Monday, February 15, 2010

Liverpool Players Face Pay Cut Over Champions League Failure

Should they fail to qualify for next season's Champions League, Liverpool's players will face a 5% drop in salary, according to the News of The World.

Liverpool players are granted performance related contracts, to provide an incentive for success. This includes a bonus for Champions League qualification and while the News of The World estimates that Liverpool will stand to lose at least £12million should they fail to qualify for next season's competition, the loss of player bonuses would save the club £2-3million in wages.

Since Rafa Benitez became Liverpool manager, the Anfield club has regarded Champions League football as a formality and players have been signed on the assumption that they will participate in Europe's premier club competition.

Liverpool find themselves embroiled in a tight battle for fourth place in the Premier League and face a crunch clash next week against rivals Manchester City.

Eriksson Keen To Become Liverpool Boss

Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson is interested in becoming the next Liverpool manager, should Rafa Benitez's Anfield reign end in the summer.

According to the News of the World, Eriksson covets the job of Liverpool manager. They quote a source as saying, "The job Sven really wants above all others is Liverpool. His track record stands up to scrutiny and he thinks he has a chance."

Eriksson left his job as Director of Football at Notts County last week and will reportedly receive a £2million pay off from the League Two club. However, the News of the World claims that the Swede joined Notts County in order to keep himself in the shop window for bigger English clubs, such as Liverpool.

The 62 year-old has not managed in the English top division since he was sacked as Manchester City manager in the summer of 2008. Benitez is under pressure at Anfield and there have been persistent rumours that he will take over as Juventus coach, particularly if he fails to guide Liverpool to Champions League football for next season.

Spain Want Torres To Rest

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has urged Fernando Torres to delay his return from injury with Liverpool.

Torres returned to training in midweek following a lay-off with a knee problem and is line to return for the clash with Wigan on March 8.

European champions Spain are amongst the favourites to take the Word Cup crown in July and 59-year-old Del Bosque insists his country's chances would improve by Torres being kept out of action.

The comments could anger Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, who has seen his talisman play just 21 times this season.

He has notched 12 goals during an injury-ravaged campaign that has seen the club struggle to hold on to the coveted fourth Champions League place.

Torres' recent battle with a groin problem was sustained whilst on international duty with Spain, reigniting the club versus country row that provides the backdrop to national team fixtures.

But del Bosque wants the 25-year-old to play less for the Merseysiders in an attempt to keep him in top condition for this summer's finals in South Africa.

He told the News of the World: "The fewer games Fernando plays for his club, the better it will be for us.

"We want him not to play too many games, to recover completely for the World Cup and have had some rest in between. We'd like him fresh for the tournament.

"That can only be good news for Spain. We hope Liverpool's loss will be our gain.

"Fernando Torres represents a crucial part of our squad."

Soto Proud Of Kop Song

Sotirios Kyrgiakos has spoken of his pride at having his name sung by the Kop.

The Greek defender's chant has popped up on several LFC forums and is sung to the tune of 'Oh Campione'.

It goes: "We thought his days were numbered, now he plays here every week. We can't pronounce his surname so we call him Nick the Greek. Oooh Kyrgiakos."

Kyrgiakos told LFC Weekly magazine: "I am extremely happy when I hear that fans of such a big team are singing my name.

"It's hard to describe my feelings at that moment. It's very encouraging for any footballer and one of the best things you can experience."

Celtic And Liverpool Hold Talks On Croker Clash

Liverpool and Celtic have been in talks to play in a high-profile friendly at Croke Park this summer, the Sunday Independent has learned.

They would possibly have been part of a four-team mini-tournament held at the ground and negotiations were at an advanced stage when Liverpool withdrew because Croke Park had not been confirmed as the venue. Speculation that Real Madrid or Barcelona were one of the other teams lined up was denied last week.

Sources close to Liverpool confirmed on Friday that they had agreed to play in the friendly but had withdrawn when they were told the venue was not definitely available. However, they added that the decision to withdraw was not irreversible.

The stadium director of Croke Park, Peter McKenna, told the Sunday Independent that they had been asked about hosting the game.

"We were approached with a view to staging a Celtic/Liverpool pre-season fixture and a number of other exhibition fixtures too. We made it quite clear to the respective agents and promoters who contacted us that we were not in a position to enter into discussions," he said.

The prospect of the game has not disappeared though, with the possibility that GAA Congress in mid-April will allow Central Council to make their own decisions about how the venue is used. Currently, they can only enter negotiations with the IRFU and the FAI.

"The only organisations we have been directed to deal with are the IRFU and FAI in an arrangement where Croke Park was offered until the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road is complete," McKenna added. "Any future change to this directive is a matter for the GAA's Annual Congress in April."

While many clubs will have their pre-season games already planned by then, Liverpool are known not to finalise their schedule until April, at which point Croke Park may be available.

With the World Cup taking place in South Africa and players like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard likely to be involved in the latter stages, the club are known to have ruled out a long-haul trip to Asia during pre-season so a game in Dublin would be ideal.

A number of promoters, not all of them Irish-based, are known to be pursuing games in GAA headquarters.

For the GAA, the possibility of having two clubs with strong Irish ties as the first British clubs to play at Croke Park would also be enticing.

Liverpool were once regular visitors to Ireland but the need to exploit marketing opportunities in Asia has seen a change of emphasis. A Liverpool XI comprised of youth players played in Dunmanway last August but a game with established stars facing a Celtic team that may even include Robbie Keane would be a sell-out.

It would be welcomed by the GAA, which is considering how to replace €36m in lost revenue from the soccer and rugby internationals, the last of which will take place at the end of March.

In the medium to long-term, they may be in a position to compete with the redeveloped Lansdowne Road as a venue for major finals in soccer and rugby, but a friendly involving two of the best supported clubs in the country would also be lucrative.

Lansdowne Road will not be available this summer as the first match planned in the new ground takes place on August 7 with Ireland playing Argentina four days later in the first soccer match.

"There is no way the first game in the Aviva will be anything other than rugby," a source close to the negotiations said last week.

The FAI would have to sanction any soccer match taking place in Ireland and while there might be concern at the competition Croke Park would provide, this is not seen as a difficulty by potential promoters of friendlies. It is a growing market in world football, although one expert believes they may have already reached saturation point.

"There are two pre-season tournaments in London, one at the Emirates and one at Wembley and this is probably too much. Dublin is a much smaller market."

Yet the possibility of playing at Croke Park is an incentive for many clubs, not just those who have strong Irish links.

The Real Madrid delegation that visited the stadium last year during the trip to Ireland which ended with a friendly against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium, are known to have been overwhelmed by the stadium and baffled why it wasn't available to them. That may be about to change as Croke Park has an opportunity to capitalise on the breaking down of the barriers.

Rafa: Why Maxi Will Improve

Rafa Benitez claims there is still a lot more to come from new boy Maxi Rodriguez.

The Argentina ace has put in several decent displays since signing from Atletico Madrid in January but is still finding his feet in English football.

Benitez told "I think he's doing well. For new players it's always difficult but he's giving to us some quality in possession and good movement, and he's working hard too.

"He will improve. The understanding of the other players will help with his play, and that will also make things better for us.

"He's okay now. He still needs to improve his English but he's having lessons. He also has Mascherano and Insua around, and they help him a little bit.

"You can see clearly that he's very happy - and we'll try to keep him as happy as we can."

Rodriguez was a starter when Liverpool beat Everton in a feisty Merseyside derby at the beginning of the month.

Benitez believes his latest signing performed admirably in the circumstances.

He said: "All new players when they see a game of this tempo are always a little bit surprised because they see the difference between this derby and derbies in other countries. But that's part of the adaptation."

LFC Trio Star For England Under 17

Academy star Conor Coady captained England U17s to a 1-1 draw against France on Saturday.

Fellow scholars Jack Robinson and Andre Wisdom also played 90 minutes.

The trio were among the shining lights of this year's FA Youth Cup run, which ended in disappointment at the fifth round stage last week.

England's next game in the Algarve Tournament is against Ukraine on Sunday.