Friday, July 10, 2009

Odds Slashed On Franck Ribery Joining Liverpool

The odds on Franck Ribery leaving Bayern Munich for Liverpool tumbled yesterday, plummeting from 66-1 to 8-13 on.

Bookmakers Skybet last week slashed their odds ahead of Michael Owen's shock move to Manchester United and are taking no chances this time around, even though the money is only coming from a small group of punters.

Skybet's Dale Tempest told sports betting website "Every price we have put up has been taken on Ribery moving to Liverpool, which has left us stumped as in recent weeks he has been liked with every other club but the Reds!

"After seeing money for him to join Man United and Real Madrid at the same time that Bayern Munich say he’s going nowhere, we’ve now seen a flood of bets on him to join Liverpool.

"8/13 may seem a very short price but after the losses we made last week on Michael Owen, who was gambled down from 20/1 to move to Manchester United, we are taking no chances."

Rafa Wants Loyalty From Duo

Rafa Benitez believes Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano owe it to Liverpool to stay at the club.

Midfield duo Alonso and Mascherano have both been strongly linked with moves away from Anfield to Spain this summer.

Real Madrid have openly declared their interest in Spanish ace Alonso, while Barcelona are keeping tabs on Mascherano.

Benitez is confident the key duo will remain on Merseyside and he has revealed he would like the pair to show some loyalty to Liverpool.

"I do not think Alonso or Mascherano will go. It is clear that they both are under contract with long-term agreements. That is it," insisted Benitez.

"There has been a lot of things written, a lot of rumours, but both players are under contract and we have no more need to talk about things.

"They are both very good players and I will be very pleased to keep them. They both have very good contracts.

"We signed them both from different situations. Alonso was coming from Real Sociedad and nobody had really heard much of him outside of Spain, he did well and we renewed his contract because of that.

"Mascherano came from West Ham where he had not been doing well. We brought him here and gave him a good contract, so we are very pleased with them both and that Liverpool has been very good to them."

Pennant Completes Zaragoza Switch

Former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant has joined newly promoted Primera Liga outfit Real Zaragoza.

Speculation about the future of the once highly regarded England youth International reached fever pitch in the January transfer window, with a number of high-profile Spanish clubs rumoured to be interested in securing his signature ahead of his release by the Anfield club.

However, following a largely anonymous loan spell on the south coast with Portsmouth, the 26-year-old has opted for Zaragoza and joins on a three-year deal.

"I wanted to come to Spain and I had offers from important teams in Europe but joined Real Zaragoza," explained Pennant.

"I really want to get started and do well in the league."

The move to Spain brings to an end a troubled career in English football, which saw the once record-breaking youngster gain notoriety for playing for Birmingham City while wearing an electronic tag following a drink-driving conviction.

'Crazy' Transfers Concern Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has revealed his club are struggling to compete in an over-heated summer transfer market.

The Reds paid £17m for Portsmouth right-back Glen Johnson, but saw long-term target Gareth Barry opt for Manchester City rather than Anfield.

The Spaniard is also preparing to fend off enquiries for midfield pair Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.

"The market is now crazy. It is all money, money, money now," he said.

"We had to pay big money. But we were signing a good player, an England player (Johnson), and that is very positive."

Johnson was reportedly tracked by Chelsea and Manchester City, two clubs whose owners have contributed to spiralling transfer fees for top players.

Since he bought the club in 2003, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has supplemented Chelsea's transfer funds with large loans, while City were taken over by the ambitious and wealthy Abu Dhabi United Group in September.

Barry, 28, who came close to joining Liverpool last summer, became the latest big-money arrival at Eastlands as he followed Roque Santa Cruz, Jo, Robinho and Craig Bellamy in an £12m move at the start of June.

"City have signed a lot of good players, but that is no guarantee they will win anything. But it will be interesting to see what happens next season," said Benitez.

The summer's most spectacular spending has taken place at Spanish side Real Madrid, where Benitez spent his early years as a coach.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Raul Albiol have been recruited at a combined cost of about £183m, but the Reds boss warned that building a team through the chequebook is no guarantee of success.

"Things have changed. You have to adapt to a situation. Manchester City and big clubs in Europe are spending big money, so the market has changed and we have to work harder," he added.

"If you spend big it is always easier to perform well but when you have a good understanding between players, that is also important. If they are together, they work hard, that is just as important."

Glen Johnson Reveals Choosing Liverpool Over Chelsea Was ‘Easy’

Glen Johnson appeared in a calm and composed mood during his first press conference as a Liverpool player following his lucrative £18 million switch from south coast club Portsmouth, revealing to the attending press that making the move to the Anfield outfit was an "easy" decision.

The defender, who vastly improved his game last season and firmly established himself as England manager Fabio Capello's first choice right-back, claimed that working under the tutelage of Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was a key reason in signing for the Reds.

Johnson noted that, despite Chelsea's reported interest, there was only one destination for him.

"When I left Chelsea I needed to play games, so I'm grateful to Portsmouth for taking me on," he enunciated clearly to the nation's journalists.

"Hopefully I've shown people a greater perspective of what I can do. I want to try and do what I did last season, with Liverpool, and also push on."

The Greenwich-born West Ham United academy product continued, "Even though I'm from south London, the first kit I had was a Liverpool one, but don't ask! I don't know how that happened!"

On the decision to sign for Liverpool ahead of a return to west London club Chelsea, Johnson said, "It was easy. Rafael Benitez was keen to help me improve and turn me into the best player that I can be.

"According to the press there was a lot of interest [from Chelsea], but when I knew of Liverpool, it was an easy decision."

Liverpool will be the fifth club that Johnson will have signed for. He received his footballing education at West Ham, before enjoying a loan spell at Isle of Dogs side Millwall.

He then signed for Chelsea, becoming the first addition in the Blues' money-laden era bankrolled by Roman Abramovich.

After failing to establish himself he left for Portsmouth, where he began to display the exceptional form that booked his Liverpool transfer.

Benitez Backs Mature Johnson To Show Chelsea What They're Missing

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has hailed the £18million arrival of Glen Johnson and insists the former Chelsea reject in now ready to assert himself amongst the big four.

Johnson collected a Barclays Premier League title medal at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho's stewardship yet the former Blues boss deemed the full-back not good enough for his squad and sent him swiftly packing to Portsmouth.

But after three successful seasons at Fratton Park, the 24-year-old recovered to establish his spot in Fabio Capello's England squad, earning his rightful place among the Champions League contenders ahead of next year's World Cup.

Despite the Spaniard's recent admission that he was forced to pay over the odds for the one-time West Ham star, Benitez is confident Johnson will prove to be a snip.

'We are really pleased because we've signed a really good player, an England international,' he told the club's official website at the player's unveiling today.

'It's very positive. He has quality and a very good mentality, and from the first time I spoke with him it was clear he wanted to come here.

'Chelsea were trying to win big trophies at the time he was there and they needed experience in order to win.

'Now it is a good moment because he is a much better player, he has the experience and the desire. He has quality, that's clear. He's more mature now.'

Johnson quickly underlined his ambition to help Liverpool celebrate their first league trophy since 1990 by eclipsing reigning champions Manchester United this season.

'We've got some fantastic players and I wanted to come here and help Liverpool win the league,' he said.

'We want to go as far as we can in every competition but all the lads want to win the Premier League and that would be a great start.

Rafa Pleased With Gerrard Deal

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez admits he is 'really pleased' that captain Steven Gerrard has finally signed a new contract.

Gerrard originally agreed a two-year extension to his deal back in April and has now put pen-to-paper after returning to training this week.

The contract ties the inspirational midfielder to Anfield until 2013 and Benitez is happy to have secured the long-term future of another key player.

"We have spent this summer trying to secure the players we have," said Benitez.

"It's really good to keep Kuyt, Torres, Agger, Benayoun and Steven. They are the here and now of the club and for the future it is really good.

"We are really pleased. We have a lot of good players who want to stay, to win and compete.

"The message has to be the same again this year - to be there, to be contenders and to fight.

"If we can win trophies it would be fantastic."

Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez Plays Down Xabi Alonso & Mascherano Exit Talk

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has attempted to play down the transfer talk linking two of the Spaniard's midfield stars, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, with respected moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona, by reminding the press that both players have a number of years left on their contracts.

Alonso and Mascherano have proved a formidable midfield pairing for Liverpool. The Argentinian battler anchored and protected his defence last season in admirable fashion, while Alonso's deep-lying playmaking credentials allowed the creative hub in front of him, whether this was Steven Gerrard or Yossi Benayoun, to develop play.

Their sterling performances have attracted interest, with Florentino Perez wanting to lure Alonso to Madrid as his Galactico policy continues after the acquisitions of Kaka, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo, while Barca trainer Pep Guardiola is believed to be a keen admirer of Mascherano's skills.

Benitez, though, claimed that the aforementioned pair are a part of the club's long-term future.

He explained to the press today that, “Both players are our players and we are really pleased with them. Both have two to three years on their contract so we don’t need to do anything,” he concluded.

The ambiguous financial future of Liverpool's parent club Kop Holdings Ltd paved suggestions that if Benitez is to continue to reinvest in his squad, then he may need to sell one of the two in-demand midfielders, but his latest comments imply that he is keen to dig his heels in, in order to ward off foreign interest.

Italian Press Claim Ferguson And Benitez Are Ready To Lock Horns

Italian newspaper Il Corriere dello Sport claims that Manchester United and Liverpool are leading the chase for AS Roma striker Mirko Vucinic and that a bidding war for the Montenegrin international looks a likely outcome.

The publication also claims that Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Redknapp is monitoring the situation should Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez decide to pull out of negotiations.

The striker, who only signed a new contract extension last month, is thought to be happy in the Eternal City but could find himself the victim of his club’s poor financial state.

The report suggests that Liverpool have made indirect contact with Roma as boss Rafael Benitez tentatively weighs up partnering Vucinic with Spanish hitman Fernando Torres.

The news comes off the back of an enquiry last summer from Old Trafford which was eventually turned down, a scenario that appears unlikely to repeat itself following Vinico Fioranelli’s failed takeover and the continued instability at boardroom level.

Indeed this week sporting director Daniele Prade reported to Il Corriere dello Sport that no player’s future with the Giallorossi was secure.

"I cannot guarantee that certain players will stay," he stated.

Vucinic is thought to hold a value in excess of €23 million and could be followed out of the door by midfielder Daniele de Rossi who is set to move to Real Madrid.

Balague: ‘Alonso Has Asked Rafa To Release Him’

Respected Spanish journalist Guillem Balague has revealed Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso has told Rafa Benitez to allow him to move to Real Madrid.

The Spanish journalist who is a regular expert on Sky Sports’ ‘Revista de la Liga’ suggests at the moment the deal is in danger of falling through because of Liverpool’s lofty valuation of the former Real Sociedad star, yet Balague intimates it might be better for all concerned to let the 27-year-old leave Anfield.

Writing on his official website, Balague said: “It is true that Real Madrid are getting a little impatient with the situation (Alonso transfer saga) and they would like to find a solution as soon as possible – not only with Xabi Alonso but they would like all of their transfer activity complete before pre-season in around two weeks time.”

“Rafa Benitez has been publicly sending out the message that he does not want Xabi Alonso to leave – but I cannot help wondering if, in these circumstances, it is entirely fair to do so when Xabi appears determined to move on.”

Balague also suggested the relationship between Alonso and Benitez is nearing a breaking point.

The esteemed journalist continued: “Their relationship may have reached breaking point: Rafa decided to sell him last summer and the player accepted the situation. However, when there were no concrete offers that matched Rafa’s valuation, Xabi was told he would be staying. Xabi was previously asked to sign a new deal and he did so.”

“The player now feels it is time to move on and he has asked Rafa to release him so that he can pursue fresh challenges.”

“Under entirely normal circumstances, when there are healthy relationships between player, manager, agent etc – everything would be fairly straightforward and concluded with the minimum of fuss.”

“However, it appears that nobody is willing to make compromises or make concessions and the situation seems to be in stalemate.”

If a deal is not concluded between Real Madrid and Liverpool, Balague intimates it would not be beneficial for the player or indeed Liverpool.

Balague added: “The danger is that Real Madrid will run out of patience and focus their attention on other targets (the Spanish newspaper Marca is reporting that De Rossi of Roma is already being lined up as an alternative).”

“If that were to happen, and Xabi ends up staying at Liverpool – I have to ask how healthy that would be for the relationship between manager and player at Anfield, and how motivated will Xabi be next season?”

“This could also lead to another potential problem for Benitez: if a price tag has been placed on Alonso, a player who has asked to leave – what happens if a premiership rival puts that money on the table after Madrid have withdrawn their interest?”

“Would it have been better to have sold to Spain, rather than to a Premier League rival?”

“Perhaps a bid may come in from one of the big Italian clubs, but if not, the situation becomes increasingly more complicated and I fear it may not end to everyone’s satisfaction”

Benitez Calms Aurelio Fears, Insisting Injured Defender Could Return For The Start Of The Season

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has allayed fears that first choice left Fabio Aurelio will be out for the rest of the year after confirming the extent of the Brazilian's freak injury.

There were fears that Aurelio would be missing for the rest of the year after he suffered damaged his knee in a kickabout in his back garden.

But Benitez refuted reports of a six month lay-off and insisted the 29-year-old full-back is expected to return in time for the new Barclays Premier League campaign.

'He was injured playing with his son and really disappointed because he was enjoying the summer,' Benitez said.

'He had the operation - he has had a problem with his cartilage - so he will be one month, maximum two months, not six months like I see in the press.'

The setback, however, has forced manager Benitez to abandon any thoughts of allowing Juventus to follow up their interest in Andrea Dossena, who could still have a part to play in the opening weeks of the season.

Meanwhile, uncertainty still surrounds Xabi Alonso's Anfield future after Real Madrid continued to send out mixed messages about their pursuit of the Spain midfielder.

Just 24 hours after appearing to concede defeat and launching a bitter attack on Benitez over a £35m asking price, Real director Jorge Valdano said: 'Everything can still be turned around. Everyone knows we have always been interested in Alonso.'