Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Johnson Agrees To Liverpool Move

Portsmouth's England defender Glen Johnson has agreed to join Liverpool in a £17.5m move.

Chelsea and Manchester City were also interested but it is thought Anfield was his preferred destination.

Johnson had limited first-team chances at Chelsea in his spell there, but established himself in the England team after his move to Portsmouth in 2007.

It is understood Pompey still owe Liverpool £7m from the deal that saw them buy Peter Crouch last summer.

A Liverpool statement said: "We have reached an agreement with Portsmouth and Glen Johnson for the transfer of the player to Anfield."

Johnson will be Liverpool's first signing this summer and as the club are operating under financial restrictions, boss Rafael Benitez is likely to sell Andrea Dossena to help fund the deal.

Portsmouth paid £4m for 24-year-old right-back Johnson, who emerged as Benitez's prime target after having an outstanding season at Fratton Park last season.

Spanish defender Alvaro Arbeloa could also be sacrificed to raise cash towards the Johnson deal, with Real Madrid being linked with an £8m move.

Johnson signed a new four-year deal at Portsmouth in January, but club officials accepted they could not stand in his way if he was offered the opportunity to move to a club playing in the Champions League.

Liverpool Close To Bank Debt Deal

Liverpool Football Club - which owes two banks £350m - is close to renegotiating its debt with the Royal Bank of Scotland, the BBC has learnt.

RBS has told club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett the debt, due to be repaid in July, will be refinanced.

BBC business editor Robert Peston says RBS will insist on significant payments in the subsequent six months.

It comes as Portsmouth's defender Glen Johnson has agreed to join Liverpool in a £17.5m move.

Our business editor says the good news for Liverpool FC supporters is that the club is not about to go bust.

"I understand that Royal Bank of Scotland has told its two billionaire owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, that their £350m debt - which falls due for repayment on 24 July and is owed to Royal Bank and Wachovia of the US - will be refinanced.

"A new lending agreement will be put on place."

A spokesman for the US pair would not comment on the development.

The other bank owed money, Wachovia, has yet to make any announcement.

Latest accounts show Kop Holdings, the parent company of the Anfield club, lost £42.6m in the year to August 2008.

The RBS revelation comes days after Liverpool co-owner George Gillett agreed to sell one of his major assets in a deal which would ease financial pressures at the Premier League club.

He is selling his stake in the NHL's Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team, in a deal reported to be worth at least $550m (£332.9m).

His fellow Liverpool owner, Mr. Hicks, has also been looking to sell off elements of his own sporting empire - which includes Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars.

The sales will help provide financial guarantees for RBS and Wachovia about the funds Mr. Gillett and Mr. Hicks have available for the operation of the football business.

Liverpool FC's Fernando Torres Says 'Our Time Is Coming'

Fernando Torres has brushed off a fresh round of Liverpool exit rumours with George Gillett’s proposed sale of his ice hockey club Montreal Canadiens offering hope that the financial cloud over Anfield could be lifted.

Reports yesterday suggested that just a week after Torres was linked with a shock move to bitter North West rivals Manchester United, Chelsea are now planning to test Liverpool’s resolve over their Spanish striker with an audacious £50million 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 on Merseyside – 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 $550million (£330m).

Gillett put the Canadiens up for sale earlier this year as he looks to find funds to meet obligations on debt incurred as part of his takeover of Liverpool in partnership with Hicks.

The sale includes Gillett’s 80% stake in the team, the Bell Centre arena, and the Gillett Entertainment Group. Brewing moguls the Molsons, who sold the controlling interest in the team to Gillett for around $75m (£165m) in 2001, already own the remaining 20% share.

“This is a very exciting time for our family and we are grateful to the many people and organisations who came forward to offer their collaboration in the development of our proposal,” Geoff Molson said.

The sale must first be approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors, and will likely not be completed for several more weeks.

The NHL’s approval of the sale would, however, seemingly be only a matter of course.

While Hicks and Gillett have been seeking other investors for Liverpool, they have so far come back empty-handed, meaning funds from a sale of the Canadiens could be needed to help cover upcoming payments.

Hicks has also been seeking to sell off elements of his own sporting empire – which includes Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers and the NHL’s Dallas Stars.

Hicks’s situation is further complicated as the Hicks Sports Group in April defaulted on a £325m loan ($525m) relating to the Rangers and Stars.

Meanwhile, Liverpool coach Mauricio Pellegrino has failed to rule out the possibility of Javier Mascherano leaving Anfield.

“Every time negotiations are under way, money always makes the decision,” Pellegrino said.

“Anyway, Mascherano is such an important player for us, like other ones can be for Barca.

“I do not want to say anything about it because we already know that in football’s world, nothing is impossible.”

Liverpool Face Triple Wage Demands From Javier Mascherano

Liverpool’s expected signing of Glen Johnson is likely to increase the pressure from Javier Mascherano for a substantial wage increase as Barcelona hope to exploit the player’s unhappiness at Anfield.

Mascherano, despite his importance to Rafa Benitez’s side, currently remains one of the lowest paid first team players on Liverpool’s books on £25,000 a week and the player is demanding closer parity to other high earners at the club such as Fernando Torres, who is paid over three times that amount.

With Mascherano’s Argentina international team-mate Carlos Tevez poised to agree a deal with Manchester City that would see he earn around £120,00 a week, recent developments have only further entrenched Mascherano’s belief that he is undervalued at Anfield.

According to a report in the Mirror newspaper, Macherano is set to use Barcelona’s interest in him as leverage to strike a new deal.

Benitez is insistent that the player will not be sold and has slapped a prohibitive £50 million price tag on his head, a figure the Catalans have balked at.

However, the ongoing uncertainty over Mascherano’s standing at Liverpool has given the European champions encouragement that he may yet be available at a reduced fee.

The 25-year-old still has three years left on his current contract after his unhappy time at West Ham was ended when Benitez rescued him from the London club’s reserves.

Real Madrid In €45m Swoop For Liverpool Pair Alonso & Arbeloa

Just hours after Liverpool agreed a £17 million deal for Portsmouth full-back Glen Johnson, Real Madrid have tabled a €45m deal for in-demand Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso, The Daily Mail reports.

It is also claimed that the Johnson move will prompt Alvaro Arbeloa to move to the Santiago Bernabeu for €9.5m.

Real Madrid have not given up hope in their quest to land Alonso, even though they made an offer of €23m that was rejected last month.

The new president of Madrid, Florentino Perez, has been pressured by some fans to add some home-grown Spanish players to the new Galacticos regime.

Chelsea have also made enquiries but Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez did not want to sell Alonso to one of his Premier League rivals.

The Basque player, who began his career at Real Sociedad, has made it clear he has not been happy with Benitez, and a move back to Spain may suit both parties.

Benitez also has to fight to keep another midfielder, as Barcelona are still in the hunt for Javier Mascherano.

Reina Delighted By Ronaldo And Tevez Departures

Pepe Reina has joked its two down and 20 to go as Liverpool relish the sight of Manchester United losing both Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez already this summer!

Liverpool keeper Reina admits Anfield's stars are keeping a close eye on transfer speculation in the hope that United will be weakened for next year's title race.

The champions have already lost Ronaldo to Real Madrid in an £80m deal and now that Tevez is on his way, possibly to either Man City or Chelsea, Reina hopes he won't be the last!

"Two of them have gone but there are still 20 to go," he joked. "But we'll just carry on and worry about ourselves. It wasn't nice to lose the title last season but it was nicer than when you are 30 points away from the top teams.

"We fought until the end of the league and that's something to be proud of. Hopefully next season we'll be even closer."

Reina is currently playing for Spain in the Confederations Cup and has guided them to the semi-finals after being given a rare start ahead of Iker Casillas against South Arica in the final group game.

Victory in that match, which set a new world record of 15 wins in a row for Spain, has set up a last-four clash against the United States and the possibility of a glamour final against Brazil.

Reina said: "It's going well for us and I'm proud to be part of a team like this. The first target was to be first in the group and reach the semi-final but we don't want to stop here, we have to continue to the final.

"As for me you have to be ready to play whenever you are needed. I'm always ready for the games just in case something happens because - that's the job."

Reds Make Transfer Raid

Liverpool have made a foray into the transfer market but it is not the big name the fans are craving as Rafa Benitez has snapped up teenager Aaron King from Rushden & Diamonds.

The 16-year-old has risen through the ranks with Rushden but will now get the chance to take his game to the next level at Anfield.

King made a positive impression during a trial with Liverpool and has put his name to a two-year scholarship deal.

Rushden’s head of youth development Paul Driver feels the youngster is fully deserving of his chance on the big stage.

”We are all absolutely thrilled for Aaron - this is a brilliant achievement for everyone involved in his development throughout the five years that he has been with us,” Driver told the club’s official website.

“His progress with us to get to the level where one of the 'Big 4 clubs' is prepared to offer him a scholarship also serves as further evidence of how well we have maintained our system despite the withdrawal of financial support from the football authorities in the past two seasons."