Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If Chelsea Can Turn It Around, So Can Liverpool - Rafael Benitez

At the conclusion of one of the most disappointing campaigns in the club's recent memory, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez hopes he gets the chance to ensure next season sees a Red renaissance.

The Anfield club finished seventh in the final Premier League standings with 23 points adrift of winners Chelsea. Benitez's future has been under huge scrutiny in recent weeks, with a move to Italian strugglers Juventus strongly linked, but the Spaniard insisted after Sunday's disappointing 0-0 draw with Hull City that he was willing and capable of turning things around.

Benitez won the Champions League and FA Cup in his first two seasons at the club, yet in the past four campaigns has failed to add to his tally. But in the wake of seeing Chelsea grab their first title since 2006, Benitez was quick to draw parallels with the London club.

"For any manager, when you have a bad season, you want to improve and change things and I think it has to be this way," Benitez told reporters.

"I think all the managers, especially when they are in England and are at a club for a long time, will have good moments and bad moments.

"In football every year you cannot win and win and win. You can see Chelsea winning [the Premier League], not winning and now winning again so it can happen."

Asked if he deserved the chance to revitalise Liverpool's fortunes, Benitez phrased his answer to rally against what he perceives to be a negative media campaign against him, with certain outlets using anonymous sources in articles to push their own agenda.

"It depends.’Senior sources' maybe will say different but it has been the same in the history of football," he said, before outlining what he hopes will be achieved in his latest meeting with the club's chairman, Martin Broughton.

"Every meeting helps, in one way or another, and at this moment we have to talk about everything," said the Reds boss.

"Hopefully the second meeting will be as positive as the first one, but the press continues with the same agenda.

"I think for the stability of the club it is important because we have to move forward on everything.

"Hopefully we can progress with our next meeting."

Juventus Claim Deal For Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez Is Dead

According to numerous reports emerging in Italy, Juventus have now called off their pursuit of Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez.

Sky Sport Italia have claimed that deal is completely dead in the water while Turin daily Tutto Sport suggest that, following a board meeting, the club are now actively looking into an alternative to the Spaniard.

Initial reports suggest the club will try to pull off an unlikely coup by landing Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. However, it seems unlikely that the Frenchman would jump ship as he is believed to already be preparing the club for next season.

Juve have been courting Rafa for nearly four months and the Bianconeri directors were said to be confident they would get their man after Liverpool finished a disappointing seventh in the Premier League and were twice knocked out of European competition.

Dirk Kuyt Believes Rafael Benitez Will Be At Liverpool Next Season

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt believes that manager Rafael Benitez will still be at Anfield next season despite the reports linking the Spaniard with Juventus.

The Dutchman also sees it as vital that the Reds hold on to players such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, both of whom have been linked with big money moves away from Merseyside in recent days.

"The manager has four years left on his contract, so I don’t expect him to leave unless something else happens," the Dutch international told The Liverpool Echo.

"For me, the most important thing is keeping the main players.

Hopefully then we can buy a few more key players and start winning trophies."

Kuyt also acknowledged that the Reds have made too many mistakes this season and it is vital that they learn from them quickly.

A 0-0 draw at Hull City on the concluding Sunday of the season consigned the Merseysiders to a seventh-placed finish, meaning that they face the ignominy of having to play in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League next season.

Kuyt believes that the players must be honest and take their share of the blame, before lifting themselves to face a new season with resolve and determination to succeed.

"It has been a hard season and we did everything to change things," the Dutchman added.

“Up until 10 days ago, we were fighting for a trophy but it didn’t happen. You can say we have to forget what has happened but, really, we have to learn from the mistakes we made. We’ve got to push next season and be bouncing from the start.

“In football, you can never be sure what is happening and at this time, we know the club looks very bad. We are looking for new owners and you don’t know which players are going to stay or go.

“But Liverpool is a club with a great history and great supporters and we have to stay close together and fight really hard.

“Every player is interested in what is going on but, if I am honest, I can’t blame that side of things for some of our performances.

"We tried to stay focused with things on the pitch – that’s what I did, as did everyone else. We just couldn’t make good things happen for the club."

The draw at Hull also frustrated Kuyt, who wanted to end the season with a victory to cheer the fans.

“We were all hoping to finish the season with a good result so we had some kind of good feeling to finish on but unfortunately that did not happen," he said.

"Stevie [Gerrard] went close and we had a couple of other chances.

"We pushed hard but we didn’t get the result we wanted and that is disappointing."

Rafa Backs Carragher For World Cup

Rafael Benitez has backed Jamie Carragher to be a crucial player for England at this summer's World Cup if he agrees to come out of international retirement.

Speculation is rife that our No.23 will be called into the squad by Fabio Capello this week as England continues to struggle with defensive injuries.

Benitez said: "Carragher is always fit and I think he will be a very good option for England.

"They have centre-backs but they have had some problems. Carragher can also play in two different positions. He can help England.

"I think he'll be in the squad and I say congratulations because I think it will be good for him."

Carragher originally retired from international football in 2007.

Mancini Admits Torres Blow

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has admitted it will be very difficult to lure Fernando Torres to Eastlands this summer.

The Liverpool frontman has been linked with a big-money move to City but their failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League could scupper any possible deal.

Tottenham pipped the Blues into the Premier League's top four this season and will now be rubbing shoulders with Europe's elite next term, unless they lose in the qualifying round of the competition.

City will be playing in the Europa League instead, as will Liverpool, and Mancini believes it will harm their chances of signing top players.

"Can we attract the top, top players, like Torres? I don't know, but I don't think so," he said in The Sun.

"If we finished in the top four, it would be better and easier to attract them.

"In this situation it is different. There are probably some players who want to play in the Champions League and not in the Europa League.

"But there are a lot of players in Europe who will want to play for Manchester City next year.

"We won't be playing in the Champions League but we must try to win the other competitions and finish in the top four in the Premier League."

City ended the campaign with a 1-1 draw at West Ham on Sunday, with Shaun Wright-Phillips equalising a Luis Boa Morte opener.

On his first campaign with City, Mancini remarked: "Things were very difficult when I arrived.

"It is never easy to join a club in the middle of a season. But we have improved.

"We are in the right position - in the top five. We tried to qualify for the Champions League and missed out. But finishing fifth is better than finishing sixth."

Steven Gerrard Ready To Quit Liverpool - With Man City Plotting £40million Move

Steven Gerrard is ready to wave farewell to Liverpool – with Manchester City making a record £40million bid for the Kop skipper.

Megabucks City’s Arab rulers have given the go-ahead for the capture of the summer and hope to agree a fee and speak to the England star as soon as possible.

Gerrard’s future has been in doubt because of the Anfield club’s financial troubles. City’s up-front money may be too much to refuse for the beleaguered owners.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez could reluctantly accept a sale if he is given assurances that he will get the funds to transform a squad that has missed out on the Champions League.

Benitez put on a bold front on Sunday, insisting after the goalless draw at Hull: “If I stay, I’m not thinking about selling Gerrard or Torres.”

But when Benitez was asked if Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres wanted to stay he admitted: “That’s a question for them.”

The final word will be with Gerrard, who is 30 in three weeks’ time and has been a Kop idol since his teens.

He would not have Europe’s elite competition at City but he could take on a new challenge and lead them to a title bid.

City are poised to make their bid formal in the next few days but their interest is already known at the top level and the super-rich outfit want to get a ‘marquee’ signing that will make the game take notice.

The title wannabes know Real Madrid are also lurking but fancy their chances of outbidding them.

Kuyt Admits Anfield Uncertainty

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt admits he does not know which of his team-mates will still be around for the start of next season.

Both Steven Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres have been linked with moves to other clubs this summer.

A dismal campaign, finishing seventh in the Barclays Premier League after early exits from the Champions League and FA Cup, has been compounded by ongoing financial difficulties at Anfield.

Manager Rafael Benitez believes he needs to bring in four or five players in the close season in order to get Liverpool back into the top four.

But with the debts of parent company Kop Holdings, set up by co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett when they bought the club three years ago, reaching £351million at the end of last season that seems unlikely.

And those money worries have only fuelled speculation that big-name stars will be offloaded to ease the stricken finances of the up-for-sale Merseysiders.

"In football you can never be sure what is happening and at this time we know the club looks very bad," said Kuyt.

"We are looking for new owners and you don't know which players are going to stay or go.

"But Liverpool is a club with a great history and great supporters and we have to stay close together and fight really hard.

"Every player is interested in what is going on but, if I am honest, I can't blame that side of things for some of our performances.

"For me the most important thing is keeping the main players. Hopefully we can then buy a few more key players and start winning trophies."

The future of Benitez may still be undecided but Kuyt expects the Spaniard to remain in charge at Anfield.

"The manager has four years left on his contract so I don't expect him to leave unless something else happens," added the Holland international.

While most Liverpool fans and people connected with the club will be happy to see the back of a dreadful 10 months, Kuyt stressed it was important not to gloss over the failings too quickly.

"It has been a hard season and we did everything to change things," said the 29-year-old.

"You can say we have to forget what has happened but, really, we have to learn from the mistakes we made.

"We've got to push next season and be bouncing from the start."

Pressure To Sell Increases As Liverpool FC Reveal More Huge Losses

The pressure on Liverpool FC to resolve the crisis surrounding the club’s ownership has grown after accounts for the 2008/9 season for parent company Kop Football Holdings revealed annual losses of UK£54.9 million.

According to auditors KPMG, those losses also pushed the club’s total debt to UK£472.5 million by 31st July 2009. Interest payments to creditors Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachowia rose in turn to UK£40.1 million. KPMG admitted to a “material uncertainty” about the club’s ability to continue as a going concern. As a result, interim chairman has discussed the accounts with the Premier League in order to ensure that the club receives a Uefa license for next season.

British Airways chairman Broughton has been appointed by the board in order to find a buyer for the club, and he insists that the prospects for a deal remain healthy. He said: “I expect to be chairman until we sell, so a matter of months. There’s no fixed price, there’s no agreed price — it’s a willing buyer, willing seller trade. We have willing sellers and there are willing buyers out there — that will determine the price.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore insisted that he was unconcerned about Liverpool’s long-term future, but admitted that the situation surrounding the club’s ownership and future stadium plans would have to be resolved.

“What is absolutely true is Liverpool, season on season, without additional funding or without benefactor funding, cannot go on losing £55million a year, which is why, in Liverpool’s case, they have got to build a new stadium. That’s fairly self-evident. Clearly, it’s obvious you can’t go on making those losses year in, year out.”

New Siamese Stadium Plan For Liverpool And Everton Football Clubs Unveiled

A local business consortium today unveiled a “Siamese stadium” to house both Liverpool and Everton football clubs.

The proposals show two grounds standing side by side in Stanley Park sharing one “central spine” wall.

The Mersey Stadia-Connex group, which is behind the idea, believes the “Siamese-style” blueprint could save the clubs between £180m and £220m.

They argue it would allow both Liverpool and Everton to maintain separate stadiums – but the unique design will hugely reduce overall costs.

Images reveal a two-sided, ten-level central hub, with a 60,000 ground capacity for Liverpool and 50,000 for Everton.

Both stadia, the consortium say, could be extended to accommodate an extra 10,000 fans with work completed by 2013.

The scheme includes a 300-bed hotel, complete corporate and hospitality facilities, 150 executive boxes, and an underground car park with 1,350 spaces.

The central spine entrance features an atrium and hotel tower extending four storeys above the stadium roof.

Around 200 of the 300 hotel bedrooms face the pitch, and also twin as executive boxes with balconies.

Representatives from Mersey Stadia-Connex are understood to have communicated on a number of occasions, once face-to-face, with senior Everton FC bosses.

However, publicly, the Blues dismissed the plan, denying any contact with the group and describing the scheme as “unworkable, unaffordable and undeliverable”.

Liverpool FC were sent copies of the plans but have made no contact with Mersey Stadia-Connex.

An LFC spokesman said: “We remain committed to building our new stadium in Stanley Park.”

The Connex group is made up of architects, structural, civil and services engineers and a construction and cost consultant.

The National Football Museum, currently relocating their main base from Preston to Manchester, has expressed interest in the project.

The Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) was shown the proposals but appear to have distanced themselves, advising the Connex group it was the clubs’ prerogative to put forward new proposals.

The project, which has taken eight months to design, is said to have reached “outline planning design stage and initial project construction cost status”.

The group has based its plan on Stanley Park.

But they said the scheme could still be “transferable” to alternative sites, and would allow each club to put together its own stadium-naming rights package.

A spokesperson for the Mersey Stadia-Connex group said: “We need to reach the prospective new owners of Liverpool FC to inform them about this sensational investment opportunity.

“Most fans will understand the many advantages and financial implications.

“This scheme differs from all previous concepts during the last decade in that we believe it manages to achieve all the clubs’ objectives.

“Primarily they seem to be, in the absence of it being practical to rebuild Anfield and Goodison, to offer state-of-the-art, 21st-century facilities to their faithful supporters, increased capacity and transformed hospitality, while retaining the strongest link to their heritage, all in a way which delivers the very best value for money in order to ultimately enhance their on-field performances and successes.

“As important as any of those just mentioned is the passionate desire to retain independence from each other, and we are protecting that requirement through a brilliant design concept formulated by Merseysiders for Merseysiders, where what is required is an open-mindedness and a degree of cooperation.”

Mersey Stadia-Connex also wished to clarify they do not represent or act with authority for either Liverpool or Everton FC.