Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gerrard: Rafa Must Get It Right

Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool have to buy wisely this summer if they are to challenge Manchester United next season.

The Liverpool skipper admits The Reds are two or three players short of rivals United, who have more depth and quality in their squad.

Rafa Benitez has reportedly agreed a deal to take full back Glen Johnson to Anfield for £18 million, while The Reds have also been linked with big-money moves for Valencia’s David Silva and Carlos Tevez.

Benitez’s side finished second in the table last time around despite amassing their record Premier League points tally.

And Gerrard believes the Spaniard will need get it right in the close season in order to turn The Reds from challengers to champions.

“Today we are a lot closer to the title than in the past but the close season signings will be vital,” he told France Football.

“Manchester United have more depth in their squad than us, you have to admit it. But if we add the right two or three quality players to those we already have we will be at their level.”

“I am not proud of having won nothing this season. But I think the experience of the failure will help us next season. The team has made enormous progress. Now we have to step up again and the summer will be vital for that.”

Crocked Cesc Left Angry By Alonso

Cesc Fabregas looks set to miss Spain’s Confederations Cup clash with Iraq after Xabi Alonso injured him for the second time this season.

Alonso was the man who sidelined Fabregas for four months after the two Spaniards entered into a 50-50 challenge during the 1-1 Emirates Stadium draw earlier this season.

Now it appears the Liverpool man has nobbled his compatriot again, although Fabregas is believed to be a little more angered by the latest incident.

Spanish daily AS reports that Alonso damaged the left knee of Fabregas with a hard tackle, leaving the Arsenal man to limp from the field shaking his head.

It is not expected that Fabregas has sustained anything too serious, but he is expected to miss Wednesday’s clash with Iraq.

Meanwhile, Albert Riera was involved in a similar incident that left Santi Cazorla also requiring treatment in the Spanish camp.

Real Madrid Chief Concedes Defeat In Pursuit Of Liverpool FC's Xabi Alonso

Rafael Benitez has won his battle of wills with Real Madrid, after the Spanish giants admitted last night they have finally given up their long-running pursuit of Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Bernabeu president Florentino Perez is a long-time admirer of Liverpool's Spanish international and has openly declared his desire to add the playmaker to his latest squad of 'Galacticos.'

But it appears that Rafael Benitez's stubborn refusal to budge has won the day.

Real Madrid director of sport Jorge Valdano claimed last night there will be at least four new faces to follow Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo into the Bernabeu this summer, but that Alonso would not be one of them.

“It is always complicated to sign players, even though it may not seem like it by how fast we’ve signed Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo,” he told Radio Marca and Onda Cero.

“With regards to Xabi Alonso, Liverpool made an announcement on Sunday and it seems to me they don’t want to sell him, so it will be hard for him to end up playing here.

“I’ve always liked him, since my first time at Real Madrid. I did a massive effort to bring him here a few years back, we met with Real Sociedad but when I left the deal slipped into the background.

“Liverpool valued him at 18million Euros last year because he wasn’t an essential player. But he is now. They’ve given him more chances to play and he has responded magnificently.”

Lionel Messi Would Like To See Liverpool's Javier Mascherano At Barcelona

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has talked up the prospect of Liverpool's Javier Mascherano joining him at the Catalonia outfit this summer.

According to The Sun, la Blaugrana have been in contact with Mascherano's agent in the hope of engineering his move from Anfield to the Nou Camp.

Apparently, Barca’s head coach, Pep Guardiola, is a big fan of the combative midfielder and would like to see a deal in the region of €23.5 million (£20m) completed during the close-season.

Reds manager Rafael Benitez has moved to dismiss reports linking the former River Plate, Corinthians and West Ham United star with a transfer away from Merseyside.

However, the 25-year-old midfielder's team-mate at international level, Messi, would be happy to play alongside him at club level also.

"It will be beautiful if Barcelona signed Javier, as a player and as a friend," The Sun quote Messi as saying.

"Not only to have him on the pitch but also off it as well. He's a great player and would be a great signing."

While Liverpool would be extremely reluctant to see one of their top stars leave, it has been rumoured that Mascherano's family would like to move to Spain having failed to settle in England.

Barcelona Risk Rafa's Wrath With Move For Liverpool Keeper Rein

Barcelona are set to push Rafa Benitez's patience to the limit by launching a bid for Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

The European champions have already been met with resistance in a move for Anfield midfielder Javier Mascherano - but Lionel Messi has stepped up the pursuit by inviting his friend to the Nou Camp.

Benitez has insisted neither Mascherano nor Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso is for sale and now he faces a raid for is 26-year-old keeper.

Barcelona are moving for Reina after contract talks with Victor Valdes broke down yesterday. The treble winner has a year left on his contract and wants to be paid the same £150,000 a week that midfielder Xavi gets.

But the club and his agent Gines Carvajal suspended talks indefinitely with Barca not prepared to go above £100,000 a week.

The Catalans are working on a number of options but have identified Reina as the safe choice, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo. They believe he would cost at least £17million but could force a move if he declares a desire to return to Spain four years after leaving Villarreal.

Galatasary Looking To Swoop For Liverpool's Ryan Babel

Turkcell Super Lig giants Galatasaray are looking to pounce for Liverpool's Ryan Babel during the close-season, according to a report in the British tabloid The Daily Mail.

Apparently, newly appointed Cim Bom head coach Frank Rijkaard has identified the 22-year-old as a primary target this summer.

It is thought that the Istanbul-based outfit's board will sanction an €9.5 million (£8m) offer for the 33-time capped Netherlands forward, who can play on either wing or as a striker.

Although it is thought that the former Ajax star has become frustrated with his limited appearances in the starting XI, in May his agent moved to quash reports that he is looking to leave Anfield.

Furthermore, should Babel decide he does need to move on from Merseyside to further his career, it is claimed he would much prefer a switch to either Italy or Spain than Turkey.

Since joining Liverpool for around €13.5m (£11.5m) in 2007, the 6ft star has scored 14 goals in 91 appearances, 49 of them as a substitute.

David Villa Will Only Move To Premier League For Liverpool

Valencia's David Villa has ruled out a move to the Premier League during the close-season unless it is to play for Liverpool, according to a report in the British tabloid The Sun.

Apparently, the 27-year-old has informed close friends that he would only consider swapping Spain for England if he were to link up with fellow countrymen Rafa Benitez and Fernando Torres.

The news, if true, has seemingly ruled out the possibility of seeing the Spain international, who has scored 29 goals in 45 caps for La Furia Roja, plying his trade in the Premier League.

While Chelsea and Manchester United are said to be interested in acquring his services, it appears he would not be interested in a switch to either club.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are not thought to be able to compete financially with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid for the 5ft 9in striker.

Rafa Targets Wing Raiders Blaszczykowski & Pranjic To Lead Liverpool Title Charge

Rafa Benitez may not have the funds of his main title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United but he is reported to be targeting a number of cut-price imports to boost an already impressive squad. The first arrivals are thought to be currently plying their trade in both Germany and Holland.

Jakub Blaszczykowski: The Powerful Pole

Reports in both Poland and Germany suggest Liverpool are set to launch a fresh £7m bid for Borussia Dortmund winger Jakub Blaszczykowski this summer after the star has made an impressive return to fitness following a long injury lay-off. He has been on Rafa Benitez’s radar for a while but after an impressive end to the Bundesliga season, Liverpool look set to finally get their man.

Though the 23-year-old Polish international is relatively unknown of in this country, he is highly-rated in Europe and would finally add balance and competition to the right-side of midfield without sacrificing the team’s work ethic.

Blaszczykowski is an attacking right winger and would finally provide expertise in that position to a Reds side that has been using Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt in that role to good effect. The Pole would provide both the width and guile that the team has been crying out for to end Manchester United’s recent domination.

The Polish international begun his career with Wisla Krakow in his homeland. He made a total of 51 League appearances over 3 seasons and scored 4 goals before a 3 million Euro move to Germany.

In his first season in the Bundesliga, Blaszczykowski impressed playing the majority of the time on the right wing where his pace and dribbling ability could be used to maximum affect. However, he has also been used as a wing-back on occasions so his versatility would certainly appeal to Benitez.

The 5 ft 9 winger made 24 League appearances (22 starts) in his debut season for Borussia as the club finished a disappointing 13th. However, last season Blaszczykowski only played in 24 league games (20 starts) after being sidelined through injury. His impact on the side cannot be underestimated. After all, since his return to the team, Borussia were beaten just once (by the eventual champions Wolfsburg) in 10 league matches home and away including 8 wins.

The 23-year-old has made 21 appearances for his country and scored twice. He was unfortunate not to play a part at Euro 2008 as he had to withdraw through to injury despite being named in the squad. In fact, the winger was a key component to Poland’s excellent qualification campaign as was sorely missed in the finals.

If he does sign for Liverpool then their fans won’t have to worry about getting his long name on the back of their replica shirts as he usually prefers ‘Kuba’ as a shortened version of his Christian name. If Benitez can bring in this quick, talented winger then Liverpool will be even stronger in terms of balance and personnel for next season’s campaign. At £7m the Pole would also be relatively cheap with Ryan Babel, Andrey Voronin, Andrea Dossena and Jermaine Pennant all expected to be sold to raise funds.

Reports in the Dutch and Croatian press are continuing to gather pace regarding a move to Liverpool for Danijel Pranjic this summer. It was thought that the star would be joining Bayern Munich after the German club announced he was signing earlier this month. However, Heerenveen director Ume Kuiper has admitted the clubs are some way apart on the fee which may allow Liverpool to make a late move.

Kuiper told the club’s website, “There still is a big gap that we need to close. We grant Pranjic this transfer, but there is a price tag that needs to be paid.

“This kind of thing always take a while. We don’t know how this will end.”

Danijel Pranjic: The Flying Croat

The Heerenveen star had spoken out regarding the increased speculation and his comments suggest he would welcome a move to Anfield.

The Croat told Omroep Friesland when questioned about Liverpool interest, “I still don’t know, that is a difficult question to answer.”

“I have to wait until the transfer period and then I will see.

“In every newspaper they called me and I was live on television and they heard something about Liverpool but I cannot say anything about it.

“It was in the newspaper that is all I know. Yes of course [it would be a dream club].”

The 27-year-old has been plying his trade with Dutch outfit Heerenveen in the Eredivisie where he has been playing for the past 4 seasons. He is able to perform any left-sided role and enjoyed a superb campaign in Holland last season after scoring an impressive 16 goals in 30 League appearances which suggests he is at the top of his game at the moment. His overall League record for the club reads 32 goals in 129 (all starts) games and he’d be reportedly available at a bargain figure of around £5M.

He played every minute of all 4 Euro 2008 games for Croatia playing a part in 2 goals. Pranjic has played 22 times for his country and would be a useful signing for Liverpool as he would not only provide competition for Albert Riera on the left wing but also for Fabio Aurelio at left-back. Croatians have shown they are suited to Premier League football so if Liverpool make a late move, expect Pranjic to follow the likes of Asanovic, Suker, Stimac, Bilic, Eduardo Silva, Kranjcar and Modric to England this summer.