Saturday, June 27, 2009

OFFICIAL: Glen Johnson Joins Liverpool From Portsmouth

Liverpool have confirmed that Glen Johnson has joined them today from Portsmouth, in a deal reportedly worth £18.5 million, though there has apparently been some negotiation around the fee due to Pompey still owing the Merseysiders money from the deal that took Peter Crouch to the South Coast.

Johnson has signed a four-year deal at Anfield.

Reds manager Rafa Benitez was clearly pleased with the signing, telling the club's official website, "He was important at Chelsea and in the last year at Portsmouth he has improved and is much better. One of the main things is his mentality - it's really good. He is a winner. I was impressed with the conversations I had with him. He wants to improve."

As for the reasons he was brought to Anfield, Benitez chose to highlight not only the player's obvious quality, but also the fact the he is English, which is important with new rules concerning foreign players on the immediate horizon.

"We were thinking about bringing in players with quality - that's the first thing," he added.

"He is also English and that is important for the Champions League list. We were thinking about improving the team and Johnson is a very good player who will do that.

"We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy. Manchester City and Chelsea were there - they were making offers.

"We had to be quick and the club acted quickly. It was down to the player whether he chose us or City or Chelsea and he chose us. It was very clear from talking to him that he wanted to play for Liverpool."

The manager also did not rule out further acquisitions for the Mersey men, though he took a typically cautious line when he explained, "We are working and trying to bring new players in but we are happy with the squad we have at the moment.

"We were thinking about improving and with Johnson we have improved. Like I have already said, we could buy one more player without selling anyone. We now have to wait.

Why Glen Johnson Can Pay Liverpool FC's Transfer Cash Right Back

It was almost as if Rafa Benitez had been there before. In the ECHO this week, the Liverpool manager felt compelled to explain the reasons for the £17million he shelled out to bring in a right-back.

”Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more,” admitted the Liverpool boss following his capture of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth, confirmed last night when the 24-year-old signed a four-year deal.

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

Spoken with the calm assurance and matter-of-fact reasoning of someone completely at ease with smashing the club record fee for a defender.

As the Spaniard should be by now, of course. He currently has four players on his books who, at the time of purchase, were the costliest defenders in Anfield history.

The one thing that sets Johnson apart from Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Andrea Dossena, however, is the amount he beat the previous record by.

With the best part of £10million being added on to the former highest price, that was paid to Udinese for Italian left-back Dossena last summer, the pressure on both Johnson and Benitez has been raised a fair few notches.

And yet that situation is nothing new in L4 history.

It was 15 years ago that Roy Evans not only broke the club transfer record – as well as the bank – on defenders twice in the space of two days, he almost beat the British mark too.

John Scales came from Wimbledon for £3.5million followed swiftly by Phil Babb from Coventry for £100,000 more.

It was only weeks earlier that the British record was set at £4million by Chris Sutton’s move from Blackburn to Norwich CIty, while Babb’s fee was the same amount his Irish team-mate Roy Keane had gone for a year earlier when moving form Nottingham Forest to Manchester United.

And Evans had deemed both his new centre-backs to be more expensive than Alan Shearer, whose market value at that time might have been rising rapidly, but only cost £3.3m when he left Southampton for Blackburn in 1992.

Evans’s gamble didn’t pay off and one League Cup was all he had to show for his four years in charge, in which he failed to re-establish Liverpool’s domestic dominance.

But there are examples which should give Johnson considerably more heart.

Not least Mark Lawrenson. In the days when £1million fees were still big news, eyebrows were raised when £900,000 was forked out to Brighton for the centre-back in 1981.

However, he made a seamless transition into the Liverpool success story – because the pressure of being the club’s record signing never registered with him.

“What Glen Johnson needs to do is be himself, not think of himself as the £17million man,” said Johnson.

“Nobody goes on about Fernando Torres’s transfer fee now do they? He’s just Torres, world class striker, not Torres record signing.

“It’s a lot of money for a defender but the thing is, he’s not just a defender. When I signed, Bob Paisley told everyone I could play in a few different positions and that made it look like a wiser investment.

“That took the pressure off me straight away and I think Benitez could do the same with Johnson.

“He’s not just a right-back, he can attack and go forward as well. In fact, a full-back in the modern game is one of the most versatile and valuable roles anyway.

“They have as much of the ball as anyone else these days and being on the ball is where Johnson is at his most comfortable so he should be okay. So I don’t think the £17m Liverpool have spent should be seen as particularly extravagant.”

Lawrenson also believes the nature of the market could help to explain why Johnson has lined the Pompey pockets so heavily.

This is the summer of £80million world record transfer fees, just as the buys of Scales and Babb came hot on the heels of the cash-happy Premier League revolution.

Back in 1979, the British transfer record doubled from £500,000 to £1million in the space of a month when Trevor Francis joined Nottingham Forest – and that inflated climate also helped to make Lawrenson’s price tag more justifiable. There were a few million pound playrs about when I joined Liverpool,” he added. “Trevor Francis was the first but there was Steve Daly and Andy Gray just after that so by that time anything under £1m wasn’t big news.

In fact, the media I did at the time, I wasn’t really asked about the transfer fee.

“I can’t see that happening to Johnson, the way things are hyped these days, I’m sure a big thing will be made of the price tag when he gets round to doing interviews.

“But it’s not his fault, it’s just circumstances. This is a lad who is England’s first choice right-back and players like that – well, you just can’t pinch them anymore.”

Glen Johnson came through the ranks at West Ham’s academy.

After a loan spell at London neighbours Millwall, the promising full-back broke into the Hammers first team.

Johnson made just 16 appearances before moving to Chelsea in 2003 for £6m, becoming the first major signing of the Roman Abramovich era.

In November 2003, he made his international debut against Denmark.

The Londoner enjoyed a good first season at Stamford Bridge but fell out of favour when Jose Mourinho took charge, losing his place to Paulo Ferreira.

In 2006, Harry Redknapp, who had worked with Johnson since he was 15, took him on an initial year’s loan at Portsmouth before securing a permanaent £4m deal.

Johnson recaptured his form that he showed in his early days at West Ham and was a key member of Pompey’s FA Cup winning side. However, his medal was stolen from his wash bag in the team’s hotel.

Johnson’s performances did not go unnoticed and he was rewarded with a recall to the England squad in January last year.

The 24-year-old has 13 caps under his belt and has been an ever present in Capello’s squads.

Johnson runs a soccer school in his hometown of Dartford, Kent, to help keep children out of trouble.

Although not renowned for his goalscoring ability Johnson came runner-up in Match of the Day’s goal of the season award, behind Fernando Torres.

Benitez Reveals Arbeloa Isterest

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has revealed that there are "two or three" clubs showing an interest in Alvaro Arbeloa.

The defender is facing an uncertain future following the arrival of England right-back Glen Johnson on a four-year deal from Portsmouth.

Benitez is keen for Arbeloa to stay at Anfield but admits that, with the Spain international having only 12 months remaining on his contract, he could listen to offers.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with bringing the 26-year-old back to the Bernabeu, where he was a member of the squad between 2004 and 2005.

And Benitez claims clubs have made enquiries, telling Liverpool's official website: "Arbeloa was a good player for us last year.

"The thing is, he has one year left on his contract. We have offered him an extension and we're talking.

"He is our player but if there is a good offer we have to consider it. We have two or three clubs asking about him.

"He would like to stay but he knows the competition will be hard."

Child's Play Turns Serious For Aurelio

Fabio Aurelio looks set to miss the start of the season for Liverpool after damaging his knee playing football with his children.

Brazilian left-back Aurelio, 29, is now facing the prospect of surgery and several months on the sidelines in a move that could impact upon the future of Andrea Dossena.

Aurelio’s spell at Anfield has been scarred by a succession of injury problems.

Defender Aurelio, who is entering the final year of his contract, is understood to have twisted a knee playing with son, Fabio junior, and daughter Victoria.

The latest setback is a blow for manager Rafa Benitez who must now evaluate whether he can afford to lose Dossena, who has been courted by Juventus.

Italy international Dossena and Argentinian Emiliano Insua are the only other recognised left-backs at Anfield.

Xabi Alonso Appears Ready To Leave Liverpool

Liverpool placed a £35 million valuation on Xabi Alonso last night after the Spain midfield player said his goodbyes to some members of the club's staff. However, Real Madrid, with whom the player has been linked, have not yet made an official offer.

Alonso's relationship with Rafael Benítez has been troubled since the Liverpool manager began his pursuit of Gareth Barry last year. Although Benítez wants to keep the 27-year-old, there is a growing acceptance at Anfield that the player is likely to move to Real.

Benítez has justified paying up to £18.5 million to Portsmouth for Glen Johnson, who has joined on a four-year contract, because the right back was English. The manager has offered a new contract to Álvaro Arbeloa, who has one year left on his deal, but is also wanted by Real.

“We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy,” Benítez said. “We could buy one more player without selling anyone.”

Liverpool FC's Martin Skrtel Gets Back To Work In The Gym

Martin Skrtel is seemingly raring to go and can’t wait for the new Premier League campaign, according to his official website.

The Reds defender has already started his pre-season back home in Slovakia, training twice a day before his planned return to Liverpool on July 4.

On his own personal site, the solid centre half reveals he’s already fighting off any unwanted holiday flab.

The latest blog on the site,, reads:

‘While he has spent a few weeks doing nothing back home, now it is time to get ready for the upcoming season. “I was just coming from gym when you called me,” he said with a smile.

He keeps training twice a day these days and he is certainly not very happy about it:

“Oh yes. It was so pleasant to spend a few days just doing nothing. Now I go to gym in the mornings and it takes some time to get used to it. But don’t worry I’ll be fine,” he laughs again.’

The site editor goes on to ask: ‘How about a certain Glen Johnson? How does it feel to lose your crown as the most expensive LFC defender of all time? (He is also trying to forget about the £7m we paid for Dossena)

“Well, to be honest I don’t mind,” says Skrtel.

“He is a very good player and he will definitely be a success.”

There are certain things in life you know are just wrong; supporting Man United, eating things off the floor and sleeping with your best mate’s missus to name just a few.

Another obvious one is rattling the cage of a real life gangster, unless, of course, it seems if you’re a Bulgarian shot-stopper.

Liverpool youth keeper Nikolay Mihaylov is reportedly under armed guard in his home country following a row with a Mafia godfather over a model.

The 20-year-old has yet to make a first-team appearance for the Reds, spending last season on loan at Dutch side FC Twente – managed by former England boss Steve McClaren, but is believed to be under protection by minders following an acid attack on his £170,000 Ferrari.

Reports in Bulgaria claim a row had broken out between ŠMihaylov and local mob godfather Georgi Stoilov after the latter began dating the keeper's ex-girlfriend, model Nikoleta Lozanova.

Mihaylov is thought to have joked that if his new partner was a Ferrari, Nikoleta must be a broken down Trabant.

However, the jibe appears to have back-fired badly, with the Anfield prospect’s sports car being targeted and forcing Mihaylov into hiding.

The former Levski Sofia player, who has been capped once for his country, could be in line to become Liverpool's No 2 next season behind Pepe Reina, with the futures of Charles Itandje and Diego Cavalieri currently uncertain.

That is if he makes it back in one piece!

Andrea Dossena And Andriy Voronin Want To Stay At Liverpool FC

Rafa Benitez’s summer transfer plans could be frustrated by players keen to kickstart their stalled Anfield careers.

The Reds boss was hoping to generate funds in the close season by offloading fringe players like Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena.

But after yesterday’s announcement by Voronin that he intends to return to “conquer the Premier League, Dossena’s agent has now claimed his client is happy to stay and fight for his place.

The defender was widely expected to return to Serie A, with Juventus his most likely suitors.

But agent Roberto La Florio said: “I have not met (Juventus sporting director) Alessio Secco and I don’t have an appointment set up with him in the near future.

“At this time I don’t know if Dossena will join Juventus.

“In any case the lad (Dossena) is also happy at Liverpool.”

Dossena has had a mixed start to his Liverpool career, starting six of the first eight matches of the season, but then finding his senior appearances less frequent, although he hit back to score goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Next season he could find himself competing for a starting place with impressive Argentinian youngster Emiliano Insua and Brazilian star Fabio Aurelio.

Liverpool FC's Istanbul Miracle Set To Hit The Stage

I may not remember many birthdays, anniversaries or even what I did last Thursday for that matter, but one date I will never forget is May 25.

Like most Reds that’s hands down the best day of the year, the anniversary of the greatest day of my life.

For the past four years I’ve celebrated in the same fashion; half a dozen bottles of Efes beer and the DVD of our night in Istanbul.

Even now recalling those couple of days makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I forced myself to wait an entire year before watching the game again after 2005 and now it’s an annual treat that I look forward to in the closing weeks of the season.

“So what if the title has gone and we’re not going to be in Rome again, I’ve got a date with a kebab and my Champions of Europe DVD,” that kind of thing.

However, I am hoping to break from tradition next month (if I can get a ticket) and join thousands of other Reds with a pilgrimage to the Empire Theatre.

Big Red Nicky Allt’s new play is a celebration of all things Istanbul and hits the stage for a practically sold-out nine-day run from July 9.

“It is hard graft at the minute mate,” Nicky said when I called him for a taster yesterday.

“It feels great though. I can’t wait to see what Reds fans think.”

Based around the greatest final in football history, the tale is centred around two lads and dads and the rest of the travelling Kop hoping to bring Old Big Ears home for good.

Throw in a big bag of money, a sexy chambermaid and Hitler’s cufflinks and, as we’ve come to expect from the writer – who along with Dave Kirkby brought us Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels, it’s got all the hallmarks of another Scouse comedy classic.

I’ve also heard unconfirmed whispers the play even features never before seen footage of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez which makes it unmissable for all Reds.

The full details of the script are more closely guarded than Nando’s hairdryer but one thing is for sure, finding a ticket come next week is going to be tougher than landing a season ticket on the Kop.