Monday, October 12, 2009

Agent Denies Yossi Interest

Yossi Benayoun's agent, Ronen Katsav, insists his client is happy at Liverpool despite reported interest from Manchester City.

The Israel international has been linked with a move to Eastlands this weekend in a number of British newspapers but Katsav has denied that there is any truth behind the speculation.

The 29-year-old has impressed this term, scoring three goals in 10 games in all competitions - with all of them coming against Burnley.

However, Reds manager Rafa Benitez left the former West Ham favourite on the bench for the biggest clash of the season against Chelsea last week, giving the impression that Benayoun still has a way to go before he is classed as one of Liverpool's main men.

"Naturally a player playing well at Liverpool will always have other teams interested in him," Katsav told the Israeli press.

"It is a great compliment that there is interest from high level teams across Europe but Yossi is very happy at Liverpool and only in the summer agreed a new four-year contract for four more seasons."

Kenny Dalglish Delighted To See Daniel Agger Back For Liverpool

Liverpool hero Kenny Dalglish believes that the return of centre-back Daniel Agger from injury will provide a big boost to the Red line-up.

A back problem has seen the Danish international sidelined so far this season, but he returned to action for the reserves last week and played 90 minutes of Denmark's 1-0 win over Sweden on Saturday.

"While the first-team squad were in Italy recently, Daniel Agger was making his return from injury in the less romantic surroundings of the reserve league, but he will be delighted, as will the manager and the punters, to get back into action," Dalglish told LFC Weekly.

"It's a shame that he's missed so much football over the last couple of years because he's a top class defender, and with him nearing a return to the first-team reckoning then the manager has got good options and permutations in the centre of his defence with Carra [Jamie Carragher], [Martin] Skrtel, [Sotirios] Kyrgiakos and Agger back to health."

And Dalglish feels that Agger adds another varied option to those available at the back to Rafa Benitez.

He added: "They've all got their particular strengths and they're all internationals with a wealth of experience. Agger's a lovely silky footballer, in the way he brings the ball out of defence and commits teams who like to sit deep.

"Being able to call on him in the future will be important for the team."

Javier Mascherano Set For Showdown With Rafa Benitez Over New Liverpool Contract

Javier Mascherano is on a collision course with Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.

The Argentine midfielder still harbours resentment over Benitez’s refusal to sell him to Barcelona in the summer and Liverpool’s subsequent refusal to hand him a pay rise that would bring him into line with the club’s top earners.

Benitez did claim in August there was a willingness at Anfield to offer Mascherano a new deal to ease his disappointment at missing out on a dream move to Barca.

But Mascherano has not come close to the form that made him one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers last season.

And there is a reluctance from the club to enter into negotiations about a new contract until the 25-year-old starts hitting the heights once more. The lack of progress has simply deepened Mascherano’s sense of frustration – and Juventus have now joined Barcelona in monitoring his situation on Merseyside.

But an Anfield insider said: “There is a feeling that Mascherano had his head turned by reports of Barcelona’s interest in the summer and that his form has been affected.

“Until his attitude changes there will be no talks about a new contract.”

There was never any prospect of Liverpool selling the Argentine hustler once Benitez allowed Xabi Alonso (right) to join Real Madrid in a £32million deal.

Mascherano feels his status as one of the club’s top earners should be rewarded with an improvement on his current £60,000-a-week wages.

With Alonso departed, Benitez has been relying on Mascherano to exert his influence even more.

With £20m new-boy Alberto Aquilani still to make his debut following his arrival from Roma – the Italian is expected to play against –Sunderland next week – the Liverpool boss has been forced to rely on Mascherano and young Brazilian Lucas Leiva.

But three defeats in eight Premier League games have already made it difficult to bring an end to a title drought now in its 20th year.

There was more frustration with Mascherano when his initial mistake led to Nicolas Anelka scoring Chelsea’s first goal in their 2-0 win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge last week.

Liverpool Hit By Double Injury Blow As Steven Gerrard And Fernando Torres Limp Out Of Internationals

Liverpool are heading into a key fortnight in their season with injury doubts over their two biggest stars Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Rafa Benitez will already have been alarmed when Gerrard was forced off at half-time of England's World Cup qualifier in Ukraine, and his mood would hardly have been improved when Torres limped off after 55 minutes of Spain's match in Armenia.

Gerrard is now a major doubt for England's final qualifier against Belarus at Wembley on Wednesday.

Torres appeared to be suffering a foot problem when he was replaced in Armenia, and Benitez will be eagerly awaiting an update.

Before the end of October, Liverpool face Premier League matches at Sunderland and Fulham, as well as a home clash with arch-rivals Manchester United.

They also will take on Lyon at Anfield in the Champions League, and travel to Arsenal in the Carling Cup.

Many pundits believe Liverpool would have pipped United to the title last season had Torres been fit throughout the campaign, and the Merseysiders will be desperate for him to be fit from now until next May.

Liverpool Stalemate Broken After Tom Hicks And George Gillett End Mutual Veto

Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool’s co-owners, have agreed to forego their mutual veto on the sale of each other’s shares in a bid to break the stalemate surrounding the future of the club.

Under their current ownership arrangement, each partner would have to seek the other’s blessing to sell all, or part, of their shareholdings.

The remaining partner would also be entitled to two per cent of the other’s shares, thus becoming majority partner with any new investor. However, it is believed that Hicks has given Gillett his blessing to seek a buyer for his half of the club, although the Texan is thought to be determined to retain his 50 per cent.

Gillett is due to meet the Saudi prince, Faisal Al Fahd bin Abdullah bin Saud in the Middle East next week, when he is expected to continue discussions over the prince’s potential investment in Liverpool.

The two have already struck up a deal to launch a number of club academies across the Middle East and north Africa, and sources close to the prince confirmed this week he could take a stake in the club despite concerns over the level of debt.

Sources close to Hicks and Gillett, though, insist he is just one of a number of possible partners identified by Merrill Lynch and Rothschild, the investment banks jointly appointed by the American duo.

No deal with the prince is believed to be imminent, with discussions due with a number of other parties, although Hicks’ decision not to veto the idea of Gillett finding an exit route suggests that both parties have accepted their days as partners are numbered.

Injury Setback For Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt On International Duty Will Ruffle Rafa

Rafael Benitez will be furious after Dirk Kuyt came off injured at half-time in Saturday’s friendly for Holland against Australia.

Liverpool were already less than happy that Kuyt and Ryan Babel had to play the match in Sydney in what was a commercially-driven deal done by the Holland FA.

Kuyt had missed training all week with an ankle injury yet despite that, Holland coach Bert van Marwijk started the game with the striker, who will now return to training having exacerbated his injury.

Worse, the 24-hour return flight is likely to increase the swelling on the ankle.

Holland claimed that the friendly was an important team-bonding exercise but Inter midfielder Wesley Sneijder picked up a flu virus on the flight out there.

Arsenal's Robin van Persie managed to avoid the trip as his wife is due to give birth this month.

Benitez And Ferguson Both Facing FA Hearings

Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson face the wrath of an Football Association who do not see the funny side of the managers of Liverpool and Manchester United.

While many might have chuckled at Sir Alex questioning Alan Wiley's fitness, no one is laughing at the FA's headquarters.

And, while the spectacles joke of the Liverpool boss has badly backfired, the FA Commission are more likely to say "he should have gone to SpecSavers" when they hand out the punishment.

Benitez's case comes up on Tuesday morning, and the defence will be producing the audio and video evidence of how the Liverpool manager reached for his pocket and brought out his glasses for its case, when he was asked about the performance of referee Phil Dowd after the opening day of the season defeat by Spurs.

The FA chamber will resonate to the sound of laughter as the audio/video "evidence" shows the assembled media laughing their heads off at the Benitez joke.

The FA, however, feel it was at the referees' expense, but in terms of being a personal attack, and unless the FA have a sense of humor, then Benitez is going to be fit with a fine, and maybe even a touch-line ban.

Next case on the agenda is Sir Alex. And, if Benitez gets away with just a fine, then Sir Alex will expect a degree of consistency, and would not take too kindly to a touch-line ban.

However, if the FA hit Benitez with a touch line ban for his glasses jibe at the ref, then Sir Alex can expect the same sort of treatment.

Sir Alex has apologized but retained his right to question the fitness levels of the ref, indeed referees in general as a point that might concern the game. No-one else, though, has raised it before, at least publicly.

While the Sir Alex "I'm sorry" official statement has not gone down well with the refs union, who are out for blood, it will not be seen as more than "damage limitation" on behalf of the FA.

The FA have given Sir Alex an extension to provide his written explanation as he is currently in New York, apparently property-hunting, having watched the Manchester City-Villa Premier League game in a sports bar.

The Sir Alex "sorry" statement was produced with the United boss still in New York, but it will cut little ice with the FA, when he returns this week to hand in his letter of explanation by Friday's extended deadline.

Charges are sure to follow and it will then be at Sir Alex's discretion whether he seeks a personal hearing.

Michael Owen Will Get Slaughtered By Liverpool Fans At Anfield, Warns Jamie Carragher

Tevez was stunned by the stick he endured on his first outing in Manchester City’s colours at his former club.

And Jamie Carragher is predicting a similar unfriendly response for Owen from Liverpool fans when the former Kop idol heads back to Anfield on October 25 in a United shirt.

Carragher said: "Our fans are usually brilliant with former players but he might get a cool reception.

"You can understand the fans' point of view. He used to play for us and now he’s at the big rivals, so of course there will be some reaction.

"That’s football and Michael will know that. He has a very strong character so stick doesn't bother him."

Carragher is still good pals with Owen and backs his decision to sign up for Liverpool’s biggest rivals.

He added: "Michael’s got his career to think about. He wants to get his name back up there.

"He wants to play Champions League football and get into the World Cup squad. The move gives him that opportunity."

Liverpool Fans Need To Be Realistic About Alberto Aquilani, Warns Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman has warned Liverpool not to heap pressure on Roberto Aquilani to be the club’s saviour.

Aquilani has yet to play for the Reds after an operation on his right ankle in May.

But Liverpool legend McManaman fears too much pressure is already being placed on the 25-year-old Italian to rescue the club’s season.

He said: “We have to be careful here. Every single Liverpool fan hopes Aquiliani will be the answer and he’s got a good reputation. But he’s been injured a long time.

“Everybody wants him to hit the ground running and be fantastic from day one, which is going to be very difficult for the lad.

“He’s only young. Let’s hope he is the wonderful player we all want him to be. But I don’t think we should put undue pressure on him.

“Any foreign player coming into this country deserves a little time to gel with their teammates and get used to the new style of football. It’s such a tough and aggressive league.

“Liverpool have lost a fantastic player in Alonso. I was disappointed to see him go and he won’t be easy to replace.”

Plessis Eyeing Cup Action

Damien Plessis is hoping to secure his first senior appearance of the 2009-10 season when Liverpool do battle with Arsenal in the fourth round of the Carling Cup later this month.

The French midfielder was an unused substitute for the victory over Leeds United at the last stage of the competition, and is eager to be involved against the Gunners at the Emirates.

It's a venue that holds special significance for the 21-year-old as it was away to Arsenal in a Barclays Premier League encounter in April 2008 that manager Rafael Benitez handed Plessis his Reds debut.

"The Emirates is a fantastic place for any young player to make his debut, but maybe not the easiest of stadiums to play at," he told LFC Weekly. "It is very big and the atmosphere was different to what I had known in France.

"It was a great incentive though. I remember Rafa telling me to go out and keep it simple. That's what I did, I just went out and played my football to help the team get a result.

"I felt I played well that day. I saw in some of the papers that I was man of the match, which was nice."

The former Lyon starlet helped Liverpool to secure a 1-1 draw that afternoon and he is targeting another chance to shine against Arsene Wenger's charges, though he is well aware there has to be a winner this time around.

"This time it will be different because it is the Carling Cup and not the Premier League," he added.

"If we draw at the end of the 90 minutes in the cup, there will be extra time and maybe even penalties.

"Also, in the Carling Cup, you tend to get a lot of players who would not normally play all of the time. It is often a good chance for younger players like myself to come in and show what they can do.

"The Carling Cup is perhaps my best chance to get a game in the first-team at the moment. Young players may be on the bench for Champions League or Premier League games. You wait and wait but don't always play. The Carling Cup is different though.

"Maybe I will play against Arsenal, maybe I won't. I don't know yet, but I hope I do. Arsenal is a very big game whatever competition you play them in so, if you do play, you know you have to play well."