Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tom Hicks Dissolves Hicks Sports Marketing Group

Tom Hicks, owner of Liverpool FC, the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars, has dissolved Hicks Sports Marketing Group (HSMG) and split its employees between the Rangers and the Stars. The Hicks Sports Marketing Group website is already offline.

HSMG was formed in 2006, primarily to sell corporate advertising and sponsorship for Hicks’ sports franchises. With finances forcing the American businessman into selling the Rangers - once a suitable buyer can be found - the group appears to have outlived its usefulness. That is certainly Hicks’ version of events: “It’s a natural progression where there isn’t a need for that service, so we’re streamlining the company,” he said. “This makes sense for a number of reasons.”

However, the impact the move will have on Hicks’ other franchises is unknown. He has admitted to serious difficulties attracting new investment in the franchises.

“You can’t continue to spend money if the team is losing money, “he said. “We are determined to create as much revenue as possible for each team, and that’s one of the reasons we have changed things. One of our biggest challenges right now is to find ways to market and sell our teams. “

Jim Lites, president of HSMG, is keen on being part of a takeover bid for the Rangers.

Liverpool Loan Youngster Ryan Flynn To Falkirk

Liverpool owned Ryan Flynn is said to be in the process of completing a loan switch to Scottish Premier League side Falkirk - according to the BBC website.

The 20-year-old wide-player had moved to Anfield from the Bairns in 2005, but now looks set to make a return back to his homeland.

The winger was afforded some time on loan to Wrexham last season, and the Welsh side had hoped to re-acquire his services again next term.

However, the young Scot was more interested in a move back home as he looks to hone his skills in a bid to break into Liverpool's first team.

Rafa Benitez Launches Kop Idol-style Talent Search

Rafa Benitez has launched a “Kop Idol” style search for new talent for Liverpool’s first team.

The Reds boss has called up half a dozen of Liverpool’s most promising youngsters to train with the first team squad – and challenged them to prove they are good enough to stay there.

Benitez is keen to see how much progress has been made by some of the Reds reserves during the last 12 months and is pitching them in with the senior stars in the early stages of Liverpool’s pre-season training.

Spanish trio Dani Pacheco, Mikel San Jose and Danny Ayala, Hungarians Krisztian Nemeth and Peter Gulacsi and locally produced central defender Martin Kelly are all being given a chance to stake their claim to stay with the big boys.

All six are rubbing shoulders with first team regulars including Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and Martin Skrtel as the Liverpool manager puts his players through their paces.

With fellow reserve regulars Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby already established in the first team set up, Benitez is keen to give some of the younger members of his squad the chance to shine ahead of the coming campaign.

Madrid Pessimistic On Alonso Move

Jorge Valdano admits Real Madrid are some distance away from Liverpool's valuation of Xabi Alonso.

Madrid have been heavily linked with a move for the Spain midfielder as part of their summer rebuilding under new president Florentino Perez, which has already seen the Primera Division outfit splash out almost £200million on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Raul Albiol.

However, while Valdano admits Alonso remains one of their targets, the Madrid director general wants the price to be right.

"Xabi Alonso is a priority if he fits into our budget, and this doesn't seem the case. We are very far from the figures that Liverpool have set out," Valdano was quoted as telling Spanish radio station Onda Madrid.

Valdano added on Cadena Ser: "Liverpool have taken up a difficult stance over Xabi Alonso. I don't like to talk about the private details of negotiations.

"We are studying many alternatives. We want someone who can channel the play and there aren't many like that in the world."

With plenty of time before the transfer window closes and with a number of big-name signings already wrapped up, Valdano insists the Spanish giants have no great urgency to complete their summer shopping spree, though.

"After the great players who have arrived, we aren't in a hurry," he said.

"(We want) two signings, maximum three. That's the number with which the team will be able to cover all eventualities.

"With the arrival of Benzema, we are not going to sign (Valencia striker David) Villa. We are happy to have got the Frenchman. He is 21, powerful, and is enthusiastic and eager."

Mathieu Valbuena: Rafa Targets Marseille’s Midget Gem To Replace Alonso At Liverpool?

Liverpool and Wigan have been named as interested suitors of Marseille playmaker Mathieu Valbuena according to his agent Christophe Hutteau.

He told, “Mathieu would very much be interested in playing in England as the Premier League is the best in Europe.”

“Wigan are interested in Mathieu, but I think Mathieu would like to go to a big team in England.

“Liverpool are also interested in Mathieu, but so are teams in Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia.

“I think Mathieu will leave Marseille and I think it is very possible he could play in England this season.”

The French midfielder enjoyed an excellent 2008/09 season as Marseille narrowly missed out on the title by 3 points to eventual champions Bordeaux.

However, the arrival of Didier Deschamps as new coach has unsettled the player according to Valbuena himself.

He told L’Equipe, “Deschamps told me he knows I have played on the flanks in the past, but he feels I don’t fit into his tactical approach. He believes I cannot operate as a winger.

“I have been told I could play a few minutes towards the end of matches, but I want to leave.

“I have received his message. I understand my future is not at Marseille anymore. I wanted to stay here, but that cannot happen.

“I am very disappointed, considering everything I have experienced here with the fans. They will understand me.

“I won’t stay in these conditions. It hurts and I will be leaving against my will.”

Valbuena’s agent Hutteau confirmed the clash of personalities. He revealed, “Mathieu is a player that needs to be motivated to give his best.”

“The arrival of Didier Deschamps has changed everything.

“So far the Marseille officials have always been happy with Mathieu and have always rejected the approaches of other teams.

“It seems as though other great European coaches do not have the same opinion as Deschamps.”

The 24-year-old was born in Bruges, Gironde and began his career as a youth team player with Bordeaux.

Valbuena was eventually rejected for being too small but it failed to stop the 5 ft 5 midfielder from joining Libourne in 2004.

The diminutive midfielder scored 10 goals in 55 league appearances (43 starts) before Marseille made their move in June 2006.

Valbuena failed to make an impact in his first season after picking up an injury which held back his progress. In fact, he made just 15 league appearances that season (2 starts).

However, the following season saw a turnaround for the midfielder due to him maintaining his fitness and the exit of star man Franck Ribery.

This included 29 league appearances (18 starts) and 3 goals. He also scored in Marseille’s 1-0 Champions League group win at Anfield which brought him to Rafa Benitez’s attention.

Last season Valbuena played in 31 league games, starting 25 and scoring 3 goals.

However, his time at Marseille seems to have come to an end with the introduction of Deschamps. The midfielder has yet to play at international level despite a call-up to the French squad to face England and Mali. Unfortunately for Valbuena, he missed the matches through injury.

Liverpool may be in the market for the player nicknamed ‘Le Petit Velo’ or the little bike in his homeland. Xabi Alonso continues to be linked to a move Real Madrid so Rafa Benitez may be on the lookout for a new playmaker and although small in stature, Valbuena is a big talent.

Real Madrid To Offer Liverpool €6M For Alvaro Arbeloa

Real Madrid are hopeful of pushing through a deal to sign back Alvaro Arbeloa from Liverpool for just €6 million next week, according to a report.

The Reds may be struggling to fend off the advances of the Spanish giants as Real attempt to prise Xabi Alonso away from Anfield; but they are prepared to do a deal for the defender.

Arbeloa is keen to return to the club where he rose through the ranks after joining them from Real Zaragoza, and with Glen Johnson's arrival from Portsmouth he will be allowed to leave, The Mirror states.

Liverpool have yet to name their price for the former Deportivo La Coruna full-back, but Madrid are preparing an opening gambit of €6m (£5m) and hope that talks will push a deal through.

While Johnson will become the English side's regular right-back, Sergio Ramos will have to compete with Arbeloa for the same position in Manuel Pellegrini's new-look defence.

The former Sevilla star can also play in the middle, but with Raul Albiol's arrival he will find that earning a place next term is more difficult than it has been since he joined Madrid.

Daniel Agger Reveals Admiration For Liverpool Team-Mate Martin Skrtel

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger may be in competition with Martin Skrtel for a place at the heart of the Reds' back-four, but that doesn't stop him admiring the Slovak tremendously for the assets that he has brought to the side since his move from Zenit St. Petersburg in January 2008.

Agger made 26 appearances for Liverpool last season, as Jamie Carragher and Skrtel established a solid partnership at the back. Despite not playing regularly, he still signed a new contract recently, and believes that the strength in depth at the club is a sign of good things to come at Anfield.

"Martin is a top, top player. I was surprised when he came just how good he was," Agger told LFC Magazine.

"I have to be honest and say I don't know much about the Russian Premier League, so I did not really know what to expect when Martin came to the club.

"But he's a really good player and, just as importantly, he's a really good guy to have in the dressing room too. He's a guy who's good to talk to away from the pitch and who I admire a lot because of the way he plays on it.

"If you play all the time, if you get the chance to play week in, week out, then you must be a good player. I don't care if Martin and I are rivals for a starting place, he's still a friend of mine and I'll still tell the world how highly I rate him.

"He's an excellent defender and will keep getting better. We are competing with each other, maybe, to play in the team, but it's not a rivalry. Both of us play and train to the best of our ability and then the manager makes the decision."

Liverpool FC Boss Benitez Closing In On Teenage Prospects

Liverpool FC have been linked with two more of Europe’s brightest prospects - and boss Rafa Benitez has challenged Anfield's youngsters to make an impact at the club.

Benitez also has to contend with continued speculation about the futures of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, with strong rumours from Spain that Barcelona have lodged a £35million bid for the Argentina captain in the past 24 hours.

Liverpool FC declined to comment on that piece of speculation on Tuesday, but the Merseysiders are believed to be on the brink of confirming the addition of two more teenage stars to their ranks.

They have been linked with Danish 16-year-old Nikolaj Kohlert, from Esbjerg. The under-17 international had a trial at Anfield recently and is likely to sign a three-year contract.

Liverpool FC are also closing in on Paris St. Germain youngster Chris Mavinga on a similar three-year deal. The defender has already been capped by France at under-18 level.

Such acquisitions underline Benitez’s policy to search Europe for the best youngsters.

And as Liverpool approach their first warm-up game away to Swiss club St.Gallen on July 15, it is clear that Benitez will be running the rule over the club’s current crop of potential talent.

Spaniards Daniel Pacheco, Mikel San Jose and Daniel Ayala, Hungarian duo Krisztian Nemeth and Peter Gulacsi along with local defender Martin Kelly are training alongside Anfield’s senior players after the Reds returned to work at Melwood this week.

Benitez is urging the youngsters to make the most of their chance and stake a claim for first-team involvement next term.

It is a similar policy to last season when the likes of Jack Hobbs, David Ngog, Emiliano Insua, Stephen Darby, Damien Plessis and Jay Spearing were given opportunities in the early warm-up matches.

Benitez said: "We have already had conversations with the likes of Pacheco, Ayala and San Jose and we have told them that it depends on them.

"They are now training with the first-team squad and this is their chance to show what they can do ahead of the new season."