Friday, October 02, 2009

Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt Hails Yossi Benayoun's Intelligence & Quality

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has hailed the performances this season of team-mate Yossi Benayoun, and feels that the work rate and commitment shown by the Israeli will prove a key factor over the course of this campaign.

Benayoun also possesses a keen footballing brain and superb skill, according to the Dutch international.

"Yossi is an intelligent player with lots of quality," Kuyt told the Reds' official website.

"His biggest quality is to beat players. The way he passes them sometimes is unbelievable. He's got great skill and can do something for us in games to change things.

"Yossi can beat players and score goals. A lot of people will look at him and notice these qualities but he is also a team player. He puts everything into the team effort and also works really hard.

"That is really important. He's not only a skilful player but also works unbelievably hard for the team.

"For the last couple of months of last season he was really important for us, scoring goals and playing well as we challenged for the title. This season he has carried that on and is playing very well again."

Manchester United & Liverpool Scouting Real Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann

Manchester United and Liverpool are to go head-to-head in the battle to land Real Sociedad's prodigiously talented teenager Antoine Griezmann, according to the Daily Mirror.

Griezmann, a left winger, has burst onto the scene in recent months after being fast-tracked through the club's youth set-up. His rise to prominence has alerted a host of European clubs, and the two Premier League rivals are among the most high-profile to covet his signature.

The Frenchman has been with Real for four years, and enjoyed a productive pre-season. The Spanish club aim to tie the player down to a long-term deal after he impressed in his four appearances so far this season.

He scored on his first start for the club, in the 38th minute, in a fixture against SD Huesca.

The versatile attacker can also be deployed as a striker, but United and Liverpool may face an arduous task ahead in purchasing Griezmann as he recently made it clear that he would like to stay at the San Sebastian-based club.

He said: "Clearly I would like to stay with Real Sociedad.

The grounded youngster added: "I do not believe that I [deserve] a place in the first team."

Aurelio Reveals Rafa Anger

Rafa Benitez was as angry as he has ever been with Liverpool during their defeat by Fioretina, Fabio Aurelio has revealed.

The Brazilian full-back has admitted that the normally cool Spaniard blew his top at half-time in Tuscany during their UEFA Champions League clash.

Liverpool were 2-0 down at the Artemio Franchi, and Benitez made his feelings clear to his charges, although despite a second half improvement the scoreline stayed the same.

"That was the most annoyed we have seen the manager, but we all were," admitted Aurelio.

"We all felt like that after the first half and that's why you saw a better performance in the second.

"But we didn't need harsh words at half-time - we all knew that we were not playing well and that we had to be much better.

"In the second we were a different side and if it had been like that from the start it could have been a different result."

Aurelio admits that Liverpool will be looking to shrug off their defeat in Italy as they tackle Chelsea on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1.

"In football you always have a chance to put it right and turn things to your favour and ours comes at Chelsea on Sunday," he said.

"It's a good opportunity for us to get over the disappointment of losing to Fiorentina.

"It is a very important game in the Premier League, against a very strong side, and we have to recover from this result straight away and have the confidence we can do a good job again.

"We have to fight really hard to take the points.

"It's important to get something against the top sides. We are scoring more goals at the moment but you must keep improving if you want to win trophies."

Saudi Prince Put Off By Club Debt And Issues Between Owners

Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah, a member of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia who claimed this week that he was close to agreeing a deal to invest in English soccer club Liverpool, has now spoken out about the ongoing tension between the club's American owners.

Liverpool and members of Fahd bin Abdullah's own company moved swiftly to distance themselves from his claims this week, with the club's owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, admitting that they have retained Bank of American Merrill Lynch and Rothschild to advise on possible investments but saying that any talks are in preliminary stages.

Fahd bin Abdullah attended the match against Hull last weekend to discuss tie-ups between F6, his investment company, and Gillett's Richard Petty Motorsports Nascar franchise, as well as the possibility of establishing Liverpool-supported youth academies in Saudi Arabia, but subsequently said to the press that he was keen to invest in up to 50 per cent of the club. Now he appears to be putting the confusion that followed down to a misunderstanding between the club's owners.

"It's clear to everyone that there is some sort of misunderstanding between Gillett and Hicks," Fahd bin Abdullah told Saudi television. "We are not there to pacify between them."

Meanwhile, F6 director Barry Didato has spoken out about the issue of the club's hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, secured through loans from RBS and Wachovia. "As far as investment in Liverpool is concerned, that would be a long way off," he said. "A lot of people have jumped the gun and any possible investment would be several months away. The agreement signed leaves the door open for it, but that was certainly not the focus of it. Another issue is the club's debt. Prince Faisal will not put forward investment capital to just clean up a balance sheet. He would only want to use money to take the club forward."

Agger Aiming For Return

Daniel Agger has set his sights on regaining a place in Liverpool's first-team after playing for the club's reserves as he continues his recovery from injury.

The classy Denmark defender has not featured in the current campaign, having undergone a back operation in pre-season.

But Agger played 68 minutes for Liverpool's reserves in the meeting with Manchester City on Tuesday as he edges closer to full fitness.

The 24-year-old, whose previous seasons have been disrupted by fitness problems, is now determined to regain a place in the first XI plans of Rafa Benitez.

Agger told Liverpool's official website: "I will keep working hard and do everything I can to help the team and get back in the side as soon as possible."

He added: "It is good to be back and it felt good to be back on the pitch again.

"It is always frustrating when you are out injured and can't play football, so to get back out there again was great.

"I knew in pre-season that my back wasn't right so I had to get the problem sorted. I set myself the target to be back around this time and so I'm happy."

Gillett And Hicks Still Live In Hope That Their Lies And Deceit Will Be Forgotten By Liverpool Fans

George Gillett's arrival on Merseyside last Saturday morning was greeted with great hostility. If the Reds co-owner was expecting the furore that surrounded events off the pitch over the past two years to have died down, he clearly underestimated the extent of his actions.

When Gillett and his business partner Tom Hicks strolled out onto the Anfield pitch in March 2007, they were given the most velvet of red carpet treatment by all connected with the club. They were the new custodians who promised to start work within 60 days of their arrival on a 60,000-seater stadium on Stanley Park that would rival the current famous old ground for atmosphere and grandeur.

Fast-forward 30 months and Gillett is denying that he ever made that now infamous reference about the need to have "a shovel in the ground" and claims it was Hicks who made the claim. If the American ever has time in his hectic schedule of (alleged) meetings with potential investors, he would do well to find the YouTube video of him saying those exact words. He was either lying or Tom Hicks is the world's greatest ventriloquist.

The purpose of largely absentee American’s visit to his 'investment' was to rubber stamp a deal with Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud to build club-accredited youth academies in the Middle East. The prince of Saudi Arabia’s first impression of the club will have been tainted by a welcoming committee of disgruntled supporters who confronted Gillett at Liverpool’s training ground and the youth academy in Kirkby where he had taken solace after being collared at Melwood.

Fans also made their feelings known later that day in the Main Stand car park where they gathered in numbers to vent their frustrations at the current predicament. Whilst Gillett and his royal guest soaked up the match day atmosphere from the comfort of the directors’ box, supporters stepped up their protests and unfurled non-offensive banners, reminding Gillett of the broken promises he and Hicks had made to the club and its fans, at the front of the Kop.

Club officials drafted in police to do their dirty work by having the banners removed from view and then confiscated. The hierarchy are more than happy cash in on the vast array of banners and wavers that adorn the famous terrace every other week as the focal point of selling the Anfield experience to whoever is gullible enough to spend a small fortune in the ground and leave the club shop tills endlessly ringing; but when that famous 12th man takes issue with the less than professional goings on away from the floodlights, they do their utmost to stifle their voice. In light of this, perhaps the PA announcement that signals the club’s safety drill should be rebranded “Standby for Operation Fascist State Anfield”.

Gillett and Hicks still live in hope that their lies and deceit will be forgotten with a few resounding wins on the pitch like the one against Hull last weekend but the club’s diehard supporters are not easily swayed as the day-tripping masses the pair encourage to flock to Anfield. News this week that the Americans have embarked on a search for fresh investment has been greeted with cautious optimism by the tirelessly devoted fans who continue to strive to prise their beloved club away from the incapable hands which it currently finds itself.

Five Key Questions On Liverpool’s Midfield

The Liverpool midfield has borne the brunt of most of the criticism that has come the team’s way since their 2-0 defeat away to Fiorentina on Tuesday. The Times answers the five key questions about why the usually reliable Liverpool midfield failed to function so badly and what can be done to improve it.

Why was Fábio Aurélio paired with Lucas Leiva in central midfield against Fiorentina?

Rafael Benítez’s idea seemed to be to try to dominate possession, hence the selection of Aurélio, a gifted ball player, in the heart of his midfield. The problem came when Liverpool did not have the ball, because they lacked the energy and physicality to stop the Serie A side from cutting through their midfield, a failing that was most apparent when Cristiano Zanetti, the Fiorentina midfield player, was allowed to waltz through a couple of half-hearted challenges on the halfway line before creating the opening goal for Stevan Jovetic.

Would Benítez have been better off asking Steven Gerrard to revert to a midfield role?

In hindsight this would probably have been the solution, particularly given Gerrard’s athleticism. The problem is, the Liverpool manager is loath to split up the prolific attacking partnership Gerrard has forged with Fernando Torres. By filling one hole in midfield he would have created another in attack, a situation that can be resolved in the long term only by the replenishment of the Liverpool squad because Benítez is short of options.

Could these problems have been avoided had the services of Xabi Alonso been retained?

In a word, yes. But once Alonso had set his heart on a move to Real Madrid, all Benítez and Liverpool could do was ensure they received a large fee for his transfer and then move on. Another “if only” revolves around Gareth Barry, the Manchester City and England midfield player. His form for club and country suggests that, had he been attracted to Anfield in the summer, he would have given Liverpool the kind of midfield balance that was absent in Florence.

Is Alberto Aquilani the solution to Liverpool’s problems?

Not directly. The Italy player is not a holding midfield player; he is best deployed in a more advanced position, similar to that which Gerrard operates in. As a temporary measure, Aquilani, when fit, could support Torres in attack, allowing Gerrard to revert to central midfield, where he has spent most of his career. But the ideal long-term scenario for Benítez would be for his captain to remain in the position just off Torres in which he excels. For this to happen, though, it is likely that another midfield player will need to be recruited in January.

Do Liverpool’s problems in midfield on Tuesday highlight the importance of Javier Mascherano?

Undoubtedly. At his best, Mascherano protects his back four at least as effectively as any other player in world football. Having been ruled out because of a tight hamstring, his presence was sorely missed against Fiorentina. However, the 25-year-old has been a long way short of peak form this season and there is concern on Merseyside that he might have allowed himself to become distracted from the job in hand by a combination of interest from Barcelona and the worry of captaining an Argentina team who are struggling to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals.