Saturday, July 18, 2009

Roma - Aquilani Could Be Sold

Serie A giants Roma have admitted that they would be willing to discuss the sale of Alberto Aquilani.

The Italy international is reported to be a target for Liverpool, while Arsenal have expressed an interest in the creative midfielder in the past.

A move to Anfield has been touted in the wake of Real Madrid's continued interest in Xabi Alonso, with Aquiliani seen as an ideal replacement should the Spaniard head home.

Roma have previously maintained that they would be unwilling to part with the talented 25-year-old, but boss Luciano Spalletti has revealed that stance could be about to change.

"We need to be open and listen to any type of offers that are proposed to us," he said.

"We are not worried, we know what we need to do.

"There will probably be two or three transfer market deals done and I am convinced we will be able to work well."

Aquilani is under contract with Roma until 2013 and despite Spalletti's admission, club director Bruno Conti insists no approach has been received as yet.

"The situation as it is right now is that Aquilani will remain until there is a team that makes an offer," Conti said to Mediaset.

"Once this happens then we will see."

Liverpool Squad Must Ignore Xabi Alonso & Javier Mascherano Speculation - Emiliano Insua

Liverpool players must not allow the continuing speculation surrounding the future of midfielders Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano to affect them ahead of next month's Premier League start, insists the Reds' Argentine full-back Emiliano Insua.

Both midfielders have been linked with moves to Spain, with the saga surrounding Alonso's potential move to Real Madrid having bubbled along since before the end of last season.

Mascherano is reportedly piquing Barcelona's interest, with the player's wife apparently unhappy with life in England, but his compatriot insists that the other members of Rafa Benitez's squad must shut out any such distractions.

"Obviously they are two very good and two very important players for us, this is clear to everyone," the 20-year-old left back told The Liverpool Echo.

"There has been a lot of talk but all we know for sure right now is that Javier has already come back to us and that Xabi is due back with us on Sunday.

"The only thing we can do as players is to concentrate on our own situation and keep working hard to make sure that we are fit and ready for the first game of the season."

Xabi Alonso Nears £32m Move To Real Madrid From Liverpool

Real Madrid believe they will finally get their man when they return with an improved offer for Xabi Alonso this weekend.

The Mirror understands that the Spanish giants have reopened talks with Liverpool and are ready to increase their bid to around £32million.

Alonso wants the deal concluded before he is due to return to Anfield on Sunday, prompting both parties to intensify negotiations.

Madrid previously offered £22m for the Spanish midfielder and were reluctant to go beyond that figure for a player priced at just £15m last summer.

But the deal has been resurrected after Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez indicated he would be willing to listen to proposals that would give him £22m cash, plus a player in part-exchange.

Even though Spurs are close to agreeing a deal for young Real striker Alvaro Negredo, the Bernabeu club have offered him as part of their Alonso proposals, along with Dutch international midfielder Wesley Sneijder.

Benitez will do business if he believes that either player is priced at the right level, giving him the £35m which he believes reflects Alonso's current worth.

The Anfield boss won't accept anything less because he knows how costly it will be to replace the Spaniard in his midfield engine room.

Benitez wants to make a significant profit in replacing Alonso, to allow him to pursue Valencia winger David Silva.

With transfer activity gathering pace at Anfield, insiders within the club suggest that if a deal can be concluded to sell Alonso at the right price over the weekend, the club will try to wrap up a £20m deal for Silva next week.

Talks have been ongoing for some months, but the player has now returned from a holiday and it is thought a fee could be thrashed out in the early part of next week allowing Silva to sign by Wednesday.

Steven Gerrard Underlines Desire For Glory With Liverpool FC And England

Steven Gerrard has underlined his desire for glory with Liverpool FC as the Reds prepare for their second pre-season friendly on Sunday against Rapid Vienna in the Austrian capital.

The Liverpool FC skipper has made it clear that he wants the Barclays Premier League title, another Champions League success and a World Cup victory with England before he considers coaching and management at the end of his career.

"I still have many more dreams, and that means winning the Premier League because that is the only medal that is missing from my own personal collection," he told

"And it would be really nice to go to a tournament with England and to be successful, so that means the World Cup next summer for me.

"I want to go one better than a quarter-final, which is the farthest so far that I have gone in a tournament.

"It’s the last four and the final that I now am aiming for. And I want another success in the Champions League too.

"People could see my reaction when I lifted that trophy in 2005, how much it means to me, my team-mates and the supporters. That was the best night of my career and I want to match it and experience that success again."

Once his playing career ends - and he has intimated that his current contract taking him to 33 will be his last - Gerrard already has plans to remain occupied.

He said: "Now I am thinking about what I will do at the end of my career, I’m not getting any younger.

"It would be nice to stay involved in the game. I’m not sure at what level as either a manager or a coach or even going into the media. I want to stay involved because football is so important to me."

Gerrard’s partnership with Xabi Alonso at the heart of Liverpool’s side, however, looks to be in doubt.

With Alonso having made it clear to manager Rafael Benitez that he wants to leave the club, the Spanish manager has been determined to get the very best price for the 30-year-old.

Holland midfielder Wesley Sneijder is now being linked in a player-plus-cash compromise. Benitez could also use the Alonso fee to buy Valencia’s attacking midfielder David Silva.

Young Dane To Join Reds

Liverpool are on the verge of signing Danish starlet Nikolaj Kohlert, according to the player's agent.

Kohlert enjoyed a trial at Liverpool earlier this year and the Reds have moved quickly to line up a deal for the Esbjergs midfielder.

The 16-year-old 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.

Kohlert's agent, Allan Nielsen, says only personal terms need to be agreed for the deal to be finalised with Rafa Benitez's men.

"I can say as much as there will be a meeting in Liverpool today. The only thing remaining is the personal contract," said Nielsen.

"I see no immediate problems in the clubs agreeing. There should be no problems at all but last but not least, it will be up to Esbjerg. But I am sure this will be no problem.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for a 16-year-old. He is ready both as a person and as a footballer. He will probably start in the academy on a scholarship before he turns 17.

"After that it will be the reserve team and then he will get a professional contract for three years with an additional option for Liverpool.

"It is a really really good contract. All that's remaining now is to get the details in place today."

In-demand Javier Mascherano Returns To The Fold

Javier Mascherano joined up with the Liverpool squad in Switzerland yesterday – with Rafael Benitez determined to hold on to the midfielder.

Mascherano’s arrival at Liverpool’s pre-season training camp was delayed after he became a father for the second time last weekend.

The midfielder has been courted by European champions Barcelona throughout the summer, with Lionel Messi urging his fellow Argentine to make the move to the Nou Camp.

But Benitez has made it clear Mascherano will be expected to honour the remaining two years of his contract, particularly as Xabi Alonso seems likely to leave for Real Madrid in the near future.

Alonso, along with the remainder of Liverpool’s Spanish contingent and left-back Andrea Dossena, is due to join up with the squad on Sunday after the friendly with Rapid Vienna in the Austrian capital before flying to the Far East for next week’s two friendlies against Thailand and Singapore.

Meanwhile, Lucas reckons Liverpool’s next title challenge starts with the work the squad are doing during pre-season in Switzerland.

“This training camp is the most important week in terms of fitness,” said the Brazilian midfielder. “If we can get the fitness as soon as possible we will see the benefits at the end of the season.

“We have been training a lot, double sessions every day, but we are going about things in the right way.”

Benitez yesterday took time out from the training camp in Switzerland to make a flying visit to the Sandor Karoly Football Academy of MTK Hungaria, with whom Liverpool have formed a special relationship.

The Anfield outfit have recently taken five MTK youngsters on trial, and Benitez was hugely impressed by an academy that has already helped groom Liverpool quartet Krisztian Nemeth, Peter Gulacsi, Andras Simon and Zsolt Poloskei.

“My colleagues reported that the people here are doing a first class job and I have wanted to see this academy for a long time,” said Benitez. “It's a well organised system with an excellent training staff – just as I expected.”

Everton Legend Peter Reid Hoping To Shock Liverpool FC

Peter Reid relished the rough and tumble of a Merseyside derby.

And the pugnacious midfield soldier loved nothing better than rubbing Liverpool’s noses in it

Now boss of the Thai national side, the Everton legend is hoping to get one over on the old enemy once again.

And after squaring up to the Reds at Goodison, Anfield and even Wembley – this time he’s hoping to triumph in unfamiliar territory.

The Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok is some 6,000 miles from Reid’s native Huyton.

But he is quietly confident that his Thai side can claim a shock victory over last year’s Premier League runners-up when they meet on July 22.

Reid, who made 159 appearances and scored eight goals during a trophy-laden time at Goodison, believes his new team are capable of atleast scoring against Liverpool, a feat they achieved when the Reds beat Thailand 3-1 in their previous visit in 2003.

Despite pretty much dominating South East Asian football for decades, Thailand have struggled to make any significant impact at a higher level.

In 35 years of trying, the national side has failed to take part in a single World Cup competition and their attempts at qualifying for next year’s tournament in South Africa proved equally futile as they sank to a bottom place finish in Group 1, managing just one point from six games.

However, since Reid’s appointment as national coach in September 2008, Thailand have captured silverware at the T&T Cup in Vietnam, a three team round robin tournament with hosts Vietnam and North Korea.

The former Sunderland and Leeds United manager, who surmounted some minor early difficulties, such as pronouncing most of the players’ tongue-twisting names (he referred to them by their shirt number), appears to be relishing the prospect of building a Thai side capable of competing for a World Cup place in 2014.

And he anticipates the coming friendly against Liverpool with a degree of quiet confidence. “Liverpool are a strong team with many talented players,” said the ex-England midfielder. “But in football anything can happen, like the US beating Spain in the Confederations Cup.

“I hope we can do the same against Liverpool.

“We are at an advantage because we see Liverpool play regularly but they have never seen us play.”

He’s certainly right in the unknown quantity element.

Of the current Thailand squad, just two players are contracted to clubs in Europe. Peter Läng plays his football at Schaffhausen in Switzerland.

However the other – 24-year-old striker Teeratep Winothai of Belgian side Lierse, is not entirely unknown to audiences on Merseyside.

‘Leesaw’, as he is nicknamed, broke into the Thai national side during their King's Cup campaign in 2005 when he was on the books at Everton.

The youngster played out just three months of what was intended to be a nine-month stint at Goodison, returning to Thailand on the basis that he felt he was learning nothing on Merseyside.

To add insult to injury, Teeratep went on to give a man of the match performance against David Moyes’ men in a pre-season friendly for the Thai National under-23 side of that year, a game that Everton eventually lost on penalties and one which left the Blues manager furious.

Rafael Benitez is likely to be just as unimpressed if Reid’s side can live up to his pre-match hope and score a major upset.

Liverpool’s squad will be joined by all of their international big guns next week.

After Sunday night’s match at Rapid Vienna, Spanish stars Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina, Albert Riera and Xabi Alonso will join up with the Reds squad, as Liverpool’s pre-season preparations crank up a gear.

Liverpool face the Thai national side next Wednesday afternoon.

Kuyt Noticing City But Not Fearing Them

Man City have been splashing the cash again this summer, and look as though they'll continue to do so, which is something this isn't going unnoticed.

Dirk Kuyt is one who couldn't help but notice this and the Dutchman knows they'll be a force this season, as he explained to the Daily Star:

'They have bought some good players but we are comfortable with our squad and our players and we are comfortable that we can play better than Manchester City this season.

'We are looking at Manchester City and who they are buying.

'You see what is happening there and you do think 'When will they stop?'

'Every day it seems like it is a different player who is signing but we will see what happens in the season.'

Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez are all high profile, and big money signings, to have joined Man City this summer with John Terry and Emmanuel Adebayor others that could follow them!

The Reds forward knows that Man City will be a threat this season and could break into the top four but still believes that we'll finish above them, as he also explained:

'Maybe they can come in the top four but we have to make sure we finish above them because we want to go one step higher after last season.'

Man City do look like they'll be a serious player this season, this will at least make the season different, but they'll still finish at least one place below us as we'll be winning the title this season!

Gareth Barry Hits Back At Rafael Benitez

Gareth Barry has rejected accusations from Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, who suggested the England midfielder's move to Manchester City was motivated by money.

Barry left Aston Villa to join City in a £12 million switch at the start of last month after snubbing long-standing interest from Liverpool.

Benitez then criticized the decision, suggesting it was taken due to "money, money, money".

But England midfielder Barry claims the recent signings of Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez prove he was right to move to Eastlands.

"I think there was maybe a bit of frustration (from Benitez) because it was well documented that Liverpool were in the market to sign me for a couple of years," he said. "But Manchester City had agreed a fee with Aston Villa.

"Once I'd spoken to the manager, heard the ambition and he told me what the club were aiming for, that suited me.

"People can talk about the money because of the speculation in the media but the players that are now joining are proving my decision to be a correct one - these are players that are really going to improve Manchester City and take us to where we want to go."

Barry was speaking on City's pre-season tour of South Africa with the first game coming tomorrow afternoon against the Orlando Pirates.

He added: "I think all the players are delighted to be here in South Africa. We've just come back from holidays and we're mainly focusing on fitness over here.

"We see the two games against the big clubs over here as part of building up towards the start of the Premier League.

"We know the standard of the football here is very high, so we'll be having a big test and as I said, building towards the start of our own league."