Monday, June 22, 2009

Liverpool In Financial Boost As Co-Owner George Gillett Sells NHL Team

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has moved to strengthen his financial position ahead of the club’s refinancing deadline in July by agreeing a £330 million deal to sell Montreal Canadiens, his National Hockey League franchise.

Gillett and joint owner Tom Hicks are due to refinance their £350 million loan with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia on July 24, although the pair are expected to agree a deal to secure an extension to the deadline.

Earlier in June, Liverpool’s accountants, KPMG, warned of “significant doubt on the group’s and parent company’s [Kop Football Holdings Ltd] ability to continue as a going concern” without an extension to the £350 million loan.

The company formed by Gillett and Hicks suffered a loss of £42.6 million last year, largely on interest repayments, despite a record turnover of £164.2 million. The pair took out a loan of £350 million when they bought the club in 2007.

Both Gillett and Hicks have been actively attempting to sell their American sports franchises in recent months to raise funds to consolidate their position at Liverpool. While Gillett has struck a deal with brewing giants Molson for the Canadiens, Hicks continues to search for a buyer for his Texas Rangers baseball franchise.

The Canadiens deal has yet to be approved by the NHL’s board of governors, but although it could take up to six weeks for the sale to be ratified, it is not expected to be blocked.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said: “I think to the extent that they [Gillett] have been able to find people who are obviously passionate about the game and structure a transaction that makes sense for everybody, that’s a real plus for the franchise.”

Despite the sale of the Canadiens, uncertainty still surrounds the futures of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano. While reports of Chelsea preparing a move for Fernando Torres have been dismissed as a non-starter on Merseyside, Real Madrid are closing in on Alonso and Barcelona remain hopeful of signing Mascherano.

Fernando Torres: I Won't Leave Liverpool FC For Chelsea

Fernando Torres has laughed off rumours of a switch to Chelsea, insisting he wants to win trophies with Liverpool.

The news comes as the proposed sale of George Gillett’s ice hockey club Montreal Canadiens offers hope the financial cloud over Anfield can be lifted.

Reports yesterday suggested that just a week after Torres was linked with a shock move to North West rivals Manchester United, Chelsea are now planning to test Liverpool’s resolve over their Spanish striker with an audacious £50m bid.

The Londoners are also believed to have entered the race to try and prise compatriot Xabi Alonso away from Anfield but Torres has reiterated his desire to remain at Anfield – believing that Liverpool are on the verge of claiming major honours again.

He said: “In the past two years, United have been the strongest team in Europe and we had to fight against them.

“This year they have lost an important player, so maybe it is our time.

“When I signed for Liverpool the main thing was to win trophies for them.

“It has been frustrating for me because for a club like Liverpool to go two years without a trophy is too long. But I think its coming.”

In a summer in which an array of Liverpool stars have been subject to a series of transfer rumours, the Anfield outfit’s ability to hold on to its prize assets like Torres could now be boosted by co-owner Gillett’s proposed sale of the Montreal Canadiens to the Molson family.

The deal to sell the NHL’s most successful ever team is worth a reported $550m (£330m).

Liverpool Beat Real Madrid & Barcelona To Signature Of Suso

Liverpool have stolen a march on Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and secured the services of highly-rated Cadiz teenager Jesus Fernandez Saez, nicknamed Suso, according to Setanta Sports.

The broadcaster is reporting that Rafa Benitez's outfit have beaten the two La Liga sides to the 16-year-old's signature, with the midfielder signing a five year deal at the club.

Benitez has reportedly been monitoring the midfielder's progress for the last few months, and, with both Barca and Real apparently hovering with intent, he will be pleased to have snapped up another of his compatriots to further boost the strong Hispanic contingent on Merseyside.

Liverpool will pay a compensation fee to Cadiz, although no figure has been specified as yet. But it is anticipated that the Reds will pay much more than the amount officially required to take over the player's academy contract.

The signing should be confirmed by the club in the next few days.

Enter Glen Johnson - Now Liverpool Now Have The Best Right-Back In The Country

There have been critics, who shall remain fabulous and anonymous, of Rafa Benitez's transfer policy in recent seasons, but when he gets it right, few can pick them better.

A vast majority of neutrals consider Javier Mascherano to be among the leading defensive midfielders in the world, and you would struggle to find a better all-round No. 9 than Fernando Torres.

Robbie Keane may have ended up being a monumental way to waste £8 million (money spent factoring in the resale), and going as high as £17m for Gareth Barry seemed wholly unnecessary for a team that already had one of the best central midfield partnerships in the world, but Rafa now, by some method of madness, appears to have found his way again.

No one with £17m in their pocket would usually think that the best place to spend it would be on a right-back, never mind a right-back playing for Portsmouth, rejected by Chelsea and written off as nothing more than a failed prospect, but this time next summer, they might just be re-evaluating their principles.

For those who don't know, Glen Johnson appeared on Liverpool's website in what was a comical give-away of his having agreed to join the Reds. It would take a revolt of Robinho proportions or a teething problem in the mould of Aly Cissokho to put a stop to this deal now.

Portsmouth already accepted a bid from them, as well as one from Manchester City and another from Chelsea, but the full-back could not have made a better choice from the three.

Chelsea's mere interest, as the club that rejected him just two seasons ago, is more than curious. They only just filled their right-back slot for good last summer with the quality acquisition of Jose Bosingwa, and unless new Blues coach Carlo Ancelotti had planned to ship off the Portuguese elsewhere, quite how Glen Johnson figured into the equation at Stamford Bridge is unclear.

City offer one obvious incentive with not a lot else on top, when you consider they are competing with two of the highest ranked clubs in UEFA. Again, amongst the likes of the promising Micah Richards and new signing Pablo Zabaleta, there was no necessity for Johnson at Eastlands and nor would there have been any guarantee of success.

Still just 24, the defender has shot straight into his prime, further fine-tuning his initial promise going forward with more discipline in defence. Liverpool, while not ill-equipped with Alvaro Arbeloa at their disposal, were missing that little extra something, but not anymore.

Michael Carrick established two seasons ago the going rate for an England international signing for one Premier League club from another, and excessive though it is, Johnson is as good a guarantee as any to be, in relative terms, more than value for money.

For all Dirk Kuyt's virtues for Liverpool operating from right-wing, his talent is goal-poaching, and he can't help but look a little lost out wide when he has the ball and is under a degree of obligation to do something with it. Johnson, fresh from providing no fewer than four assists in his last England appearance and being arguably Portsmouth's most creative player all season from right-back, will go some way towards solving that problem.

The Reds have a spine to match any other in world football, but where they lack is not only in alternatives, but also quality flair players to fill the wide slots in Rafa's rigid 4-2-3-1 formation. Signing Johnson, assuming they can keep Arbeloa from fleeing back to Madrid, will give them both the strength and depth they require to match anyone.

It can only help the team to have more quality English talent to add to the mainstaying duo - club captain Steven Gerrard and his deputy, Jamie Carragher - who have been left holding the fort in the Reds' current best XI. Gareth Barry fell through - and probably for the best - but Gerrard in particular would no doubt be delighted to welcome another international team-mate to the fold and help shake Liverpool's tag of being something of a Spanish Armada.

In truth, Man United may have done well to snap up a third product of West Ham's youth system for their starting line-up, but look like settling with the rotation system between the injury-hit Wes Brown, the eternal stand-in John O'Shea and Rafael da Silva - another in a long line of flying Brazilian full-backs.

Here, Liverpool have made the move and spent the money where United did not, and they will be the ones to benefit immeasurably next season - a full-back may only be a full-back, but the best ones always find a way to make a difference. Bakary Sagna at Arsenal and Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa can claim superior proven pedigree, but it's Johnson who outshone them both last season, and he now has the perfect platform to cement himself as the best in the Premier League and of course, the best England has to offer.

Leto Set For Panathinaikos

Liverpool winger Sebastian Leto has revealed he is almost certain to move to Panathinaikos in the near future.

The 22-year-old is set to leave the Reds after it was discovered he would have little or no chance of gaining a work permit due to his lack of appearances on Merseyside.

The Argentine only joined the club in the summer of 2007 and spent the entire of last season on loan at Greek side Olympiakos.

The former Lanus youngster admits that he would have preferred to make his move to the Greek champions permanent but the offer never came.

"I am very close to Panathinaikos," he said. "There are negotiations between Panathinaikos and Liverpool and as far as I know the two sides are very close to a deal.

"I think that the possibilities to play at Panathinaikos next season right now are more than 90 per cent.

"I have been waiting for something from Olympiakos all these weeks but they didn't make a move to buy me so far.

"It's not a matter of money. I wanted to stay at Olympiakos but since they don't want to sign me I have to think about my future."

Barcelona To Offer €20M For Mascherano

Barcelona are to test Liverpool's resolve by making an opening offer of €20 million in an attempt to prise Javier Mascherano away from Merseyside, according to a report.

The Argentinian midfielder is rumoured to be a target for the Blaugrana this summer and, after talks with the player's representative, a plan has been hatched to try and persuade the Reds to sell.

Agent Walter Tamer was in the Catalan capital last week talking not only about what could be on offer at Camp Nou but also helping to formulate a way of brokering a transfer, Sport state.

Rafa Benitez has stated that he does not want to sell the influential Mascherano, but the feeling is growing that he is going to have to let one of his midfielder's go this summer.

Xabi Alonso is wanted by Real Madrid and possibly Juventus, after the Italians reignited their interest a year after they first showed an interest.

The pressure is on Liverpool is really starting to mount.

Benitez wants money to spend, and the sale of Mascherano to Barcelona could open up doors for him to have the pick of the European champions' fringe layers and youth teamers.

Sport believe that if Benitez is told he can use every penny of a transfer fee for Mascherano, then he will try to negotiate with Barca and could ask about Toure Yaya.

The Ivory Coast international has held talks about a new contract at the Catalan club, but the arrival of Mascherano would leave an over-crowded midfield and might tempt him to leave.

Alvaro Arbeloa's Agent In Talks With Real Madrid

Alvaro Arbeloa's agent has reportedly been at the Bernabeu this morning to hold talks about a possible move to Real Madrid.

The defender has been rumoured to be leaving Liverpool this summer and only has one year left on his deal with the English club.

Now Marca reports that Manuel Garcia Quilon, agent to both Arbeloa and Ruben de la Red, has been at the Bernabeu today possibly holding talks with the club.

One factor that seems to elude to a move away from Anfield for Arbeloa is the fact that Liverpool appear to be on the verge of signing another right-back in Glen Johnson.

Should the English defender arrive this summer then it is hard to see Arbeloa staying and playing mainly off the bench behind him.

Hence, a return to Madrid could be on the cards, and the player himself has not denied speculation linking him with a Bernabeu move, instead remaining coy on the subject.

Should he go back to Madrid it will be a return just four years after he left to join Deportivo La Coruna.

It was from there that he was signed by Liverpool, but now it looks as if his future at Anfield is in serious doubt.

Liverpool Appoint Christian Purslow As Managing Director

Liverpool co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have confirmed that Christian Purslow has been appointed as the club's new managing director.

Purslow will assume the role until a new chief executive is found to replace the outgoing Rick Parry. He is then expected to continue as a board director.

A statement on the club's official website reads, "As managing director, Purslow will represent the owners and oversee all financial and operational aspects of the Club, working with [manager] Rafa Benitez on player transfers and with the Club's Group Chief Financial Officer, Philip Nash and Commercial Director, Ian Ayre on Club and commercial management."

George Gillett remarked, "Tom and I felt that it was important to put a highly experienced and respected executive in place to run the club and support the senior team and the manager.

"There's a lot to get done over the summer to build on the great season we just had and Christian will be a valuable addition to the team."

Tom Hicks stated, "Christian has been a great supporter of the club for many years and he's already built up good relationships at Anfield.

"His strategic and commercial acumen will be a real asset and we're delighted that he has made a long term commitment to the club."