Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Liverpool Set Focus On Youngsters

Liverpool reserve-team manager John McMahon says the club are aiming to develop more players capable of breaking into the first team.

Current Reds skipper Steven Gerrard was the last notable player to graduate from reserve and youth level and hold down a regular first-team place.

"The total aim is to produce players to play in Liverpool's first-team," he told BBC Radio Merseyside.

McMahon replaced former reserve coach Gary Ablett in June.

"There's a big squad and obviously everyone's not going to get games, so some players will be looking to go out on loan," he added.

McMahon, who is the younger brother of former Liverpool midfielder Steve, joins the Liverpool coaching team after a successful three-year spell at Shrewsbury Town.

He initially worked as number two to Gary Peters at the League Two club before assisting current manager Paul Simpson.

In his time at the New Meadow he helped Shrewsbury reach two League Two play-off finals, but now he is at Anfield McMahon knows the priorities of his job have changed.

"Everyone's here for the same thing," he said. "From the academy right through to the reserves, and that's producing players for the first-team."

McMahon was brought in as part of a number of backroom changes at Anfield this summer, which has also seen former boss Kenny Dalglish take up a senior role at the club's academy.

McMahon is joined in the dug-out by former Tranmere Rovers goalkeeper John Achterberg.

The two men worked together at Prenton Park when McMahon, who was then a youth-team coach at Rovers, took up the role of caretaker manager following the departures of Ray Mathias and Brian Little.

And McMahon is delighted to be linking up with the Dutchman again.

"John's a great character and a workaholic so it's a great appointment for Liverpool Football Club," he said.

Mark Lawrenson: Selling Xabi Alonso Will Not Ruin Liverpool FC's Title Bid

Those fans in Thailand certainly made their feelings clear to Xabi Alonso on the issue of whether they wanted him to stay at Liverpool or not.

And they were right in urging him to make a decision. But what they don’t realise is, it doesn’t matter what he says either way.

If he stays, great. He proved last season that he can rise above all the transfer talk and deliver top class performances.

If he goes? Well, all I would say is, if you’re going to go, go now.

The disruption caused by Alonso’s departure can be minimal but only if the saga isn’t allowed to drag on, certainly not into the new season.

The last thing Rafael Benitez needs is the type of scenario Arsenal had for years with Patrick Vieira, one of those tedious ‘is he, isn’t he?’ situations.

If Real Madrid want him so much then and the player wants to join them, the deal should be pushed through as soon as possible.

Because I don’t think selling Alonso will have a detrimental effect on any potential title challenge for next season.

The existing players won’t be affected. They have the confidence and belief that they can challenge Manchester United and will carry that into the new campaign regardless.

Selling Alonso might give the supporters a bit of a headache on how the manager replaces him – but I actually think it gives Benitez the opportunity to make his side a more potent attacking threat.

I know Benitez has previously denied interest in David Villa but this player, or someone of his ilk, would be ideal I think, once the money from any sale of Alonso is being splashed around the market.

I see absolutely no problem with Steven Gerrard dropping a hit deeper to allow a top quality striker – especially one with Villa’s understanding of Torres’s game – to add more firepower.

It’s all very well asking Gerrard to play as the back-up forward to Torres, but what happens if the Spaniard’s injury problems resurface?

Who have Liverpool currently got who can have the same impact?

Benitez might be happy with the form being shown by some of his squad strikers in this pre- season, but then David Ngog proved last year that it doesn’t necessarily translate into the real business. Krisztian Nemeth might have looked good in scoring twice the other day but this was a friendly.

It wasn’t ultra competitive and the opposition was sub-standard anyway, so it doesn’t mean he’s ready.

And if Benitez is so pleased to have “one of the best players in the German League” back in his squad, why did he let Andriy Voronin go in the first place? Because he can’t cut it, that’s why.

So I would say, let Alonso go now, take the money and, while there’s still plenty of time, spend it on someone who can turn those draws – so costly in last season’s final analysis – into victories.

Alonso might be the best passer at the club but even he hasn’t got the attacking prowess to be a genuine match-winner.

So it’s time to cash in and get someone who is.

Reds Close To Winning Xabi Alonso Battle

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez claims he is ready to walk away from his summer-long pursuit of Xabi Alonso – because Liverpool won’t play ball!

Reds boss Rafa Benitez has refused to budge from his £30million valuation of the Spanish international.

But that is way above Real’s estimation and Perez insists that despite his club’s massive outlay on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka this summer, they will not pay over the odds for any remaining targets.

“Some people obviously thought that because we said we wanted more Spanish players, they could ask for fees which don’t correspond to reality,” he said.

“A year ago, certain players we’ve asked about would have cost less than half the price we’re being quoted now.

“If necessary, we’ll find the Spanish players we would like for the squad in our youth system.”

Then, in a strong message to Liverpool, Perez added: “We made huge attempts at the start to sign players who had won the Ballon d'Or or the World Footballer of the Year award.

“But the arrivals of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo have confused some people who obviously thought that, because we said we wanted more Spanish players, they could ask for fees which don't correspond to reality.”

Perez also suggested any deal for Alonso would be dependent on the club selling a number of their players deemed surplus to requirements.

He continued: “We brought in a lot of players, our prime objectives, at the start and now we have the absurd number of 29 players in our squad, when we can only register 25 for the league.

“It has been more difficult than we expected encouraging players to look at other options. At this point, for a player to arrive, at least one would have to leave.

“There is a financial element to that, but it is mainly a technical one. We cannot have so many players who would not have chance to play. It has to be one in, one out for us at the moment.”

Benitez is adamant he will not lower his asking price, and Alonso’s reluctance to publicly state his desire to quit Anfield has left the Reds holding all the aces during negotiations.

Agent: Reds Accept Dossena Bid

Andrea Dossena's prospective Anfield exit is a step closer after Liverpool accepted an offer from Napoli, according to the defender's agent.

The Italy international is believed to be keen on a return to Seria A after struggling to make an impact in England following his move from Udinese last summer.

Reports suggest Napoli's offer is in the region of 5million euros (£4.3m), a significant loss on a player boss Rafael Benitez paid 10million euros for just twelve months ago.

Representatives of the left-back have suggested the offer has been accepted and Dossena is expected to complete the move later this week.

"Liverpool have accepted (Napoli chairman) Aurelio De Laurentiis' offer," his agent told Radio Kiss Kiss.

"It's now just a matter of days. The two clubs are in agreement, Liverpool accepted Napoli's offer but I can't say any more.

"With regards to Andrea there are no problems, it's only a matter of days. As soon as Napoli call us, we will finalize it."

Pepe Reina: Liverpool Must Be More Consistent

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has echoed a refrain which is becoming increasingly common around Anfield in recent months, and asserted that the Reds must discover the means to be more consistent if they are to end the club's long wait for a league title.

It is 20 years since the Mersey men were last crowned champions of England, and the Spanish keeper believes that recording better results against those sides lower down the Premier League table is the crucial factor in finding the few extra points the Reds require in order to wrest the Premier League crown out of the hands of fierce rivals Manchester United.

Liverpool managed an impressive set of results against the other 'top four' sides last season, but often struggled against so-called 'lesser' teams, recording a run of draws against the likes of Stoke City, West Ham United and Wigan Athletic that did irreparable harm to their bid for last season's league title.

Reina is convinced that such a record requires drastic improvement if Rafa Benitez's men are to be triumphant over the course of the coming campaign.

"To get 14 points out of 18 against the top three - they are numbers which are not very common," he told Sky Sports News.

"So sometimes you win [games] between the top four or the top five, but the thing is we have to win against the bottom ten."

Liverpool Can End Long Wait For A Premier League Title - Yossi Benayoun

Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun has asserted that Rafa Benitez's side is now strong enough to end the Anfield outfit's long wait for a league title, and will bring the Premier League crown to Merseyside this season.

Twenty seasons have passed since the Reds' last league championship win, and Liverpool supporters have - in that time - been forced to watch as their bitter rivals from the other end of the East Lancs Road, Manchester United, have enjoyed domination of the domestic crown.

Nevertheless, the Israeli international feels that with a little self-belief, Benitez's team can push on and finally end the drought come next May.

"The Premier League is very strong," he told Sky Sports News. "It's still Manchester [United], Chelsea and Arsenal, and Manchester City are getting stronger, so we know it's going to be difficult.

"But we believe in ourselves. We just to get better and to try to improve all the time and I think we have a good chance."

Liverpool flew home today after completing their tour of Asia with a 5-0 rout of Singapore at the weekend.

Liverpool Have Returned Stronger From Asia - Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher believes that Liverpool's pre-season tour of Asia, where they experienced high temperatures and humidity in their fixtures, has been a valuable exercise, and has improved fitness and strength levels in the squad.

"The main thing at this stage is getting fitness and coming out here and playing in these conditions has definitely helped," the talismanic defender told the club's official website.

Liverpool concluded their tour with a 5-0 thrashing of Singapore on Sunday, a result which followed a 1-1 draw with Thailand, allowing them to end on a high note after a frustrating run of results in their pre-season so far.

"Having not won any of our first three games it was nice to get a win and score a few for the supporters," Carragher added.

"It was just a great way to end the trip. It's been brilliant and the support we have here is just amazing. It has grown even more since the last time we were here."

The Reds also collected some silverware from the trip, with the win over Singapore meaning that Carragher, as stand-in skipper on the tour, was presented with the Merlion Cup.

The former England international is hoping that club captain Steven Gerrard is given plenty of opportunity to emulate that feat in the coming season, with Carragher hopeful that the club can bring some trophies back to Anfield.

"Hopefully Stevie will be the one picking up trophies when the real stuff is handed out in 10 months," he concluded.

Steven Gerrard's Wife Alex Curran Declares Liverpool Too 'Rough' For A Night Out

Steven Gerrard’s wife Alex Curran has risked angering the whole of the city her husband plays football for by declaring it ‘rough’.

The party animal WAG from Aintree, Merseyside, says she doesn’t go out in Liverpool nightclubs anymore because they ‘attract the wrong type of people’.

The 26-year-old’s comments, made in a magazine interview, come just as she and Liverpool captain, Gerrard, were spotted enjoying a night out in London, and days after he was cleared of affray.

In an interview with new! magazine, she said: “It's not the same any more. To be honest, it's rough.

“Everywhere new that opens attracts the wrong type of people. It's not nice, so I haven't bothered to go out.”

The comments are bound to upset Liverpudlians who are famously proud of their home town.

Last week Gerrard – who married Alex in June 2007 - was acquitted of assault after a five-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Gerrard, 29, admitted he repeatedly punched a man in a drunken row over music being played at the Lounge Inn, in Southport, leaving him with a black eye, a missing tooth and a head wound that required stitches.

But the midfielder insisted he punched 34-year-old Marcus McGee in self-defense, saying he thought he was about to be attacked.

The jury accepted his version of events after an hour of deliberations.

The judge told the £5million-a-year player that while he had been 'unwise' to pursue the 'trivial' dispute over what songs were played during a night out, he left the dock with his reputation intact.

The footballer was applauded by fans who also shouted 'Come on Rocky' as he emerged from court in the clear.

The charge had carried the threat of a three-year prison sentence which would have been a crushing blow to Gerrard's playing career as well as his lucrative endorsement deals.