Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mourinho: Liverpool Is An Incredible Phenomenon

Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho has taken a veiled swipe at the current standard of the Premier League as he ran the rule over the achievements of Carlo Ancelotti in his first season in charge of Chelsea. The Italian coach saw his Stamford Bridge outfit secure their first Double when they beat Portsmouth on Saturday at Wembley; a feat that not even the ‘Special One’ achieved despite his considerable success in England.

However, speaking ahead of this weekend’s Champions League final the Portuguese coach stressed that while he was pleased for the Blues, it was the lack of consistency amongst their rivals which opened the door for more silverware in west London. Pinpointing the struggles faced by Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, Mourinho also took time to dismiss championship challenge from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Manchester City.

Mourinho won the Premier League title twice while coach at Chelsea, beating off competition from Arsene Wenger’s ‘invincible’ Arsenal side to win the title by 12 points in 2004-05 before retaining their crown by holding off the likes of Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool and Sir Alex Ferguson’s previously dominant Manchester United.

Quitting the following season to be replaced by Avram Grant, Mourinho’s former side reached the Champions League final in Moscow, only to be beaten by Manchester United on penalties. Having also surrendered their Premier League title to the men from Old Trafford and subsequently seen Liverpool overtake them in the league in 2008-09 it has been a resurgent Chelsea side who has confidently taken the field under Ancelotti in the last nine months. Speaking to the Sunday Times about the competition he faced in England, Mourinho started by targeting Arsene Wenger's shift in philosophy at Arsenal before hammering Liverpool for their gradual decline:

“Arsenal won it in an incredible way [2003-04] and after that they thought they could win in a different way.

“They cannot win it in a different way. Either they go back to where they were or they don’t do it.

“Man United lost Ronaldo. Okay, the coach is a tremendous coach, the team is full of great players, but Ronaldo is Ronaldo, and he scores 30 goals a season. Ronaldo wins points and points and points. When a club and the league lose a player like Ronaldo it loses a lot.

“Liverpool is an incredible phenomenon. From 2004 to 2010 it looks like the team instead of improving is getting worse. Tottenham is coming, Aston Villa is coming, Man City is coming, but I think that magic of a fight of titans, all of them very, very strong in the top of the League, I don’t see this season was like this.

“Chelsea was out of Champions League very, very soon. They could concentrate on the championship — and they did it very well. Carlo is very experienced, he kept the team calm and focused, and he didn’t let them lose focus and confidence. They concentrate very, very well in the championship, and they deserve to win it in the end.”

Juventus Set To End Pursuit Of Benitez

The Liverpool Echo claims that Italian giants Juventus will not appoint Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez in the end, despite constant speculation that he would move to Turin.

Benitez has made his frustration over the future direction of Liverpool clear and last week met with new chairman Martin Broughton to seek assurances. Juventus have been closely linked to Benitez for months and were thought to have made concrete offers to the Spaniard.

However, the Liverpool Echo claims that incoming Juventus president Andrea Agnelli favours the appointment of Sampdoria coach Luigi Del Nieri, speculating that he could be announced as the successor to Alberto Zaccheroni this week.

Should this prove to be the case, Benitez's Anfield future is still in doubt. If Jose Mourinho leaves Inter Milan, Benitez's name will no doubt be linked to the San Siro. Although Benitez has four years remaining on his Liverpool contract, it would seem unlikely that he will stay at Anfield without a firm financial basis with which to strengthen his squad.

Given that unpopular American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have put the club up for sale, this is far from certain.

Debt-ridden Liverpool To Miss Out On Summer Signings

Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez is likely to miss out on a number of transfer targets this summer with a takeover of the struggling club unlikely to happen before the start of next season.

The former Valencia manager was a target for Juventus, but the Italian giants ended their interest after Benítez failed to give them a clear answer about whether he was willing to join the Turin side.

Benítez had looked at a number of potential signings in the summer with things looking up after co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett put the club up for sale. But a lack of potential investors and a high asking price means a takeover is unlikely to happen during the summer transfer window.

Meetings with the club’s new part-time chairman Martin Broughton will not have made the Liverpool boss any more optimistic, with the Chelsea supporter failing to offer the Spanish boss any assurances on the clubs summer transfer policy.

Liverpool have been linked with Sevilla winger Jesus Navas, West Ham striker Carlton Cole and Werder Bremen forward Mesut Ozil, but with Liverpool’s financial future looking increasingly bleak it’s unlikely the debt-ridden club will be able to compete for the players’ signatures.

One glimmer of hope for Liverpool supporters will be the arrival of former Standard Liege front man Milan Jovanovic, who agreed a pre-contract agreement with the Reds in his last year with the Belgian club to ensure he’d be at Anfield in time for the new season.

It looks increasingly likely that Benítez will have to look for more free transfers such as Jovanvic and Maxi Rodriguez, with reports suggesting the Liverpool manger is unlikely to see any real financial backing in the summer, which may force him to once again sell off players in order to fund new signings.

Even more worrying for Liverpool supporters will be comments from Javier Mascherano which suggested he may look to leave Merseyside for Barcelona. If the Argentine does leave Anfield he may be the first of a number of a number of first-team players to make their way out of Anfield in the summer.

Race On For Reds Starlet

Skysports.com understands a number of clubs are eyeing Liverpool defender Robbie Threlfall.

Left-back Threlfall seems set to leave Liverpool this summer upon the expiration of his contract.

The news has alerted a number of clubs to Threlfall's availability on a free transfer.

Threlfall has just ended a productive loan spell at Bradford where he made 17 appearances, scoring two goals for the League Two outfit.

A host of sides are believed to have kept tabs on Threlfall's progress during his time at Bradford and could now move for him this summer.

Mascherano Admits Barca Blow

Javier Mascherano has admitted his form was affected by last summer's transfer talks over a move from Liverpool to Barcelona.

And the Argentina captain has left the door open again for Barca by saying it's "a shame" for himself and his family that he did not secure a move to the Catalan capital.

The 25-year-old midfielder was in talks over joining the Spanish champions but a switch did not materialize.

He then made a slow start to the season with Liverpool and although he finished the campaign strongly, it was an ultimately disappointing year for the Reds as they finished seventh.

Rafa Benitez signed him on a four-year deal in February 2008 after joining on loan from West Ham a year earlier, but Mascherano could be leaving early after hinting he would still welcome a move.

"The situation with Barcelona really affected me,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

"It was a shame it didn't happen as it was the city where I wanted to live.

"There were many discussions and problems during that month-and-a-half. They were difficult times for me. One day I was off to Barcelona, the next I wasn't, and Liverpool said I was non-transferable.

"Psychologically, it affected me as I couldn't think in Liverpool and I was focused on other stuff and not on my work, my training and playing.

"Also, we were having problems with Argentina as our qualification to the World Cup was in danger. There was a lot of complicated stuff at that time."

Mascherano insists he is happy with life in England but his wife is finding it hard to settle.

"I have no problem living in Liverpool,” he said. "But my wife and daughters deserve to enjoy every day to the full and live their lives, but they have to be home all day.

"My wife doesn't speak a word of English so she depends 100 per cent on me. I live here with them. That's my world, that's my life. "

Carlton Cole Battle Hots Up As Liverpool And Villa Join Race For Striker

Liverpool and Aston Villa have joined the race for Carlton Cole after it emerged last night that West Ham rejected a £10million bid for the striker.

The offer has come from Birmingham who is desperate to prise the England frontman away from Upton Park.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish has spoken directly to Hammers chief executive Karren Brady about a deal made up of £8million cash with £2million in bonuses.

The offer was rejected out of hand by Brady, whom City believes is trying to spark an auction for the player.

The dismissal of Birmingham's bid is all the more surprising given the fact that Cole remains one of the players West Ham insist they are willing to sell.

Indeed, co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan are understood to have been in touch with a string of agents in an attempt to get the best possible deal for the player.

Villa boss Martin O'Neill has been a big fan of Cole for some time and, in the last week, the club have contacted West Ham about putting together a deal.

Liverpool too has expressed an interest and remains keen despite the fact that Cole has been left out of Fabio Capello's England squad for the World Cup.

Cole, 26, began his career with Chelsea in 2001. A highly-rated youngster, he was sent out on loan to Wolves, Villa and Charlton before joining West Ham permanently in 2006.

Rafa Lines Up £11m Move For 11m Sampdoria Man Giampaolo Pazzini

Liverpool are lining up a bid for Italian striker Giampaolo Pazzini this summer as Rafa Benitez looks to bring in new attacking options to his faltering Anfield side. After a break out season at Sampdoria the 25 year old has become a target for many sides looking to lure the former Fiorentina man away from the Genoa side.

The Merseyside club has found themselves too reliant on Fernando Torres over the past two seasons and Benitez is looking to bring in reinforcements. Whilst the club has secured Milan Jovanovic on a free deal they are still hopeful of bringing in another striker to the club.

Pazzini is valued at around £11m and whilst Liverpool is in financial difficulties Benitez believes he can finance any deal for the Italian international by selling some of his squad players. The likes of Albert Rieira, Philipp Degen and Ryan Babel could all be set to leave the club this summer and their sales would help bring in money to help any move for the Italian international.

Liverpool Fans Considering Season Ticket Boycott In Protest At Hicks And Gillett

Liverpool fans are considering a boycott of season tickets in the summer in protest at the club’s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Thousands of supporters hope hitting the owners in the pocket will persuade them to reduce their sale price and leave after putting the club £237 million in debt.

Although Liverpool supporters union Spirit of Shankly say an organised boycott is not yet on the cards, the anti-Hicks and Gillett campaign is gathering momentum.

“Fans are considering giving up season tickets to the games next year if Hicks and Gillett are still in charge,” Spirit of Shankly spokesman James McKenna exclusively told Goal.com UK.

“Fans are looking at what we can do to affect Hicks and Gillett’s ownership.

“A mass boycott is not something that’s on the agenda at the moment. But if their regime continues, I know that a lot of fans will be asking serious questions whether they should go to the games.”

A protest that denied Hicks and Gillett much-needed revenue could have a serious impact on the financial running of the club.

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

Representatives from Spirit of Shankly met with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore in London last Friday to air their concerns about the way in which the club is being run and, while Scudamore backed the ongoing protests, he told the fans group the debts amassed by Hicks and Gillett are currently sustainable.

“They are satisfied the long-term future of the club is not threatened because we have saleable assets such as players who can still be sold down the line,” McKenna said.

“But our idea of sustainability is different to theirs. We are aware we could go down the path of Leeds United if the debt can’t be paid. When you are losing money, you can’t move forward. It’s a very scary thought.

“Fans want issues resolved. We support the football team and don’t support the financial team.”

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

“We have asked several questions to Martin Broughton to find out what is going on,” explained McKenna. “We are awaiting a response. We feel the future of our club Liverpool, in its current format, is unsustainable.

“This summer is vital for Liverpool Football Club, not just on the pitch in terms of getting a foothold in the transfer market but in terms of sorting out the ownership. It’s quite clear that off the pitch matters are affecting what happens on the pitch.

“Our plans now are to keep the pressure on Hicks and Gillett to make sure we are listened to.

“We want to see fit and proper owners who are prepared to invest in the club, don’t tell lies and live up to their promises.”

Asked about the future of manager Rafael Benitez, McKenna said: “Personally, I want him to stay. Even if you wanted him out, a new manager would want money to spend on players and we haven’t got that.”