Thursday, July 02, 2009

Fernando Torres Thankful To Liverpool Gaffer Rafa Benitez For Improvement

Fernando Torres' rookie season in the Premier League was a resounding success due to his exploits in front of goal, notching an impressive 33, and the Spain international claims that the improvements in his game have been vast, and are down to the tutelage of Reds gaffer Rafael Benitez.

"Rafa concentrates on the professional side of things," said Torres, to the official site of the world's governing body for football; FIFA. "He tries to improve every minor detail and movement you carry out during the course of a game, and he also explains the reasons behind his decisions.

"He's obsessed that you understand what you are doing and why. He's not happy that you do things just because he tells you that something has to be done.

"He says: 'Do it like this. Do you understand why you are being told to do so? No? We'll go through it again then'.

"I remember when I signed for the club people were questioning me as a goalscorer. I received criticism because I wasn't getting goals. The first thing he told me was that I was signed to score goals. Benitez is adamant that I live in the area because that's where you get goals."

He continued, "That was the first thing he told me, the wing is for the wingers, and that the striker should be focused on the two rival centre-backs. The Spain team play very differently, we have to be constantly on the move.

"In England I have to draw the centre-back out of place so that Steve Gerrard can burst through."

Torres notched a half century of goals in just 84 matches for Liverpool and, as such, one of Benitez's priorities is to find a suitable partner for his prolific centre forward. Steven Gerrard has been deployed in the supplementary striker's position last season, to tremendous effect.

Since the conclusion of the domestic season just gone, the Reds have been linked with Carlos Tevez, Mauro Zarate, Michael Owen, Samuel Eto'o, and David Silva.

Barcelona Make Official Enquiry About Mascherano

Barcelona have made contact with Liverpool regarding Javier Mascherano, but are yet to make an official offer until they are confident he will be allowed to leave, according to a report.

The Blaugrana's technical secretary, Txiki Begiristain, has spoken to Reds boss Rafa Benitez about the Argentinian international in order to let him know of the club's interest.

Sport believe that the Anfield manager is unhappy about the situation and that Liverpool are also unsettled that Barca are alleged to have already sounded out the player's agent.

Real Madrid have no chance of persuading Mascherano to join them as he is now focused on pushing through a move to Camp Nou, the report states.

Mascherano's agent, Walter Tamer, is aware of the conversation between Begiristain and Benitez and also knows that Barceona view his client as a fundamental player for next season.

According to Sport, Liverpool need to sell in order to reinforce their squad and the question remains over which players they will be prepared to let go.

Madrid are keen on Xabi Alonso and Juventus are also said to have registered their interest, but Benitez will not allow both his central midfielders to leave, and that is why Begiristain made direct contact to explain Barca's position.

Liverpool To Hijack Benfica's Radamel Falcao Deal

Liverpool have reportedly tabled an offer to sign River Plate striker Radamel Falcao.

Falcao appeared set to sign for Benfica after River Plate paid off the €400,000 debt they had to the the Colombian forward.

However, according to news daily A Bola, Liverpool have lodged a late €3.5 million offer to beat Benfica to the signing of the player.

Although Liverpool's bid is slightly inferior to the one made by Benfica, the prospect of playing in the Premier League may prompt Falcao to choose Anfield as his final destination.

Benfica and River Plate are thought to have agreed a €4 million deal for 80 per cent of Falcao's playing rights, but the final decision now rests on the striker's shoulders.

Real Madrid Delay Deal For Liverpool Midfielder Alonso To Foil Pay-Out

Real Madrid want to delay their offer for Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso to prevent Real Sociedad claiming 20 per cent of any transfer fee.

Real Sociedad's agreement with Liverpool is believed to run out on July 18 and Madrid see it as an obstacle with Anfield's valuation at €35m and their last offer at €25m.

The two clubs are prepared to negotiate and Alonso is expected to declare he wants to leave.

The 27-year-old was in Madrid on Monday and had dinner with his agent, Inaki Ibanez.

Alonso said: 'I don't know what is going to happen. It is up to the clubs to negotiate now.'

An €8m deal for defender Alvaro Arbeloa to go to Madrid is already in place.

Juventus Won't jJoin Real Madrid In Battle To Sign Liverpool Ace Xabi Alonso

Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli insists the Serie A giants are not interested in signing Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Speculation is rife that Juve have joined the race to sign the Spain international, who they tried to tempt to the Stadio Olimpico last year.

However, Cobolli Gigli claims they are not in the hunt for Alonso, who is very much on Real Madrid's shopping list and has also been linked with Barcelona.

"There are a lot of names for midfield but not that of Xabi Alonso," he said. "I learnt from the press about our interest for the Spanish player.

"He's a great player but I think that to say that I have read his name in the papers says it all."

Cobolli Gigli also revealed that Juve are still interested in Udinese playmaker Gaetano D'Agostino despite their bid hitting several stumbling blocks.

"Negotiations have cooled somewhat," he added. "It's about finding a solution between what our valuation is and the Friuli club's valuation of the player.

"The matter is complicated, the fact is that Udinese apart from money want our players who we believe will be part of the future backbone of Juventus.

"However, we still have our esteem and theoretical interest for the player."

Sebastian Giovinco: The Frustrated ‘Italian Messi’ Perfect For Rafa’s Liverpool

One of the Stars of the recent U21 European Championships in Sweden was Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco who was the shining light in the Azzuri’s failed bid to win the competition. Despite his impressive displays the 22-year-old is widely regarded as the best young prospect in Italy although he is struggling to earn a place in the Juventus side.

Giovinco has been linked to both Arsenal and West Ham in the past season but after a season when he has struggled to break into the Italian club’s first team he would be an excellent addition to the likes of Liverpool who are crying out for some more creativity in their ranks particularly in terms of dribbling.

The player himself has reiterated he wants to stay at Juventus but has revealed he is unhappy at the lack of first team games and with the arrival of the Brazilian Diego, his chances will be limited even further.

“I know my value and what I can give. I know my qualities, but maybe Juventus don’t understand this,” Giovinco told Il Corriere Dello Sport.

“I am not asking for a starting role. I just want to be considered. I want to play for my place on a par with everyone else. I don’t like being in a side where you understand that you come second. I cannot accept this.”

Arsenal had strongly been linked with a move for the highly-talented Giovinco throughout last summer as speculation rose concerning his happiness at Juventus due to limited first team opportunities and contract disputes.

The Gunners were rumoured to have bid £5.8m for the Juventus wonderkid which was subsequently rejected but Arsene Wenger remains a keen admirer of the player. Giovinco is one of Europe’s finest young talents which were perfectly illustrated his talent at the Beijing Olympics as part of the Italian representative side.

The 22-year-old is a Juventus player but spent the 2007/08 season on loan at Empoli where he certainly caught the eye. At 5 ft 4, the attacking midfielder is nicknamed the ‘Atomic Ant’ but for what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in ability.

Despite the youngster having played just 22 league matches (10 starts) for the Juventus first team, he’s held in extremely high regard by the club and particularly the fans.

Last summer’s contract dispute with the club led to a fans protest after it was suggested that Arsenal were to set to move for the player with Robin Van Persie perhaps heading to Turin. A poll launched on the Juve fans website ended with a staggering 89.5% voting in favour of snubbing a potential Van Persie player-exchange offer for Giovinco from the Gunners. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as the wonderkid has been hailed as the future of the club and heir to club legend Alessandro Del Piero.

Giovinco started just 9 League games last season and struggled to get a game with the plethora of attacking talent on show at the club such as Del Piero, Trezeguet, Iaquinta and the Brazilian Amauri. Now Diego has arrived from Werder Bremen, the Atomic Ant’s chances of first team football have been restricted even further.

During the 2007/08 season he was compared to arguably the best player in the world Lionel Messi by former Calgilari Coach Davide Ballardini who said, “Juventus are the kings of the transfer market as Sebastian Giovinco drives me crazy.”

“He has amazing qualities, he is unpredictable and he works well in the team.

“He has to be patient at the start and I believe Giovinco is Juve’s answer to Milan’s Ronaldinho.

“I saw Giovinco last year at Empoli and I may be crazy, but he is just as good as Lionel Messi.

“There is not much of a difference between the two.”

The local-born youngster joined Juventus in 2001 aged 14. Giovinco has since worked his way through the youth system into the first team squad. The Italian made his first team debut in May 2007 in a Serie B encounter with Bologna. Despite coming on as a substitute, the youngster illustrating his potential by setting up a David Trezeguet goal with an excellent pass.

A season-long loan at Empoli brought Giovinco to the public’s attention. Despite impressing he did not do enough to keep the club in Serie A though he did make 35 League appearances (20 starts) and scored 6 goals. This included strikes against League runners-up Roma both home and away.

The Juventus star has represented Italy from U16 level upwards and was voted Player of the competition last year at the U21 Toulon Tournament. Italy managed to win the trophy for the first time in their history with Giovinco playing an integral role. This prompted a call-up to the Olympic squad for the trip to Beijing.

The youngster is arguably the most exciting youngster in Italian football at the moment and despite his lack of games with Juventus, the player and his agent suggest he will remain at the club. However, the fact that the player continues to struggle to break into the Juventus side would give Liverpool a very good chance to sign him either this summer or in January especially if the player fails to get the first team opportunities the diminutive, skilful Sebastian ‘Atomic Ant’ Giovinco deserves.

Andriy Voronin’s Return Apart – It’s So Far So Good For Liverpool FC

Rafa Benitez must feel like he’s found a peseta but lost a pound.

No sooner was he celebrating the arrival of Glen Johnson, while admitting he may have paid just a tad over the odds for him because he was English, than he received the devastating news that Andriy Voronin, the ‘Bovine Ponytail’, plans to return to Anfield from his loan spell at Hair Fair Berlin and “conquer the Premiership”.

Assuming that nothing was lost in translation, and that he didn’t mean to say he wanted to win the Conker Premiership, at a stroke he knocked about £3m off Rafa’s transfer budget.

If that was not enough, the news that Fabio Aurelio has been elected life president of the Darren Anderton Society in recognition of his sterling achievement in screwing up his knee playing football with his son will have driven poor Rafa to distraction once the awful consequences dawned upon him.

Yes, Andrea Dossena might now be denied his dream move to Juventus, which most Kopites have been dreaming about also, and bang goes another £6m-odd of transfer funds.

So, despite Rafa’s insistence that he can buy one more player without having to raise money from sales, the temptation to cash in on Alonso or Mascherano must have increased given the thinking that threatened the former’s tenure last close season.

I’ve written here before about the importance of retaining the services of these two, and don’t intend to repeat myself... oh to hell with it: Rafa, these two must not be sold at any price.

On the brighter side, it’s rumoured that Jermaine Pennant is considering crossing Stanley Park to play for Everton. Jermaine, I’ll pay your bus fare mate.

Why anyone would consider employing this unproductive, overrated wastrel is beyond me, but it seems there’s always someone desperate enough to take a chance on him.

Personally I’d be delighted to see him in a blue shirt, draining their coffers while peppering crosses into St Luke’s Church.

So who’s on the way in? Fernando Torres helpfully weighed into the debate this week, recommending David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata to Rafa as the type of players we need.

Cheers, Fernando, those three might have slipped our mind if you hadn’t jogged our memory.

Have you got a spare £70m on you?

Reality seems to have returned to Fernando’s world shortly afterwards, when he conceded that Villa might just be outside of our financial means.

That still leaves the other two though.

Compared to our rivals though, we’re doing all right.

Manchester United have replaced the self-proclaimed ‘best player in the world’ with a pretty average right-winger.

Arsene Wenger still refuses to sign anyone but diminutive central midfield players.

Chelsea continue to be linked with a marquee signing, but look like having to settle for a bell tent in Yuri Zhirkov.

Only Manchester City are making hay, but are they making a team?

Early days I know, but it’ll take more than the return of Voronin to dampen my optimism.

Portraits Of Liverpool And Everton's Founding Fathers Find Their Way Home

They are the men who shaped and guided professional football on Merseyside, the six founding fathers who oversaw the growth of the worldwide institutions that are Everton and Liverpool.

Yet their names are noticeable only by their absence from Anfield and Goodison Park.

Dr David France hopes to change all that.

The man who created the first registered charity to look after the welfare of former footballers, the Everton Former Players Foundation, and collected the world’s greatest archive of football memorabilia, is hoping to bring the achievements of the six pioneers to a wider audience.

Dr France has commissioned magnificently detailed oil paintings of the six – and hopes that Everton and Liverpool can share possession of the images of Ben Swift Chambers, John Houlding, John McKenna, George Mahon, James Baxter and Will Cuff.

Produced by artist Wasan Suttikatem, the paintings are 18 x 24 inches in size.

Dr France said: “I think it’s vital that we remember the importance of the six founding fathers of Merseyside football. This is a nice way of paying tribute to some of the people that have been long forgotten in the history of the game and the city.

“I commissioned a celebration of the men who contributed to the development of the city's two great footballing institutions. I want to use the paintings to reach out beyond the boundaries of the divide.

“They’re ideal for a boardroom or a major entrance, but even more suited to areas accessed by ordinary fans of all persuasions. I want to keep them together as a set of six and rotate them around different important locations in the city so as many people as possible get to see them. I’d like Everton to have them for a short time, Liverpool to have them for a time and then a city museum. They could even go as far as the National Football Museum at Preston for a time if they were kept as a group of six and referred to them as ‘The Founding Fathers of Merseyside Football’.

“No-one has ever done this kind of thing before and it’s about time we encouraged healing between the clubs and put behind us any problems from the past and celebrate our joint bloodline.”

The painting of Rev. Ben Swift Chambers is of particular interest as photographs of him had proved elusive.

In 1877, he was appointed superintendent and minister of St Domingo Chapel in the Everton district of Liverpool. His brand of ‘muscular Christianity’ led to the formation of the team that would become Everton Football Club and, by consequence, Liverpool Football Club.

A special service to re-dedicate his grave was held in the Yorkshire village of Shepley last summer but pictures of Chambers proved difficult to come by.

However, after exhaustive research by Paul Wharton, a member of the Everton Shareholders’ Association, the family of a former St Domingo’s caretaker was tracked down.

It transpired that the Methodist church kept a book of photographs depicting the circuit ministers and so an image of Chambers was found.

Dr France added: “I was a bit surprised by his appearance as I was expecting him to be clean shaven but he had a big beard and wore John Lennon glasses.

“Actually all six are the same size and they have been done with exactly the same vintage background. I’d like people to look at them and think: ‘Yes, this is the history of us as a city with an unrivalled football history.’ We’re a city that has always had a team in the top-flight from day one and these paintings are a real celebration of that.”

JOHN HOULDING: The man synonymous with the split which led to the formation of Liverpool Football Club, the Liverpool-born brewer was originally known as King John of Everton. He later became Lord Mayor of Liverpool.

REV BEN SWIFT CHAMBERS: The churchman who created the St Domingo’s cricket team, which later became St Domingo’s FC, Chambers can be credited as being the man who kickstarted Merseyside’s entire football history.

DR JAMES CLEMENT BAXTER: With the destiny of the club relying on a move away from Anfield, Dr Baxter stepped in. He advanced Everton £1,000 in the shape of an interest free loan, thus establishing the club’s future.

GEORGE MAHON: Born in Liverpool in 1854, his family moved to Ireland when he was a child, but he returned to Liverpool and became a senior partner in Roose, Mahon & Howard, a firm of accountants who were based in North John Street.

JOHN McKENNA: A self-made businessman and former rugby player, ‘Honest’ John, acting as the club’s secretary, guided Liverpool through the ranks of the Lancashire League after their entry into the Football League was denied.

WILL CUFF: A St Domingo’s church-goer who devoted more than 50 years to Everton in their formative years, Cuff, who died in 1949, played an immeasurably important part in the formation of Everton Football Club as we know it today.