Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trio Bid £60M For Nando

Rafa Benitez claims THREE Premier League clubs have made £60million bids for Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.

But the Kop boss has told Man United, Man City and Chelsea that his Spanish superstar is NOT for sale.

Benitez said: “We had very good offers for some of our key players and we said ‘no’. Very, very big offers.

“This summer people have asked about Torres.

“We always wanted to keep Fernando but we heard rumours and agents were telling us things.

“We said ‘no’. The main thing was that the player wanted to stay.

“People know the player wants to stay here but sometimes the people will try.

“We’re trying to become stronger at Liverpool and build the squad to compete and challenge in the Premier League. That’s our idea.”

Real Madrid have also been linked with Torres but that deal will never get off the ground because of the bitter rivalry between the Spanish giants and the striker’s old club Atletico Madrid.

Benitez is still hoping that Javier Mascherano, 25, will finally commit himself to the club over the next week.

Rafa Wants Liverpool FC To Attack At Home Next Season

Rafael Benitez believes attack will be the best form of defence for Liverpool as they bid to turn Anfield into a fortress in the coming season.

Seven home draws were the main reason why the Reds were unable to wrestle the league title from Manchester United’s grasp in the last campaign and Benitez is now looking to create an increased spirit of adventure in his side this time around.

The Reds boss believes new signing Glen Johnson will prove pivotal to his new philosophy with his ability to raid forward from a full back position.

And he also reckons the ball carrying ability of Daniel Agger will help his team turn defence into attack, particularly in fixtures when Liverpool’s opponents are employing negative tactics.

“We want to improve our power in attack, this is our idea,” said Benitez.

“There have been games in the past we have played with three centre backs and two offensive full backs, it depends on the game.

“But normally we play with a line of four in defence because this suits the way we play on most occasions.

“We were talking last season about the draws we had at home and when teams play really deep against you, you need quality in the full back and central defensive positions.

“When we talk about Daniel Agger scoring goals and using the ball well it is because we know that these qualities are necessary if you want to turn the draws into wins.”

Liverpool’s preparations for the forthcoming season will step up tomorrow when the first team squad travels to Switzerland for training.

They will play their first pre-season friendly against St Gallen on Wednesday.

Meanwhile new boy Johnson’s versatility could be in for an early test.

With Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio out for a couple of months after knee surgery, Benitez temporarily lacks an experienced left-back.

But in only his second training session, right-back Johnson was tried out on the left.

He said: “There is a lot of versatility to my game, I can play in different positions.

“At the end of last season I was even playing off the front two at Portsmouth as an attacker. That may have been a one-off, but I did enjoy it all the same.

“I can play on the right of midfield, and I feel comfortable there.

“In my younger days I was a striker and at West Ham I played a lot in central defence.”

Liverpool Sign Chris Mavinga From PSG

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of French defender Chris Mavinga from Paris Saint Germain.

Reports in France earlier this week claimed Liverpool had offered Mavinga a three-year deal at Anfield and the 18-year-old has now put pen-to-paper on the contract.

Arsenal were believed to be interested in signing the versatile defender, but Liverpool have won the race to bring Mavinga to England.

Mavinga follows in the footsteps of David Ngog in leaving Paris for Liverpool following the striker's switch last summer.

The young Frenchman is Liverpool's second signing of the summer following Glen Johnson's arrival from Portsmouth.

El Zhar Signs New Liverpool Deal

Liverpool forward Nabil El Zhar has signed a contract extension that is set to keep him at Anfield until 2012.

He joined the Reds from French side St Etienne in October 2006.

The 22-year-old Moroccan international made 19 appearances for the first team last season, helping the club finish second in the Premier League.

El Zhar follows Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun and Daniel Agger in committing his long-term future to the club.

El Zhar was born in France and played for Les Bleus at youth level before opting to play for Morocco, where his parents were raised.

He was recruited by Liverpool after impressing during the 2005 World Youth Championships where he helped Morocco reach the semi-final stage.

El Zhar's senior Liverpool debut came as substitute against Portsmouth in 2006, and his only goal to date came at Anfield in a 2-1 victory over Cardiff in the fourth round of the Carling Cup in 2007.

Wrexham Target Liverpool Keeper

Wrexham hope to secure the loan signing of 18-year-old Liverpool goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis.

Liverpool have agreed to the move that would see the Australian continuing to train at Anfield several days a week but playing in the Blue Square Premier.

Wrexham manager Dean Saunders hopes to conclude the deal next week.

Bouzanis arrived at Liverpool from the New South Wales Institute of Sport, although he was loaned to Sydney FC until his 17th birthday.

Bouzanis, regarded by Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world, is eligible to play internationally for Australia and Greece.

New Lease Of Life For Liverpool FC Academy

When the youngsters at Liverpool’s Academy returned to pre-season training on Monday there was a familiar face waiting to greet them.

Rafa Benitez had taken time out from his hectic Melwood schedule to make the short trip to the Kirkby facility and the presence of the Reds boss had an instant effect on the teenagers who dream of one day graduating to his first team squad.

“It was fantastic to see the manager down here,” said recently appointed Academy director Frank McParland.

“You could see it in the lads faces – every single one of them was delighted to see him and they listened intently to every single word he had to say to them.

“But you could see it even more in the way they have trained since then because there has been a spring in their step and a real buzz about the place.”

Not that it is all down to the Benitez factor of course. There is also the small matter of a 24-carat club legend – Kenny Dalglish – whose return has excited anyone and everyone who has Liverpool’s best interests at heart.

“Kenny’s a special person,” said McParland. “So just to have him around the place makes a real difference.

“If you think of what he has achieved in the game as a player and a manager then it really does give you goosebumps.

“The experience he brings is something that we can all tap into. Not just the youngsters but also myself and the coaching staff here.

“Football is at the very core of Kenny’s being and the knowledge he has is going to be such an inspiration to all of us.

“I saw an interview with Kenny recently in which he said he was relishing working at the Academy, well I think I can safely speak for everyone here when I say that we are all relishing working with him.”

If Dalglish brings experience, then there are others who bring youth and it is this mix which McParland believes bodes well for the future of the Academy as it attempts to kick start the production line to Liverpool’s first team which has been faltering of late.

“I’m not here to talk about what happened in the past, all that matters now is what happens in the future and if what I have seen so far is anything to go by then the future for the Academy is undoubtedly bright,” said the 50-year-old.

“It is all about getting the right blend and this is exactly what we feel we are doing.

“Obviously there is Kenny who brings with him that wealth of experience.

“We have appointed Jose Segura as technical manager and he has wonderful coaching experience but with a bit more of a continental perspective, so straight away there is a blend there – it gives us the best of both worlds.

“If you look at the players who Jose worked with at Barcelona – the likes of Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique and so on – then his track record of producing quality footballers is up there with any youth coach in the European game and we are delighted that he is now working with us.

“We have also brought Rodolfo Borrell in to work on the coaching side of things and he also comes with a fantastic reputation that he earned at Barcelona.

“Even in his first days at the Academy it is easy to see why he is so highly regarded.

“He is so naturally exuberant and so good at getting his message across and the young players are already really enjoying working with him.

“Along with hard work and dedication, enjoyment is one of the keys to producing good players.

“If the lads enjoy coming in on a daily basis then they are going to stand a much better chance of making it and Rodolfo is playing a big part in making sure that this is the case.

“I’ve got to say as well that one of the things that has pleased me most is that Jamie Carragher is continuing to come up here to work on his coaching.

“Can you imagine what it’s like for a 15-year-old or 16-year-old lad who dreams of making it as a Liverpool player to work with someone who has actually achieved their dream?

“Every time they see him they not only see what is possible if they work as hard as he did, but they also see a tremendous example of how to conduct yourself as a Liverpool player.

”Just by being here Carra is giving the lads a massive boost and by working with them then it just adds to the mix and supports what we are trying to achieve here.”

Jermaine Pennant Off To Spain To Become Latest Premier League Tax Exile

Jermaine Pennant has secured a "dream" move to Real Zaragoza after becoming the latest Premier League tax exile.

The former Liverpool winger, 26, has followed this summer's trend of snubbing England in favour of an amazing three-year contract in Spain.

Pennant will earn £45,000-a-week AFTER tax and be given a free villa and car as part of the package.

Spain's new rules mean tax is capped at 40 per cent and big earners can pay as little as 24 per cent tax if they exploit a loophole and acquire "foreign executive" status.

The tax rate is less than half of Britain's 50 per cent tax rate which has prompted Real Zaragoza to pick up Pennant's tax bill.

That allowed them to snatch Pennant ahead of AC Milan, Espanyol and Atletico Madrid, who were all keen to sign one of the most in-demand players in this summer's transfer market.

Any English club wanting to sign Pennant would have had to pay him £90,000-a-week to match the deal he is now getting at Real Zaragoza.

Pennant's decision to leave the Premier League is typical of the shift in power from the Premier League to La Liga this summer.

Top English clubs used to be able to attract Europe's top stars by being the biggest payers.

But now the increase in Britain's tax rate means that players can earn far more abroad and this summer has already seen the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in a stunning £80m move.

The wage bill may still be higher in the Premier League but the tax rules mean that players can take home much more in La Liga and Italy's Serie A. Arsenal playmaker Andrei Arshavin revealed his dismay at discovering his wages were lower than he thought because of the increase in tax.

It means that Arsenal may have struggled to sign Arshavin this summer if a top Spanish club were in the market for him.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has already warned the days of Premier League domination will "soon be over".

Wenger said recently: "The new taxation system, and the collapse of sterling, means the domination of the Premier League will go. That is for sure.

"It will be a financial problem for all the English clubs." Mega-rich Manchester City are bucking the trend with huge contracts on offer for the likes of Carlos Tevez, Samuel Eto'o and John Terry.

But their wealth means that they can afford to pay players such big money that even with 50 per cent tax they will still be rolling in it.

However, for players like Pennant and other top stars in Europe the trend is changing and they can get topclass football and earn big money by moving abroad.

Jermaine Pennant: I'm A Liverpool Fan And I'll Miss Club

Jermaine Pennant last night set his sights on reigning in Spain after revealed his sadness at leaving boyhood heroes Liverpool.

Pennant, 26, has joined Real Zaragoza on a three-year deal after becoming one of the most sought-after players in Spain when Real Madrid tried to sign him in January.

The ex-Arsenal star said: "Another dream has come true for me. First I played for Liverpool and now I'm playing in La Liga for a great club like Zaragoza. After a fee was agreed in January for me to go to Real Madrid, I think my profile in Spain was a lot higher.

"When that move didn't happen it got me thinking about playing in Spain because teams like to play attacking football and all play with wingers.

"The last few weeks have been really difficult. I had to weigh up all the offers and decide where I wanted to play my football.

"Deep down I wanted to test myself in Spain and I'm so happy it's happened. It's sad leaving Liverpool because it's the club I supported as a kid but now I have a fantastic opportunity and I intend to take it.

"Players like David Villa played for Zaragoza and once you walk around the stadium you realise the fantastic history the club has.

"Maybe one day I will wear the red of Liverpool again but for now all I'm thinking about is repaying Zaragoza for the faith they have shown in me. I'm so excited about playing against Real Madrid and Barcelona."