Friday, October 09, 2009

George Gillett To Sell Half His Stake In Liverpool To Arab Investor

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett is flying to Saudi Arabia next week for talks in a bid to sell his 50 per cent stake to Prince Faisal bin Fahd.

Gillett is due to arrive in the Middle East on Wednesday and is scheduled for a three-day stay to sort out the deal with the Prince's advisers and his financial company F6 Sports.

Prince Faisal has been at Anfield as a guest of Gillett and - despite the American's denials - a sale is top of the agenda to be done rather than just an investment.

Gillett can sell his half of the Kop and leave the Arabs to deal with his partner Tom Hicks if they want complete control – or they may prefer to work with the Texan.

The 70-year-old Gillett is so keen to sell up that he is going to travel to the Arab's territory to conclude the transaction - with sources in the Middle East convinced that this will happen.

Prince Faisal's investment company has allies in the banking world and they would look at Liverpool as a club to make their name - and with potential for development down the line.

The Arab is looking to become a major player and building a new Anfield would make the business world look up to him. He certainly has the cash behind him to fulfil the plans that the Americans gave up on.

There are no figures being released on what Gillett is looking to get for his share in Liverpool but it is anticipated that the deal will be good enough to get him out of his current hole.

Gillett has tried to appease the club's fans but he knows that his lack of funds leaves Liverpool's support frustrated - and puts a strain on their bid to stay as a top four force.

Juventus Keep Tabs On Liverpool Midfielder Javier Mascherano

Juventus are about to rekindle their interest in Liverpool's Javier Mascherano for next summer's transfer window.

According to Il Corriere Dello Sport, the Bianconeri are drawing up early plans for the winter, but the idea is likely to materialise later on next year.

The report suggests Mascherano had considered leaving the Reds during the summer for Spanish giants Barcelona, but the move never took off the ground. Voices claim the Argentine is unsettled at Anfield, and the club could consider a major offer should it arrive.

The Old Lady are said to be keen, but signing him will not be cheap. Liverpool would not accept anything less than €25million for their man and having already shelled out a considerable fee for Felipe Melo in the summer, they may be reluctant to add yet more expensive muscle to the midfield.

Juve have not confirmed the report

Torres Suffers Injury Scare

Fernando Torres limped out of training with the Spain squad but his injury is not thought to be serious.

The Liverpool striker abandoned the training session as a precautionary measure when he pulled up with a groin problem, but was later able to exercise on his own in the gym.

Torres should be fit for Spain's World Cup qualifying double header which is good news for coach Vicente del Bosque, who is already without Valencia forward David Villa who pulled out of the squad earlier this week with a hamstring injury.

With Spain having already booked their ticket to South Africa, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will hope La Roja do not risk Torres, who has scored eight goals in seven league games this season.

Spain face Armenia on Saturday before visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina four days later as they aim to see out their qualifying campaign with a 100% record.

Rafa Benitez Must Stop Hiding Behind Hicks And Gillett And Start Taking Liverpool Forward

Rafa Benitez bought himself some time and patience by winning the Champions League in his first season.

But Liverpool fans are an incredible bunch for sticking by Rafa ever since, showing loyalty beyond compare in the Premier League. They are magnificent supporters.

You hear this argument that Benitez has only had £12million net to spend during his reign at Anfield. That is some defence, bearing in mind that Benitez seems to thrive on a boom-and-bust philosophy.

Buy one dodgy full back, sell him and get another. Andrea Dossena was bought for £7million, given the number two shirt and has now been relegated to 38 after the arrival of right back Glen Johnson.

Now, who's fault is that?

Then you have Xabi Alonso, one of the best midfielders in Europe. Benitez falls out with him, sells him and buys in Alberto Aquilani, an injury prone Italian who has yet to make his debut because he's, er, injured.

Is that good management? No.

Every summer, Benitez's revolving door transfer policy rarely shows much sign of building on the foundations of Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Torres. Yes, he's added Skrtel, Johnson and, er, Lucas.

It's little wonder that George Gillett this week openly questioned Benitez's methods. Shame him and the other half of the American comedy act have made such a complete mess of running the club themselves. People in glass houses, George...

But this has to be a pivotal season for Rafa. I'll be honest, I wanted Liverpool to win the title last season. I think it would have been good for the Premier League.

Manchester United were worthy champions in the end, but it's great to have competition. United will be pushed all the way this season. But by Chelsea and not Liverpool.

Benitez has proved to be a good manager. But after that Champions League glory, we thought he was going to be a great manager.

Only Liverpool fans with all their loyalty and passion for their club could defend him quite so vigorously.

But Liverpool fans deserve more and it's time that Benitez stopped hiding behind that net spend and the ownership issues and got on with pushing the club forward.

Otherwise he might lose the backing of those amazing fans.

Owen Plays Down 'Big Club' Label

Michael Owen has attempted to diffuse his remarks that Manchester United are the biggest club in the world ahead of their trip to Liverpool.

The former Real Madrid and Newcastle striker hinted earlier this week that the Old Trafford outfit were the biggest in the world when commenting on how he was settling at the club.

Owen - who spent eight years with Liverpool until 2004, scoring more than 100 goals for the illustrious club - is expected to receive a frosty welcome from Reds fans on 25th October, live on Sky Sports.

The 29-year-old insists he did not set out to offend his formerly-adoring faithful and that the likes of Liverpool are behind United in some areas, but level pegging in others.

Owen, who has recovered from a groin strain, has been back to Anfield as an opposing player for Newcastle and concedes he is looking forward to returning to his old ground.

"I didn't set out to offend anyone," explained the 29-year-old.

"What I said was, in terms of support, revenue and stadium, Man United are probably the biggest in the world but Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool are up there with them in other areas.

"In saying that, I'm sure things I've said at different times over the last 20 years will be dredged up and turned into back-page stories over the next two weeks.

"I've been back before with Newcastle a couple of times, so I've played there for an opposing team, but I'm certainly looking forward to this game.

"It will be different, it'll be a bit noisier."

Although United are four points clear of Liverpool in the table, Owen expects the Anfield clash to be keenly contested.

"As usual between United and Liverpool, it'll be a competitive game between two of the world's top teams," he added.

"The teams are more equally matched perhaps than when I went back with Newcastle, so it should be a good game and an exciting day."

Carra Vows To Find Form

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has conceded he has not been playing to his best so far this season, but has vowed to recapture his peak form.

Carragher has come under fire from some critics following some below-par performances by the normally reliable defender.

The Reds have struggled to keep clean sheets this season and have conceded 12 goals in eight Premier League games this term.

Carragher is determined to get back to his best and help Liverpool rediscover their defensive strength in the next few weeks

"We aren't playing well as a back four and I'm not playing well personally," Carragher told the club's official website. "I need to hit better form and hopefully that will come in the next few games.

"Over the last five or six years we have been renowned as a team who have kept a lot of clean sheets and for keeping it tight. I think that's why we get a bit more criticism because people don't expect it of Liverpool - and rightly so.

"We take the plaudits when things are going well so you have to take the criticism when it's not going well.

"I know I need to improve myself and we also need to improve as a team."

Liverpool have endured a difficult start to the season, losing three of their opening eight games and Carragher admits it has made their bid to win the Premier League title even tougher.

No side has won the championship after losing three of the first eight league games since Manchester United in 1967, but Carragher is refusing to be pessimistic about Liverpool's chances of finally ending their long wait for the title.

"You can shape statistics to make them look however you want them to," added Carragher.

"We've now got the same points as Manchester United had at this point last season. That's another statistic you could look at because they went on to win the league with 90-odd points.

"Whatever statistic you throw at us, we know we haven't made a good start. We don't need to look at them because we know ourselves that we haven't performed as well as we would have liked in certain games. We now have to put that right.

"Points are what matter and how many you end up with at the end of the season. We've lost six games in our previous two Premier League seasons.

"To lose that many in 76 games - that's some achievement and yet we still haven't won the league. Man United have lost more than us and won the league for the past two years.

"So as far as we are concerned it's now all about getting points on the board."

Pacheco Stunner Sinks Burnley

Daniel Pacheco hit a stunning stoppage-time free-kick to fire Liverpool Reserves to a 1-0 win against Burnley on Wednesday night.

The Reds controlled the majority of a hard-fought encounter at Prenton Park and deservedly took the points courtesy of the Spaniard's 90th minute wonder goal.

It means John McMahon's men have extended their winning streak to four matches and have moved level with leaders Manchester United on 12 points, after the Red Devils prevailed against Everton 24 hours earlier.

With first-team action suspended until after the international break, Burnley boss Owen Coyle took the opportunity to dust off his boots and take a surprise place in the Clarets' starting XI.

The 43-year-old was a prolific scorer during his playing days and promised to be a testing opponent for the Reds' centre back pairing of Daniel Ayala and Stephen Darby.

His presence had been the highlight of the pre-match team news, but in the opening stages it was the hosts who looked the more dangerous with Nathan Eccleston rasping a goalbound shot against Christopher Anderson before Ayala's stabbed effort was hacked clear from the resulting corner.

Alex-Ray Harvey then crashed a 20-yarder over as the visitors threatened briefly.

At the other end, McMahon's side continued to probe and Vincent Weijl's thunderbolt was bravely blocked by Benjamin Hoskin following good work from David Amoo down the right flank.

The Clarets were offering little in the attacking third and they were carved apart again on 25 minutes when Pacheco's invention sent Eccleston clear, but the Manchester-born forward saw his right foot shot well saved by Jonathan Lund.

It seemed that the Burnley stopper was enjoying one of his better nights, and he did well to foil Eccleston with a smart parry from the striker's ferocious drive before producing the best save of the half to keep out a blistering volley from Weijl.

In terms of chances there was only one side in it during the first 45 but at the interval the deadlock remained unbroken.

The pattern of play continued after the break with the Reds on top, but they repeatedly misfired when presented with a sight of goal.

First Weijl crashed over from a tight angle before Amoo contrived to power a free header inches wide after he was left unmarked at a left-wing corner.

Martin Hansen had been a virtual spectator in the Liverpool goal but he was eventually forced to make a meaningful save on 65 minutes when he got down well to palm a low effort from Harvey just past the post.

On 70 minutes Coyle's night came to an end when he was replaced by Michael King. It was a largely forgettable run-out for the former Bolton forward who failed to fire a single shot in anger.

With five minutes to go the away side were reduced to 10-men when Nikolaus Kudiersky received a second yellow card and the Reds finally made them pay deep into stoppage time, when Pacheco curled home from 20 yards.

Rafa: Future Is Bright For Duo

Rafael Benitez is confident he has seen signs that both Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher are on the verge of recapturing top form.

By their own admission, the Reds duo have not been at their imperious best this season, but the boss is convinced they will soon show what they are made of.

"If you analyse the performance of the centre-backs, it was clear to see they were much better at Chelsea and that was the positive thing to take from the game," said Benitez.

"Skrtel is a really good player and 'Carra' was doing better again; maybe you could say something about the second goal but the signs, for me, were much better.

"It was a difficult game for the central defenders to play and you know that when you come up against the top sides you must keep it tight.

"We paid for one mistake (in midfield) but, in the main, I was very pleased with the performances of Skrtel and 'Carra' and they were doing the right things."

Benitez must now wait for the majority of his squad to return from international duty next week.

The break in the fixture list could leave some to dwell on the defeat at Stamford Bridge, but Benitez remains upbeat ahead of an important period for the club.

"It was very difficult after the game as you know the time will be slow during an international break when you have lost," said Benitez.

"We have got an important week coming up when the international players come back but I have taken positives.

"By the end we had control of the game and Chelsea were playing on the counterattack.

"We showed a lot of character in the last 20 minutes and that was a positive."

Steven Gerrard: Liverpool FC Must Dig Deep To Rebuild Title Challenge

Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool will have to dig deep as they aim to resurrect their championship challenge.

The 2-0 loss at Chelsea on Sunday was already a third defeat of the Premier League season for Rafael Benitez’s side, compared to two during the entire previous campaign.

It has left Liverpool six points adrift of the Londoners and outside the Champions League qualification places, and came just days after the dismal 2-0 reverse at Fiorentina.

And while Gerrard has warned their title rivals the Anfield outfit have plenty of room for improvement, he accepts Liverpool must gain the momentum of another winning run quickly.

“There is so much more to come from us and a hell of a lot of football still to play between now and May, and we’re up for the challenges that lie ahead,” said the skipper.

“It will come down to who wants it the most and who is prepared to dig deepest.

"When the manager demands a reaction from us he gets it, and that’s going to come in the games between now and the next Champions League match too.

“Momentum is vitally important in football. When you start to win consistently and go onto the pitch expecting to, it all becomes easier.”

Gerrard is six games short of reaching a landmark 500 appearances for Liverpool, but believes that, thanks for the constant badgering of Anfield manager Benitez, he can still become a better player.

“You cannot ever think that you can’t improve,” said the 29-year-old. “No-one at Liverpool will ever be allowed to think that way because it’s not the way the manager operates.

“You might have played well – a defender keeping a clean sheet, a midfielder with a couple of assists or a striker with a hat-trick – but the manager will always find room for improvement.

“There’s no relaxing under Rafa because he sets his standards so high. That’s the Liverpool way and talking to players from previous eras, that’s the same message they used to get to. You can always do better – collectively and as individuals. If you think you’re on top of your game you can still improve. That’s what we get drummed into us every single day and it really does help.”

Saudi Prince Warns Liverpool Over His Investment If Debts Too High

Liverpool have been warned that prospective new major investor Prince Faisal bin Fahad bin Abdulla would be unwilling to buy into the club if its debts are high.

Barry Didato, director of strategic investments for the Saudi prince's investment vehicle F6, has indicated that Prince Faisal may consider buying out the shareholdings of co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks in full.

He is reportedly only talking to Gillett currently.

But Prince Faisal is said to have no interest in becoming involved in the relationship between the American pair, which has not always run smoothly, and a club loaded with debt would hold no appeal.

Didato told BBC Sport: "His Highness's shareholding could go from anything from none to 100 per cent.

"But he cannot be seen as a solution to the debt or problems in the existing relationship between the owners.

"His Highness would not want to get involved in the (problems between the pair), he is not a marriage counsellor."

Didato added: "The debt has to be at a manageable level before Prince Faisal would invest and the current level is high.

"He cannot be looked to as someone who is going to clean up the balance sheet - Gillett has to deal with this."

Gillett and Hicks last week issued a joint statement, stressing that any talks to bring in new investment were "at an early stage".

Gillett stated earlier this week that Liverpool are in an "extraordinarily good financial condition", better than Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.