Friday, April 16, 2010

Agent Claims Mystery Chinese Investor Key To Benitez's Liverpool Future

The agent of Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has claimed that a Chinese investor wants to buy the club on condition that the Spaniard remains at Anfield.

Benitez's Anfield future has long been the subject of speculation and the Liverpool manager has recently spoken candidly of his frustration at the lack of funds available to strengthen his squad.

Juventus have been strongly rumoured to have offered Benitez the chance to take over as coach of the Turin-based club. The Spaniard is also said to be in the running to take over as Real Madrid coach in the summer.

Benitez's agent, Manuel Garcia Quillon commented in Spanish daily AS, "For now, Madrid has not moved, but Juve will not wait for Benitez forever."

Quillon also said that whether Benitez remains at Liverpool is "subject to fluctuations in their financial situation."

Intriguingly, he added that a Chinese investor is interested in buying the club, but had conditioned the bid on Benitez remaining as Liverpool coach.

Quillon continued, "The Chinese have an interest and called Rafa and told him that their condition for buying the club is that he remains coach."

Liverpool's unpopular American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett are actively looking for a buyer, but the process may take some time.

Rafael Benitez 'To Stay At Liverpool Until 2014'

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez intends to see out the rest of his contract, provided the club's financial situation allows it, according to his agent.

"The intention of Benitez is to fulfill the contract he has until 2014," said Manuel Garcia Quilon.

"But it's true the club is subject to fluctuations in their financial situation," he added, referring to the Reds' on-going need to pay off debt.

"They could influence the future of the club, and therefore Benitez as well."

Liverpool have £237m of outstanding loans with RBS and Wachovia banks, and have to repay £100m this year, although a deadline of July set by RBS has been delayed by six months.

The club's owners, Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett, are reported to be looking to sell the club for about £500m, with British Airways chief Martin Broughton being brought in to lead the search for a new buyer for the Anfield outfit.

Garcia Quilon added that he knew of unnamed Chinese investors who were interested in buying the club and retaining Benitez as manager.

"The Chinese have an interest because they have called Rafa and told him that their condition for buying the club is that he continues as coach," he told Spanish newspaper AS.

Garcia Quilon said Benitez remained a potential candidate for some of the top jobs in Europe but that there had been no discussion about him leaving Anfield.

The Liverpool boss has been linked with Juventus again this week, with the Serie A club reportedly having made him their number one target back in January; while it seems likely the Real Madrid post will become vacant again this summer.

"For now [Real] Madrid have not made a move to sign him," said Garcia Quilon.

Martin Skrtel Hoping To Be Back In Action Next Week

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel hopes to return to full training next week, after six weeks out with a broken foot.

The Slovakian international suffered a fractured metatarsal in the Reds' Europa League clash at the end of March, but after consultation with club doctors has been given the all-clear to return to light training.

"I had another scan so that my doctors could be absolutely sure that everything was OK," Skrtel told reporters.

"They were satisfied with what they saw.

"It means that I can spend my time on the running machine from now on. It is a bit rigid but I hope that I can start working with the ball next week."

Liverpool face Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final next Thursday, but the game might come a bit soon for Skrtel's return.

Torres Eyes Firmly Set On Return To Atletico

Fernando Torres will return to Liverpool's Melwood training ground today when his injured right knee will continue to be assessed.

The Spain international travelled to Barcelona last weekend to see specialist Dr Ramon Cugat, the surgeon who in January performed the operation on the torn meniscus which kept him out for a month.

With Cugat having said that rest should allow Torres to feature next week, manager Rafael Benitez and his medical staff will have to decide whether their star striker will be fit enough to face West Ham on Monday.

Torres is desperate to face former club Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final in the Spanish capital today week and so he -- and Benitez -- may consider the Hammers game too much of a risk.

Spain are certainly keeping a keen eye on developments with the World Cup less than two months away.

"Until the rest period imposed by the doctor has passed, we will not know the extent of the injury," said the Spanish Football Federation's sporting director Fernando Hierro.

"I talk to Torres every day and he is optimistic. I am too. Hopefully the problem is due to a knock, because it reduces the risk."

Torres missed the Reds' last game -- a dour 0-0 home draw with Fulham last Sunday -- and his absence was reflected in the team's bluntness up front.

Mascherano Wants Long-Term Liverpool Deal

Javier Mascherano has said he would be happy to commit his future to Liverpool for seven years as he prepares for new contract talks.

Mascherano, 25, had said earlier this week that he was happy at the club but would like to return to his homeland with River Plate in the next three or four years.

However, he is reported to be close to agreeing a new £90,000-a-week contract at Anfield and has indicated that he would be happy to commit until his early 30s.

"I will be really proud if I can spend the next six or seven years here," he said in the Sun. "There aren't too many clubs in the world with the history and fans that Liverpool have."

Recent speculation had suggested Mascherano could join Rafael Benitez at Juventus this summer.

AC Milan Swoop For Fernando Torres 'Depends On Sale Of Alexandre Pato'

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres could be sold to AC Milan this summer - if current Rossaneri favourite Alexandre Pato is sold to Real Madrid or Chelsea according to reports in Italy.

Torres has been linked with a move away from the Reds after just two seasons - mainly because the Anfield club now looks certain to miss out on qualification for next season's Champions League.

And according to the Corriere Dello Sport, Torres' transfer could be financed by the £50 million sale of Pato - who is being linked to both Real Madrid and Liverpool's Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, given the state of Milan's finances the club are only thought to be willing to part with up to 50% of the money raised from selling on the 19-year-old Brazilian.

With Liverpool's valuation of Torres believed to be upwards of £40 million, Pato would effectively need to fetch a world record transfer fee to make any move for the Spanish international a viable prospect on Merseyside.

Instead, Milan may be more tempted to go for Real's Karim Benzema in a part-exchange for Pato in a deal which could also net the Italians around £20 million in cash.

Failure To Attain Champions League Football May See Juventus Miss Out On Landing Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez

Juventus may not be able to mount the finances necessary to secure the signature of current Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez if they do not qualify for Champions League football next term.

The Old Lady showed Ciro Ferrara the exit door earlier in the season following a lacklustre run, and Alberto Zaccheroni was installed as the interim boss until the end of the season.

With the current term swiftly approaching the finish line coupled with Liverpool's dreary season, the Spaniard has been heavily linked with a move to the Turin giants in the summer.

According to earlier reports, the Bianconeri have already made contact with representatives of the former Valencia boss with a view to his switching from England to Italy; they are said to want Rafa to leave his current post by next Friday if he wants to become the next Juve coach.

However, The Sun claims that a failure to compete in the Champions League next term will severely compromise the club's plans to hire Benitez, as they will miss out on the financial boost that participating in Europe's elite club competition guarantees.

It is claimed that Juventus used a significant portion of next season's budget to fund the transfers of Diego and Felipe Melo, and it would put further pressure on their finances if Benitez were to be appointed.

Juventus have been consistently inconsistent in recent weeks, and have consequently slipped to sixth in the Serie A - three points behind fourth-placed Palermo.

Thousands Gather In Liverpool To Mark Hillsborough

Thousands of people are gathering across the city of Liverpool to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough tragedy.

The memorial service to mark the 21st anniversary of the disaster will be all-ticket for the first time - with 10,000 seats available at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said it was "such an important day".

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were crushed to death on 15 April 1989 at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium.

The service at Anfield begins at 1445 BST, with a minute's silence at 1506 BST.

At that time, many homes and workplaces will come to a halt to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.

The minute's silence is observed at 1506 BST because that is the time on 15 April 1989 that the referee stopped the game between Liverpool and Forest, when it became apparent something was terribly wrong.

People in Sheffield are also laying flowers at the Parkside Road memorial to remember those who lost their lives.

Mr. Benitez, who is attending his sixth service, added: "Since I've been here it's always been very, very emotional.

"All the players and all the staff are always there trying to support the families, because it is a very important day for the club.

"The first time I went to the memorial service I was so impressed by what happens at this club.

"You can see the people and all the feelings. It's a poignant occasion to keep everyone remembering."

Along with Liverpool stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, the Spaniard was presented with commemorative coins to mark the disaster.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, who is chairman of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, is currently overseeing the release of documents not previously made public.

After a two-decade fight, the authorities finally agreed to release more than 30,000 documents of evidence relating to the tragedy.

He said: "I know this is a very difficult and distressing time for the families of the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough," the bishop said.

"It is our solemn responsibility to ensure that the memory of the 96, and all those whose lives were changed for ever by those terrible events, can never be forgotten."