Thursday, September 10, 2009

Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez Welcomes Use Of Video Evidence

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has welcomed UEFA’s crackdown on diving but he wants to see video evidence used more often to punish reckless challenges.

Arsenal striker Eduardo was recently banned for two games after being found guilty of deceiving the referee to win a penalty in their Champions League qualifier against Celtic.

Benitez said: “Diving is something that if you can, you have to stop.

“We have to stop this and to use the video is good but I’m really concerned about this decision.

“Someone diving gets a two-game ban but very bad tackles only get a three-game ban. You have to have the right balance.

“I’ve always been in favour of using the video more often. But as well as diving we must use the video more to stop the bad tackles.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool insist no illegal approach has been made for Crewe teenager Max Clayton.

The League Two club’s academy director Dario Gradi is fuming at the Reds’ pursuit of the 15-year-old striker.

Gradi hit out at the “rich robbing the poor” in English football after admitting Clayton wants to leave the club but he stopped short of naming Liverpool.

Crewe have not made an official complaint to the FA and the Reds are confident they have done everything by the book.

The transfer ban imposed on Chelsea for their pursuit of Lens striker Gael Kakuta has put the recruitment of youngsters from home and abroad in the spotlight.

Carra Wary Of City Threat

Liverpool star Jamie Carragher believes Manchester City provide a real threat to the top four this season.

City have made a promising start to the new season after winning their opening three games without conceding a goal.

The cash-rich Blues spent big in the summer with Mark Hughes spending over £100million bringing the likes of Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Joleon Lescott to Eastlands in a bid to turn City into contenders.
Carragher has been impressed by City and feels they will challenge for honours this season.

"I think Man City are looking very strong, Tottenham as well, Aston Villa and Everton are always up there as well so I think it will make it a little bit more exciting this year," Carragher told Sky Sports News.

"The top four places will certainly be up for grabs, but we want to make sure we are up there.

"But I think with the other teams coming involved hopefully they will take points off the other big sides as well."

Asked if he felt City could maintain their challenge throughout the season, Carragher said: "Oh yeah. They have got some great players, world-class players and I am sure they will be buying more in January so they are going to be a massive threat."

Rafael Benitez Says Major Changes At Melwood Are Paying Off Already

Rafa Benitez believes the major changes at Melwood and the Academy this summer are already paying dividends.

The international break has given the Spaniard the chance to see for himself the progress being made both at reserve and under-18 level.

And the Reds boss insists he is delighted with the impact the new coaching staff have made.

John McMahon replaced Gary Ablett as reserves boss and is working alongside coach Antonio Gomez Perez.

Frank McParland took over as Academy director and other key appointments saw Jose Segura made Academy technical manager and Rodolfo Borrell handed the job of under-18s coach.

Reds legend Kenny Dalglish is also involved at the Academy in his new role as club ambassador.

One of the aims of the sweeping changes was to improve communication between Melwood and the Academy and Benitez says that has been achieved.

“The relationships have to be good and all the ideas have to be the same,” Benitez said. “It’s really positive now and much better.

“I was talking with the coaches and it is clear the young players are working hard.

“I only have around 10 senior players at the moment because of the internationals but the other day we played against the under-18s at the Academy and it was good to see the youngsters.

“My message to them is to keep working hard. If they do that and improve then they will get chances.”

Teenage centre-back Daniel Ayala has already been called up from McMahon’s second string for his Premier League debut this season.

And Benitez believes there are other youngsters in the reserves capable of making the step up.

“I was watching the reserves training on Monday and I was very impressed with the high tempo,” he said. “During their games so far they have tried to do the same and the team is doing well.

“They have some players with quality and I’m sure it will be a very positive season for the reserves.

“Daniel is playing well. He’s only 18 and still learning and will be a really good player for the future.

“We have a lot of good players in the reserves but I prefer to give them time. They have to impress in the reserves and if they do that then they will get their chance in the first team.”

Tom Hicks Praise Suggests New Sponsor On Horizon

Tom Hicks, the co-owner of Liverpool FC, has praised Christian Purslow, the club's new managing director, has praised Christian Purslow, the club's new managing director, and hinted that the club has a number of new commercial deals ready to be announced.

Whether a new shirt sponsorship is one of those commercial deals remains to be seen. The club's long-term partnership with Carlsberg comes to an end next summer, and the beer company, which renewed its multi-million sponsorship of the English FA yesterday, is believed to be unwilling to match Liverpool's new asking price.

Sources close to Carlsberg insist the brewer is still keen to retain its partnership with the club. The question is whether it can afford to meet Liverpool's demands. The club has seen its greatest rivals, Manchester United, agree a shirt deal worth more than US$30 million per season with Aon, while Chelsea's deal with Samsung, at slightly over US$20 million per year, is also worth significantly more than Liverpool receive. The club, the most successful in the history of English soccer, is keen to see its deal at least match that of Chelsea.

"Christian Purslow is working hard," said Hicks. "Liverpool's new management focus is producing great new commercial results that will become known in due time."

Purslow took over as Liverpool managing director in June. He has previously served as a director of Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, and Head of Media, Cable and Entertainment for Schroder Salomon Smith Barney in Europe and head of UK Mergers and Acquisitions for Credit Suisse First Boston. Purslow is a fluent Spanish speaker, has a modern languages degree from Cambridge University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Liverpool Veteran Jamie Carragher Sees No Quick Fix In Transfer Controversy

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is not sure that a ban on the transfer of players who are under the age of 18 will necessarily improve the situation, as the storm surrounding big English clubs and their alleged 'inducement' of young French players continues to rage.

Manchester City are the latest club to face possible FIFA action, following the transfer ban placed on Chelsea for an alleged breach of the regulations when they signed youngster Gael Kakuta from RC Lens. Manchester United are also readying themselves for a legal battle in the wake of a reported allegation from Le Havre that Paul Pogba was illegally induced into breaking his contract to join the Red Devils.

Carragher can't see an easy solution to the problem, telling Sky Sports News: "If you can get players from abroad very cheap who are very good then you can't say no if you think it's going to improve your first team in the future.

"As long as the clubs aren't breaking the rules, I think it's up to FIFA or UEFA if they want to change the rules. But as long as the clubs can hold their heads up high and know that they haven't done anything wrong. That's the main thing."

As for Liverpool's home game against Burnley this weekend, Carragher knows that taking three points off Owen Coyle's team will be far from easy.

"It'll be a difficult game," he told The Liverpool Echo. "They've made a great start and beaten Manchester United and Everton. If we'd have done that in the early weeks we'd have been delighted. For a team to do that that's only just come up is a fantastic achievement.

"I'd probably like to see them to stay up. It's a local team so we've not got far to travel.

"It's important that we get three points there and get back up the league."

Liverpool Launched Failed £19 Million Summer Bid For Atletico Madrid Star Simao

Portugal and Atletico Madrid midfielder Simao Sabrosa has apparently once again remained beyond Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's grasp, as details have emerged that Atletico's director of sport, Jesus Garcia Pitarch, refused to sell Simao, one of the club's prized assets, to the Reds this summer.

Liverpool apparently tabled a £19 million bid for the versatile attacker, according to Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias. Benitez has been trying to bring Simao to Anfield since as far back as 2005 in an effort to bolster his side's offensive options.

The Reds were not the only club pursuing the ex-Benfica player's services during this past transfer window. Juventus were reportedly rejected in their £22 million bid, while Lyon and Paris-St Germain had similar ill-luck in their attempts to sign the 29-year-old.

Benitez was forced to replace midfielder Xabi Alonso this summer after the Spaniard was transferred to Real Madrid. The Reds' manager chose to recruit Roma's £20 million midfielder Alberto Aquilani to replace Alonso in the middle of the park.

Aurelio Closes On Return

Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio has targeted a return to action in this weekend's clash with Burnley.

Aurelio has yet to play this season, having spent the last few months recovering from a knee cartilage operation.

The Brazilian sustained the knee injury in a kickabout with friends while on holiday in Brazil earlier in the summer.

Aurelio will feature in a practice game on Thursday and he is hoping to prove his fitness to Reds boss Rafa Benitez.

"I am feeling good and working hard to try and get back into the squad for Saturday," said Aurelio.

"The international break came at a good time for me because I have been able to work hard and not miss too many more games. I'm playing in a practice game on Thursday and I hope to prove my fitness and be involved against Burnley.

"I have been training for three weeks now and I can't wait to get back."

Aurelio added: "The injury could not have come at a worse time. I was with my brother-in-law and some friends playing football and joking around and suddenly I felt something strange in my knee.

"I called my old team Sao Paulo and they examined the knee and found there was a cartilage injury.

"I then phoned Liverpool and got permission to get the knee operated on. It was my holiday and I spent the rest of the time recovering.

"The good thing is it feels fine now, I am now back and hoping to help the team. I played in a practice game last week and I felt good."

Pardoned Football Fan Walks Free

Freed football fan Michael Shields spoke of his "living hell" after he was pardoned over a crime he did not commit.

The 22-year-old applauded his family and supporters, saying he knew he "would never walk alone" during his long fight for freedom.

Shields, who was jailed for 15 years in Bulgaria for the attempted murder of a barman, smiled and gave a thumbs up as he was freed.

He was convicted after a disturbance following Liverpool's Champions League victory in Turkey in 2005.

He was later transferred to a prison in the UK.

Today he was picked up from Thorn Cross Young Offender Institution in Warrington, Cheshire, by his parents, Marie and Michael.

In a statement read out at a press conference on his behalf by the Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, Shields said: "The last four years have been the hardest four years of my life.

"They have been a living hell."

Shields went on: "And I am only sitting here today thanks to the love, support and tireless campaigning of a number of people, some of whom are here today.

"In particular, I want to take this opportunity to say a public thank you to Councillor Joe Anderson, who led this campaign.

"I'd also like to thank Louise Ellman MP, Arlene McCarthy MEP, Bishop James Jones and my legal team, John Weate and Peter Weatherby.

"All have been so solid in their support for me and my family.

"Most of all I want to thank my mum and dad, my sisters, my family and my friends, who never for one minute doubted my innocence and who stood by me every step of the way.

"I couldn't have made it without their love.

"It's a hard thing to be locked away for a crime you did not commit.

"I was just 18 when I was arrested.

"I'm now 22 and face having to rebuild my life which was shattered by the failure of two legal systems, one here in the UK and one in Bulgaria.

"Today is a happy day for me but one of mixed emotions too.

"I am a free man, yes, but it should not have come to this.

"I now face a hard battle to adjust to normality.

"To find a job. To resume friendships. To build an ordinary life.

"I would like to extend my sympathy to the family of Martin Georgiev, who was the innocent victim of an unprovoked attack.

"He and his family, like me and mine, have been denied justice for four long years.

"My priority now is to spend time with my loved ones, to slowly begin to plan for a future as an innocent man.

"I would like to say a massive thank you to all those people out there - including Liverpool and Everton football fans - who have supported me and my family over the last four years by writing letters, by protesting, by marching.

"Your voices were heard.

"Thanks to you, I knew I would never walk alone. Thank you."

Shields' father, Michael senior, recalled the moment he and his wife Marie learnt the news of their son's release today.

Mr. Shields, a window cleaner, said: "We are feeling elated, it has taken such a long time.

"It is a big weight off our shoulders and we've been knocking on the door for four and a half years.

"It was a very emotional phone call which came directly from Jack Straw.

"We just thanked him for all the work he has put it.

"It's such a special day, we are so pleased to have him back with us."