Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Real Madrid Give Liverpool Two Week Deadline For Xabi Alonso Deal

Real Madrid have set Liverpool a deadline of two weeks for the Xabi Alonso transfer to be concluded.

Amid all the stars coming in to the Bernabeu, Los Merengues have been trying without success to secure Alonso's arrival.

Now, according to Football365.com, 'Pool have been given two weeks to name a price for Alonso, so that Madrid, who are yet to put in a bid, can decide whether or not to match it.

New Real coach Manuel Pellegrini is keen to sign a defensive midfielder, but is not willing to spend much more time waiting for Alonso. Therefore, he has instructed the club not to pursue the matter beyond July 19.

That is the day that Xabi returns for pre-season training, so Rafa Benitez will have to make a decision before Liverpool fly out for their summer tour of Asia.

Liverpool Unlikely To Accept Barcelona's Initial Mascherano Bid

Barcelona are ready to submit an offer to Liverpool for Javier Mascherano, but it still may not be enough.

According to The Times, Barca have prepared a €30 million bid, but that is unlikely to seal the deal straight away.

Liverpool are holding out for a fee closer to €40m, and it is unclear as yet whether the Blaugrana will be willing to raise their offer.

Mascherano is believed to be keen on a move to the Camp Nou, but with Xabi Alonso also in serious demand from Real Madrid, the Reds are not going to let either of their defensive midfielders go for anything less than top dollar.

Liverpool Consider Bid For Portsmouth's Sylain Distin

Portsmouth could be set to lose another defender to Liverpool, as Rafa Benitez mulls over a move for Sylvain Distin.

Having already signed Glen Johnson from Pompey, Benitez is now ready to claim another one of their defenders.

According to French daily Le Figaro, Liverpool are preparing a €2 million bid for Distin. Portsmouth's transfer activity is currently shrouded in uncertainty due to their takeover situation, and Benitez is hoping to take advantage by snaring an unsettled Distin.

He has been at Pompey since 2007, making 74 league appearances.

Phil Thompson: Jamie Carragher Can Cut It As Coach

Jamie Carragher started preparations for his 14th season as a top flight footballer yesterday – but respected judges believe he should soon be preparing for life as a manager.

Liverpool great and former Anfield assistant-manager Phil Thompson believes Carragher has all the qualities needed to break into the cut-throat world of football management.

Carragher is currently taking his coaching badges, and Thompson declared: “I would think he definitely has what it takes to be a manager one day.

“He’s got passion, enthusiasm and organisational skills. He loves his football and that's the biggest thing you need in order to carry on after playing. He has a real desire and love for the game in abundance.

“He’s also a student of the game. When Gerard (Houllier) and I were here, and I'm sure Rafa has noticed this too, it was clear that Jamie watches everything football-wise.

“He’ll watch Football First on a Saturday night and analyse other teams. He wants the knowledge and he wants to understand the game.

“And he’s learned from the likes of Gerard and Rafa how all the fine details need to be spot on.”

But Thompson admitted it was only when a player experiences the intensity of a dug-out on matchdays that he will discover whether he has the clear-headed thinking necessary to make it as a manager.

“You can have all the enthusiasm you want, but you also need a cool head to make decisions,” he added.

“You might say, 'How can Phil Thompson talk about cool heads?' But we will only see if Jamie's got that once he becomes a manager.”

Carragher was among a host of senior Reds players who reported back to pre-season training yesterday.

Amongst them were promising youngsters Stephen Darby and Jay Spearing, who have agreed new three-year contracts, while Israeli international Yossi Benayoun is also set to become the latest Liverpool star to commit his future to the Reds.

Although Glen Johnson remains Liverpool’s one signing so far this summer, Benitez has retained the services of Reds stars Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt with all four having committed themselves to new long term contracts.

Benitez said: “We had to guarantee the future of the club first and then afterwards if you can improve then you must try to do so.

“This meant that the first thing we had to do this summer was to guarantee the futures of some of the players who are already here and we are happy that we have been able to do this in so many cases.”

The majority of the first team squad returned to Melwood for a series of drills and tests ahead of pre-season trips to Switzerland, the Far East, Spain and Norway.

Johnson will join up with his new teammates for the first time tomorrow. He will take part in his first Melwood training session having been allowed an extra few days off, along with Steven Gerrard following their efforts on international duty with England.

The Reds Spanish contingent do not return until July 19 following their involvement in the recently concluded Confederations Cup.

Yossi Benayoun Extends Liverpool Contract

Yossi Benayoun has marked his transformation at Liverpool by agreeing terms on a new contract that will tie him to Anfield until 2012.

The Israel international has two years remaining on his current deal but, following an impressive ending to last season, has been rewarded with a pay rise and a 12-month extension by the manager, Rafael Benítez. An agreement is in place with the 29-year-old and the contract will be signed ahead of the new season, underlining the extent of the midfielder's rapid recovery at Anfield.

"I am very happy that we have reached an agreement," said Benayoun. "Of course, to be at a club like this is a dream come true and I want to keep playing here. Hopefully now I can concentrate on the hard work that needs to be done and try to play better and better and win some silverware."

Benítez said: "You know that our idea was to extend the contracts of some players and Yossi was one of these players. He has been really good for us over the last year, scoring crucial goals and getting assists, so we wanted to keep him and I'm really pleased with the extension."

Benayoun instigated talks on his Liverpool future with Benítez only in January amid concern over his lack of first-team opportunities. He responded to the manager's assurances with the finest spell of his career on Merseyside, scoring seven goals in the final four months of the campaign, including the winner at Real Madrid in the Champions League, and playing an influential role in Liverpool's lengthy pursuit of Manchester United for the Premier League title.

The midfielder is the fifth senior player to commit his future to Liverpool in recent months, following Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger, and Benítez admits stability in his squad – currently threatened by Real Madrid's and Barcelona's interest in Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano respectively – was a prerequisite for this summer.

"We had to guarantee the future of the club first and then afterwards if you can improve then you must try to do so," the Liverpool manager said. "This meant that the first thing we had to do this summer was to guarantee the futures of some of the players who are already here and we are happy that we have been able to do this in so many cases."

Harry Kewell: I Rejected Barcelona To Join Liverpool

Harry Kewell says he rejected the chance to join Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona, as he prepares to play under the new Galatasaray manager this season.

Kewell joined Liverpool from Leeds United in 2003, and he has now told Galatasaray TV that he not only turned down Rijkaard’s approach but a number of others in order to play for the English giants.

“While he was at Barcelona, Rijkaard asked me to transfer there,” Kewell said. “It would have been a great event to play for Barcelona and to be part of that team.

“But I preferred Liverpool. I’ve rejected many bids to stay at Liverpool.

“It was my decision.”

Though initially successful, the latter part of Kewell’s Liverpool career was hampered by injury problems, eventually leading to his departure from the club at the beginning of last season.

Seemingly out of favour with manager Rafael Benitez, the former PFA Young Player of the Year moved to Turkey, where his career was rejuvenated with Istanbul giants Galatasaray.

With his injury worries now behind him after a season of consistent first-team football, European competition and more than ten goals to his name, Kewell is now looking forward to playing under UEFA Champions League winner Rijkaard.

A world-class player in his day, the Dutchman made his name as a manager during a highly successful spell with Barca, where he led the club to a Champions League title and two league and cup triumphs.

Rijkaard forged a reputation for attractive football while at the Camp Nou, and Kewell says he is relishing playing in the coach's preferred 4-3-3 system as he looks to back-up from a successful debut season in Turkey.

“I think 4-3-3 is a very good system,” Kewell said. “Rijkaard successfully implemented this system at Barcelona.

“With everyone in the right position in the system, Galatasaray will be successful with it.”

It appears, however, as though Rijkaard will not be favouring the same man he coveted while he was at Barcelona, having brought in Cote d’Ivoire international Kader Keita from Olympique Lyonnais.

The 27-year-old will likely be in direct competition with Kewell for a starting place in the Galatasaray first team, though the Australian has welcomed the challenged.

“There is always competition,” he said. “Last year I was competing with Arda [Turan]. Competition is good.

“We want our players to be ambitious. Football is not an individual game, it is a team game.

“The club will win the league as a result of this competition.”

7 Games To Make His Season

In two weeks our pre season begins with 5 games against poor opposition, this is the time of the year when Krisztian Nemeth and Co have a chance to impress Rafa after a difficult season in the reserves.

Last season saw competitive minutes given to Jay Spearing, Nabil El Zhar, Steven Darby and Martin Kelly. This year should be no different with the likes of Nemeth, Pacheco and Dominguez eager to impress the gaffer.

Friendlies against St Gallen and Rapid Vienna will take place before our Spaniards return from holiday after the Confederations Cup.

And for Nemeth more than anyone this is a huge opportunity to show what he`s made of under Rafa`s management.

The Hungarian forward was loaned out to Blackpool at the start of the year to gain some vital experience, this loan however, only lasted a month as Rafa planned to bring the youngster back and harness his talent in the remaining games of the season.

Nemeth`s first and only game for Blackpool ended badly, with a broken cheekbone, and our number 29 didn`t play again till the Liverpool Senior Cup final where he scored the only goal of the game to clinch the trophy.

Last pre season, Nemeth featured in a 0-0 draw with Villarreal, where he came closest for Liverpool with a shot just over the crossbar. He also played a vital role 3 days later against Rangers where he had a fierce shot parried with Yossi tapping in the rebound. Nemeth also was brought down in the area after a great piece of work, and Xabi Alonso scored the resulting penalty. Except featuring as a substitute against Valerenga and Lazio, these where his only games playing for Rafa Benitez.

For those of you who haven`t seen him play, he has skill in abundance, a fantastic touch, great pace, brilliant vision and that striker`s instinct that sees him find the back of the net regularly, and he`s well known for his trademark back heels.

The striker already has the hopes of his nation resting on his shoulders; after defeat against Sweden in World Cup qualifier, the national sports newspaper headlined with a picture of Nemeth, the paper then went on to beg the coach to play him. The Hungarian coach, Erwin Koeman, has begun to integrate Nemeth into the squad as he has more goals than games to his name in youth categories for the national side.

Benitez is aware of Nemeth`s talent, shown when he was questioned about our lack of forwards after the sale of Robbie Keane, he named Nemeth along with his Spanish strike partner Dani Pacheco as quality youngsters that can step up to the plate, but neither where to make their first competitive start.

It`s becoming less and less likely that we will bring in another striker, meaning that this could be a big season for Nemeth, beginning with these pre season friendlies, games against the teams of less quality means that minutes are almost guaranteed for Nemeth, but our 5th and 7th friendlies are against quality opposition in Espanyol and Atletico Madrid and are a chance for the Hungarian to really show what he`s made of.

Nemeth partnering David Ngog in our attack could become a familiar sight in our Carling Cup and early round FA cup games, with this brilliant prospect receiving rave reviews from all that have seen him play.

I for one will be keeping a close eye on the youngster over the up and coming pre season period as it`s not a case of if he will make the step up, it`s a case of when. At 20 years old this is a fantastic chance for Nemeth to prove himself prior to one of Liverpool`s most important seasons; his talent could become extremely useful in landing number 8 in both the FA and Carling Cup and most importantly Number 19 in the league.

Liverpool Close In On Starlet

Liverpool are on the verge of singing Esbjerg youngster Nikolaj Kohlert on a three-year deal, according to reports in his native Denmark.

The 16-year-old is scheduled to discuss personal terms when he returns from holiday next week but neither club are willing to confirm the switch.

The Denmark Under-17 international underwent a trial at Anfield last month and impressed so much that the Reds are anxious to get him tied down to a contract.

The midfielder is yet to make his debut for Esbjerg and should he sign for Liverpool he will continue his footballing education with the club's academy.

If Kohlert progresses as the club hope, he will gain a place in the reserve team squad during next season.

Although usually deployed behind the strikers Kohlert proved while on trial that he is more than capable of playing as a central forward.

Tykes Submit Hammill Offer

Barnsley manager Simon Davey has made a bid for Liverpool winger Adam Hammill.

The Anfield academy graduate spent the final two and a half months of last season on loan at Oakwell after a spell at Blackpool earlier in the campaign.

Davey is keen to sign him on a permanent basis but revealed that Liverpool are currently assessing Hammill before making any decision on his future.

Davey told the club's official website: "We have made an offer for Adam and were told that Liverpool wanted to have a look at him through pre-season.

"Our offer is still on the table but we cannot just wait around and we have to make sure we have other targets in mind if that answer is a negative one.

"On the other hand it is not going to blow our budget if we get the right answer on Adam two days before the start of the season."