Friday, January 29, 2010

Juventus Lay Groundwork For Summer Rafael Benítez Move

Juventus are close to replacing the manager, Ciro Ferrara, with a short-term appointment as they attempt to pave the way for Rafael Benítez to join in the summer. The Turin club is expected to part company with Ferrara following tonight's Coppa Italia tie against Internazionale and had hoped to install the Liverpool manager as an immediate replacement.

Juventus officials now accept they will have a better chance of luring Benítez at the end of this season, when his position is to be reviewed by the Liverpool hierarchy and may decide he has had enough of the club's internal problems should promised new investment at Anfield fail to materialise.

Juventus are believed to have lined up their former defender Claudio Gentile as a stop-gap appointment until the end of the season, although the former Milan and Udinese coach Alberto Zaccheroni is also under consideration. Gentile has never managed at club level, and last coached in 2006 when in charge of the Italy Under-21 side, but his temporary arrival will enable Juventus to appoint a long-term successor in the summer.

A contract is believed to have been drawn up by Juventus for Benítez as a demonstration of their intent.

Masch Wants Fortress Anfield

Javier Mascherano is aware that Liverpool must make Anfield a fortress for the remainder of the season if they are to be successful in their quest for a top-four finish.

Rafa Benitez's Reds have struggled this campaign, but they have won their last three home Premier League matches and welcome Bolton to Merseyside on Saturday.

Liverpool are fighting with Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa for a place in next season's UEFA Champions League, and Mascherano is aware of the importance of fixtures at Anfield.

The Argentine believes a winning run at home, with Everton, Blackburn, Portsmouth and Sunderland to visit before April, will build self-belief in what promises to be a tense conclusion to the season.

"If we can be really strong at Anfield, it will be really good for our confidence," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I believe that confidence is always about the result. If you don't get the result, your confidence will go down and if you do it increases. One goes hand-in-hand with the other. We need to look at the positive things and try to be positive as we look forward.

"Whether you are winning or losing, it is no good thinking too much about it because you have to look forward and you have to live in the present. The present for us is Bolton and we have to win the game on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Mascherano, who has been linked with a summer move to Barcelona, views the Europa League as an opportunity to end his wait for a first trophy with Liverpool since his 2007 move from West Ham.

"The target for us is to finish in the top four and win the Europa League," he said.

"The Europa League is very important for us. I want to win something with Liverpool. We have the chance to do that in the Europa League, so we will try our best.

"Also, if you win the Europa League, you get to play in the Uefa Super Cup and that will be really good for the team."

The Reds begin their participation in the Europa League, having been dumped out of the UEFA Champions League group stages, on 18th February when they play the first leg of their last-32 tie against Unirea Urziceni.

Rafael Benítez Searching For Right-Back To Stand In For Glen Johnson

Rafael Benítez has indicated he is keen to draft in a right-back before the transfer window closes. The Liverpool manager wants to act as Glen Johnson is taking time to recover from medial ligament damage.

In the England international's absence, Jamie Carragher has been deployed in that role. However Benítez, whose side face Bolton on Saturday, would like Carragher to return to the centre of the defence.

The Spaniard knows time is against him to recruit with the transfer window about to close, but a fresh face remains a possibility.

"We have to be careful with what we do," Benítez told the Liverpool Echo. "There are not too many good players around who are available and we will think about it. We still have some time but we will not rush if we cannot find the right player for this position."

Benítez does have options to fill in for Johnson. Martin Kelly has returned to training after a long lay-off while Philipp Degen's calf problem is not thought to be serious. Stephen Darby is also staking a claim.

Carragher celebrates his 32nd birthday today and Benítez added: "We are really pleased to see him playing as well as he does when he is in the centre of defence or at full-back. We have needed him and he is doing well. As for Kelly, he has been injured but has improved."

Reds Teen Set For Dutch Return understands that Liverpool teenager Vincent Weijl is poised to return to Holland.

The Reds signed the attacking midfielder from AZ Alkmaar in July 2008 and he is a member of the Premier League side's reserves.

But Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is understood to be prepared to allow Weijl to leave on loan in order to build first-team experience.

An unnamed Dutch club has made approach for the 19-year-old and he could therefore be moving back to the Eredivisie.

When Weijl first arrived at Anfield expectation was high that he would develop into a major talent and Benitez will hope that a loan will assist his progress.

Liverpool Star Ready To Seal £11m Exit

Liverpool winger Ryan Babel is reportedly close to an Anfield exit, with Sunderland ready to renew their interest.

Dutchman Babel has struggled to make a major impact on Merseyside since moving in 2007, used sparingly by Benitez despite the Reds' lack of attacking options.

Linked with a move to Birmingham City earlier in the month, Babel has stood firm over a possible move. Rumoured to be holding out for a possible swap deal that would take him to either Arsenal or Spurs, a switch to London now appears unlikely and Sunderland a more likely destination.

A product of the famed Ajax academy, Babel made his debut for the Dutch giants in 2004. An international debut followed in 2005, and he now has 37 caps to his name.

The 23-year-old moved to Anfield for a fee of around £11.5 million, but has failed to live up to that price tag. The Reds have reportedly been trying to cash in, but are yet to take advantage of the interest in their versatile attack-minded player.

The possibility of a swap deal for Kenwyne Jones can't be ruled out, although both sides would deny that possibility after the weeks earlier actions. Bruce holds the ace however, and could push for a January deal as the window moves towards a close.

Liverpool Refute Reports Linking Yossi Benayoun With Dinamo Moscow

Liverpool have denied claims from Dinamo Moscow that a £7 million deal had been agreed to take Yossi Benayoun to Russia.

Moscow Sporting Director Konstantin Sarsania had apparently claimed that the 29-year-old midfielder was on his way to his club.

However, the Reds moved quickly to quell those rumours on Wednesday.

"The player is not for sale, it's as simple as that," a Reds spokesman told the club's official website.

Sarsania had clamied a deal was soon to be done.

"It is true that we have come to an agreement with the player's agent," Sarsania said, according to ESPN.

"In the next two days Liverpool will make their decision.

"When we completed the signing of Andriy Voronin, consent was given by Benitez.

Now the Liverpool coach is against losing Benayoun but the decision is not his.

It is for the club directors.

The transfer of Benayoun will happen if the price is acceptable.

If they want more than we expect, the board of directors will discuss the issue."

Tommy Smith: Liverpool FC Players Must Feel Like Fans Too

Hard as it is to take positives from the Wolves game, I guess there were one or two.

You can’t dispute it was really disappointing not to get the three points after the Spurs victory. But at least we did not lose, kept a clean sheet and saw Steven Gerrard coming back.

My old mate Jimmy Case, co-commenting on BBC Radio Merseyside, seemed to be doing his best to look on the bright side. But it did all sound a bit flat.

The difference for me between the Spurs and Wolves game may well have been the venue. At Anfield last week, with the Liverpool fans in magnificent form, we were right at it.

I know the Liverpool supporters who travel away are always in superb voice – and were again on Tuesday – but obviously there were far more Wolves fans at Molineux and I just wonder if one or two of our players didn’t sense – and therefore show – the same energy and motivation as was on view against Tottenham at Anfield.

The more that Liverpool players, especially those who come from foreign countries and aren’t steeped in Anfield history, become fans of the club the better. If they feel it the way the supporters do, then I’m certain it will help.

To be fair, a good few Reds stars obviously do. Pepe Reina and Torres are just two examples of overseas players who seem to have become adopted Kopites, as well as top Liverpool players. But the more like them in our squad, the better.

Liverpool fans are the best and always play an incredible part in driving the team on. But every Liverpool player must find the self motivation to drive themselves on too – in every single game.

If in their hearts the players are fans too, it will help – whether on pulsating nights at Anfield – or on freezing ones in Wolverhampton.

"Liverpool Fans Are Very Loyal, Very Kind And Very Passionate"

Former Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko has spoken of his pride at playing for Rafael Benitez at Anfield and stressed that the Spanish coach is worthy of any coaching job in Europe despite currently being under-fire on Merseyside.

Playing down rumours linking the Reds boss with his current side Juventus, the Malian international also hinted that the passion and loyalty of the Liverpool fans would be an important factor in the club’s future success.

“Rafa is a successful coach who can get any good job in Europe. He will be asked to take many jobs in Europe."

Sissoko was snapped up as a youngster by Benitez during the coach’s successful three year spell at Valencia before following the tactician to Liverpool in 2005 and anchoring the midfield alongside Steven Gerrard.

Reflecting on his time in the Premier League, the imposing enforcer continued:

“Rafa is a very good coach who had confidence in me. He made me proud to play for Liverpool. He made me work, work, work and made me improve.

“The Liverpool fans are very loyal, very kind and very passionate. Playing at Anfield was very special to me and I enjoyed playing there. Rafa has their support so that is important for him that the fans believe in him.”

Despite the widespread speculation in the Italian press linking Benitez with the top job at Juventus, Sissoko claimed to be none the wiser.

“I don’t know,” said Sissoko. “All I know is that my coach has confidence in me and I like it here.”

Benitez Confirms He Won’t See Tom Hicks’ US$500 Million Windfall

Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez has confirmed that he does not expect to receive a transfer boost from Tom Hicks' US$500 million windfall, secured by the American's sale of his Texas Rangers Major League Baseball franchise.

Hicks did not comment on whether any of the US$500 million he will receive for his MLB franchise will be redirected to Liverpool, but he has previously indicated that business dealings at the Rangers would not affect Liverpool. Benitez has now echoed that.

"I don't think so, it is another company," Benitez told the Belfast Telegraph when asked about the possibility of some of the US$500 million finding its way into Liverpool's transfer budget. "We are now run like a company and so that (Texas Rangers) is a different thing."

"The majority of clubs are now run like companies,” he added. "You have to think about football and business, both things together. This year we have done a fantastic job trying to balance the books and to do the right job for the company. In football, we had to take some risks and we have to improve now on the pitch. If people can see the club is healthy, it'll be easier to bring in investors. It has to be like this, because there is an economic crisis around the world. You can't be spending and spending when there's no money."

Hicks and his fellow American George Gillett took control of Liverpool in 2007. The two men were expected to revolutionise the club both on and off the pitch. This season, however, Benitez's team has struggled on the field of play, while the planned move from Anfield to a new stadium in Liverpool's Stanley Park appears as distant as ever, despite claims work could begin within a few months.

Liverpool FC Shirt Sponsor Switches Cash To Fifa World Cup After Losing Biggest Contract

Carlsberg, the outgoing shirt sponsor of English soccer club Liverpool FC, will launch a £30 million Fifa World Cup-themed marketing campaign that will be its biggest marketing investment of 2010.

The deal comes after Carlsberg lost its long-term place as Liverpool's shirt sponsor. The Anfield club, owned by American businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett, will be sponsored by bank Standard Chartered from the summer, having secured a significantly greater contract than the Anfield club had ever managed to get out of its previous sponsor. Liverpool will be paid more than £80 million by Standard Chartered over the next four years.

Carlsberg, who will remain a sponsor of Liverpool despite losing its place on the club's famous red shirt, has chosen to up its investment as the official beer of the England national team. Its new campaign will encourage fans to give a team talk to the England team - including the likes of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard - via video or text message. It will also feature television advertising, and more than 2.5 million promotional Carlsberg packs.

The beer brand has a four-year contract as the official beer of both the England team and the FA Cup.