Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Syrian's £400m Liverpool Takeover Edges Closer

According to representatives of Yahya Kirdi, the Syrian is moving closer to agreeing a deal to take over Liverpool.

Liverpool's unpopular American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett recently put the Anfield club up for sale. The Daily Mirror reports that Kirdi, who is fronting a Gulf-based bid, is looking to buy the club for £400m, which will more than wipe out the club's £350m debt.

Kirdi himself is a former Syrian international and is also an international Unicef representative. Former Celtic captain, Andy Lynch is working alongside Kirdi to make the deal happen.

Lynch confirmed that Kirdi met with Liverpool owner Gillett and new chairman Martin Broughton in London last week. He said and that talks between the parties were positive.

Lynch commented, "Mr. Kirdi confirmed to me that he had encouraging discussions with both Martin Broughton and George Gillett.

"He is hopeful that the deal could be done very soon."

Hurry Up And Sell Liverpool FC, Urges Pepe Reina

Pepe Reina has urged co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to ensure a swift sale of the club to aid Liverpool’s hopes of recovery next season.

The ongoing problems both on and off the field at Anfield were brought into sharp focus during the past few days with the release of the latest accounts and the conclusion of the Premier League campaign.

It emerged on Friday that Liverpool had posted a record pre-tax loss of £54.9m for the year 2008-09 while the debt of the club’s parent company Kop Holdings had risen to £351m.

The goalless draw at Hull City that followed two days later consigned Rafael Benitez’s side to seventh place – the Anfield outfit’s lowest league finish since 1999 – and a July start to their Europa League challenge next season.

Benitez, who expressed his desire to stay at Liverpool given the right reassurances, will meet with new chairman Martin Broughton again this week to discuss the direction of the club.

Liverpool’s poor showing has underlined the need for squad strengthening, with Benitez keen for significant funds to be released ahead of the summer transfer window.

Broughton hopes the club will be sold “in a matter of months” and a concerned Reina admits the ownership situation must be resolved as soon as possible.

“Of course we worry,” said the goalkeeper. “It is a little bit of a concern and we need to sort out these kind of things, like the sale of the club and the thing with the owners.

“Once we settle all this then we can begin to look forward and improve the squad.

“It is vital we have a quick sale of the club. It would be simple as it would mean we could start planning for next season earlier.

“All that I would ask is that if it is going to happen, then it happens as soon as possible to help the club itself.”

Reina added: “It has been a really disappointing season. The only thing we can do is look forward and try to improve and build a competitive squad.

“We need to spend some money on the squad to be competitive again so we can fight for a place in the top four.

“How many players do we need? I don’t know. It is not about quantity, it is about quality. We don’t want to bring anyone in just for the sake of bringing.

“We need to bring in the proper ones and improve on the players we already have.

“It is not cheap but I am sure that the manager and his technical staff will be working hard to change that.”

Despite the boardroom distractions, Reina admits the buck ultimately rests with Liverpool’s players for their campaign of chronic under-achievement.

“We cannot avoid our responsibilities,” he said. “We are the ones who play, so there are no excuses about that. Of course it did not help all the issues with owners and the situations with the ups and downs with the money. But we are just players and we have to play.

“It is up to us to show our quality on the pitch. We have tried to give our best all the time but clearly we didn’t get to the levels that we should have done this year. We have got to improve massively next season.”

At least the season ended on a positive personal note for Reina, whose clean sheet at Hull was his 18th of the top-flight campaign and means he shares the Barclays Golden Gloves award with Chelsea’s Petr Cech.

“It was all down to the lads in front of me,” said the Spain international.

“I am really thankful for that. In the second half of the season, we defended really well. Thanks to them it is always nice to be able to win this kind of trophy.”

Jamie Carragher Is No Guarantee To Make World Cup, Says Fabio Capello

Fabio Capello refused to guarantee Jamie Carragher a place in his final World Cup squad of 23 despite the Liverpool defender showing his willingness to come out of international retirement by agreeing to be part of the England coach's 30-man provisional party.

As he has persuaded Carragher to make himself available after he retired from international duty in 2007, it is hard to see Capello not selecting the Liverpool veteran in his final squad when it is announced after the friendly with Japan in Graz on 30 May.

However, the Italian would not give Carragher any guarantees he would be on the plane to South Africa. Capello said: "He is one of the 30 players. During the training camp I will evaluate the performance of each player, after that I will decide."

Detailing how Carragher's return to the international fold came about, Capello said: "We started two months ago, we spoke with him, [Capello's assistant] Franco Baldini met him two weeks ago and he was happy to stay with us and we decided to select him. I selected him because he is a really, really good player."

Another player to make it into the 30-man squad is the Tottenham Hotspur defender Ledley King. Capello called King into his squad for the games against Slovakia and Ukraine in April last year, but once it was discovered the Tottenham man's chronic knee condition prevented him from training he was quickly returned to his club.

However, with the long-time squad members Wes Brown and Joleon Lescott ruled out by injury and doubts remaining over the first-choice central defenders, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, Capello has decided it is worth checking out the experienced Carragher and King once more.

Capello has no concerns about King's long-standing knee injuries. "We were monitoring him for a long time," the Italian said. "He is one of the best defenders in England. In the last 15 days he has played four games, I spoke with him about the knee problems and he said this season the knee was really good. The reason I selected him is that he's good, a really good defender."

Capello said he asked the Manchester United veteran Paul Scholes to consider a comeback but, unlike Carragher, the midfielder turned down the request. "Yes [I spoke to him] but it was up to him," Capello confirmed. "He said no, he preferred to stay with the family. But I tried, yes."

Capello has several possible injury headaches with question marks over the fitness of King, Gareth Barry and Wayne Rooney while Owen Hargreaves missed out due to a long-term problem. Asked about Barry, Capello said: "I decided this morning after meeting with Franco Baldini and the doctor. I decided to put him in the 30 because the next medical check will be 24 May and after this medical check we will decide what we can do. I hope after this he will be ready to start training. You have to wait."

On Hargreaves, Capello added: "I spoke to Owen twice in Manchester and he's not fit, not ready to play. He didn't play for 18 months and for that reason, I can't select him. He's a really important player when he is fit."

Capello insisted that, despite question marks over the fitness of several players, Barry is the only current doubt. "I am not concerned about these players," he said. "Yesterday I spoke for a long time to Sir Alex Ferguson and he told me Rio is fit, he can play, no problems.

"King is really good, I'm not concerned. We have to wait about the Barry situation but it is only this player."

The Italian said Bobby Zamora was unlucky to miss out. "It was one of the last decisions that I took," he revealed. "I spoke to him and it was up to him because he can't train every day, he plays always with injections and probably he needs an operation [on his achilles]."

One of Capello's wild cards is the Manchester City winger Adam Johnson. "He is a really interesting player," Capello said. "He played very well in the second part of the season with Manchester City [after his January transfer from Middlesbrough]. He's one of the younger players most interesting in the Premier League and I want to check him out during the training camp."

Reina - Injuries No Excuse

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina admits the club's "hell of a year" is no excuse for ending the season with their worst league finish in 11 years.

The Reds ended their Premier League campaign with a goalless draw against Hull City to finish seventh in the table - their lowest league finish since 1999 - to compound untimely early exits from both the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup.

Reina, who was voted Anfield's player of the season on Tuesday, cited injuries to key players as one of the reasons Liverpool suffered 11 league defeats in their domestic campaign but the Spanish shot-stopper concedes the Merseysiders should have done better.

"I feel a bit mixed because when a goalkeeper wins this kind of award, it's never a good thing," said the 27-year-old, who also won his fourth golden glove for the most clean sheets, sharing it this season with Chelsea's Petr Cech.

"I am happy with the things I have done, but not one of us can be happy because of the season we've had.

"No matter what you do, it's about the team. All of us are really disappointed.

"It's been a hell of a year with injuries. Fernando, Stevie, Glen, the centre-backs - we've been in a lot of trouble with injuries, so it's always difficult to prepare for a season like that.

"But it's no excuse - we should have done better and we didn't."

Inter Deny Benitez Talks

Inter Milan have rubbished reports they have approached Rafa Benitez or any other coach in view of Jose Mourinho's possible departure.

Mourinho has yet to confirm whether he will remain at the helm of Inter next season, with the Portuguese coach a reported target of Real Madrid.

Reports in the Italian media on Tuesday claimed Inter had joined Juventus in the race to tempt Liverpool boss Benitez to Serie A this summer.

But Inter have denied the rumours, stressing that Mourinho is under contract for a further two years.

The club said in a statement: "With regards to what has been reported today by several Italian media, FC Internazionale underlines that absolutely no contact has been made with coaches - of other clubs or national teams - given that the club has a contract with Jose Mourinho until 2012, and that everybody is focused exclusively on the team's important upcoming commitments."

Jamie Carragher: Liverpool's Champions League Failure Persuaded Me To Make Myself Available For England

Jamie Carragher has revealed that his England U-turn was accelerated by Liverpool's failure to qualify for next season's Champions League.

The 32-year-old was named in Fabio Capello's provisional World Cup squad on Tuesday, having agreed to end his self-imposed exile from international football that began in 2007.

And Carragher has admitted that, when his country came calling, it was the fear of missing out on more big occasions during the twilight of his career that encouraged him to be considered for selection.

"The FA got in touch a few weeks ago and asked if I would have a rethink, due to injury problems. I said I would make myself available," said Carragher, according to Sky Sports.

"The World Cup and Champions League are the highest levels of football.

"I'm not getting any younger, we have no Champions League football next season and I am keen to work under Fabio Capello."

Capello names his final 23-man squad for the tournament in South Africa on June 1 and Carragher is widely expected to make the cut.

Rafael Benitez: Liverpool Fans Made Right Choice In Voting Pepe Reina Their Player Of The Season

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is sure that the club's supporters made the right decision in voting goalkeeper Pepe Reina their player of the season.

The glovesman's performances have attracted plaudits from many observers and have been one of the few highlights of an otherwise disappointing campaign.

"Yes. 100 per cent," Benitez told the club's official website when asked if he felt that the fans had made the right choice voting for Reina.

"Pepe was a very good signing. He was a player we needed to bring in because we wanted to improve in goal.

"He has been fantastic not only in terms of his performances this season, but also for three or four years in a row.

"Also his mentality and advice for other players mean he is an inspiration. Like Kuyt, he is always positive and happy."

"Pepe is a 'keeper for a top side because he can not be involved in a game, but then can still make great saves because he is always focused and concentrated.

"If there are one or two situations in a game, he is ready."

Benitez was also delighted that Reina recently committed his long-term future to the Reds by signing a new six-year contract.

"It was really important. He is a modern goalkeeper who can play outside of the box too," he explained.

"He is more of a sweeper than a keeper - but if you need him to be a keeper, he is one of the best."

Chinese Gaming Tycoon Holds Takeover Talks With Liverpool

A chinese multi-millionaire internet gaming tycoon from Shanghai has held provisional talks about buying Liverpool, The Independent can reveal. No offer has been tabled yet but Zhu Jun, 44, the founder chairman and chief executive of The9 Ltd – one of China's leading online gaming firms – is described by local sources as "sincerely interested" in the club.

When Zhu's gaming firm floated on America's Nasdaq stock exchange in 2004, Zhu pocketed around £60m and his personal fortune has expanded considerably since. Zhu has a long-term active interest in football and is the chairman and majority owner of Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League.

An informed source in Shanghai says Zhu has already had two exploratory meetings about buying Liverpool with Barclays Capital (BarCap), the global investment bank. BarCap was hired by the club's new chairman, Martin Broughton, to find a buyer after the owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, formally put the club on the market last month.

One of Zhu's meetings with BarCap took place in Hong Kong at the end of April and a second was in Shanghai in the past week, according to a business source in China. A spokesman for BarCap declined to comment.

Broughton wants a "leak-free" media strategy until a deal is done with whoever eventually buys the club. This is understandable given the attention likely to be given to any potential buyer. But the revelation of Zhu's interest and meetings is significant in that it suggests BarCap is now actively engaging with bidders.

Before Broughton and BarCap were brought on board, Liverpool's owners had struggled to attract any interest from would-be partner investors that was satisfactory to Hicks and Gillett. "There is certainly a mood change now," one insider said. "But we're not close to any done deal yet."

Zhu is one of dozens of parties contacted across the world by BarCap already, as the firm chases up previous interest in the club and explores new leads. Zhu proposes to head a consortium of businessmen, perhaps including one or more other owners of Chinese Super League clubs, to make a bid. It is known, however, that he feels the owners' nominal asking price of £800m is double a realistic valuation.

Price will be a sticking point but is acknowledged on all sides as negotiable. A swift sale is clearly in Liverpool's best interests because it would allow a new owner to take decisive action over whether to keep Rafa Benitez in charge before the summer transfer window closes.

Hicks and Gillett will not sack Benitez; The Independent has been told by a senior club insider that there is "no chance at all" of that happening because a £16m pay-off would be necessary to facilitate it and the Americans will not spend that cash. The Spaniard's position remains in the balance, as does the club's transfer policy.

The £800m price tag has been circulated in China as a starting point for negotiations among potential bidders. Sources say the price tag has deterred many potential investors from even coming to the negotiating table. However the verbal "prospectus" that BarCap has been touting highlights Liverpool's potential growth, and Zhu is among those willing to explore the possibilities of buying at a "decent" price.

BarCap is looking for a buyer committed to the new stadium, and is stressing to would-be buyers that it is integral to Liverpool's long-term stability and growth as an investment. Zhu is confident he can raise or borrow funds to build it, if the purchase price is right.

Zhu's background has been romanticised on his firm's own website, with a description of his early business life talking about how he graduated from a delivery man who used a tricycle to do his rounds in the 1980s to someone who sold clothing and then cars before moving into non-specific "international trade". The last 12 years are easier to track: he started a gaming company in 1998, moving into online virtual communities in the early Noughties as the internet boomed, and then floating The9 six years ago.