Thursday, May 06, 2010

Reds Facing Rafa Riddle

New Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton could have to choose between keeping Rafa Benitez or Fernando Torres.

Kop boss Benitez will this week deliver a series of ultimatums designed to regain near-total power over the club when he finally meets Broughton.

Yet Manchester City target Torres' relationship with the manager has cooled to such an extent there is now more chance of him staying if Benitez goes.

Juventus are still keen on making the Spaniard their new boss.

But if Benitez decides he wants to stay, then Broughton faces a dilemma over whether to sack him - and pay £16m in compensation.

The prospect of having to wait for a top-notch boss to become available could then force them to turn to Kop legend Kenny Dalglish as a stop-gap.

Liverpool's Skrtel Back In Training

Liverpool centre-back Martin Skrtel has returned to training and should be fit for Slovakia's World Cup campaign.

The 25 year-old had been suffering from a broken metatarsal since Liverpool's 3-1 victory over Romanian side Unirea in the Europa League back in February.

Skrtel has now returned to full training at Liverpool's Melwood training ground, according to the Liverpool Echo.

The Slovakian is in his third season at Anfield and has played 24 times for Liverpool this term, scoring a solitary goal.

Skrtel has played 36 times for his country, scoring five times and will be eager to star for Slovakia at the World Cup, having now returned to fitness.

Jamie Carragher Tips Pepe Reina To Captain Liverpool

Jamie Carragher believes that Pepe Reina has the capability to one day become a fine captain of Liverpool.

Reina recently inked a new six-year contract at Anfield and Carragher claims that the Spaniard has a natural aura of leadership that means players automatically look up to him.

"A six-year contract is virtually unheard of, so they must be giving him a few bob," Carragher quipped, speaking to LFC Weekly Magazine.

"I joked with him that nobody else must want him if he's staying here for six years!

"In all seriousness, I was very surprised that he didn't get in the PFA Team of the Year because he's been outstanding all the way through for us."

Carragher maintains that the responsibility of leadership falls on a wider circle than just one player though, and the veteran feels that Javier Mascherano could also one day lead the Reds out.

"In every team, you need four or five leaders and Pepe's become one of them now. As local lads, me and Stevie [Gerrard] fall into that bracket, then there's Mascherano," the former England international added.

"Even though you don't see many 'keepers as captain, I'd imagine that if Pepe was still here in five or six years' time and if Mascherano signs his contract, one of those two would become captain."

Carragher has obviously been checking the Castrol Rankings, which have Reina as the third best Liverpool player this season, rated at No.73. Only Dirk Kuyt (69) and Fernando Torres (5) are higher.

Liverpool Rubbish Torres Chelsea Rumours

His current contract runs until 2014 and Liverpool have absolutely no desire to offload a player who is idolised on The Kop.

Torres is currently working his way back to fitness following knee surgery last month and is channelling all his efforts into being ready for the World Cup.

However, it will be touch and go if he is ready for Spain’s opening game against Switzerland on June 16

Peter Brukner, Liverpool’s new Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science, said: “He’s doing well.

“He’s certainly tremendously committed to his rehab, as are the staff here.

“Whether he’ll be fit for the first game or not is uncertain. We’re anxious not to hurry him along too much because we want the long-term benefit. But we are aware he’s got the short-term goal of playing in the World Cup.

Fiorentina Have Always Been Interested In Alberto Aquilani

After a disappointing first season at Liverpool, Alberto Aquilani could be quickly on his way back to Italy, according to his agent.

The 25-year-old has spent plenty of time on the sidelines this season after a hefty transfer from Roma, and only recently begun to hit his stride for the Reds as the campaign winds to a close.

But with interest from his former stomping ground - namely Fiorentina - Aquilani could be soon returning to Serie A.

"It's too soon [to speak about a possible deal]. First of all he must finish the season well and then once we understand Liverpool's future plans we can make concrete decisions," his agent Franco Zavaglia told

"The interest of the Viola is not new. People have talked about it for three years.

"There are many things to consider. If [coach Rafa] Benitez is taking his time to understand Liverpool's future then you must imagine what it's like for Aquilani."

Zavaglia concluded by reiterating that a transfer was possible, but no decisions are expected in the immediate future.

Sanchez Seeks Summer Switch

Chilean starlet Alexis Sanchez has opened the door for a summer move to England or Spain.

The 21-year-old forward currently plies his trade in Serie A with Udinese, but harbours ambitions of testing himself in the Premier League or Primera Liga.

His talents were spotted by Udinese at a young age and they snapped him up in 2006.

He was loaned out to Colo Colo and River Plate as he continued to learn his trade, before moving to Italy in 2008.

Sanchez has continued to shine in Europe, helping to raise his profile and attract plenty of interest from afar.

The likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Lyon are all reported to be monitoring his progress, keen to bring the exciting youngster on board.

He will get another opportunity to showcase his considerable talent at this summer's World Cup and is tipped to make a big impact in South Africa.

Should he live up to his billing that could be enough to persuade a top club from England or Spain to open their chequebook.

Sanchez said: "My agent has told me that a lot of big clubs have asked about me.

"I'm still focused on Udinese, but I have personal ambitions this summer and England and Spain are sensational leagues."

Liverpool Target Ajax Hotshot: Rafa Could Net Bargain Of The Summer

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is hoping to secure a deal to snap up soon to be out of contract striker Marko Pantelic this summer. The Serbian international joined Ajax last summer on a one year deal and has been in marvelous form and has formed a wonderful partnership with Uruguayan international Luis Suarez.

The journeyman forward has plied his trade all across Europe including spells in Greece, France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Serbia and Germany. His move from Hertha Berlin to Amsterdam followed four solid seasons in the Bundesliga but few could have expected the Belgrade born veteran to make such a splash in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Pantelic managed 20 goals for Ajax this season and was one of the catalysts of a hugely improved season for Martin Jol’s side and now the Anfield manager is hoping to snap up 31 year old in the summer as he looks to add more attacking options to his Liverpool squad.

The Merseyside outfit have at times relied too heavily on Fernando Torres to provide the firepower for the club and Benitez knows that he needs to bring in more options up front and believes he can persuade Pantelic to make the move to the Premier League.

'Mavinga Has Quality'

John McMahon believes Chris Mavinga could prove to be a very good prospect in the future after another excellent showing from the French defender at Sunderland.

The former Paris St Germain ace gave an outstanding display during the 1-0 win in what was John McMahon's side final game of the season.

Lauri Dalla Valle scored a superb goal but it was the display of Mavinga that caught the eye.

"It was good to end the season with a decent victory as Sunderland away is a tough place to come to," McMahon told

"Chris was very good for us and we are pleased with him. He started the season really well and then had a dip but he has ended the season in good form.

"He is a good prospect and can get better. He is a good lad and he has good attributes.

"Sometimes you have to recognize what you can do on certain pitches and that was never a good footballing surface. We made good decisions and did well."

McMahon also spoke about the progression of Dalla Valle after completing his first full season at Melwood.

"Lauri is capable of scoring goals like that," he added.

"It was good link-up play between him and Nikola Saric and he showed his quality.

"I think there is a lot more to come from Lauri and all of the players. He has still got a lot to do in terms of his progression, timing of his runs and how to use the ball. He has got really good attributes and hopefully he can keep progressing.

"Lauri is new to the Reserve set-up this season. The U18s had a striker shortage so we decided to keep Lauri with them for the first part of the season."

Academy U18s captain Conor Coady made his debut as a second half substitute and McMahon added: "Conor deserved his chance and it was nice to give him a chance.

"He has been in the squad a few times now and he has an outstanding attitude."

Dalla Valle Sinks Black Cats

Liverpool Reserves ensured they ended their 2009-10 Barclays Premier Reserve League North campaign with a victory thanks to a 1-0 success at Sunderland on Tuesday evening.

Lauri Dalla Valle gave John McMahon's men the three points with a finely worked move that resulted in the 18-year-old finding the back of the net from 20 yards on 34 minutes.

Sunderland pressed for an equaliser in the second half, though their cause was hindered by the dismissal of Liam Noble 15 minutes from time, with the visitors remaining resilient.

The result brought the Reds second-string's five-match losing streak to an end as they collected their first win since a 2-1 triumph at Bolton on March 29.

McMahon's side went into the clash in the North East having lost every match in April - a sequence that extinguished their hopes of clinching title success.

Still, there was no question the boss would demand 100 per cent from his players in their final league fixture of the term.

Liverpool had dispatched the Black Cats 2-0 at Prenton Park earlier in the campaign - a game notable for Alberto Aquilani’s Reds debut as a late substitute.

Dani Pacheco and Robbie Threlfall were the scorers that October evening on the Wirral, but neither player was involved this time around.

Instead, Academy starlets Conor Coady, Alex Cooper, Deale Chamberlain and John Flanagan were included in the 16-man squad that travelled to the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground in Hetton-Le-Hole - birthplace of legendary Anfield boss Bob Paisley.

It was the hosts who made the brighter opening and only a fine block by Martin Hansen prevented Oumare Tounkara from putting Sunderland into a third-minute lead after the striker was sent bearing down on goal by 'keeper Trevor Carson's long punt forward.

Liverpool's custodian fashioned a similar chance for Dalla Valle soon after, with the Finn firing a dipping volley into the arms of Carson from the right corner of the box.

Back came Sunderland and after Liam O'Mahoney's strike ricocheted off Victor Palsson on 14 minutes, Liam Noble clipped an effort millimetres the wrong side of the upright.

Dalla Valle headed wide from Gerardo Bruna’s corner 10 minutes later as the open start to the contest continued - however the latter was forced off just after the half-hour mark, with Cooper his replacement.

But Dalla Valle did find the target in the 34th minute with a goal that exemplified his vast potential.

Collecting the ball on the right wing, the striker played an exquisite flick inside to Nikola Saric. The Dane motored forward towards the Sunderland goal prior to returning possession to Dalla Valle, whose touch took him away from Michael Kay before the No.9 slipped a low left-footed drive beyond Carson's reach from the edge of the box.

It ensured Liverpool went into the half-time interval holding a well-earned lead.

Sunderland made a pressing start to the second half, though the Reds defence - powerfully led by Chris Mavinga - managed to repel the early onslaught, with only David Dowson's run and shot testing Hansen in the opening exchanges.

Alex Kacaniklic then skewed a volley wide on the hour after Steven Irwin’s cross had only been half cleared to the edge of the box by Sunderland before Adam Reed struck a long-range effort into the midriff of Hansen.

The Dane thwarted the Black Cats' midfielder again moments later, smothering an attempted overhead kick.

Sunderland went closer still in the 67th minute when O'Mahoney crashed a close-range header against the crossbar from Conor Hourihane's dangerous cross, when perhaps the winger should have done better.

However, the home side were reduced to 10 men with a quarter of an hour remaining when Liam Noble collected two yellow cards in the space of three minutes following rash challenges on David Amoo and Irwin .

With Liverpool holding the numerical advantage, the visitors were able to see out the latter stages in relative comfort and claim their first victory in over a month to fittingly end a season of real encouragement on a high.

Financial Expert David Bick Fears For Liverpool's Future As Board Deliver Nothing But 'Broken Promises'

Liverpool need a "rescue" rather than just a takeover, according to football finance expert David Bick, who believes the club is at an important cross-roads in its history.

Bick, chairman of Square 1 Consulting, believes fans of the Reds should not be fooled by financial results set to be released by the club, which he believes will see them announce a profit of around £35 million.

The expert sees similarities with Manchester United's figures last year — where the club's profits, a result of Cristiano Ronaldo's sale, paved the way for a bond issue that alleviated the club's short-time problems but only caused greater long-term concerns.

Bick also believes the Merseyside club, whose owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have reportedly set an asking price of around £500 million, has been over-priced and needs investment in almost every aspect of the club's infrastructure — starting with a new stadium.

"Liverpool has potentially reached its most important historic point," Bick wrote in an open letter, as reported by ESPN Soccernet.

"The club has now gone 20 years without winning the English league title. It has never won the Premier League. It was drummed out earlier than expected from this year's Champions League and now, as one of the world's biggest clubs, faces the ignominy and reality of failing to qualify for next season's premier European competition.

"To my mind, the people running the club over the last two decades must bear the bulk of the responsibility and the brunt of the criticism.

"Whether it comes down to incompetence or thoughtless arrogance at Liverpool, we have seen the club left behind by the other great clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs. They have rebuilt their stadium to high standards and, largely speaking, to capacities that accommodate their substantial fan bases.

"Yet all Liverpool fans have heard is talk and a string of broken promises."

While their rivals have adapted to the modern game and taken advantage of the money-making avenues open to them, Bick reckons Liverpool's owners have long been slow to adapt.

"The other clubs have built their revenue streams or attracted owners that have given them the wherewithal to compete effectively at the top of the modern game," he noted.

"It seems to me that the Liverpool fans are being treated to a 'product' that is rooted in the 1970s. Sadly, in very recent times, Liverpool has also been owned by people who have said much and delivered little of the stated vision. Replacing them is a very urgent imperative.

"Liverpool claimed in a recent statement that it has 'overseen a significant improvement in the financial performance of the club since 2007'. Well, that's difficult to assess. The management has not published accounts for Kop Football (Holdings) Limited - the main trading company - since the filing for the year to 31 July 2008 and, in that year, the business showed net losses of over £42 million and net interest payments on debt of £35 million not covered at all (let alone adequately) by operating profit - pre-player amortisation and trading - of £25 million."

Manager Rafael Benitez's agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, revealed exclusively to UK on Tuesday that assurances over transfer funds would be vital to keeping the Spaniard at the club. Bick believes that, if the club's finances are as bad as he suspects, Benitez might be disappointed with what he is told.

"Debt remains stubbornly near a reported £240 million, so what profits are produced do not leave much, if anything, for the manager to work with, even if we believe rumours of a £35 million profit for the year that will end this 31 July," Bick said.

"In short, Liverpool's financial structure can't work in my opinion and, since the sale of the club in 2007, it was never going to.

"If the manager cannot operate competitively in the transfer market, he has no chance of competing regularly in the top four. We have now seen the first concrete sign of this with the failure to even stay in the top four.

"Right now, Liverpool is at risk of losing its manager and some of its best players, demoralised by a recent Europa Cup semi-final defeat and a poor season. While no-one is irreplaceable, such an exodus will leave a new owner with an even more difficult task. Therefore, the new chairman of Liverpool needs to act with some swiftness."

The saga surrounding the building of New Anfield — which Hicks and Gillett promised to start work on soon after arriving at the club in 2007 — has been a major controversy in the last three years, and Bicks believes it is essential work is started sooner rather than later.

"Financially at least, Liverpool must have a new stadium if it is to have any hope of restoring past glories," he writes.

"But the finance for that, and any subsequent financial benefit to owners, must accrue to those who put up the money. In any case, this will not be a conventional acquisition of a football asset - it is more likely now to be a rescue.

"The new owners will need to be people of high calibre. They will need to have access to very large sums of money to build the new stadium, revitalise the management and allow for a well thought-through strengthening of the playing squad.

As a result, things could get worse before they get better for Reds fans.

"Once decline becomes precipitous, even money may not prevent the decline spiralling into permanency," Bick warned.

Yossi Benayoun Brands Liverpool 'Failures' After Missing Out On Champions League Qualification

Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun has delivered a scathing assessment of the Reds' disappointing campaign, branding Rafael Benitez's side "failures" after their inability to qualify for next season's Champions League.

The Merseysiders also performed underwhelmngly in the domestic cup competitions as well as the Premier League, and exited the Champions League at the group stage and the Europa League, their consolation prize, at the semi-final stage.

Benayoun acknowledges that things need to improve quickly at Anfield, with the onus on the players to produce a positive reaction next season.

"Our objective was clear at the outset, and missing out on the Champions League cannot be viewed as anything other than failure," the 30-year-old told reporters.

"It is not even up for discussion. A club like ours must be setting their sights on being in the Champions League, and it is not good enough that we have fallen short.

"It happens sometimes, even to the best, but there can be no excuses. We have failed and we have to make sure it does not happen again. The way you react to adversity is so important, and we must respond positively."