Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rafa Benitez 'Could Replace Jose Mourinho At Inter Milan'

The Spaniard's future at Liverpool is unclear, as he is known to have an uneasy relationship with the club's American owners.

It had been thought he would quit Anfield at the end of the Premier League season and accept a big-money offer to take charge at Juventus.

According to the Sun, Juventus are not the only Italian club interested in securing Benitez's services.

Inter Milan have also been in touch with his agent to find out whether he will be available this summer.

The Serie A champions are currently managed by Jose Mourinho, who has guided them to the Champions League final.

They are keen to retain Mourinho's services, but are aware that the ex-Chelsea boss is a target for Real Madrid and fear they cannot compete with the salary package and transfer war chest the Spanish club can offer.

Should Mourinho choose Real Madrid, it appears Benitez will be high on the list of potential successors at the San Siro.

Meanwhile, Juventus are also reported to be considering abandoning their bid for Benitez and making a move for Fulham boss Roy Hodgson instead.

Hodgson is well known in Italy, having previously managed both Inter Milan and Udinese.

Barcelona Presidential Candidate Sandro Rosell Working On Deal For Fernando Torres

Barcelona president-elect Sandro Rosell has reportedly contacted Fernando Torres' representatives to enquire about the possibility of taking the Liverpool striker to the Camp Nou in the future.

The Daily Mail reports that Rosell, who is one of the leading candidates to replace Joan Laporta as Barca president this summer, has enquired about the chances of Torres being keen on a move to the Catalans and supposedly received a favourable response.

Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City are also said to be in the race for Torres' signature as reports continue to link the Spain international with an Anfield exit.

Various rumours have suggested that Torres is looking for a way out of the club after a disappointing season and is seemingly unwilling to commit his future to the Reds with so much uncertainty surrounding boss Rafael Benitez and whether he will remain as manager next term.

The report goes on to suggest that the deal could hinge on Barca landing Valencia's David Villa, with Laporta supposedly hoping to seal a deal for the Los Che striker before the World Cup.

With the La Liga giants likely to be required to part with at least £35 million to acquire the services of Spain star Villa, the necessary funds to secure the signing of Torres would seemingly be unavailable if a deal was to be struck.

Premier League Chief Backs Liverpool's Spirit of Shankly Campaign

Liverpool fans group Spirit of Shankly claim the Premier League has given its blessing to Liverpool fans to continue their campaign against the club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Members of SOS, the Liverpool supporters union, met with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore at the league’s Gloucester Place headquarters in London yesterday to air their concerns about the way in which the club is being run.

And while the Premier League reportedly backed the ongoing protests, they claim the debts amassed by Hicks and Gillett are currently sustainable.

Liverpool is currently £237million in the red. Concerns grew stronger recently with the revelation the Anfield club registered record annual losses of £55m for the year ending July 2009 and is paying £110,000 a day in interest payments.

SOS spokesman, Jay McKenna, said: “Richard Scudamore suggested we keep on campaigning. He understood the fans are unhappy and want some answers. That was a positive to come from the meeting.”

The four-man delegation from the SOS executive committee met with Scudamore and the Premier League’s head of communications, Dan Johnson, and head of supporter relations, Cathy Long.

Although the Premier League admitted there is little they can do at present to help worried fans, Scudamore revealed steps have been taken to encourage responsible ownership of clubs in the future.

Added McKenna: “They were quite receptive to our concerns but it was clear that, as things stand, the Premier League’s powers are limited.

“The fit and proper persons test they apply to prospective owners isn’t subjective. What Tom Hicks and George Gillett are like as people doesn’t come into it.

“But they told us they have looked into some of the issues affecting, not only Liverpool, but other clubs in the league. They have come up with proposals to change the fit and proper persons test, which are to be heard at the league’s summer AGM.

“We told them we see the level of debt at the club as unsustainable. The Premier League response was that the future of the club is currently safe and they’re satisfied that Liverpool can fulfil its obligations to the league.

“That’s based on the current value of the club and the fact that, although we’re losing money, we are sustainable by the value of our assets such as players who can be sold down the line. This idea of sustainability it somewhat different from ours.”

Hicks and Gillett officially put Liverpool up for sale last month with British Airways chairman Martin Broughton being drafted in to help speed up the process.

While SOS are committed to the removal of the Americans they also requested guarantees from the Premier League that a similar situation will not be allowed to occur with new owners or investors.

“We want to make sure this situation wouldn’t happen again,” explained McKenna. “The Premier League have tried to give us assurances. But at the moment club chairmen have to agree to the changes the league would like to implement.

“It’s dependent on those who own football clubs to agree to the changes or not.

“Our plans now are to keep up the pressure on Hicks and Gillett to make sure we are listened to. We also want to make sure the Premier League take action to prevent this happening again.”

John Aldridge: I Fear Fernando Torres Will Be Sold

There is a sense of relief that the season is over but also a fear for the future.

It all got a bit monotonous towards the end. By our standards, it was horrendous.

Throughout it all it’s been quite apparent which players care and those who don’t.

Now is the time to get rid of any deadwood and bring in some of the young lads who have been brought up in the traditions of the club.

I reckon we could raise about £30million by selling off those who I would deem surplus to requirements.

We should use that money to bring in a couple of quality players and combine them with the rest of the squad and the likes of Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly and Stephen Darby; good, young players who care.

It’s not like there will be loads of transfer cash at the manager’s disposal – whoever that is.

Rafa Benitez’s situation is still up in the air. Either way it needs to be sorted sooner rather than later so we can move on and plan for next season.

My biggest concern, though, is that Fernando Torres will be forced out.

I’ve got a horrible feeling about it.

The Americans aren’t too concerned about matters on the pitch. So with spiralling debts and no sign of selling the club any time soon, cashing in on Torres is their quickest way of easing the burden of debt they’ve placed on the club.

You could apply the same logic to Steven Gerrard but it’s Torres who seems the most likely to be put up for auction.

Of course, the player would be totally blameless if it came to that but I fear that little, if any, of the funds raised by a sale would be used for squad strengthening.

I hope I’m wrong.

The best case scenario would be to start the new season with the squad we’ve got now – minus the deadwood and plus one or two new additions – while the banks force the owners into a quick sale.

Here’s hoping.

Liverpool FC Record Breaker Jack Robinson Provides A Ray Of Sunshine

IT has been a hugely testing season for everyone at Anfield so, with that in mind, it is vital to seize upon any possible source of good news that becomes public.

For those who ventured to Hull last Sunday, the good news arrived in the 86th minute when Jack Robinson became the youngest player in Liverpool’s history.

Given that he is only 16 – and 256 days, to be precise – it would be unfair to burden him with expectation.

All that can be said, then, is that it is hoped that appearance will be the first of many for Robinson, who understandably was beaming from ear to ear as he left the KC Stadium.

Should he remain focused, there is no reason why he can’t figure again next year.

Liverpool Need Stabilising To Avoid Repeat Of Dismal Season

The end of a truly dismal season should provide Liverpool fans with some much-needed relief.
The Anfield club’s season came to a whimpering end with a goalless draw at Hull City last Sunday. Alberto Aquilani and Nabil El Zhar came close to unlocking an unreliable Tiger’s defence but fittingly the match ended in frustration for the Reds, in line with the reoccurring theme of the whole season.

It has been a campaign riddled with disappointment.

In recent weeks Rafael Benítez has defended his side claiming the expectations were too high last August. However a second place finish in the previous season coupled with a club record Premier League points tally, the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford and an in-form Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were inevitably going to sweep optimism across Merseyside.

The sale of Xabi Alonso, a host of poor acquisitions, disputes with the hierarchy at the club have all been cited as factors which have led to the culmination of an abysmal season. The hefty charge that the owners have placed hovering over the club has only added to the sense of impending doom.

This summer will be vital for Liverpool. The willingness of George Gillette and Tom Hicks to sell the club means that club will be facing a potential overhaul in the coming months. Martin Broughton, the newly installed chairman, has warned that the process of finding investors could take the best part of 12 months.

But it does provide the supporters with at least some hope that the current financial uncertainty at the club can be stabilised.

The debate is raging over whether Benítez should remain on as Liverpool manager. Juventus had entered the fray as potential suitors to the Spanish manager but in recent days the 50-year-old seems to have rebuked their advances.

“I want to stay it would never be easy to leave this club,” he said after the Hull match. “I had a meeting with the chairman the other day and it was positive, hopefully we will have another meeting this week and see if it gets done and dusted.”

So will the powers that be at Anfield be willing to delve into the already-stretched coffers and provide Benítez with funds for much needed investment in playing staff? The former Valencia manager has been widely criticised for his signings during his five year tenure.

For every Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso, there have been three or four hapless flops. Names like Josemi, Jan Kromkamp and Andrea Dossena make the illustrious list. The futures of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are far from secured with the departure of Liverpool’s prized jewels a real possibility.

According to The Guardian, the financial situation is perilous at Anfield and the Premier League has sought assurances that Liverpool will be able to fulfil their fixtures next season and not go bust. Recent figures suggest the five-time European champions are £350 million in debt.

Clearly then a new investor in urgently needed to steady the club. Liverpool must be stabilised over the summer in order to avoid another dysfunctional season.

Burglars Told Steven Gerrard's Wife They Would Take Her Kids'

The wife of the footballer Steven Gerrard was told by burglars they would ''take her kids'' in a terrifying raid on their home, a court heard.

Alex Curran confronted the masked gang, who demanded she hand over jewellery and the contents of a safe, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Details of the ordeal emerged after Martin Wilson, 22, changed his plea and admitted the burglary following legal arguments.

Graham Pickavance, for the prosecution, told the court the robbery took place in December 2007 as the Reds captain led his team to victory in a Champions League game against Marseille.

Ms Curran, 27, had remained at the home in Formby, Merseyside, with their two children, Lilly-Ella and Lexie, now aged six and four, and their nanny Lyndsey Johnston.

Mr Pickavance described the mansion as secured by high walls, a fence and electronically-controlled gates.

He said the two women and the children were in their bedrooms when, at about 9.30pm, a loud smash was heard from downstairs.

He said: ''Alexandra Curran left her bedroom and met Lyndsey Johnston at the top of the stairs.

''Miss Johnston said she thought somebody had got into the house and as they looked they saw a group of men walking into the hallway.''

The barrister said Miss Curran shouted to the men ''leave now''.

But the thieves raced up the stairs and one of them demanded ''Where's the ------- safe?'' and ''Where's the ------- jewellery?''.

Ms Curran told the men there was no safe and jewellery was not kept at the house.

One of the gang then directed another to ''get the blade out of the car'', before telling Ms Curran: ''If you don't tell us where the safe is, we'll take the kids.''

Mr. Pickavance said Miss Curran told the men the safe was in a cupboard downstairs so they then "dragged" her with them to look.

They also forced her to hand over the silver Rolex watch she was wearing.

He added: "The men attempted to take the safe but they could not move it very far because it was too heavy. So they began to ransack the room."

He said Miss Johnston picked up a telephone but was caught before she was able to get through to the emergency services.

She told the raiders she had made contact with the police so they demanded access to the CCTV system at the house.

Miss Curran, the court heard, told them she did not know how to access the system.

The gang then ran out of the house through French windows to the patio which had been smashed when they gained entry.

Police caught up with Wilson by analysing the use of his mobile phone, the court heard.

The defendant is serving six years and eight months in jail after admitting conspiracy to burgle at Liverpool Crown Court last June.

A mobile phone he used during one of those robberies, in which he and five others targeted the homes of wealthy Merseyside families, was also used close to the Gerrard home on the night it was raided, technical evidence showed.