Monday, December 21, 2009

Ian Rush: Liverpool Should Buy Real Madrid Striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy In January

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes that the club must bolster their strike force by bringing in Ruud van Nistelrooy from Real Madrid in January.

The Reds have been found lacking in the attacking department, with no proven hitman to replace or partner Fernando Torres up front apart from the inexperienced David Ngog.

While Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt both have the capability to play as a forward, Rafael Benitez has preferred to play them primarily on the flanks.

With the exit of Robbie Keane last season, Rush now insists that the Merseysiders will have to strengthen their front line with someone like Van Nistelrooy.

The 33-year-old is widely expected to leave Los Blancos in the upcoming transfer window.

"Sometimes Torres needs a break, and if Rafa has only one wish in the transfer window, I hope it’s a top-class striker," Rush told The Mirror.

"I would love to see him bring in someone like Van Nistelrooy, a proven goalscorer with experience at the highest level."

The Dutchman had a sensational five-year spell with Manchester United, scoring 150 goals in all competitions.

And despite the fact 'RVN' is a former Old Trafford hero, Rush believes that the fans will have no trouble taking to the striker.

He said: "World-class predators like him don’t become available every day of the week, and it doesn’t bother me where he’s played before - all it would take is a couple of goals and the supporters would take to him in a flash."

Liverpool's Fernando Torres Is £60m Chelsea Target

Fernando Torres is a £60million target for Chelsea.

There is a growing belief among Europe's richest and most powerful clubs that a season of Liverpool failure will force Torres - and his advisers - to review the player's career.

Torres has publicly insisted he is committed to the Anfield cause and does not want to create any issues that could destabilise Rafa Benitez's managerial authority.

But the Liverpool hierarchy is aware that if their struggling team fails to qualify for the Champions League, hanging on to Torres could become a major issue.

And Torres will quickly be made aware of alternatives homes where he can play at the highest level of the club game.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is a huge admirer of Torres and the 25 -year-old Spaniard is the man the Blues boss wants to bolster his strike force.

Ancelotti has been repeatedly linked with a £45m move for Atletico Madrid's 21-year-old Argentine Sergio Aguero.

But the Italian boss stressed after the 3-3 draw with Everton eight days ago that "100 per cent" he will not be involved in any player recruitment during the January transfer window.

Unless he's forced into a strategic review, that suggests Ancelotti will seek to strengthen his squad next summer - and Torres will be at the top of his wanted list.

Last summer Benitez rejected an approach from Manchester City before the cash-rich Eastlands club could get a £50m offer off the ground.

Benitez has acknowledged: "Fernando is one of the best strikers in the game and, at his age, can only get better.

"Every major side would want him in their team."

Chelsea accept their much derided attempt to break even by 2010 has now been put on the back burner. Any attempt to lure Torres to Stamford Bridge will force owner Roman Abramovich into the kind of investment he was committed to around five years ago.

Any bid for Torres will shatter the Chelsea club record of £32m paid to AC Milan for Andrey Schevchenko.

Despite the stuttering form displayed by his team Torres has emerged as an Anfield hero in the 29 months since his £26.5m recruitment from Atletico Madrid.

Boss Benitez has worked on finding the best attacking set-up to bring the best out of his master marksman. The likes of Robbie Keane and Fernando Morientes were tried and discarded while Dirk Kuyt has ended up operating as a wide attacker.

In effect, Liverpool's most effective strike force comes when skipper Steven Gerrard operates in a withdrawn role behind Torres.

The acclaimed duo has immense professional respect for each other. In troubled times they have been the players who have consistently met the exacting standards expected at the club.

The potential loss of Torres would spark a massive outcry on Merseyside. The striker signed a new contract worth £5.5m a-year in May.

He still had four years remaining on the contract he signed on his arrival from Atletico but Liverpool felt the new, extended deal reflected the player's status as "one of the world's top strikers."

The current agreement runs to 2013 with an option for the deal to be extended to 2014.

One obstacle to Chelsea's chances is the ongoing Gael Kakuta affair.

Chelsea have appealed against a two-transfer-window ban imposed after they were found guilty of enticing the youngster to break his contract with FC Lens.

Liverpool Make Shock Move For Moses

Liverpool have joined the race for Crystal Palace ace Victor Moses.

The 19-year-old midfielder is in blistering form and scored against Barnsley on Saturday with a wonderful overhead kick.

Spurs, Hoffenheim and Barcelona are keen on Moses but the Reds reckon they can land him for £5million.

The foreign clubs have already made their intentions known to Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock but they are set to be disappointed.

It is understood Moses does not want to leave England so early in his career, while Tottenham are keeping tabs on the youngster.

Warnock admits he is fighting a losing battle to keep Moses at Selhurst Park - but he will hold out for as much money as possible to help the cash-strapped Eagles recoup some cash.

Tottenham seemed to be in pole position to land Moses but Harry Redknapp claims he needs to sell before he can buy. He may have trouble shipping out the right players, meaning Spurs are now behind Liverpool in the chase for Moses.

Money is also tight at Anfield but Rafael Benitez is confident he can raise £5million to capture Moses.

He has been told there is a limited amount of money to spend in January and the Spaniard is set to launch his bid for the starlet as he is keen to build for the future on Merseyside.

Gary Lineker: 12 Months Of Tears, Rants... And Possibly The Worst £20m Ever Spent On A Player

What was your football highlight of 2009? Being a Leicester City fan, nothing could top promotion back to the Championship for me but elsewhere we had 12 months of tears and laughter, cheating, rants and the world's first £80million player.

It's a time to look back and reflect on the best and worst of what has happened. Stars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres have graced 2009 but my player of the year is Wayne Rooney, who has grown from world-class talent to the talismanic leader of Manchester United and England.

United were always going to be weakened by Ronaldo going to Real Madrid but the way Rooney has thrived on the extra responsibility has been stunning. He has to be the chief goalscorer and shirt-seller at Old Trafford now. And so far he hasn't put a foot wrong.

It struck me how special he is when I went to Stamford Bridge earlier this season to see Chelsea play United. There were outstanding players on both teams but even in that company Rooney stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Besides winning a third Premier League title in a row, he scored 29 times for club and country in 2009, a great record for a player who offers more than just goals.

If he delivers at the World Cup, we'll be talking about him as the greatest English player of all-time alongside Tom Finney and Bobby Charlton.

Talking of England, Fabio Capello gets my vote as manager of the year, for getting to the World Cup without any palpitations and putting us in a position where we could win it. That is a huge turnaround for a team that didn't qualify for Euro 2008.

Capello has brought discipline to the set-up and given the players confidence. It might be a surprise that Premier League stars can lack self-belief but that was the case with England pre-Capello.

The highlight was the 5-1 win against Croatia in September. Significantly, Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard scored twice each - at one stage people didn't think they could play in the same team.

The year was mind-boggling for the money spent on transfers. Manchester City spent £135m, Real Madrid beat that on just two players, Ronaldo and Kaka.

The best business was done in January, however, when Tottenham paid £15m to Portsmouth for Jermain Defoe. Always a good striker, Defoe has become lethal in the last 12 months, improving tremendously in his penalty box awareness. The buy of the year in my view. He's worked with former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright and that shows he is prepared to listen and learn.

Defoe is at the stage now where I would love to see him play with Wayne as the No 1 strike partnership for England. My instinct says that they would be brilliant together. Over to you, Fabio.

Alberto Aquilani cost more than Defoe - but you wouldn't have realised it from his appearances this season. At a reported £20m, he's got to be the worst buy. He was meant to replace Alonso but spent the first three months injured and hasn't been pushed into the team by Rafa Benitez now that he is fit. It suggests the Liverpool boss is not confident about his ability to fit into the English game.

Benitez came up with the best soundbite of the year. But, although funny, it ended up rebounding on Liverpool. His line, 'I want to talk about facts', while ranting about Sir Alex Ferguson in January was great entertainment.

But the timing was strange - Liverpool were top of the table and Benitez didn't have to say anything at all. The next day his side were held by Stoke and never recovered the title initiative.

At least Liverpool had a reasonable season, Newcastle's relegation was a huge shock. The turmoil off the field finally cost them on it.

Best goal of the year came last weekend by Wigan's Maynor Figueroa against Stoke. To score from inside your own half is not easy – even Pele managed to miss from there. Figueroa's shot could not have been struck more sweetly.

We have all the Premier League games on a Saturday coming in on a live feed at the BBC. One of the biggest reactions from those of us watching in 2009 wasn't for a goal but for Jimmy Bullard's goal celebration against Manchester City.

His impression of a finger-wagging Hull boss Phil Brown had everyone bursting out with spontaneous laughter and applause. As Alan Shearer said later, it wasn't just the best goal celebration of the year but maybe of all-time.

On the negative side, Thierry Henry became the biggest villain of the year when his handball sent France rather than the Republic of Ireland to the World Cup. The striker has built a fantastic reputation and it was shattered in a moment.

I just wish the culture in football would have allowed the referee to ask him outright if he'd handled. I am sure Henry would have been honest if put on the spot and all the bitter recriminations since could have been avoided.

Most sadly of all, we lost one of my greatest role models and inspirations in football this year when Sir Bobby Robson died in July after a long battle against cancer.

It was so fitting that his funeral service in Durham turned into the greatest football gathering of the year, where I was able to catch up with former Italia 90 team-mates Peter Beardsley and Paul Gascoigne and two of my former team-mates from Barcelona, Jose Alexanco and Txiki Begiristain.

Bobby's passing meant 2009 was a bittersweet year for football. Rooney could make 2010 really special.

Liverpool's Tom Hicks Tells Jurgen Klinsmann: You Will Never Manage Reds

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has told Jurgen Klinsmann he will NEVER manage Liverpool.

The Anfield hierarchy have been stunned by the German's recent attempts to undermine Rafa Benitez and offer himself up as the perfect replacement.

Klinsmann, who was sounded out about succeeding Benitez two years ago when the Spaniard was embroiled in a dispute with the club's two American owners, gave a damning assessment of Liverpool's team on a Champions League television show.

He followed that up with a newspaper interview in Germany in which he claimed he could be Anfield-bound next summer.

And when Sunday Mirror Sport asked Hicks whether Klinsmann would ever be considered as a future Liverpool manager, his reply was an emphatic: "Never."

Hicks added: "I don't know what his (Klinsmann's) motives are."

Benitez, who is less than 12 months into a five-year contract, has been told he has the full support of Liverpool's owners despite an early Champions League exit and seven Premier League defeats this season.

Klinsmann, 45, forged himself a reputation as one of the game's best up-and-coming coaches when he took Germany to the 2006 World Cup semi-finals.

He was an advocate of attacking football and his personality and communication skills helped him become a popular global figure.

The following year, with Benitez's future in doubt following a power struggle with Liverpool's then chief executive Rick Parry, he was approached by Gillett as a possible replacement.

Klinsmann met with Gillett, Hicks and Parry in the United States but, once the crisis at Anfield had ended, he was appointed coach of Bayern Munich.

His reign in Bavaria lasted less than a season and Benitez has since viewed his attempts to undermine him at Liverpool with as much amusement as derision given the way he was dumped by Bayern.

Reds Need To Revise Targets - Rafa

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez tellingly spoke of the need to "change your targets" after Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth.

The Spaniard may well have been talking about shifting focus to the Boxing Day clash against Wolves but following the performance at Fratton Park, the comment could easily apply to Liverpool's season.

Goals from Nadir Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne, either side of Javier Mascherano's dismissal, made Liverpool look every inch the Europa League team they currently are.

This came days after Benitez offered guarantees of a top-four finish in the Premier League with the right approach.

"We have to start working this week, preparing the next game," he said.

"You have to change your targets and think about one game at a time. That is the only way. We know we have to work harder now."

Anfield legend Alan Hansen, in his role as a BBC pundit, suggested the pressure was on Benitez to deliver and that the club would not make any knee-jerk reaction during the season.

Hansen was also critical of Liverpool's performance at Pompey, regardless of referee Lee Mason's decision to dismiss Mascherano for a lunge at Tal Ben Haim.

Last season Benitez's outburst aimed at Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, when he kept repeating "facts", was criticised as counter-productive - this time he continually described Mason as "perfect".

For a flavour of his reaction, Benitez said: "The referee was perfect. He didn't make any mistakes. He was perfect in giving fouls to (Fernando) Torres, he was perfect in everything. He was perfect."

Benitez, however, did claim the sending off just before half-time changed the game.

"The 10 players were working very hard," he said.

"Credit to them, they were in the game. They (Portsmouth) were playing counter-attack and with the pace up front it's not easy."

Belhadj's goal came after a poor header from former Pompey right-back Glen Johnson, while Piquionne span around Jamie Carragher before finishing, ruining the Liverpool centre-back's 600th appearance for the club.

"You have to be disappointed when you concede goals," Benitez added.

At least Benitez has £20million summer signing Alberto Aquilani back for the Christmas period after missing the Pompey trip with a calf problem.

"He has a kick in his calf and he didn't train properly," Benitez said.

"He is not serious so he will be okay for next week but he couldn't be here."

Javier Mascherano Will Serve Four-Game Ban After Portsmouth Dismissal

Liverpool's Javier Mascherano is shown a red card by the referee Lee Mason at Portsmouth, an offence that has landed the Argentina captain a four-match ban.

Liverpool have confirmed that Javier Mascherano will serve a four-match ban after his sending-off at Fratton Park. The Argentina captain was shown a straight red card by the referee Lee Mason and now faces a second suspension of the season.

Mascherano will miss the fixtures against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, the FA Cup third-round tie at Reading and the league match against Tottenham Hotspur on 10 January.

However, his participation in at least some of those games would have been in doubt anyway as he had to be helped off the field having been show the red card and is believed to have sustained medial knee-ligament damage.

The absence of the Argentinian, who was just starting to rediscover his form, will be a huge blow to the manager, Rafael Benítez.

It means the Liverpool manager must decide whether to drop Steven Gerrard back from his attacking role just behind Fernando Torres or play the £20m summer signing Alberto Aquilani, whom he has been holding back because of concerns about his fitness.

Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez Is Tipped For The Chop After Defeat At Portsmouth

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is now 9/1 to lose his job before the turn of the year, thanks to his side's 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday.

Manager Benitez, who this week "guaranteed" that his side will finish fourth in the Premier League, is a front-runner to be fired, after five years in the hot seat at Anfield.

Bookmakers William Hill are also offering 13/8 that Liverpool will finish in the top four and 4/9 that they will not after their 2-0 defeat at bottom-of-the-table Pompey.

"Rafa's guarantee has a hollow ring to it after the defeat by Portsmouth," William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe told

"We are now offering just 7/1 that Liverpool finish in the bottom half of the table," he added.