Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rafa Quiet On Alonso

Rafa Benitez remained tight-lipped when quizzed on whether his side's 5-0 defeat of Singapore on Sunday represented Xabi Alonso's last appearance in a Liverpool shirt.

The Spanish midfielder, publically courted by Real Madrid all summer, came on for the final 13 minutes for his first pre-season appearance.

Benitez has repeatedly stated his intent to keep Alonso at Anfield but when asked if the player would still be in England next season, he felt the question would be better directed at the 27-year-old.

"It's a question that you have to ask him," he said.

"Honestly, we've been talking about this for two months but I think that it is a question for him and not for us.

"He has three years on his contract and we know he is a great player - that's why we signed him and renewed his contract. So you have to ask him."

Benitez declared himself delighted with his team's performance in the final game of their tour of Asia and was especially pleased with the promise shown by 20-year-old Krisztian Nemeth.

Nemeth came off the substitutes' bench to score twice in the Lion City and has clearly made a favorable impression on his manager.

"He was really good two years ago for the reserve team, scoring a lot of goals but last year he had some problems with injuries," added Benitez.

"But he showed today that he's a good finisher and a player with a future.

"It depends on the players always. If they're knocking on the door and they knock really hard, then I have to hear. This is important and it depends on them."

Benitez insisted that he will be leaving Asia with happy memories.

"The fans have been amazing and it felt for us like we were back at Anfield," he said.

"People here have been treating us with a lot of respect and you can see the passion. Sometimes you say it's too far (to travel to Asia) and you have one week away from your families but you can see the faces of the fans and you feel good to be out here.

"When you've got fans saying that they've been waiting eight years to see you, you have to be pleased to be here."

Such is the passion for the club in Asia that Benitez believes his side will enjoy a significant advantage if the Premier League ever manages to get its plan to play a 39th game in the region off the ground.

"We normally play around 60 games a year so if were to play more games, it would have to be organized properly. But it's not our decision - the coaches and managers have to prepare the teams so it depends on other people.

"But if we have to play with these fans behind us all the time, it will be like playing at home."

Dossena In Talks Over Napoli Switch, Says Agent

Andrea Dossena’s agent says the Liverpool FC defender is keen to sign for Napoli and that the two clubs are in negotiations.

Dossena only moved to Anfield last season from Udinese but has failed to settle in and is likely to find himself even more surplus to requirements following the arrival of Glen Johnson on Merseyside.

The Italy full-back is reportedly keen on a return to Serie A and would welcome a move to Napoli who finished 12th in the league last season.

"We want to close the deal, we will reach an agreement," Federico Pastorello told TuttoNapoli.net. "Napoli’s offer is five million euros (£4.3million) plus bonuses.

"It’s a deal the two clubs are sorting out, we’re waiting for news.

"Napoli know how much Andrea earns, a significant sum, but less than two million.

"Our intention is to reach an agreement. We will not even have a problem with giving up image rights.

"The player is currently in Singapore with Liverpool, he is also awaiting news.

"Although he loves being at a great club like Liverpool, he would welcome the opportunity to join Napoli with great enthusiasm."

A stumbling block could be Liverpool FC’s reluctance to accept a bid of half the 10million euros (£8.6million) they paid for the 27-year-old barely 12 months ago.

Hicks And Gillett Refinance Liverpool FC Bank Loan

Liverpool FC’s American owners have concluded a deal re-finance the bank loan they took out to buy the club in 2007.

Co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are not expected to issue a statement, but the deal is believed to be for another year and will involve them paying back £60m of the original debt.

Negotiations between the Royal Bank of Scotland, Wachovia and the owners have continued for months the worldwide credit crunch has made them tortuous.

There has been real fear that the banks would call in the loan, while both Hicks and Gillett have searched for someone to take a minority stake in the club for around £100m to no avail.

But a source close to the owners has confirmed that the deal has now been concluded, and before last weekend’s deadline for re-financing the package expired.

The owners have reduced the £290m they owed to £230m, with £60m being repaid, half immediately.

Hicks, 63, and Gillett, 70, purchased Liverpool in 2007 for £174m, taking on £44.8m of liabilities.

At the time they maintained that financing the debt would not fall on the club. But that attitude changed, and Liverpool now have to find around £40m a year to service the debt, a situation that has enraged fans’ groups and impacted on boss Rafael Benitez’s transfer budget.

The owners have also failed to find the money to build the club’s new stadium with preliminary work on the Stanley Park venture halting during last season.

Extra cash for the stadium "did not form part of any discussions" claimed the source, although there is still a projected date for completion of 2012.

In the run-up to the new deal being concluded, Gillett has sold his 80% stake in the Montreal Canadians ice hockey club for US dollars 580million (£350million), while Hicks is trying to off-load the Texas Rangers baseball team.

It is Hicks who has seemingly experienced most difficulty in coming up with financial backing of late, and he recently defaulted on interest payments on a US dollars 515m (£312million) loan in the States recently.

Prior to the current credit crunch, loans of the size Hicks and Gillett took for Liverpool would be expected to re-financed over three or five years.

But City sources doubt this new deal would be for more than a year in the current climate.

Hicks and Gillett had a one-year arrangement when they first bought the club, and then negotiated another year with a six-month option.

They were granted that option, which expired at the weekend. But critics, particularly fans’ groups, will see this new agreement as just papering over the cracks of a regime that has not been able to take the club forward in the face of tough financial competition from Chelsea, Manchester United, the Spanish giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona, and now Manchester City.

Rogan Taylor, spokesman for the ShareLiverpool group who re-launched their own takeover plans last week for, in effect, a fans' co-operative, said: ``The deal we are hearing about for the re-financing of the Americans' loans is really what we expected.

"These are the indications we have had from RBS for a while, I would be interested to know really what Wachovia’s view is. It has been rumoured that they were very unsure about this new deal.

"It is little more than an expensive fix - just sticking plaster and making things more difficult for the club to progress in the long run.

"It is still very short term, year to year, if that. The owners are not able to take the club forward."

He added: "We produced our own plans again last week, and that is based over a much longer period and aimed at the banks.

"There can be political pressure here. We, the tax payers, own RBS and maybe they will eventually see that they can get most of their money back with our scheme and it is a much longer-termed plan."

Balague: No Chance Liverpool Will Sign Silva

Liverpool will not be signing Valencia winger David Silva this summer, despite reputed interest from Manchester United, that is the view of Spanish based journalist Guillem Balague.

Reports in this morning’s Daily Mail suggests Manchester United and Liverpool are ready to go head-to-head for the Spanish international, with the former expected to make a bid for the player later this week, however esteemed Spanish journalist Guillem Balague believes this is not the case.

Writing on his official website, Balague said: “Speculation has resurfaced and in the last few days the player has once again been linked with a move to Anfield.”

“We can clear all of the above up by saying that, at this moment in time, neither Liverpool, nor any other English club, have had any recent contact with Valencia over David Silva.”

“As far as Liverpool are concerned, I am still being told that there is no chance that they will be making a move for David Silva at this time.”

“Most of the transfer money available has been spent on Glen Johnson (this includes revenue from the sale of Keane, and debts owed to Liverpool by Portsmouth for the transfer of Peter Crouch that were factored into the Johnson deal).”

“Considerable funds have also been dedicated to the renewal and extension of many current player’s contracts at Anfield - including Benayoun.”

“In fact, I understand that, had he been sold, David Silva was considered as a replacement for the Israeli, but now that Yossi is staying at the club - the signing of Silva is even less of a possibility.”

“Although there have been no formal contact between Liverpool and Valencia in relation to David Silva recently, the channels of communication remain open between Anfield and the player’s representatives - so as with anything in football, we can never say never, but nothing appears likely at this time.”

On Manchester United’s alleged interest in the player Balague said the following: “It has even been suggested that Manchester United are also interested in David Silva, and I have been advised that the player will be under very close scrutiny when Valencia take on Ferguson’s men next month.”

The respected pundit, who features regularly on Sky Sports’ Revista de la Liga, also tried to clear up the financial turmoil Valencia currently reside in, and in particular how they can possibly hold onto the likes of Silva.

He continued: “Another question that many have been asking and one that relates to the above, not to mention David Villa is: ‘how on earth can Valencia possibly keep hold of the pair when the club are in such dire financial circumstances and have previously admitted that they must sell to avoid financial meltdown?’”

“Unfortunately, there is no logical or rational explanation, and at times the situation at Valencia is as baffling to us here as it appears to you.”

“In many ways the Mestalla club remind me of Newcastle United: a club where what counts is the opinion of the public, an anonymous body that defies all financial and sporting logic and one that rules the club with its heart rather than its head.”

“The problem at Valencia is that nobody wants to be the pantomime villain and risk the wrath of the fans by actually selling their favourite players.”

“Consequently, the club remain in a mess financially and the players concerned are growing deeply frustrated and unsettled - particularly David Villa, who we will have more on tomorrow.”

Benitez Points To Positives

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is confident his squad are beginning to display the benefits from their pre-season activities.

The Reds recorded a first victory in four warm-up matches as they hammered Singapore 5-0 in the Far East on Sunday.

Benitez believes his players have benefited from the tour of Asia and that they are shaping up well ahead of the new Premier League campaign.

Liverpool, who have flown back to England, now face Espanyol on 2nd August as they continue preparations and their boss is in a positive frame of mind.

"We've been here (Asia) for a week and you could see that the team was stronger and fitter," Benitez told the club's official website after the win over Singapore.

"It was a good game, especially in the second half when we had more space and they were a bit tired. We could go forward and create more chances.

"We worked hard and played at a high tempo with a professional mentality. We won and scored a lot of goals so I think that will make the next game easier.

"You can see that some of our players are a little bit tired, but the mentality and attitude was good.

"If we can play these kind of games with this intensity, it will be really good to improve the condition of the players. We need to be a little bit sharper but I feel it's just a question of time."

Singapore Coach Radojko Avramovic Hails Liverpool's Second-Half Show

Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic paid tribute to Liverpool as the English giants crushed his team 5-0 in a Sunday evening exhibition.

The Lions put up a good show in the first half at the National Stadium but their resistance was broke just before the break thanks to Andriy Voronin.

The visitors went to town in the second half as Albert Riera, Fernando Torres and a brace from Krisztian Nemeth made it a 5-0 thrashing.

“In the first-half, we played as a team, stayed compact and did very well but in the second-half, fitness into play and the players couldn’t cope,” said Avramovic after the game.

“Plus, Liverpool have quality. They made a few changes, fresh players came in and caused problems down our left side.”

There were some positives for the hosts especially as 18-year-old Hariss Harun impressed.

“Hariss and Fahrudin controlled the area in front of our back four in the first-half.

“He has a good future ahead of him but he must learn and tonight was a good game for him to see what quality players do, especially in terms of receiving the ball, changing sides and passing.

“Younger players must look at the Liverpool players and try to play like them.”

Rafael Benitez Hails Krisztian Nemeth After Brace

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has showed his pleasure at his side's 5-0 friendly win against Singapore this afternoon.

The Reds finished their tour of Asia with a easy victory over the Singapore side, with Andriy Voronin, Fernando Torres, Albert Riera and Kristian Nemeth all getting on the scoresheet.

20-year-old Nemeth was singled out for special praise by Benitez, who thinks the Hungary Under-21 international is a natural goalscorer.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Benitez said, "Nemeth is a great finisher. He has scored a lot of goals in the reserve team and today he showed why.

The Spaniard also stated that he thought it was an enjoyable game and that he was pleased with the outcome.

"It was a good game," he added.

"We worked hard and played at a high tempo, with a professional mentality.

"I think we are improving physically every single day.

"Some of the players returned late from international duty, so it was important for them to play for 30 minutes.

"You can see that some of them are a little bit tired, but the mentality and attitude was good, and it was a very good game."

The Reds will now travel back to Europe, where they will continue their pre-season campaign against Spanish Primera Division side Espanyol in a week's time.

Rafael Yuste Admits Barcelona Admiration For Liverpool Midfielder Mascherano

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, who recently admitted that he would like a move to Spanish champions Barcelona after reports surfaced that he was unsettled in England, is a player that the Blaugrana would be interested in taking to La Liga, according to their vice-president of sport Rafael Yuste.

"I can confirm that Javier Mascherano is a fantastic player that personally I like a lot," he told Sky Sports News. "But we have not listed [him].

"We have a lot of players who want to come to Barcelona. Mascherano is a fantastic player, of course, but he is today at Liverpool and he's playing very well.

"The future we cannot predict. We are just here today attending the match. He's a nice player - yes."

Barca were competing in the Wembley Cup today, where they beat Egyptian outfit Al Ahly 4-1.

Liverpool, meanwhile, hammered Singapore 5-0 in their latest game on their pre-season tour of Asia, with Mascherano making a second-half appearance as a substitute.

Live Hand Grenade Found Outside Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish's House

Merseyside Police are investigating the discovery of a live hand grenade on a wall outside the home of Liverpool's iconic former player and manager Kenny Dalglish, who has recently returned to work at Anfield in an ambassadorial and youth development role.

The discovery was made at the address in Southport, Merseyside, on Sunday night, by police investigating an ongoing series of incidents, related to witness intimidation, that are completely unconnected to Dalglish.

The Army Bomb Disposal Team were called to the location, which was cordoned off by police.

"The device was removed and made safe and is currently undergoing forensic examination," a Merseyside Police spokeswoman is reported as saying by the Press Association.

"The road remains cordoned off at its junction with Sandringham Road and high-visibility patrols have been stepped up in the area to reassure the public.

"Detectives believe this incident is linked to a series of other recent incidents in this area and not to the owner of the property where the device was found."

The alarm was raised at 10.15pm, but it is unknown whether anyone was in the Dalglish household at the time.

Two men in their twenties were later arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.