Monday, November 16, 2009

National Football Museum For £400 Beach Ball

The infamous beach ball which cost Liverpool FC the match against Sunderland is being offered a place in football history.

The National Football Museum want to put the red inflatable on display alongside the ball from the 1966 World Cup Final and the original FA Cup.

Last night the ball was sold for £411.77 to a mystery bidder after the News of the World auctioned it on eBay for charity.

The red beach ball found fame at the Stadium of Light last month after it was thrown on to the pitch by a Liverpool fan.

But it bounced into the penalty area and deflected a shot from Sunderland's Darren Bent into the goal.

Sally Hawley, from the museum in Preston said: "It is one of the most controversial and entertaining objects in recent history."

Liverpool Have Not Been Aggressive Enough - John Aldridge

Liverpool legend John Aldridge claims that his old side have not been aggressive enough this season, and believes that this is the cause for their recent run of one win in nine games.

The Scouse-born Irishman is of the opinion that the Merseysiders have been sloppy in defence, and has pointed a finger at the back four's handling of set-plays.

In his column for the Liverpool Echo, Aldridge said: "You can argue all you want about zonal marking but there seems to be a lack of belief when it comes to dealing with set-pieces.

"We don’t attack the ball, there’s no aggression and it is costing us dearly.

"It happened on the opening day at Spurs [Tottenham Hotspur] and it’s still happening – we haven’t learned our lesson."

The former Tranmere Rovers boss suggested that the team will have to get back to basics and sort out their problems in training.

"The only way to sort it out is on the training ground," he said.

"When I was a player if we leaked bad goals we would spend ages in training defending as a unit. The coaches would ensure you didn’t enjoy it [training] to ensure it didn’t happen again."

Aldridge then touched on the Reds' recent 2-2 draw with Birmingham City, in which they dominated the play yet allowed Christian Benitez - from a free kick - and Cameron Jerome to find the net.

He concluded: "We played pretty well on Monday [against Birmingham] but if you can’t defend you aren’t going to win games."

Javier Mascherano Agrees Barcelona Personal Terms

Javier Mascherano is set to leave Liverpool after his advisers agreed on personal terms with Barcelona to line up a move in January or the summer, according to a report.

The Argentinian midfielder is desperate to complete a switch to Camp Nou and now knows he can expect to earn around €120,000-a-week should he join the European champions, the Sunday Express states.

Barcelona were linked with Mascherano at the end of last season, but Liverpool turned down their approaches after agreeing to let Xabi Alonso leave the club and join Real Madrid.

That interest made the player declare that he was keen to leave English football as his wife was unable to settle and that situation has not changed.

Coach Pep Guardiola is keen to add to his squad as he believes more strength-in-depth is needed and is hopeful that the Catalan club's board can tie up a deal for around €32 million.

The report also believes that Barcelona have enough money to buy Robinho and his desire to join them will also bear fruit as he will inform Manchester City that he wants to leave.

Rumours have surfaced regularly since the summer linking the Brazilian with the treble winners while the Blaugrana have publicly stated that he is a player that they are interested in.

Liverpool Duo Heading For Exit Door As Rafa Benitez Bids To Raise Cash For Hamburg Star

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is hoping to raise £15million from the sale of misfits Andrea Dossena and Ryan Babel – and wants to splash some of the cash on Dutchman Eljero Elia.

Roma and Napoli are set to battle it out for the signature of Italian international Dossena when the transfer window opens in January.

Liverpool want to recoup most of the £7m they paid Udinese for the 28-year-old just 18 months ago.

Benitez will also look to find a buyer for Babel, who has failed to meet expectations since joining the Reds for £12m at the same time.

The boss has identified Hamburg striker Elia as the man to ease the goalscoring burden on Fernando Torres.

But the German club will want a profit on the £8m they paid FC Twente for the Holland international last summer.

Benitez needs to generate funds for new recruits. And Dossena is desperate to leave to safeguard his place in Italy’s World Cup squad.

His agent, Roberto La Florio, confirmed that Roma and Napoli have both registered an interest.

La Florio said: “Andrea is getting no space at Liverpool and he wants to return to Italy to play more regularly so that he can be a part of the squad for the World Cup.”

Babel, 22, scored a sensational Champions League goal for in the 1-1 draw with Lyon this month. But Benitez has run out of patience with him.

Eduardo Is £10m Liverpool Target

Liverpool are ready to poach Eduardo from rivals Arsenal in a £10million deal.

The 26-year-old Croatian forward is unhappy that he has still to be offered improved terms at the Emirates.

His contract has just over 18 months to run and that has alerted Rafa Benitez, who desperately needs to strengthen his attacking options.

The recurring absence of first-choice Fernando Torres has convinced Benitez that he needs more firepower and he hopes to convince the Liverpool board to finance the deal with the club in a fraught battle for fourth place.

Liverpool cannot contemplate missing out on next season's Champions League and Benitez hopes that will release the purse strings.

Eduardo has started just three Premier League games this season despite fully recovering from the horror injury he picked up against Birmingham at the start of 2008.

The Brazilian-born forward was out for a year following the challenge from City's Martin Taylor that broke his ankle and his fibula.

But he has been back since February and wants a more prominent role at Arsenal that Arsene Wenger cannot currently give him.

Eduardo will seek talks with Wenger to see if he features in his long-term plans and if the Arsenal boss is not convincing, Liverpool are ready to pounce.

Johnston: I Fear Rafa Has Lost The Players

Kop favourite Craig Johnston believes Rafa Benitez may have lost the dressing room and that his reign as Liverpool manager is hanging by a thread.

Benitez’s side needed a controversial penalty to salvage a 2-2 home draw against Birmingham last Monday night and have won just once since the end of September.

Johnston, 49, says the goodwill of the Anfield fans is probably the only thing keeping the Spaniard from the chop.

Liverpool now lag 11 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea in seventh place and face an early exit from the Champions League.

“You see one win in nine games, six defeats in the space of eight games; you see a dejected look on players’ faces. Has he lost the dressing room?

Six defeats in eight games would say that he has,” said Australian Johnston.

“Has he lost a bit of the board’s backing? Well you hear what Liverpool co- owner George Gillett’s saying about him in the papers. He actually said that he’s made bad signings, the team’s not playing well and there’s no youth coming through. And this is from your employer.

“I think people think Rafa is a genuine and sincere bloke and that goes a long way with Scousers – but there are things going against him now.”

Johnston won five league titles, a European Cup and an FA Cup in almost 280 games for the Reds in the 1980s and his all- action style won him many fans.

It’s those same fans who he believes will have the ultimate say on Benitez.

“I think the fans are really critical,” he said.

“If they wanted him out they’d have got him out. But they want the American owners out more than they want Rafa out.”

Johnston, who invented the Adidas Predator football boot, is now forging a career as a photographer.

But his focus is never far away from his former club and he even questioned the return to Liverpool of legend Kenny Dalglish, who was Johnston’s player-boss for three years.

Johnston compared the situation to the ill-fated union between Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier in the late 1990s, suggesting Dalglish’s presence as an ambassador could unwittingly be adding to Benitez’s load.

He said: “If Rafa spits the dummy or there’s a row between Gillett and him, they’ve brought in an insurance policy.

“Rafa will be wondering what’s going on.

“There was Houllier undermining Roy’s position as the manager and similarly now, if I’m the boss and I’ve got a Liverpool legend and ex-manager, it’s like someone’s covering their backs and I don’t like it.

“If you’re Rafa you’re thinking, ‘They’re preparing for my exit’.”

Rafa Benitez In New World Cup Fear

Rafa Benitez faces more battles between club and country if Liverpool fail to get their season back on track.

The World Cup will become an unwanted distraction for the Kop boss unless his side is competing for honours in the New Year.

Star players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are putting their bodies on the line to help save the club's faltering season.

But Benitez knows some of his internationals will not be prepared to take the same risks with their fitness towards the end of the campaign if it means jeopardising their hopes in South Africa.

Torres is especially concerned about a recurring groin strain in such a huge year for Liverpool and Spain.

He and Gerrard have both postponed surgery to play on in a pivotal period.

Gerrard expects to make his first start in a month against Manchester City next weekend. Torres is targeting the Merseyside derby a week later.

Gerrard is avoiding going under the knife for now. But an operation later in the season is not being ruled out.

It would not be expected to keep him out for more than 12 days.

But Liverpool have so many huge fixtures on the horizon, Benitez can ill afford even a two-week absence for his captain.

As long as Liverpool are fighting for trophies, Gerrard and Torres will continue to put their club's interests first.

But Benitez knows that by March only the possibility of lifting silverware will keep the World Cup off his players' priority list.

Already as many as 12 first-teamers were unavailable for the key Champions League clash in Lyon.

Yet many of those players declared themselves fit for their international squads just three days later.

Liverpool have 17 players with World Cup aspirations.

Benitez: I Don't Have To Win A Throphy

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has stoked up the mounting pressure on himself by incredibly insisting: "I don't have to win a trophy."

The Reds' title dreams have been hit by FIVE League defeats already this season; they crashed out of the Carling Cup at Arsenal in midweek and their Champions League dreams will be in tatters if they lose Wednesday's crucial Group E clash in Lyon.

So Kop fans will be stunned by Benitez's latest outburst in which he claims increasing the club's value is more important than winning silverware.

"I don't agree with people when they say you have to win trophies," said Benitez.

Try telling that to Kop legends Bill Shankley, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish and Co.

But Benitez added: "You have to be close and create a group of players that can fight for trophies.

"We got 86 points in the Premier League last year and some people say it wasn't a good season.

"But to finish second (to champions Manchester United) and close the gap between the top team and us to four points was a massive achievement.

"Trophies mean a lot to everyone but to see the team progress means you can guarantee you will be there in the future and you can fight for trophies."

Benitez has won the Champions League, Super Cup and FA Cup during his five years at Anfield.

But his last trophy was the FA Cup three years ago following a thrilling penalty shoot-out final victory over West Ham.

However he insisted: "People can say I have been here for five years but you can see the difference.

"Compare the value of the club before and the value of the club now.

"Compare the value of the squad before and the value of the squad now, you can see the progression."

Benitez's economic argument has weight.

Five years ago, Liverpool were valued at £100million. That would buy you only 25 per cent of the club today.

European performance accounts for the recession-ignoring increase.

His prolific skills in raising UEFA cash allow him to claim he's only ever splashed out on players with funds he's brought in or won.

The goodwill of Liverpool's incredible 2005 European Cup triumph in Istanbul sustains Benitez's popularity on Merseyside.

But, most importantly, the annual UEFA finances offer a persuasive argument whenever he launches a defence of his management.

He's earned a minimum of £100m in Euro prize funds since he moved to Anfield because he's never failed to qualify from the group stage.

That record is now in jeopardy.

Liverpool's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr can't afford to see their side fail in France.

Defeat could cost the club up to £10m, CHECK, reduce the value of their shares, leave them sweating on investment and hit Benitez's January transfer plans.

"At this moment I don't know if I will have money in January so I have to keep doing my job and wait," he admitted.

"I just have to keep trying to do my job, to win games and I'm sure that I will have some discussions with chief executive Christian Purslow and we will analyse the situation.

"But, at this moment, it is just carry on.

"It depends on the situation whether you go to Plan A or Plan B. Sometimes that depends on money.

"If you have more money it is easier, if you have less money then you have to manage in a different way.

"So we must find the way to improve. I am always thinking about to win.

"I always have to win the next game and try to qualify for things.

"The difference between £10 and £15m is not massive when you are looking at the long-term picture."

The Spaniard signed a new contract extension in March, tieing him to Anfield until 2014.

But results on the pitch - Liverpool have lost five of their last six matches - have got the vultures (and beachballs) circling around Benitez's head.

But Benitez remains very bullish.

"Christian was very clear," he added. "We signed an extension (to my contract) for five years because we want to be together for a long time.

"Our meetings are always positive. We were analysing the squad before, the squad for January and the squad for next year.

"We are working to do something for the future.

"In England it is not just one year that counts.

"Before this year we couldn't control the Academy. Now we will have more control of the young players and, hopefully, we can build something important for the future of the club."

But the grim prospect of an early exit from the money-spinning Champions League this season coupled with failure to qualify for next year's tournament will leave an unstable club fighting to retain its status.

They're the circumstances in which Benitez's position would be threatened, which is why the trip to Lyon is more important than last Sunday's League victory over Manchester United.

This week won't be the first time Benitez has led his troops across the Channel with the stakes at their highest.

Two years ago, Liverpool went into a defining Champions League clash with Marseilles knowing failure would end their manager's tenure.

Hicks and Gillett were sweating on the prize money.

It prompted one of the most impressive Euro performances of Benitez's reign, not surprisingly inspired by Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Hicks later admitted it was this result which forced the abandonment of their nonsensical pursuit of Jurgen Klinsmann.