Thursday, August 06, 2009

Liverpool Agree Fee With Roma For Alberto Aquilani

Liverpool have agreed a fee with Roma, thought to be around £20 million, for the transfer of Italy midfielder Alberto Aquilani.

The Premier League club confirmed a deal had been struck on Wednesday afternoon, hours after Xabi Alonso completed his £30 million move from Liverpool to Real Madrid.

It appears that the deal for Aquilani had been in place, ready to be finalised once Alonso passed his medical at the Bernabeu.

Aquilani, 25, was heading to Merseyside on Wednesday afternoon and will have a medical on Thursday.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said: "Alberto is a very good player and I'm delighted we've reached agreement with Roma for his transfer.

"Alberto has a winning mentality and great experience in both Serie A and the Champions League.

"He has long been recognised as a top-class talent in Italy, captaining his country at both Under-19 and Under-21 levels before establishing himself in the senior national side."

Aquilani was believed to be top of Rafael Benitez's list of potential replacements for Alonso. Liverpool have been able to take advantage of Roma's financial difficulties in capturing a player who was a favourite of the Roma fans.

He can play in the position left vacant by Alonso - alongside Javier Mascherano in front of the back four.

As a 16-year-old, Aquilani was offered contracts by both Arsenal and Chelsea but wanted to fulfil his boyhood dream of playing for Roma.

He made his first-team debut at 18, when Fabio Capello was manager, but has been troubled by various injuries since becoming a Roma regular.

Aquilani's fitness may be a concern, so the medical will be key to the deal being completed. The player has been sidelined since surgery on his right ankle in May.

He last featured for Roma on March 11 when the Serie A club crashed out of the Champions League to Arsenal, and the fact he made only 14 league appearances last season because of fitness problems must be a concern at Anfield.

Roma great Giuseppe Giannini said this week that Aquilani could be a success at Anfield.

"Aquilani would do well at Liverpool," said Giannini. "He would not have any problems adapting to the Premier League. English football is perfect for Aquilani.

"He has all the right characteristics to do well there. He will show Liverpool what he is all about.

"I have no doubts that Liverpool will sign a great player in Aquilani. I think his future will be in the Premier League."

Alonso Completes £30m Real Move

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has completed his £30m transfer to big-spending Real Madrid from Liverpool after passing a medical on Wednesday.

The Reds revealed on Tuesday a deal had been struck but added the terms would remain confidential.

Alonso, 27, joined Liverpool from Real Sociedad in August 2004 for £10.5m.

Technical director Jorge Valdano said the capture of Alonso would signal the end of Real Madrid's buying spree which has now seen them spend over £200m.

"With this signing, the chapter is now closed on transfers," said Valdano.

"Before the start of the pre-season, the coach Manuel Pellegrini told us it was necessary to strengthen two positions: the defence and the midfield, and that is what we have done."

Alonso becomes the second Liverpool player to join the Spanish giants after full-back Alvaro Arbeloa's £3.5m switch to the Bernabeu in July.

Real, under the guidance of returning president Florentino Perez, have embarked on an ambitious rebuilding programme this summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived from Manchester United in a world record £80m deal, Brazilian playmaker Kaka was bought from AC Milan for £56m and Real have also spent £30m to sign France striker Karim Benzema from Lyon.

In addition, defender Raul Albiol was signed from Valencia as Real look to build a squad capable of challenging for honours at both home and abroad.

Rivals Barcelona completed a clean sweep of domestic trophies in Spain last season, while Real have failed to progress beyond the last 16 of the Champions League for the past five seasons.

Alonso's transfer to the La Liga club brings to an end Real's long pursuit of the Spanish international.

In July, Real sporting director Miguel Pardeza was quoted as saying "Madrid don't discard an option until it is truly impossible" after reports suggested Liverpool wanted £50m for the midfielder.

It is believed Real returned with an offer of £30m that could rise to £34m, depending on Alonso's success in Spain.

He will join former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek at the Bernabeu, leaving only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher from Liverpool's 18-man squad that won the Champions League in 2005.

Alonso and Dudek were both part of the side that dramatically fought back from 3-0 down against AC Milan to win the trophy in a penalty shoot-out, Alonso scoring Liverpool's third and equalising goal on 59 minutes.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had tried to sell the Spanish international last summer as he looked to fund a move for midfielder Gareth Barry from Aston Villa.

However, Alonso did not want to move and a deal for Barry eventually fell through, with Alonso going on to play a key role as Liverpool finished second in the Premier League.

Rafael Benitez: Liverpool Eyeing 'The Best Replacement' For Xabi Alonso

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has revealed that the club are searching for "the best replacement" for Xabi Alonso.

The Anfield club have agreed to sell the Spanish midfielder to Real Madrid for a fee believed to be in the region of €34 million and the 27-year-old is all set to be unveiled at the Bernabeu having completed his medical.

Glen Johnson is the only major arrival at Liverpool thus far this summer after he joined the club from Portsmouth, although Andriy Voronin has returned from Hertha Berlin, where he spent last season on-loan.

Spanish giants Real Madrid also raided the Merseyside club for full-back Alvaro Arbeloa last week as they seek to regain a grip on the La Liga title.

The likes of Alberto Aquilani and Christian Poulsen have been sounded out as potential targets for the Reds and while Benitez is disappointed to have lost Alonso, he has revealed that finding a suitable replacement for the Euro 2008 winner is now at the top of his agenda.

"We would like to keep him [Xabi Alonso], but as soon as he told us that he wanted to leave we started working, looking for players and trying to do the best deal for the club," the former Valencia boss told the club's official website.

"It has been too long, since May, that he told us he wanted to leave and after the official transfer request we were working very hard.

"The first idea was to keep him, and the second one was to find the best price and the best replacement for us."

Xabi Alonso - Incredible But Not Irreplaceable For Liverpool

Real Madrid are in the process of adding what they feel is the final piece of an elaborate and expensive summer puzzle, signing deep-lying playmaker Xabi Alonso in a €34 million deal. In doing so, they could be taking a key element away form Liverpool by swooping for their long-unsettled dark horse.

The story behind Alonso finally handing in a transfer request and booking a one-way ticket to Madrid, despite have a crucial role to play in Liverpool's 'to be continued' domestic resurgence, is a bitter one.

The inside scoop appears to be thus: the relationship between Alonso and Anfield gaffer Rafael Benitez first soured when the boss fell out with former assistant Paco Ayestaran, who was axed upon embracing Jose Mourinho at the height of Rafa's feud with the ex-Chelsea tactician.

Ayestaran and Alonso were reportedly very close, and in the aftermath Benitez saw Alonso's support of the assistant as a further sign of disloyalty. Then came the infamous scenario wherein Alonso decided to attend the birth of his son rather than be with the Reds as they faced Inter in the Champions League, further infuriating Rafa, who had already been sending hints to the midfielder suggesting that he wanted him out.

Strike three, of course, was Liverpool's botched pursuit of Gareth Barry, and although time and the highs of last season have served to heal some of the damage between player and manager, the wounds would appear to have run too deep.

That's not to say that Xabi won't take many fond memories away from Merseyside. He was able to blossom with the club, whilst adding technical quality to what was a rough-and-ready side when he joined. He won the Champions League and the European Super Cup in 2005, and playing in England certainly didn't stop him from achieving international success, winning Euro 2008 with Spain.

So how much will Liverpool really miss Xabi? He appears cold and calculating on and off the field; you'll rarely get a smile out of him, much less an inspirational team-talk. However, he's said to be warmer than he appears on the surface around his team-mates, yet from that point of view the Reds surely aren't losing a massive leadership presence.

Still, the guy must have something about him beyond raw football ability, as a great many footballers have all the talent in the world, yet lack the other great intangibles needed to lead a team – and Xabi has done that even without appearing to have the personality to do so. Last season, the bestubbled maestro had a big hand in helping the Reds to cruise without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres during their periods of injury. Furthermore, 'Pool have won 67% of their games with Alonso in the side and just 46% when without.

In terms of a replacement, though, the man under the microscope is Roma's Alberto Aquilani. He is another player blessed with natural footballing attributes, but his mentality has come under even more scrutiny than Alonso's, and that's even before worrying about his perma-crock label. The positives are obvious, though: Benitez should be able to mould him without friction as he adjusts to England; he's an unknown quantity to the rest of the 'Big Four', who know the ins-and-outs of Alonso's game.

Rafa isn't daft, of course – he'll know that Aquilani isn't going to step in as a ready-made replacement for Alonso any more than Antonio Valencia is going to win the Ballon d'Or at Manchester United. If he's missing a trick, it's perhaps that he could have replaced Alonso with a much more obvious personality, and given his side one more big, bold shunt in the direction of the Premier League crown. Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres all plot the Reds' course in their own way, but the Premier League trophy still had the wrong red ribbons on it last term.

Gareth Barry, of course, may just have been the man for the job – but then again it would be naive to claim that Liverpool would win the title with Barry in place of Alonso. Short of Cesc Fabregas – and probably not even then – that like-for-like switcheroo perhaps wouldn't be enough.

Luckily, Xabi's departure and the timely cash injection could nudge Benitez outside the box, and the likes of Valencia's David Silva or Aston Villa's Ashley Young could re-enter his thoughts. Someone as versatile as Silva would be preferable, it must be said: his comfort on the ball and willingness to track back would fill more holes than a winger such as Young. Such an X-factor, following the exciting addition of Glen Johnson as a high-octane right-back, could potentially make this into a championship winning side.

Rafa's bow remains impressive, and lets not forget that this is a team who came second in the Premier League, despite having some set-backs that would have damaged lesser teams further. After a half-dozen games, Xabi's void may be evident and questions might be asked. However, if his departure gives Rafa the impetus to round off his team and make them a more complete attacking force, especially at home, then surely the fans will be able to close a complicated chapter quickly.

Liverpool Legend Phil Thompson: We Need To Finish Off Weaker Teams

Liverpool legend Phil Thompson has spoken out saying that the Reds have to beat the smaller teams if they are to be crowned Premier League champions this season.

"We need to be able to put teams away," Thompson told LFC Magazine.

"Even against Stoke [City] at home last season, where we had about 27 attempts on goal, that aggressive streak to finish them off was missing.

"Liverpool blitzed the top four but still haven't won the title. We've only lost two games all season, but haven't won the title."

The legendary defender went on to speak of how performances against the lower teams count towards winning the league.

"If it had been a position where we drew against all those top teams but beat the lesser lights, with respect, we would probably have won the league," he lamented.

Liverpool are yet to win the league title in the Premier League era.

Jamie Redknapp: Cristiano Ronaldo's Absence Will Hand Title To Liverpool

Jamie Redknapp believes his old club, Liverpool, will win this season's Premier League title and end two decades of hurt on Merseyside.

The Reds have not won the domestic title since the days of Alan Hansen, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley in the 1980's, but Redknapp is convinced his former side have what it takes to usurp rivals Manchester United as champions.

In an interview with Sky Magazine he said, "I’m not being biased, but I’d bet on it [Liverpool winning the League].

"If they perform anywhere near the level they did last year, I think they’ll win."

And the pundit confirmed the departure of a certain CR7 will have a major influence in this season's title race.

"Man United will miss Ronaldo so much," he asserted.

Redknapp's confidence comes in the face of criticism of Liverpool's championship credentials from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has dismissed the Anfield outfit's chances of success this season.

Threlfall Set For Loan Move understands Liverpool defender Robbie Threlfall is poised for a loan move away from Anfield.

A number of clubs are thought to be keen on signing the talented left-back, who is also equally adapt at centre-half, after Liverpool made him available for a loan switch.

The 20-year-old is highly regarded at Liverpool and the Anfield coaching staff are willing to farm him out again so that he can continue his development.

Threlfall, who had loan spells at Hereford and Stockport last season, endured a frustrating campaign last term with a metatarsal injury, but he is now back to full fitness and has caught the eye in pre-season.

His performances have not gone unnoticed with the player being subject to several enquiries about his availability ahead of the new season.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez is keen to send him out on loan as he continues his policy of farming out his best young players so that they can regular first-team action under their belts.

United Boss Sir Alex Ferguson Dimisses Liverpool FC Threat

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has begun the mind games with Liverpool FC counterpart Rafa Benitez by declaring Chelsea to be the biggest threat to the Red Devils' dream of an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title.

Big things are expected of Liverpool FC this term after their most consistent top-flight campaign since 1990.

But Ferguson said: "Liverpool had probably their best season for 20 years and still finished four points adrift. It will be hard for them to match last season, let alone improve on it. Other teams will know more about them, so it has to be Chelsea as the main threat."

Benitez is bound to bristle at such comments, although with Xabi Alonso about to join Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, it is difficult to see how a Liverpool FC side whose focus continues to be the axis of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard can get better.

The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti also brings an unknown dimension to Chelsea, although Ferguson believes the Italian's past record makes him an opponent to be respected.

"Ancelotti will play the Milan way," said Ferguson.

"It brought him two European Cups - it should have been three because they should never have lost to Liverpool, so why should he change?"

That put-down of Benitez's proudest moment as Liverpool FC manager from Istanbul in 2005 will not endear him to the Anfield club either.

However, United have their own worries at present, namely the broken fingers Edwin van der Sar suffered during the penalty shoot-out defeat to Bayern Munich in last week's Audi Cup that will keep him out for eight weeks.

The 38-year-old's injury turns the spotlight firmly onto Ben Foster, whose own well-chronicled fitness problems have been a consistent handicap in his bid to establish himself as United's number one.