Saturday, July 04, 2009

Alonso In Kop Swap

Xabi Alonso will get his dream move from Liverpool to Real Madrid - if Rafa Benitez takes striker Alvaro Negredo in a swap deal.

Spanish midfield star Alonso wants to join Madrid's new Galacticos in a £32million move, but Kop chief Benitez has been holding out for more - and is now being offered £10million-rated Negredo.

The 23-year-old has been a major success during two seasons on loan at Almeria in La Liga, top scoring with 13 and then 19 goals.

He was hoping to get a shot at playing for Real - only to find out there are bigger names filling the shirts.

Now he has emerged as the key player in the deal, with Benitez considering taking him to play with Fernando Torres in his Anfield attack.

Negredo should be strong enough for the Premier. His nickname is the 'wild animal' because of his robust style. Benitez would rather pick his own players, but the Real reserve could be the answer.

Alonso has made his feelings about a move known with heavy hints in the media and to pals.

His departure would also be softened if Benitez could land a midfielder and sources in France reveal he is still on the trail of Marseille's Albanian skipper Lorik Cana.

Rafael Van der Vaart: £8M Dutch Master Ideal To Replace Alonso At Liverpool

According to reports in the Spanish, Dutch and German press Rafael van der Vaart will be allowed to leave the Bernabeu for a knockdown fee of just £8m.

The player’s stock has definitely fallen since his move to La Liga but the Dutchman would surely be the ideal man to replace the likes of Xabi Alonso at Liverpool.

The multi-million pound arrivals of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Albiol and soon Karim Benzema will mean that Real will need to recoup some of their incredible outlay by selling a number of fringe players.

Van der Vaart is expected to be one of those. However, he claims not to be worried, “On the one hand the uncertainty about our positions grows with each signing, but on the other hand I’m quite relaxed about it.

“I signed a contract for five years. If the club management tells me clearly I need to go, I’ll look for something else, but I want to battle.”

Van der Vaart began his Real career with 4 goals in his first 4 games including a goal on his debut against Numancia and a hat-trick against Sporting Gijon.

However, since then the Dutch playmaker has failed to score and increasingly been relegated to substitute appearances.

The €13 million summer signing has played 32 league games for the Spanish champions but only started 15 of those games.

Apart from starting the two final league games of the season, his previous last full 90 minutes came in a Copa Del Rey match versus Real Union in November and his last full game in La Liga was way back in September, hence his frustration.

After all, in 3 seasons for Hamburg he started 72 of his 74 league appearances and scored 29 goals.

Prior to leaving Hamburg his manager Martin Jol had this to say about his star player, “He is one of the best five play-makers in Europe and he dictates the rhythm of Hamburg.” That’s high praise indeed but the 26-year-old had proven to be a huge hit both in his homeland with Ajax and in the Bundesliga with Hamburg.

The 2007/08 season was the Dutchman’s most prolific campaign in 3 seasons in Germany.

He scored a total of 12 goals in 29 League appearances taking his overall League tally for Hamburg to an impressive 29 goals in 74 appearances. Not bad for a playmaking attacking midfielder.

This is a similar scoring rate to the one he enjoyed with Ajax where Van der Vaart scored a total of 52 goals in 117 League appearances.

This record includes the 2002/03 season when the Dutch international scored a staggering 18 goals in 21 League appearances.

The diminutive playmaker has also got a decent scoring record at international level for Holland after netting 14 goals in 68 games.

The Dutch star certainly has all the attributes to be a major hit in the Premier League and at a mere £8m would surely be an absolute bargain for a number of clubs.

Especially as he can play centrally, on either wing or as 2nd striker.

Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez Does Not Want To Sell - Pepe Reina

Liverpool custodian Pepe Reina has declared that only a very large sum of money will tempt the club to sell a player.

The Spanish keeper's compatriot, Xabi Alonso, has been linked to Real Madrid as Florentino Perez continues his strengthening of the Merengues.

Real's returning president confirmed reported interest in the Liverpool midfielder and has raised alarm bells at Anfield after claiming that a deal for the ex-Real Sociedad man was just a matter of time.

However, Reina, who joined the Premier League outfit in 2005, has now indicated that Liverpool are not looking to sell in the summer.

"I believe that the mister [Benitez] has his mind very clear and his idea in these moments is to not sell," Reina told EFE.

"He wants to continue with a team he has known for a long time, with an already fundamented base and where we know almost everything.

"Whoever wants to touch this team or this structure [Liverpool] will have to pay a lot of money."

Jason McAteer Hails Liverpool's Signing Of Glen Johnson

Liverpool's capture of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth has been hailed as one of the swoops of the summer transfer window by the club's former winger Jason McAteer, who feels that the powerful right-back is just the kind of player the Reds need to boost their bid to end the long wait for a league title.

"Glen is the kind of player I'm really happy the club have brought in," McAteer told LFC Magazine. "He looks like he's nailed down the England right-back position now and from what I hear he's a great lad off the pitch as well. He'll be good to have in the dressing room, plus he already knows the Premier League inside out.

"Johnson is young and is exactly the kind of player Liverpool needed to sign. I think he will be a massive signing."

The player's versatility could be crucial as well, McAteer feels, with Johnson having turned in some sterling performances for Pompey on the right wing last season, providing a genuine attacking threat with his pace in wide areas.

"Johnson is very attack-minded and is also versatile," he added.

"He can play in midfield and I'm sure he could slot in at centre-half or left-back if required. At this level of the game, a right-back needs to have those strings to his bow.

"They have to be able to play wing-back, centre-half or as a conventional right-back to fit into various systems. That's why they don't come cheap. What Rafa's doing with Johnson is he's buying versatility. He's getting a player who can play in a variety of positions.

"That can be of particular use when you go into Europe where he's pitting his wits against some of the world's top managers. It gives him that flexibility to mix it up and throw different kinds of systems at them."

And McAteer, who has recently been appointed as assistant manager to John Barnes at Liverpool's cross-Mersey neighbours Tranmere Rovers, thinks that Benitez deserves much credit for the astuteness of the deal, adding that Liverpool beating their major rivals to the player's signature is a sign of the progress the club is making.

"That's all credit to Rafa. He's put himself in a very, very strong position in the transfer market," he continued.

"Whereas last season or the season before Johnson might have gone to Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United, it's a different story now when Liverpool start making enquiries.

"Players are getting enticed and it's whetting their appetites again. They know Liverpool are knocking on the door when it comes to the title and winning things.

"Liverpool signing Johnson under the noses of other clubs with Champions League ambitions is sending out a clear message that the Reds mean business again. That is certainly what Rafa will want to be telling everyone."

Liverpool Interested In Inler

Liverpool are said to be targeting Udinese duo Gokhan Inler and Gaetano D’Agostino, but are concerned at the price-tags.

While the Daily Mail reports that Rafa Benitez is very interested in Swiss midfielder Inler, Italian newspapers suggest teammate D’Agostino is also on his shopping list.

The problem in both cases is the price-tag that Udinese have slapped on to the two players.

The Friulani are said to be asking for around £18m to part with 25-year-old Inler, whereas Liverpool are only prepared to pay £10m.

Similarly, Italian international D’Agostino has been valued at around £14.5m, but talks with Juventus have collapsed because of the fee.

It would not be the first time that Inler has been heavily linked with a Premier League switch, as he was targeted by Arsenal last season.

Dalglish Out To Take 'Fantastic Opportunity' At Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish has promised to make the most of his second chance with Liverpool.

The Scot – branded 'King Kenny' by the Anfield faithful after winning eight league titles and three Europeans Cups with the Reds as a player and then manager – confirmed yesterday he has accepted a senior role in the club's academy and as a global ambassador for the Merseysiders.

He immediately revealed his gratitude towards manager Rafael Benitez for handing him an official position at Liverpool for the first time since he quit as boss in February 1991.

"I spoke to Rafa a few months ago, and things have progressed from there," Dalglish told

"Now that it has come to fruition I am very excited, but also a bit nervous.

"For the boss to put his trust in me is a great compliment, and I am coming back as a very lucky person.

"When you leave a club you don't often have a chance to return, so I am fortunate for being given such a fantastic opportunity."

Dalglish's appointment is part of a wide-ranging revamp of the Liverpool academy, which has been criticised for failing to produce enough youngsters with first-team potential.

Frank McParland was brought is as director last month, and Dalglish is delighted to be part of the renewed focus on youth.

"Rafa has made a very brave decision to revamp the academy," he said.

"Everyone knows the most important team at the club is the first team, and we hope we can start producing players to challenge for a place in Rafa's plans."

Benitez, who has been criticised for often favouring fellow Spaniards for key positions at the club, believes the appointment of Dalglish shows he is sympathetic to Liverpool's glittering past.

"We are changing things at the academy; we are bringing in new ideas and new people – but we're keeping the spirit and the heart of the club," he said.

"Kenny has played for the club; he's managed the club; he's done everything. He's a fantastic signing."

More Financial Fears For Liverpool FC Co-Owner Tom Hicks

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks could be forced out of one of his American sports teams, as reports in the USA claimed his financial position is becoming increasingly acute.

Hicks is owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, but it has been claimed that Major League Baseball, the sport’s governing body for the USA's national sport, has been forced to step in and loan Hicks millions of dollars in the last week to pay his players.

“He won’t be running the team much longer,” a source said.

“Major League Baseball is helping him through this until someone else can be put in place to run the club.”

The latest news comes on top of reports that the Hicks Sports Group defaulted on an interest-only payment on a $525m loan to his US-based sports operations.

The report is unlikely to affect the refinancing of Hicks and George Gillett's LFC loan with Wachovia and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

But it highlights the increasingly precarious financial position Hicks finds himself in.

Liverpool FC Icon Ronny Rosenthal Is More Than A Missed Open Goal

When the second link down on a footballer’s Google search is a clip of a missed open goal, you could be forgiven for thinking such mishaps summed up their career.

But it seems YouTube has handed Ronny Rosenthal a bit of a raw deal.

His hilarious execution of the crossbar challenge at Villa Park in 1992 does make great viewing and today the Israeli looks back and has a good laugh at it.

But it barely tells the story of a striker who became an instant cult hero – and league champion – at Anfield when he joined towards the tail end of the 1989-90 season.

Where’s the footage of the hat-trick on his full debut at Charlton Athletic? The last-minute Merseyside derby winner? The celebratory title-winning scenes that acted as a climax to the unexpected impact he made while still on loan from Standard Liege?

Rosenthal was the perfect back-up striker at the time of the Reds’ last title success, which teeters on the brink of an unwanted 20th anniversary in the coming season.

He knew he was always going to be the understudy in a forward line that boasted leading lights like Ian Rush, Peter Beardsley and John Barnes.

But as his incredible full debut at Selhurst Park proved, and the subsequent goals he hit to help Kenny Dalglish’s side regain the First Division crown from Arsenal, his importance to the squad couldn’t be downplayed.

Such a ‘super-sub’ that David Fairclough got jealous.

It might seem to be stretching it to question what Liverpool would give now to be able to call on a similar impact striker from the bench.

But those who lament the points dropped last year when Fernando Torres was missing should be craving someone in the Rosenthal mould.

And what sums him up better than any fluffed sitter is the time when, still awaiting his first start of the 1990-91 season as Christmas crept ever closer, he came in to the side when Beardsley was out injured and scored twice in a 3-2 win over Southampton.

And Rosenthal’s assessment of the Liverpool of today can’t help but notice the lack of such automatic and reliable back-up.

“I just don’t think Liverpool’s squad was deep enough last year,” said Rosenthal, who returned to Liverpool from his London base for last week’s Masters tournament at the ECHO Arena.

“They did have the numbers but did they have the quality? As an 11, they could have won the league, but you need players who come off the bench and win you games.

“I’m sure Rafael Benitez knows he needs these type of players because that is part of the reason they did not win the league.

“A lot of Liverpool games were very close and very tight and you sometimes need someone who can make a difference.

“That’s why you need the same quality sat on the bench as you have on the pitch. So if a quality player comes off after 60 minutes, you don’t notice the quality of the team going down in the last half hour of a game.”

Rosenthal’s most remarkable ‘super-sub’ show came when he moved on to Spurs, hitting a hat-trick after coming off the bench in an FA Cup tie at Southampton – it inspired a fightback from 2-0 down.

All of which says a lot about his attitude, his refusal to sulk and let his game decline despite a lack of first team opportunities.

And it perhaps explains his reflection on the embarrassing moment for which he will always be remembered.

“I’m glad I did it,” said Rosenthal, clearly forgetting the fact that Graeme Souness was waiting for him in the dressing room after the 4-2 defeat to Aston Villa in the first season of the Premier League.

“It puts me on the map and it’s just one of those things that happens. Every player has one funny thing that happens to them and that was mine.

“I’m not sure anyone saw the funny side at the time. Jan Molby turned away when I rounded the keeper and went to celebrate with the fans.

“Then he heard a strange noise, saw no-one in the Liverpool end was celebrating and the game was still going on.

“Even when we came off the pitch he couldn’t understand what had happened and when he found out he was a bit shocked.”

When Rosenthal made his permanent £1.1million switch from Standard Liege, little could he have known that instead of jumping on an unstoppable juggernaut of success, he was actually about to see that particular journey come to a shuddering halt.

But he’s in no doubt that if Liverpool can finally mark the 20th anniversary of their last title win with their 20th next season, they will look back on the start of their decline in the early 90s as wistfully as he looks back on his Holte End horror.

“If you had told me 20 years ago that it would have been Liverpool’s last title I would have said it was impossible,” adds Rosenthal, now aged 45.

“But then other clubs have advanced and Liverpool didn’t.

“You could see for a long time that Liverpool weren’t going to win the league again and it just carried on.

“But in the last two or three years they have got better and better but next season will be a big test for them. They have to get better again.”

And if they do, at least Rosenthal won’t have to log on to YouTube to cheer himself up.