Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Benitez Faces Fight For Alonso

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez still faces a fight to keep hold of midfielder Xabi Alonso, with Real Madrid apparently reluctant to take no for an answer.

The Reds boss has insisted he does not want to sell the Spain international - but with reports of a potential £30m offer looming, he may have to reconsider.

Benitez has admitted he has the finance available for one more transfer until he can free up some more money by selling on players.

Alonso would not be on the manager's list of potential departures, because his partnership with Javier Mascherano - a transfer target for Barcelona - is integral to the way the team plays.

But 27-year-old Alonso is one of Liverpool's most saleable assets and Benitez must weigh up what difference the cash from any deal with Madrid would make to his squad - who ran Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United very close last season.

"We have a plan. We can sign one more player if necessary, but that's without any players leaving," said the Liverpool boss.

Benitez hopes to generate funds with the sales of Sebastien Leto and Andriy Voronin - both loaned out last season - left-back Andrea Dossena, who could return to Italy after just one season at Anfield, and possibly Alvaro Arbeloa.

Arbeloa's position has come under threat from the £17m arrival of England right-back Glen Johnson from Portsmouth, with the deal expected to be formally completed in the next couple of days.

Benitez would be happy for the Spain defender to stay. But with Real's general manager Jorge Valdano expressing an interest, the quietly consistent defender may be offloaded.

"Alvaro Arbeloa has had a very good season but he has one year left on his contract," Benitez told the Liverpool Echo.

"If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition, but if we get a good offer we will have to consider it."

Valdano seems confident of being able to sign Arbeloa, telling Spanish newspaper AS: "The lad only has a year left on his contract with Liverpool, and this gives us more possibilities.

"He can play in two or three positions, and this versatility is good. He is another option to evaluate."

Mascherano has seemingly tried to play down speculation of his unhappiness at not having parity with some of the club's top earners - by speaking of his admiration for Benitez.

"(He is) excellent. He's a perfectionist, working down to the smallest detail that you can imagine," said the Argentina captain, whom Benitez has valued at £50million in an attempt to ward off European champions Barcelona.

"Fortunately he has renewed his contract, meaning his ties to the club continue - and this will give more calm to everybody.

"I feel comfortable at Liverpool, but it's always good to know that teams like Barca and Madrid are interested in you."

It seems Liverpool's new managing director Christian Purslow's first major job will be to help finalise the refinancing of the £350m loan taken out to buy the club by American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Purslow, appointed only on Monday, has a background in finance and private equity - and reports yesterday suggested negotiations with the RBS, one of two banks involved, are at an advanced stage.

The American duo have until July 24 to agree a new deal - although it is expected they will be asked to provide additional security under new, more stringent, terms.

Fernando Torres Has No Fears Of Burn-Out Despite Confederations Cup Success

Fernando Torres has reassured Liverpool fans he has no fears about suffering burn- out next season – despite a grueling summer schedule which will see him take just a three week break from football in almost 12 months.

Spain are through to the semi- finals of the Confederations Cup and play USA tomorrow, seeking a record-breaking 36th unbeaten game in international football.

If successful, Spain would play in the final this weekend, just days before Liverpool restart pre-season training.

Torres and other players involved on international duty like Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, Javier Mascherano and Andrea Dossena will be given an extended break, but will still be expected to return in time for Liverpool's high profile tour of Thailand which kicks off on July 22.

Both Pepe Reina and Albert Riera picked up minor knocks in Spain's final group game against South Africa on Sunday. Riera was given a precautionary X-ray on Monday morning but was immediately cleared by the doctors and allowed to resume training.

But Torres, who has started all three group games, said: "We will return for the new season with plenty of energy. It is going to be an exciting season for Liverpool and also for Spain, as there is a World Cup at the end.

"After our holidays are over, we have to join up with the team for Liverpool's Asian tour.

"We can't wait for the tournament to end so that we can go on holiday, with the Cup, so as to get some rest."

Victory tonight could set up a dream final of Spain versus Brazil. Torres added: "It's not the same playing against Brazil as it is playing against any other team. They are currently playing well, scoring goals; they have great players and this may well help give the tournament the importance it deserves.

"A Spain-Brazil final would be a match the whole world would like to see and a match that everyone would want to play in. I'm sure it would be a game full of good football."

Torres admitted he has been overwhelmed by the level of support he has encountered for both Spain and Liverpool in South Africa.

"Since arriving, I have seen a lot of people with Liverpool banners and wearing Liverpool shirts with my name on the back," said the 25-year-old, who with three goals is the tournament's joint top scorer alongside strike partner David Villa.

"To tell the truth, it came as a surprise because I didn't expect this so far from Spain and England. I have not grown tired of signing autographs as it's a delight to have so many fans so far from my own country. It's surprising to see how people with just the minimum resources available have more drive and enthusiasm than anyone. The children, for example, come up to you wearing a smile from ear to ear."

Why I Had To Splash Out On Glen Johnson - Liverpool FC Boss Rafa Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez admitted today that his £17m capture of Glen Johnson was more than he wanted to spend on a full-back.

But he also revealed that the huge outlay does not signal the end of his summer spending.

With Chelsea also willing to pay Portsmouth’s asking price for the England defender, Benitez admitted: “Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more.

“You can’t compete in the top four of the Premier League unless you spend some money.

“We were looking for a player of quality and also somebody who is British because of the new Champions League rules.

“Glen Johnson fits both categories.”

The player has agreed a deal with the Reds and is expected to formally put pen to paper in the next 48 hours.

And he may not be the last new face at Anfield this summer.

“We have a plan,” added Benitez. “We can sign one more player if necessary, but that’s without any players leaving.”

Benitez is bracing himself for a bid from Real Madrid for Alvaro Arbeloa. but he is also concerned by the increasing speculation surrounding midfielders Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.

The Reds boss has made it clear that he would not welcome bids for either player, but while Real have publicly stated their interest in Alonso has ended, Barcelona are refusing to give up on Mascherano despite Benitez’s very firm hands-off warning.

First to leave, however, could be Arbeloa.

“Alvaro Arbeloa has had a very good season but he has one year left on his contract,” said the Reds boss. “If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition, but if we get a good offer we will have to consider it.”

Benitez is also hoping that on-loan players Sebastien Leto and Andriy Voronin could bring in more transfer funds, while a return to Italy for Andrea Dossena is also on the cards.

The Reds also completed the signing of two junior players yesterday.

Spanish press reported the signing of 15-year-old Jesus Joaquin Fernandez from Cadiz.

The Reds are said to have beaten off competition from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal for the midfielder’s services.

Liverpool have also sealed the signing of teenage striker Aaron King from Rushden and Diamonds.

King, 16, impressed during a recent trial period at Anfield and has now signed a two-year scholarship agreement.

“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,” Rushden’s head of youth development Paul Driver said.

Liverpool Star Lifts Lid On Benitez Management Style

Javier Mascherano, who this morning linked with a move to Real Madrid and Barcelona, has spoken about Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez and his incredible work ethic.

The Argentina national captain, himself something of a industrious worker on the football pitch, told Spanish publication Don Balon: “He is a perfectionist - he works harder than anyone could imagine.”

“Luckily, he has renewed his contract, which has helped to relax us all.”

Despite today suggesting he was happy to be linked with a move to Barcelona and Real Madrid, the former West Ham player suggested he shared an excellent relationship with Benitez.

Mascherano continued: “It is excellent (relationship between player and coach).”

Reports this morning suggested Mascherano was unhappy at Anfield and was seeking pay parity with some of the club’s top earners. Although he was obviously delighted with the alleged interest from La Liga, the midfielder suggested he remained happy at Anfield.

“I feel happy at Liverpool, but it’s good for me to have these two teams interested in me.”

Christian Poulsen: £4M Great Dane Ideal To Replace Mascherano At Liverpool

Javier Mascherano’s future at Liverpool remains in the balance despite the club’s declarations he is staying. However, the player continues to invite attention from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. The Argentine star is reportedly unhappy with his current wages and his family has struggled to settle on Merseyside. If Rafa Benitez was to cash in on the £30m rated defensive midfielder an extremely cheap alternative is readily available, that player would be the Danish hardman Christian Poulsen up for grabs for just £4m.

The Juventus midfielder has suffered from a poor first season in Serie A where he has failed to establish himself as a fixture in the first eleven and the club are trying to offload him with German outfit Hamburg and Turkish side Fenerbahce showing a strong interest.
In January he was strongly linked to a loan move to Fratton Park but the player himself rejected any move. He said, “As far as I understand, there has been interest from several clubs, but it is nothing I have considered,” Poulsen told

“I signed a four-year contract and I am happy to be at the club. I have no plans to run away after six months.

“I have the patience and confidence that I will get enough playing time at the club.”

However, the 29-year-old Dane may not have a choice this summer as he has not enjoyed the best of times since joining the Turin giants in the summer amidst protests from the clubs fans. He is also one of the club’s high earners so new Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara may want to offload the midfield man to lower the wage bill.

There’s no doubting the Danish international’s pedigree after an impressive career which has now spanned four countries. However, Poulsen only made 23 league appearances this season (14 starts) and has not had the impact he was hoping for in Serie A.

Poulsen faced a difficult start to his Juventus career after his own fans displayed a banner that branded the midfielder ‘rubbish’ at the club’s pre-season training camp in Pinzolo. Much of this ill-feeling towards the Dane is due not only to his high wages which are only surpassed by Buffon, Del Piero, Trezeguet, Amauri and Nedved but also due to past incidents with Italian players and clubs.

Poulsen was involved in an incident with Roma’s Francesco Totti at the 2004 European Championships which ultimately led to the Italian receiving a 3-match ban after being caught on camera spitting at the Dane. Totti gave a full public apology but still claimed that Poulsen had provoked him. There was also an incident with AC Milan in the 2005/06 Champions League whilst the Dane was a Schalke player. Poulsen was heavily criticised by Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti who branded him a ‘coward’ for his rough marking of Kaka in the first match between the two teams. In the second game Poulsen was once again involved in controversy after Gennaro Gattusso goaded him at the final whistle as Milan won 3-2.

These are not the only incidents in the Juventus midfielder’s career which includes stamping on Spurs midfielder Jermain Jenas’ head whilst with Sevilla and punching Sweden’s Marcus Rosenberg in the stomach in a Euro 2008 qualifying match. The Dane was subsequently red carded and a penalty awarded which led to a supporter running onto the pitch and attacking the referee who subsequently abandoned the game. The match was thus awarded as a 3-0 win for Sweden.

So Poulsen may come with a reputation which is backed up by the number of cards he has received in his career. In 111 League appearances in the Bundesliga, the Dane hardman received 34 yellow cards and 4 reds. In Spain he also received 18 yellow cards in just 62 League appearances.

Despite his poor discipline at times, the Danish star is also a winner. He’s won the Danish title, the German League Cup, the European Super Cup, the Uefa Cup and the Copa Del Rey. He has also been crowned Danish Player of the Year twice in 2005 and 2006.

Poulsen has made 63 appearances for Denmark (5 goals) and played in the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. His aggressive style makes him a perfect candidate for replacing Mascherano at Anfield. The Danish international will have a point to prove after such a poor season and at such a low price-tag would surely be one of the bargains of the summer.

Liverpool Keeper Charles Itandje Linked With Malaga

Malaga have reportedly made contact with Liverpool regarding making a move for misfit goalkeeper Charles Itandje, a man whom many Reds fans felt had disgraced himself by his somewhat inattentive and light-hearted behaviour at the sombre Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield in the spring.

With Pepe Reina and Diego Cavalieri above him in the pecking order, the Frenchman, who has been with the Reds since 2007, has found it all but impossible to force his way into Rafa Benitez's first team.

Malaga are keen to find cover for first choice glovesman Francesco Arnau, according to Sky Sports, with Inaki Goitia recently departing for Real Betis. They had been considering moving for Real Madrid's Jordi Codina, but suspect Itandje may be easier to snare.

Scouts from the Spanish club were apparently sent to England to monitor the player in recent months, and a bid can be expected shortly.

Liverpool May Listen To Offers For Alvaro Arbeloa

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has admitted the club may have to listen to offers for Alvaro Arbeloa.

The Merseysiders have reached an agreement to sign Glen Johnson from Portsmouth, who would bring direct competition for Arbeloa's position.

But Benitez is still keen to keep the Spanish international, though conceded the club would have to entertain the prospect of selling the player, with Real Madrid rumoured to be interested.

“Alvaro Arbeloa has had a very good season but he has one year left on his contract,” Benitez told The Liverpool Echo.

“If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition, but if we get a good offer we will have to consider it."

Benitez also stated the reasons for signing Johnson, despite having to pay more than he perhaps would have liked for the England star.

He continued, “Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more.

“You can’t compete in the top four of the Premier League unless you spend some money.

“We were looking for a player of quality and also somebody who is British because of the new Champions League rules. Glen Johnson fits both categories."

Liverpool Eye £8.5m Dynamo Moscow Defender Fernandez

Liverpool are interested in Dynamo Moscow defender Leandro Fernandez.

The Reds and Lazio have both held preliminary talks with Dynamo, according to reports in Russia, but they are reluctant to let the Argentine leave for less than £8.5million.

The 26-year-old has only been on the fringes of the national team but would not need a work permit because he holds an Italian passport.

The solid defender has been a favourite at Dynamo since joining from River Plate in 2006 and was named the club's player of the year in his first season in the Russian Premier League.