Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Juventus Reach Agreement With Liverpool Coach Rafael Benitez - Report

Juventus are on the verge of landing Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez after the Italian club reached an agreement with him via his agent Manuel Quillon Garcia, accoring to Tuttosport.

Director Roberto Bettega met with the agent in Monte Carlo on Monday night, where the two men spoke about bringing the Spaniard to Turin.

A verbal agreement has now been reached over a three-year deal, and all that remains is to set him free from the contract he is under at Liverpool.

Bianconeri president Jean-Claude Blanc will fly to Merseyside at the end of the week in an attempt to convince Liverpool into yielding their man.

Despite the report, Juventus have said Bettega was in Turin until 16:00CET on Monday, and neither the agent nor the director has confirmed talks had taken place.

Meanwhile, La Stampa reports that a Benitez arrival in Turin could spark off a squad overhaul at Vinovo.

They claim Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt and Martin Skrtel would all follow the coach.

However, reports suggest Liverpool would accept no less than €70million for the Spanish striker.

Rafael Benitez's Agent Denies Deal Done With Juventus

Rafael Benitez's agent has told BBC Sport reports the Liverpool boss has agreed a deal to take over Serie A giants Juventus are "absolutely false".

According to reports in Italy, the Turin side are poised to secure the Spaniard on a four-year contract.

But Manuel Quillon Garcia denied that was the case, insisting: "There is no agreement with anyone."

He also denied meeting Juve director Roberto Bettega in Monte Carlo this week to discuss Benitez's future.

BBC Sport understands Benitez is one of several possible candidates Juventus want to succeed Alberto Zaccheroni at the Stadio Olimpico this summer.

However, Benitez's pay demands, and the fact he would want to bring several of his backroom staff with him, could cause difficulties.

There has been no contact between Liverpool and Juventus, with the Reds privately sceptical the Italian club could afford to buy the manager out of his lucrative contract, which still has four years to run.

Juventus have refused to comment on speculation their president Jean-Claude Blanc will fly to Liverpool this week in an attempt to lure Benitez away from Anfield after six years in charge.

Benitez is preparing Liverpool for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Thursday.

He wants to stay at Anfield but is yet to meet the club's new chairman, Martin Broughton.

Talks are planned for this week, when Benitez's future and the club's summer transfer plans will be discussed.

How those discussions go will depend on whether Liverpool have clinched another season in Champions League football.

They currently lie seventh in the Premier League, two points adrift of Tottenham in fourth but having played a game more.

The Reds entertain Chelsea on Sunday before finishing their league campaign with an away match at Hull on 9 May.

Rafael Benitez Could Hand Alberto Aquilani A Free Role Against Atletico Madrid

Rafael Benitez is contemplating playing Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani in a free role behind the forwards in the future, and could deploy the playmaker there when Atletico Madrid come to town on Thursday.

The Italian has endured a tough time since moving to Anfield from Roma in a £20 million deal last summer, with injuries derailing his progress in the first-team.

But after laying on three assists while operating in that position during 4-0 Premier League win against Burnley last weekend, Benitez believes Aquilani's creativity can be exploited to the club's advantage.

And with the Reds keen to turn around a 1-0 deficit in the Europa League semi-final second leg on Thursday, Benitez is keeping his options open.

"It is an option. He can play in both positions," the Reds gaffer told the club's official website.

"In the first year, especially because he has been injured for a long time, to manage him and find the right position for him was not easy because the Premier League is very strong and physical."

Steven Gerrard scored two goals playing from a deeper position in the game at Turf Moor, and Benitez admits playing the system more regularly might be an option for him.

"In this position he [Aquilani] has freedom and with Gerrard behind him they can pass to each other," he said.

"Aquilani can pass the ball and when the game is open like in the second half (against Burney) he can move and give good assists."

Sotirios Kyrgiakos Keen To Claim Europa League Trophy For Liverpool

Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos has revealed that it is his aim to ensure the Reds win the Europa League this season.

The centre-back, who moved to Merseyside in August from AEK Athens, wants to claim some silverware whilst he is at Anfield and is keen to make sure that Rafael Benitez's men beat Atletico Madrid on Thursday evening and reach the final in Hamburg.

The Greek international has been happy with his personal displays over the course of the season, but he insists that now is not the time to start looking back with satisfaction, especially with the World Cup ahead of him in the summer.

"I have been pleased with my form. I have a good relationship with the fans and I can see that they like me because I give everything for the club when I play," Kyrgiakos told LFC Weekly.

"Some of my team-mates have told me that I have become a favourite amongst the fans and I am proud of that because it is important for a footballer to be remembered in a positive way once he has gone.

"But this isn't the time to reflect. You have to keep going then in the summer, look back and analyse the season. That might not be possible until July because I have the World Cup with Greece and providing I am fit, I should be in the squad.

"At the moment, my mind is focused on Liverpool and if we finished the season with a trophy, that would mark a satisfying season for me because last pre-season, I never thought I'd even be at Liverpool."

Pepe Reina Should Have Been In PFA Team Of The Year - Ian Rush

The PFA Team of the Year selection always creates debate and former Liverpool star Ian Rush is not best pleased that Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina was omitted.

Manchester City's Joe Hart, who was enjoyed a superb season on loan at Birmingham City, was named at No.1, but Rush feels Reina would have been a more worthy selection.

"Without doubt Pepe should have been in the team. Hart's had a good season but when you watch Pepe Reina play you can see that he is an incredible stopper," the former Welsh international told reporters.

"I can't understand how he doesn't get a game for Spain. [Real Madrid's Iker] Casillas must be one hell of a goalkeeper to keep Reina out. He has been fantastic and has really grown in confidence over the years.

"He must have had three or four assists for some of our goals this season and that's one of the main things I like about him. His distribution on the counter attack; it's like having another outfield player."

Much of the focus this season at Anfield has been on how Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres influence the Reds, but Rush believes Reina is every bit as crucial to Rafa Benitez's team.

"There are probably games where Liverpool have gone on to win and Torres or Gerrard have taken the credit, but there are five or six occasions that I can think of where he has made an important save to change a game in our favour," he added.

"I can't understand how he isn't in the PFA team. When you look at Liverpool's player of the year, he's definitely in the top three, if not a worthy winner."

Addicks Confirm Talks

Charlton Athletic have confirmed that they are in talks about teenager Jonjo Shelvey's departure.

Reports have claimed that Liverpool have won the race to sign the Academy graduate, who is closing on 50 appearances for the Addicks.

It is believed Shelvey will undergo a medical on Merseyside this week, ahead of a move to Anfield in the summer.

However, League One club Charlton have refused to confirm that the player was in talks with Liverpool and insisted a deal was not yet done.

Addicks chairman Richard Murray told the South London Press: "There has been some interest shown in the player but we're some way off doing a deal."

Nicolas Otamendi: Liverpool Move For £9M New ‘Roberto Ayala’

One of last season’s Argentinian Clausura Championship stars was Velez Sarsfield’s young centre-half Nicolas Hernan Otamendi. The 22-year-old’s impact in the Clausura title race was such that the likes Real Madrid were named as interested suitors and the player himself has now cemented himself into Diego Maradona’s international set-up and is expected to go to the World Cup finals. He has been just as impressive this season and that form has alerted Rafa Benitez who is looking to strengthen his defence this summer with some younger players and the player dubbed the ‘new Roberto Ayala’ certainly fits the bill.

Otamendi only made his Velez debut in May 2008 as a late substitute in a 2-1 home win v Rosario Central. However, it was the 2009 Apertura Championship where the youngster proved his worth. He made a total on 17 league appearances (all starts) as Velez finished as champions, two points clear of Huracan. Unsurprisingly the Velez defence had an outstanding record with Otamendi in the side conceding just 13 goals in 19 league games. The form Otamendi showed brought him to the attention of Liverpool with Rafa Benitez’ scouting network strong in Argentina and the increasing stature of his performances has led the Argentine press to claim he will be on his way to Anfield to join compatriots Maxi Rodriguez, Emiliano Insua and Javier Mascherano.

Of the 17 matches he started in the Clausura Championship, the team kept 9 clean-sheets. These statistics and the dominant nature of Otamendi’s performances led to his quick rise from youth team player to highly-rated International. This season has not been quite as good for Velez who find themselves 7th which has increased speculation that Otamendi will leave either before or after the World Cup.

The 5 ft 10 central defender was called up by Maradona for a friendly match with Panama in May which was made up from home-based Argentinian players which was won 3-1. Otamendi played the full 90 minutes and such was his performance that he again played the full 90 minutes of the 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat in Ecuador in June. He has since maintained his place in the side winning 6 caps and played the full 90 minutes of the 1-0 win in Uruguay that sealed World cup qualification. The fact that he was picked for such an important match shows the faith Maradona has in him and will have impressed Benitez who is looking to add more youth into his Liverpool defence this summer after a pretty poor domestic season. Otamendi also played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 friendly win over Germany in March where he excelled. The defender has received glowing reports from the player’s international team-mates Mascherano and Rodriguez, so a summer move is likely.

Due to Otamendi’s lack of height and playing style he has been likened to the former Valencia legendary defender Roberto Ayala. It’s of no surprise that a number of Serie A clubs have already begun to track the player including Inter, AC Milan and Lazio. However, Liverpool are leading the chase with fellow South Americans in their squad including Argentina star Javier Mascherano who has reportedly suggested the defender as the perfect new addition to Benitez. Unlike some South American youngsters who are catapulted to fame, Otamendi seems to be very level-headed. He still lives in his humble family home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and takes a bus to training every day.

The player’s main attributes include his physical strength which is conditioned from his love for boxing. Like Ayala and Fabio Cannavaro, the Argentine reads the game well and uses his speed to anticipate opposition moves. He is renowned for his excellent tackling ability and has become the star of the Velez team in a short time. His manager Ricardo Gareca was glowing in his tribute to him, “He plays like a veteran. In centre-backs, cases like this are very rare.”

The Velez Football Director Christian Bassedas also praised him, “You watch him on the pitch and he gives you the idea that will eat up the opponent striker in every ball.”

Liverpool may have to move quickly this summer although they may need to sell before they can buy with Ryan Babel likely to depart. An early bid of £9m is expected to be enough if Liverpool do make their move before the various other big European clubs make their bid for the next big Argentinian defensive star. They are likely to push a move through a move to Anfield before the World Cup as a good showing from Otamendi may push the player’s price tag up too high and out of Liverpool’s range. If Benitez can capture his man, the Reds may have signed the heir to Jamie Carragher as both have similar no-nonsense playing styles.

AEK Athens Request Season Loans For Four Liverpool Players

Greek giants AEK Athens have asked Liverpool for four fringe players on loan for next season, according to the Liverpool Echo.

Top of the wish list for AEK Athens is 21 year-old Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth, who is already on a successful loan spell at the club.

He has scored three goals and contributed three assists in just fourteen appearances.

In addition, new AEK president Stavros Adamidis will ask for French midfielder Damien Plessis who has made a handful of Liverpool first team appearances over the last two seasons.

The Greek side would also like to add 23 year-old Moroccan winger Nabil El Zhar, who has had limited opportunities at Anfield this season, following a series of substitute appearances last term.

Finally, young French left-back Chris Mavinga is also wanted. Signed from Paris St Germain last summer, Mayinga has yet to make his Liverpool debut.

According to the Liverpool Echo, Rafa Benitez will make a decision over AEK Athens' requests at the end of the season.

Man City Want Benitez To Replace Mancini

Italian newspaper La Stampa is reporting that Manchester City owner Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is interested in Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez. By all accounts City are preparing to thwart efforts by Juventus to poach the Liverpool boss and will offer the Spaniard a huge transfer kitty and long term contract to leave Anfield for Eastlands.

Juventus have been viewed as front runners to tempt Benitez to leave Anfield but with City now apparently interested in Benitez it does shake things up somewhat, for starters it would mean that the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard would become serious targets for City, they have the money to splash and Benitez would not be afraid to spend it.

It may well not be the end of the world for Juventus and Mancini though, they are thought to be interested in each other and if Juventus do not manage to attract Benitez then the chances are it would be Mancini they would turn to.

For Liverpool fans this is not welcome news, it is one thing losing Benitez to Juventus but a whole new ball game if they lose him to Man City, with the money City have it will make Liverpool fans very nervous about the club being able to hang on to its best players.