Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Torres - Best Is Yet To Come

Liverpool forward Fernando Torres insists the best is still to come from the under-performing Reds.

The 25-year-old Spanish star has been frustrated by injury so far this season, although his goals-to-games ratio in the Premier League is still outstanding.

Torres has netted 12 times in 14 league starts in what has been a poor campaign for Rafa Benitez's side, who currently lie seventh in the table.

With Liverpool also exiting the UEFA Champions League at the group stage, pressure is beginning to build on Benitez, but Torres insists there is still a long way to go this season.

"Unfortunately this season is not turning out how we had wanted, but our best is still to come," he said in the Liverpool Echo.

"Let's hope that we can put a string of good performances together and that we can put right what we've not done so well up to now.

"And who knows, in May we might well be talking about how good a season it's been. We've still got objectives to aim for.

"We're virtually the same team that finished second in the Premier League last season and we're going to do everything we can to improve our situation."

The Spain international has scored 50 goals in the English top-flight since his big-money move from Atletico Madrid in July 2007, although he has yet to pick up a trophy since joining the Anfield outfit.

Torres was recently named in the Fifa World XI for 2009 but he insists he would trade in the award for success on Merseyside.

"Being included in the World XI without having won any silverware makes me even more motivated," he added.

"What I mean is, though collectively we've not had the best of luck, on a personal note the balance is right and I'm doing my job well.

"I have to keep that going. We just need a little more luck as a team to be able to win a trophy.

"There are some big matches coming up and that way we'll be competing on a level playing field."

Liverpool's next Premier League game is an away trip to Stoke on Saturday, as they look to climb the table and fight for a top-four berth.

Tom Hicks Promises Big Summer Splash As Son Walks The Anfield Plank

Tom Hicks remained bullish in the wake of his son's resignation from Liverpool today when he pledged a "big" summer in the transfer market at Anfield and replaced the outgoing director with another Dallas-based ally.

Hicks's son, Tom Jr., bowed to pressure to relinquish his directorship of Liverpool and its parent company, Kop Holdings, following the furore over the obscene email he sent to a Liverpool supporter in a row over Rafael Benítez's spending power.

His place on the board has been taken by Casey Coffman, vice-president of Hicks Holdings and the chief operating officer of Hicks Sports Group, while Liverpool confirmed that Philip Nash and Ian Ayre, the club's chief financial officer and commercial director respectively, have been appointed directors.

The departure of Hicks Jr was announced this morning after he sent an abusive email to a supporter whom he told to "Blow me fuck face". It is understood the Liverpool director offered to resign when the controversy erupted on Saturday night, with the supporters' union, Spirit of Shankly, demanding his resignation and describing his position as untenable, before the decision was ratified 24 hours later.

A statement issued on behalf of Hicks Jr. read: "I have great respect for Liverpool Football Club, especially the Club's supporters. I apologise for my mistake and I am very sorry for my harmful words. I do not want my actions to take away from the Club's future; therefore I am resigning from the Board. To the fans and to the Club, please accept my sincerest apologies."

Unsurprisingly, given their determination to remove Hicks and George Gillett as owners of Liverpool, the Spirit of Shankly group welcomed the American's decision to step down. A spokesperson said: "This club has standards; on the field, off the field, on the terraces and in the boardroom. The standards we have seen exercised in the boardroom have been unbefitting of this great club since Hicks Jr., his father, George Gillett and other associates arrived at the Club with false promises."

The dispute between Hicks Jr. and the supporter, Stephen Horner, was prompted by last week's revelations that Benítez will have little to spend in this transfer window even if the Liverpool manager raises more than £15m through player sales. The club has so far raised £6.4m by selling Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena to Dynamo Moscow and Napoli respectively and are also hoping to offload Philipp Degen and Ryan Babel before the end of the month. Benítez has resisted efforts to cut his losses with Babel, however, amid concerns his budget will stretch no further than the proposed £1.5m signing of Maxi Rodríguez from Atlético Madrid and possibly one other loan deal.

Liverpool officials say Benítez's budget is a sensible approach to the difficult January transfer market and revenue raised now will be reinvested in the squad in the summer. The Liverpool manager has already started preparations for next season, with the Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh a target on a free transfer.

Liverpool, Manchester City & Manchester United Watching Joe Cole Contract Talks With Chelsea

According to The Times, Joe Cole's contract talks with Chelsea have hit a stumbling block over the player's wage demands.

As the England international's contract is poised to expire during the summer, there is a real possibility of the player leaving Stamford Bridge on a Bosman transfer.

The club is reportedly confident that an agreement will be reached well before the 28-year-old's contract expires, but are believed to have made little headway in the talks over the past 18 months.

It is claimed that Cole is demanding a weekly raise of £40,000, which would put him on par with Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien on £120,000-a-week. But the club are said to be willing to part with 'only' £100,000-a-week, thereby reaching an impasse in the contractual talks between the player and the club.

Although the Englishman maintains that he would like to finish his career with the Blues, it is believed that he has so far remained unwilling to lower his wage demands. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed the same by saying: "The economic factor is an issue for the club to sort out."

Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City are said to be closely monitoring the situation with a view to snapping up the creative midfielder, should he become available during the summer.

Reds To Offer Babel For Sunderland's Jones

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is willing to send Ryan Babel to Sunderland in a swap for Kenwyne Jones.

It is reported that Benitez can only afford the £11million-rated Trinidad & Tobago target man if Babel goes to Steve Bruce's club.

The Kop manager has limited funds and cannot match Birmingham and Stoke if it comes to a straight cash auction for 25-year-old Jones.

However, Benitez has let leading agents work on his behalf to set up a potential swap involving Dutchman Babel, who is also rated at £11m by the Anfield outfit.

Liverpool believe Jones would fancy joining them and playing alongside Fernando Torres - or taking the Spaniard's place if he has to rest his injury.

Jones is not excited by the idea of joining Birmingham or Stoke, who have a lower profile. Liverpool may drop their valuation on Babel - Sunderland rate him at £8m - to make the move happen.

Liverpool Monitor Striker

Arsenal are weighing up a move for Everton striker Louis Saha after it became clear his contract negotiations have hit an impasse.

Everton are thought to be unhappy at the Frenchman's demands for a new £60,000-a-week deal that would span up to three more years.

While Saha is Everton's top scorer with 12 this season, he is still hindered by injuries and the club would prefer to present him with a shorter deal with bonus payments.

Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool have all been monitoring his situation, knowing that he is a free agent in the summer.

Saha is 31 but Arsenal are willing to compromise their stance on offering just one-year contracts to players over 30 and would look at a two-year deal with a one-year option.

Manager Arsene Wenger hailed Saha last week when discussing strikers for France's World Cup squad.

He said: 'When Saha plays 10 games on the trot you can compare him with any striker.'

Starlet Commits To Reds

Liverpool starlet Nathan Eccleston has signed a new contract keeping him at Anfield until June 2013.

As previously revealed by the 18-year-old striker agreed the three-and-a-half year deal last month and has now put pen-to-paper.

Eccleston, who had been out of contract in the summer, now has the chance to make his name with the Premier League giants.

The youngster, who is believed to be available for loan this January, had reportedly been attracting interest from rivals, although he has dashed their hopes of jumping ship in the summer.

Eccleston broke into Rafa Benitez's side this season after appearing in Carling Cup action at Arsenal, while he also made his Premier League debut off the bench against Fulham.

Liverpool FC Confirm Stadium Naming Rights Sale

Liverpool FC, the Premier League soccer club, has confirmed that it will sell the naming rights to its new stadium, work on which is expected to begin by April.

The stadium, which will be built in Stanley Park, close to the club's current home ground Anfield, is seen as a key source of revenue by the club's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and the club's commercial director Ian Ayre says Liverpool would be "crazy" not to sell naming rights to the new ground.

"Naming rights is now an accepted part of building any new footballing venue in the world," he said to SportsCity. "And as one of only a few global football brands, it would be crazy of us not to tap into that opportunity.

"It is an area that some of our competitors have dabbled – Arsenal for example – and it is an opportunity for us to step forward. But what is important is to find the right partner who offers the right cultural fit. Who knows who that would be for Liverpool, but we have certainly had some interest."

Arsenal have a £100 million deal in place with airline Emirates for stadium naming rights and shirt sponsorships, but Liverpool would hope to make far more from their new home.

Ayre has been elected to the Liverpool board, along with Philip Nash, LFC chief financial officer, and Casey Coffman, executive vice president of Hicks Holdings, in the aftermath of Tom Hicks Jr.'s resignation yesterday. Hicks, whose father co-owns Liverpool with fellow American businessman Gillett, allegedly responded: "B*** me f*** face. Go to Hell. I'm sick of you," to a fan's email questioning the club's finances.

Aldridge: I Never Said Rafa Should Be Sacked

Liverpool legend John Aldridge has hit back at reports claiming he has called for under-fire Anfield manager Rafael Benitez to be sacked.

Stories in the British press on Tuesday morning suggested Aldridge believed the time had come to call time on Benitez's reign as Liverpool boss, but the goalscoring great insists the explosive headlines attached to the articles do not reflect his sentiments.

"I have never said that Rafa should be sacked," Aldridge told ESPN. "All I have said is he needs to turn things around quickly at Liverpool because the club needs to finish in the top four this season.

"These are difficult times for Liverpool on the pitch and financially, but Rafa should stay in the job until the end of the season and try to put things right."

Aldridge also insists comments from him claiming this is the 'worst time he can remember' as a Liverpool supporter are merely related to football matters and should not be compared to the horrors of the Hillsborough disaster, which he was forced to live through during his days as a Liverpool player.

"This is the most worrying time I can remember as a Liverpool fan because the team are struggling and the finances of the club are in a bad way, but you cannot compare those issues to the events of April 1989," he says.

"I attended 12 funerals after Hillsborough for fans who lost their lives on that terrible day and that will forever be the darkest moment in Liverpool's history."

Canales Talk Is Nuts - Racing

Racing Santander president Francisco Pernia insists reports teenage star Sergio Canales is on his way out "have as much relation to the truth as an egg to a chestnut".

Canales only turns 19 next month but is already being linked with a number of clubs including Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and Barclays Premier League outfits Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.

The youngster has made just 13 appearances in his two professional seasons at Racing but has burst into the spotlight with four goals in his last three starts.

That kind of form has seen Canales tipped as an outside bet for Spain's World Cup squad and also caught the eye of a number of clubs who are fully aware that his contract expires this summer.

However, there is a clause in place which would see Canales' deal automatically renewed for another year should he play 450 minutes this season and Pernia is confident of keeping him at El Sardinero.

"We have a commitment obtained with his father who is the person who represents the player's interests and I am fully confident in this," said the Racing chief.

"These stories have as much relation to the truth as an egg to a chestnut.

"I have never lost my calm nor am I going to. Nothing's happening here. Everyone's calm and no-one's getting nervous.

"There are always people who talk about matters and get in contact with other people to ask them about it."