Sunday, June 28, 2009

Real Madrid On The Alert As Xabi Alonso Says His Liverpool Goodbyes

Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez could be about to land one of his favourite players, Xabi Alonso, after having tracked the Liverpool midfielder since 2004.

According to The Times, the Merseysiders have hurriedly slapped a €41 million (₤35m) price tag on the 27-year-old after he reportedly bid farewell to certain members of the Reds staff.

Madrid have yet to pounce by making any official offers but it is well documented that Los Blancos’ new administration have made the ex-Real Sociedad man one of their prime objectives in the transfer market. They have reportedly made various offers in the recent past, ranging anywhere from €20m to €25m plus player exchanges, although they conceded defeat when Liverpool announced that he was not for sale.

Alonso has had a rocky relationship with manager, Rafa Benitez ever since the gaffer persistently went after Gareth Barry last summer. But the player has still declared that he is happy to remain at Anfield, although he would constantly admit that his future is unclear.

Torres Sees Three Amigos At Anfield

The timing, coming as it did in the week of Spain's surprising defeat to the USA, was perhaps a little curious, but Fernando Torres believes that if Liverpool are to win the Premier League next season, they must become more like his national side.

It is not hard to pinpoint where Liverpool lost ground on Manchester United last season. Although they beat the champions twice, and finished the season unbeaten in the League against the other members of the Big Four, their challenge was undermined by home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham, Hull and Manchester City. Had just two of those been converted into victories, the title would have been theirs.

"We have to improve at home," Torres said. "We lost a lot of points at home against teams in the middle of the table. If we can get 10 more points at home I think at the end of the season we can win the Premier League. It was frustrating but football is difficult against these kinds of teams. We need players with quality to try to win these kinds of games and I hope Liverpool will bring in players like this. I hope Liverpool will bring in players like [David] Silva, [Juan Manuel] Mata or [David] Villa: small players with quality – like Manchester United had [Carlos] Tevez or [Paul] Scholes.

"It's players like this who can make the difference. These are clever players. Yossi Benayoun plays like this, and I hope we can bring more like that so we have different options."

Had he recommended his international team-mates to Rafa Benitez? "Of course," he said. "But I don't know if we have the money." He has mentioned Villa as a dream partner plenty of times before, while accepting that he is far more likely to join a Spanish club this summer. Silva and Mata, though, are more realistic targets as Valencia's ongoing financial problems force them to offload.

Mata, at 21, was used mainly as a left-winger last season, but can also operate as a second striker, meaning he would not merely provide competition for Albert Riera, but could also cover for Steven Gerrard in the central role behind Torres. The 23-year-old Silva, similarly, is versatile enough to play in any of the attacking midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1, and is known to be a favourite of other senior (and not necessarily Spanish) members of the Liverpool squad.

Both are under six feet tall and neither could be described as physically robust, but for Torres it is their imagination that makes them stand out. "English football is very difficult because it's very physical and at a high tempo," he said. "With Spain we play with quality, passing the ball, slow, don't lose the ball. And in England we play with more pace, we try to arrive in the opposition area as soon as possible. Liverpool have a fantastic team to play against the big teams; we are competitive. But maybe against those other kind of teams we are not good enough. We have to improve that."

The need for sides to have a Plan B was demonstrated on Wednesday, as Spain's 15-match winning run came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to the USA. "We had to lose sometime," Torres said, and given the balance of the game and the chances Spain missed, he is probably right not to be concerned.

That said, though, USA showed that by defending deep, and shutting off the space for Xavi to exploit, Spain are not invincible. "We decided we were going to keep it tight in the middle," explained the goalkeeper Tim Howard. "If they wanted to play wide, fine, we'll try and get guys out there and close down the crosses as much as we could but that wasn't the priority. We just said, 'Right, we're going to deal with as many crosses as you can swing in because we believe we're better at clearing these balls'."

With Watford's Jay DeMerit outstanding and Torres perhaps not quite at his best, the policy worked, with neither Riera nor Sergio Ramos able to provide the necessary quality of service. Spain, perhaps, could have done with being more direct, just as Liverpool sometimes need more imagination. Versatility, always, is vital.

Liverpool Legend Rob Jones: Glen Johnson Is The Perfect Right-Back

Liverpool legend Rob Jones has stated that the club have signed England's best right-back in Glen Johnson.

The England international joined the Reds from Portsmouth yesterday for a fee of around £18 million, and Jones feels the money will prove to be well spent.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Jones said, "I think Johnson is an excellent player. We're getting a good defender and someone who loves to go forward too, which is something I think Liverpool have perhaps been missing.

"He's got virtually everything to his game and I think that's why the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea were fighting over him.

"Johnson is strong in most areas; he's good at going forward, has good pace, is strong and his defending has really come in the last couple of years.

"He's the all-round right-back and will strengthen the team. It's obvious Rafa rates him very highly."

Despite the defender's poor spell at Chelsea, Jones feels the 24-year-old has enough experience to be a big hit at Anfield.

"When he first went to Chelsea, he was perhaps a little bit too young and things didn't work out too well for him," continued the former England international.

"However, I've watched him in a few games since he went to Portsmouth and he's played really well and has even been scoring goals.

"I think he's got what it takes to cut it at a top club like Liverpool. He will have learned from his time at Chelsea and is a more experienced player now.

"I believe now is the right time for him to come to club as big as Liverpool."

Jones, who made a total of 243 appearances for the Reds, argued that Johnson is currently the best right-back in England.

"Johnson is the best English right-back around, definitely. He's strong, quick and good going forward and defending.

"Benitez has certainly gone for one of the very best there is."

Johnson made a total of 58 Premier League appearances during his permanent two year spell with Pompey.

Jermaine Pennant Could Swap Liverpool For Everton

Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant may be about to swap the red half of Merseyside for the blue half, according to the News of the World.

The British tabloid claims that Pennant, who spent last season on loan at Portsmouth, is considering making the controversial move this summer when he will become a free agent.

The winger’s contract at Liverpool expires on July 1, meaning he will be available on a free transfer, news that has reportedly interested Toffees boss David Moyes.

However, one stumbling block could be the player himself who is believed to be unwilling to upset the Liverpool fans by making the move across Stanley Park.

Indeed, the report quotes a 'friend' of Pennant as saying, “Jermaine wouldn't want to do anything to upset the Liverpool fans who have always been good to him.”

The 26-year-old signed for the Reds in 2006 but failed to nail down a place in the starting XI at Anfield and was sent out on loan last season.

His performances are believed to have attracted a number of clubs with Sunderland, Wigan Athletic and Manchester City also reported to be interested in the winger.

Xabi Alonso’s Real Madrid Move Depends On David Villa

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso’s move to Real Madrid may depend on whether Los Merengues manage to prise David Villa away from Valencia, according to the News of the World.

The British tabloid claims that Los Blancos will sign Alonso from Liverpool if they miss out on Villa, as cash-splashing president Florentino Perez is desperate to sign more Spanish players.

The striker had appeared destined for a move to the Bernabeu, and indeed has admitted that it is his preferred destination, yet that deal now appears to have stalled.

To cloud matters further, European champions Barcelona are believed to have entered the race to sign Villa, meaning his future remains the subject of much debate.

Yet, should Madrid ultimately fail to sign the Spainish international striker, the NOTW claims that they will then redouble their efforts to bring Alonso to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The paper also adds that Los Merengues will be willing to meet Liverpool’s asking price of €30 million for their midfielder.

Whilst Reds boss Rafael Benitez continues to insist that Alonso is not for sale, should the club receive a substantial offer for the midfielder it would have to be taken seriously.

Reds May Still Keep Arbeloa

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists the signing of Glen Johnson does not necessarily mean Alvaro Arbeloa's days at Anfield are numbered.

England right-back Johnson, 24, has completed his move from Portsmouth for a fee believed to be £17million, although much of that will be offset by money still owed from Peter Crouch's transfer to Fratton Park last summer.

Johnson's arrival increases the likelihood of Arbeloa leaving this summer, with Real Madrid ready to make a move.

But Benitez has not ruled out the possibility of the 26-year-old staying.

"Arbeloa was a good player for us last year. He has one year left on his contract and we have offered him an extension and we're talking," Benitez told the club's website.

"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."

Benitez has already accepted he paid over the odds for Johnson, but stressed there were many factors which made the deal the right one for the club.

After a summer which has already seen the £59million transfer of Kaka and the £80million move of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid the Liverpool boss is happy with the outlay on his first signing of the summer.

"We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy," said Benitez.

"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."