instead.

He insists, however, he is not thinking about what might have been.

“It’s completely out of my mind, worrying about Liverpool and what could have been. That’s all in the past,” he said.

“This season it’s a different situation. Manchester City have had a bid accepted for me and they made me feel wanted.”

Barry believes he can turn City from mid-table inconsistents into a team capable of rivalling Liverpool for a title challenge next season.

He added: “You have seen the type of players Manchester City are able to attract, like Robinho.

“I think this club has got everything in place to achieve big things and challenge right at the top, to go from a mid-table team to a team challenging right at the top.”

Barry claimed it was the club’s ambition that persuaded him to move to Eastlands.

He added at a press conference yesterday: “The club put a price on me and Manchester City have come in and paid the money really early on.

“I spoke to the manager (Mark Hughes). I spent a bit of time thinking, spoke to friends and I am confident I have made the right decision.

“I felt very wanted here. The ambition was the main thing for me.”

Barry issued a letter to Villa fans through a local newspaper after the move explaining his decision to leave Villa Park.

He added: “People made out I was sort of apologising for it. I don’t feel a need to apologise for leaving Aston Villa. I just stated my reasons. I had spent 12 years at the club and wanted to state my reasons.”

Liverpool Target Gabriel Heinze Set For Real Madrid Exit

Long-term Liverpool target Gabriel Heinze is set to be one of the first casualties as Real Madrid seek to trim their squad.

The Spanish giants are preparing a cull of up to 10 players after kicking off their summer spending spree with the £56million purchase of Kaka and the impending £80m arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United.

Madrid see the Argentine as expendable, putting the Reds on alert as well as his former club Paris Saint-Germain.

The 31-year-old has a year left on the contract he signed when joining from Manchester United in 2007. Reports in France yesterday said his return to PSG is 'almost fact', but they would not be able to come close to his current £100,000 a week deal.

Reports in Spanish newspaper Sport say Anfield boss Rafa Benitez maintains an interest and is ready to pounce if the price is right.

Now It’s Savi For Xabi

Javier Saviola is the latest player Real Madrid are using as bait to land Xabi Alonso.

Free-spending Bernabeu supremo Florentino Perez is desperate to add the 27-year-old Liverpool midfielder to his all-star cast - despite Kop protests that the Spanish star is not for sale.

But with money no object - and Kop boss Rafa Benitez working on a restricted budget - Real hope throwing 27-year-old Saviola into the mix will tempt them to do a deal.

Benitez was linked with the Argentine striker in January and has admitted he will have to look at cut-price transfers in the wake of Liverpool's current financial plight.

Saviola is rated at around £5million but Real are keen to get him off their books.