Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rafa Benitez Praises Liverpool Medics' Work With Fernando Torres But Calls Premier League 'Too Demanding'

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has praised the dedicated efforts of the Anfield medical staff in keeping Fernando Torres in good enough shape to play.

The striker has been undergoing intensive work on his troublesome groin injury, sometimes spending up to five hours extra at training during his rehabilitation.

Whilst Benitez acknowledges the player's hard work, he also feels that the medics deserve a pat on the back.

"Fernando knew from the beginning that it was a question of working very hard with the physios and fitness coach. He's doing this and he's a very good professional," the Reds' gaffer explained.

"The staff has been crucial. All the medical staff has been working very hard. Specific physios have been working very hard with him and the fitness coach Eduardo Parra is working with him every single day for hours and hours. This is crucial.

"It's been a busy season for the medical team. I've been watching injuries in the other teams and there have been a lot in the Premier League because it's too demanding."

Jeremy Menez: Liverpool Move For Roma Enigma After Fallout With Ranieri

A number of Premier League clubs have been alerted by the much publicized fall-out between Jeremy Menez and his manager Claudio Ranieri at Roma. The French star is highly-rated but has never fulfilled his early promise shown at Sochaux and Monaco. However, Menez is still only 22-years-old and there are a number of Premier League clubs eyeing a potential move with Liverpool the team named as leading the chase in the Italian press.

There is no doubt that the French star possesses top drawer ability although his temperament has often been called into question. He is a highly technical player with superb dribbling and passing ability and his versatility would make him an extremely useful acquisition for Rafa Benitez particularly if he can secure Menez on a loan to buy deal as the club have little transfer funds available. The French star can play on either wing, in the hole or as a forward so would be ideal for Liverpool whose squad is not as strong in depth as some of their rivals for a top four spot.

Menez has been linked with a return to France but his agent Alain Migliaccio suggested this is unlikely although the future for the player is open. He told romagiallorossa.com, “Menez to Marseille? That is not true at the moment, while Marseille are also set to sign (Inter Milan’s) Mancini.”

“I don’t know what the future will hold for Jeremy. I will talk with Roma next week.”

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri has suggested that he is willing to let Menez leave. He declared, “The club has needs and we must meet them.”

“If there are requests from other clubs for our players, we will evaluate them.

“I want to have players here who believe in the project and will give their all for the collective cause.”

Menez was dropped from the team following a poor showing as a 75th minute substitute in the 2-2 away draw at Cagliari and has not appeared since. It would seem Ranieri has ran out of patience with the creative star and he will be leaving Rome this month. Relations between the two clubs following Alberto Aquilani’s move to Anfield and John-Arne Riise’s move to Rome are good and the Italian press claim talks are ongoing.

The French star began his career at Sochaux where he made a total of 55 league appearances (40 starts). Menez scored 7 goals for the club and became the youngest ever scorer of a Lique One hat-trick, aged 17. He was also the youngest ever winner of Lique One’s Player of the Month award. Such were his performances that Monaco signed him in 2006, he went on to make 57 league appearances for them (45 starts) and scored 14 goals which prompted interest from a number of top European clubs. Roma eventually secured his services for 12.5 millions euros when he signed a 4-year contract in August 2008.

Menez has failed to live up to expectations at the club and but played 29 league games in his debut season (13 starts) while scoring 4 goals. However, this season the French playmaker has started 9 of his 10 appearances until his fallout with Ranieri.

There is no doubting Menez’ talent and the 22-year-old may be more suited to the pace and more attacking English game. He will certainly have a point to prove to his doubters both in Italy and France should Rafa Benitez get his man. The player has been prone to the odd outburst that has not done him any favours in Rome particularly when he criticized the role played by Roma’s talisman in his debut season. The Frenchman said at the time, “I am at a team where Francesco Totti comes before anything else…”

Claudio Ranieri’s arrival looked set to rebuild the career and reputation of Menez as he looked to unlock the Frenchman’s talent. However, he has openly criticized the player declaring, “Menez is a great champion, but must be more practical.”

“If you are dispossessed, you must double your efforts. We have to work a lot on this and it’s not easy to get through to him. But it’s a shame when you are a good dancer and don’t want to dance…”

Menez has been likened to both Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry in his homeland for his skills but he has yet to win a senior cap due to his lack of playing time in Italy plus the form of the likes of Franck Ribery and Yohan Gourcuff. Just like Gourcuff, the creative star may need a different environment to bring out the best in him. After all, other French stars have thrived when leaving Italy after arriving perhaps too early in their careers. Both Patrick Vieira and Gourcuff both failed to perform in Italy so a loan move to Liverpool may be just what the player needs to prove to everyone just how talented he is.

Benitez does not have the funds to secure any expensive deals this January but a loan move with an option to sign the player in a £7.5million deal in the summer would suit both parties. Menez’ ability to play on either flank or alongside or just behind Fernando Torres marks him out as an ideal option. The Reds undoubtedly need a boost this January and according to the Italian press, the French enigma may be the man to provide it.

Zuiverloon Wants Babel At West Brom

West Brom's flying Dutchman Gianni Zuiverloon would love to see best mate Ryan Babel join him in Birmingham.

Birmingham City's £9million offer for Babel was rejected by the Reds and boss Rafa Benitez wants to keep him.

However, given the unpredictable nature of the January transfer window, the fact that Babel isn't getting much game time and is eager to play ahead of this summer's World Cup, an increased bid may tempt Liverpool to sell.

"Would I like to see Ryan move down here? Well I'd love for him to play, that's the big part," said Zuiverloon. "He needs to play so it doesn't matter where it is.

"If he goes to Birmingham City then it's even better for him and for me too as then we could do stuff together in Birmingham.

"But he needs to play and that's the most important thing for him."

Reds' Shock Loan Swoop For City Youngster

Rafa Benitez is reportedly preparing a loan move for Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha.

The Liverpool boss is desperate to add defensive cover to his side, with right back Glen Johnson set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Onuoha signed a long-term contract at the City of Manchester Stadium in the summer, but has only made four appearances since after an injury ruled the 23-year-old out for a large part of the season so far.

Reports suggest that the Reds are ready to offer Onuoha a short-term loan deal at Anfield.

Liverpool are short on defensive options in all positions, and Onuoha's versatility makes him a perfect candidate for a switch to Merseyside.

The former England Under 21 international isn't believed to be in the plans of new boss Roberto Mancini, and could put himself in the shop window for a move to Liverpool or elsewhere with a successful six-month stint.

The pair of clubs are seen as direct rivals for the fourth place spot in the Premier League, and whether City would want to loan players to a competitor is another issue entirely.

However, with City able to spend freely in the transfer market, a further addition at the back could leave Onuoha surplus to requirements in Lancashire and the possibility of a move much more likely.

Liverpool Join Jones Race

Liverpool have reportedly joined Premier League rivals Birmingham City, Stoke City, Aston Villa and Tottenham in the race for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones.

The Sunday People claim Rafa Benitez is proposing a swap deal involving Ryan Babel and Jones trading clubs in this transfer window.

Having recently sold Andriy Voronin to Dynamo Moscow, the Spaniard is looking to bring in an able replacement, and Jones reportedly fits the bill for Liverpool.

The towering Trinidad and Tobago striker has cut an impressive figure for Sunderland alongside the prolific Darren Bent, and he seemingly has no shortage of suitors despite Steve Bruce recently suggesting the player was not for sale.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is a known admirer having enquired about the player in the summer, while Aston Villa and Stoke City have both been linked with forward this month.

The newspaper suggests Jones would entertain the idea of moving to Anfield in order to play alongside Fernando Torres at Liverpool, but the move would depend who Ryan Babel's willingness to move to Sunderland.

The Dutchman recently rejected the chance to join high-flying Birmingham City in a £11 million deal despite Liverpool's readiness to sell the player.

Over the last few days Sunderland boss Steve Bruce appears to be looking at likely candidates to replace Jones should he accept the reputed advances of Liverpool, and having been recently rebuffed in his efforts to sign Schalke 04 striker Kevin Kuranyi, a swap deal with Babel may have its appeal.

Tom Hicks Jr Resigns As Liverpool Director

Liverpool today announced that Tom Hicks Jr. has left his position as a director at both the club and its parent company.

A statement on the club's official website reads:

"Liverpool Football Club today announces that Thomas Hicks Jr. has resigned as a director of both the club and its parent company Kop Holdings.

"Three new directors have been elected to the boards of both companies.

These are Philip Nash, LFC Chief Financial Officer; Ian Ayre, LFC Commercial Director; and Casey Coffman, Executive Vice President of Hicks Holdings."

The news follows stories that emerged at the weekend regarding an angry and allegedly abusive email sent to a supporter by Hicks Jr. for which he later apologised.

Pressure had mounted for Hicks Jr. to resign after he responded to an email from concerned fan Stephen Horner by reportedly writing: "Blow me, ****face. Go to hell. I’m sick of you."

The Spirit of Shankly supporters' group, an organisation committed to ridding the Anfield club of its American owners, issued statement over the weekend calling for Hicks Jr. to resign, as well as expressing wider concerns about the state of the club.

Real Madrid Midfielder Xabi Alonso Backs Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez

Real Madrid's deep-lying playmaking midfielder Xabi Alonso, who swapped Liverpool's Anfield for the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer, has offered his support to his former manager Rafael Benitez.

"There is no questioning that he is a good manager who can still bring success for Liverpool," Alonso is quoted to have told Sky Sports.

"He doesn't operate the same way to a lot of other managers, but you can't deny that he is successful in what he does.

"He keeps his distance emotionally - you are the player and he is the manager and that's the way he likes it. You have to accept that.

"I will always respect Rafa for what he has done in football but, more importantly, I will always be massively grateful to him for the chance he gave me to join Liverpool."

Alonso, though, did concede that the persistent speculation linking then-Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry with a transfer to the Merseyside outfit was the catalyst for his desire to crave a Real switch.

He said in the People: "The pursuit of Gareth Barry took some time for me to accept and, in all honesty, it changed the course of my future.

"I did get over it but it did take time for me to accept what had happened to me.

"Leaving Liverpool was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but after what happened with Barry I knew in my heart I had to tell Rafa that I wanted to go to Madrid when they came knocking at the door.

"I was still fairly young when I joined Liverpool and I had not only grown into the player I'd become there, but also the man I'd become."

Arsenal & Liverpool Target Marouane Chamakh To Announce Decision By End Of January

Girondins de Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh is set to reveal where he is headed at the end of January, according to The Sun.

There has been widespread speculation surrounding the player's future, particularly in the last 12 months, as the Morocco international's contract with the Ligue 1 outfit is set to expire at the end of the season.

Arsenal have been heavily linked with a move for the highly rated forward, but Liverpool have reportedly pipped them in the race to secure the player's signature during the summer.

Presently, the Bordeaux hitman has allegedly revealed that he will announce his destination soon, as he is quoted as saying: "I'll give my answer by the end of January."

Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked with a move for Chamakh.