Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Benitez Aims To Land ‘Best of British’

Benitez promised Liverpool will continue to pursue a “Best of British” transfer policy whenever possible this summer as they begin the task of rebuilding.

The Reds swooped to sign hot prospect Jonjo Shelvey – who has played for England at a number of youth levels – last month from Charlton Athletic in a £1.7m deal.

They are also close to wrapping up a move for Glasgow Rangers defender Danny Wilson, a move that looks all the more shrewd after he was named Scotland’s Young Player of the Year.

In the past, Benitez has been criticised for favouring the foreign transfer market and not giving home-grown players the opportunity to show they are good enough to play for Liverpool.

Benitez, however, has defended his policy and has made it clear he would be happy to chase deals for English players – as long as the right option comes along.

“It is something that we have always tried to do,” he said. “We tried to sign Gareth Barry, we did the same with (Glen) Johnson. That was always the idea.

“We have tried to bring in British players with the right mentality and the passion for the club.

“We want them to know what it means to play for Liverpool Football Club.

“Shelvey is an addition like that. We are trying to do what is best for the club. We have a long-term plan in place and we try to follow that.”

"I Want Liverpool To Be The Number One Club In The World"

Robbie Fowler is desperate to see Liverpool fall into the right hands as supporters, players and back room staff waits for current owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks to formally put the Premier League club up for sale.

The former Anfield favourite, who is currently plying his trade in Australia, is also sure that star duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will not seek a move away from the struggling Liverpool despite reported interest from the likes of Manchester City, Inter Milan and Chelsea and with the future of Rafael Benitez under a cloud.

Fowler is nothing short of a Liverpool legend following two stints at the club which saw him play in the front of the Kop for a combined total of nine years. Speaking to Sky Sports News about the sad state of affairs enveloping his former club, Fowler reflected on Liverpool’s future.

"I want Liverpool to be the number one club in the world.

"Obviously the current owners have put the club up for sale and for the life of me I can't think why there are no takers just yet.

"You always want the best players and as far as I'm concerned Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torrres are the best players.

"I hope they stay and I can't see them leaving to be honest. I mean they've both come out on record saying how much they love the club and that's good enough for me."

Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League last season, slipping five places from their best ever performance the year before. Having failed to secure Champions League football and instead facing another season in the Europa League it has been hinted that the club might struggle to attract top continental stars.

Steven Gerrard Calls For Return Of Fan Power

Steven Gerrard believes England’s fans can make the difference in South Africa as Fabio Capello’s side begin their World Cup build-up in earnest.

The bulk of England’s World Cup squad jetted out of Heathrow yesterday morning for the first of their two altitude training camps in Austria.

Gerrard was among 24 players on the trip, which is being used as preparation for England’s opening group game on June 12 against the United States at Rustenburg – 1,500 metres above sea level.

The only men were the five players involved in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley, plus Gareth Barry, who continues to have treatment on the ankle injury that makes him a major doubt for the finals.

England return home to face Mexico in a friendly next Monday before another spell in Austria that includes a friendly against Japan in Graz on May 30, after which Capello will name his 23-man finals squad on June 1.

A large number of England supporters are expected to make the journey to South Africa, with Capello’s men also likely to enjoy a degree of local backing.

And vice-captain Gerrard is convinced those fans can play a part as England aim for a first major tournament success since 1966.

“The fans see that we’re working really hard to improve and we’re desperate to achieve something for them,” said Gerrard. “That is what we do it for.

“It would be fantastic if we could send them home from South Africa really happy and really proud of the team.

“I’ve played in situations where the fans haven’t been behind the team and it’s difficult. It affects performance and individuals and it’s not helpful.

“But on the other hand, I’ve played in front of a packed Wembley when the fans are roaring us on to victory and it’s a massive help.

“If we can get that kind of support in the World Cup, it could be key for us in getting over this quarter-final hurdle and going further.

“That’s the message I’d like to send to the fans – get behind us, roar us on and it will definitely help us out there.”

Meanwhile, new Liverpool signing Jonjo Shelvey has been tipped to emerge as an heir to Gerrard’s midfield mantle at Anfield.

Rafael Benitez moved to snap up the England youth international from Charlton Athletic earlier this month for an initial £1.7million with further potential payments depending on domestic and international appearances.

And Charlton’s academy director Steve Gritt believes the acquisition will prove a shrewd piece of business.

“Even before he made his debut, we knew Jonjo was a special player,” said Gritt.

“He’s the kind that only comes through an academy system once in a while. From a very young age, everybody at the club believed that he would progress to become a Premier League player because he had so much potential. Now I am certain he’ll fulfil all that early promise.

“The last few years have seen development in terms of height and strength. I’m sure he’s still got a bit of weight to put on and when he does he’ll have that Premier League presence that is a minimum requirement these days.

“It has been said in the past, and I have to agree that he has a bit of Gerrard in him. He can get box to box, he’s got a very good range of passing and he can see an opportunity where others can’t. He’s the kind of player that if he sees a goalkeeper off his line 30-40 yards out, he’s precocious enough to shoot.

“If he’s got any faults, he’d probably admit that he’s got to improve on the defensive side of the game. Because he’s such an attacking player, naturally there are going to be aspects of his defensive game that he’ll have to improve. I’m sure he will.”

Inter Prepare Formal Bid To Bring Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez To Serie A

Inter are set to open formal talks with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, according to The Mirror.

Current boss Jose Mourinho is set to end his two-year stay at Giuseppe Meazza after this weekend's Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Benitez has been lined up as the replacement for 'the Special One', and could decide to call time on his Anfield reign.

The Italian champions have already accepted that Mourinho is destined for the Real Madrid hot-seat. Chairman Massimo Moratti has admiited: “It will be a surprise now if he stays.”

Inter’s first choice was England coach Fabio Capello, but the Italian has pledged to stay in the job until at least Euro 2012. Moratti has now begun the process to begin talks with Liverpool to hire Benitez.

Informal contact is reported to already be underway between the Spaniard’s agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, and Inter. An approach is expected to follow next week.

Barcelona To Outbid Chelsea For Torres

Barcelona are ready to make an audacious bid for Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.

Reports in Spain suggest that Barcelona are ready to outbid Chelsea for Fernando Torres.

Barcelona have appeared to have won the race to sign David Villa from Valencia.

And it is thought they will do whatever it takes to bring Torres back to Spain.

A deal to sign Torres would cost in the region of £70million, a figure that would push the limits of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's considerable purse strings.

Rafa Benitez has made it clear he wants to keep Torres if he remains in charge at the club and the player himself would have to ask for the move to force Liverpool's hand and spark formal negotiations.

Torres has so far remained eerily quiet on his future, as he and his advisors consider whether Liverpool can meet his personal ambitions and aims without Champions League football next term.

Rafael Benitez Keen On Sevilla Winger Jesus Navas

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is believed to have identified Sevilla winger Jesus Navas as a summer transfer target, according to Spanish publication AS.

The talented 24-year-old has been a revelation for the Andalusian side this season and is almost certain to be included in the Spain squad for the World Cup finals having already made the 30-man provisional list.

The Reds boss is reportedly keen to secure the signature of Navas to bolster their attacking options on the right wing but attempts to sign the player are likely to be met with fierce resistance for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Liverpool are said to be proposing a fee of around €17 million which falls well short of the €60 million stipulated in Navas' buyout clause.

The absence of UEFA Champions League football on Merseyside, something Sevilla secured at the weekend, is likely to be another major obstacle while Navas is also known to suffer from anxiety problems when spending long periods of time away from home. Although these problems have diminished somewhat in recent months, they may prove a bridge too far in trying to relocate the star to Anfield.

Chelsea Track Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun To Replace Outgoing Joe Cole

Chelsea appears resigned to losing Joe Cole in the summer but are lining up Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun as a replacement, according to a report by ESPNsoccernet.

Cole has not yet come to an agreement with the Blues over a new deal, with his current contract set to expire, and the Israeli has been lined up to fill the Cole-shaped hole in at Stamford Bridge next season.

A Stamford Bridge insider told Soccernet: "There is no doubt that Yossi Benayoun is highly thought of at the club, and it wouldn't surprise me if he came to Chelsea."

Cole recently said he was not thinking about his Chelsea future until after the World Cup, putting his England chances ahead of any new deal in west London, but it appears the Blues are one step ahead with their interest in Benayoun.

After a season mostly blighted by injury it's no surprise Cole is way down the Castrol Rankings. He comes in at No.1126, making him only the 16th best Chelsea player in the listings.

Rafa - We Can Attract The Best

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez remains confident that the club can still attract high caliber signings despite the absence of UEFA Champions League football.

The Reds concluded a disappointing Premier League campaign with a seventh-placed finish, losing their grip on a much-coveted place at Europe's top table.

The outcome means Benitez's team will be competing in the Europa League next season and the Spaniard is hoping funds will be available to strengthen his squad as he looks to restore the Anfield club's reputation.

Speculation still surrounds Benitez and his future on Merseyside, with both Inter and AC Milan said to be interested in recruiting the 50-year-old.

Juventus had been keen on taking on the Liverpool boss but the Old Lady opted for Luigi Del Neri instead, although Leonardo's departure from Milan and Jose Mourinho's expected exit from Inter could pave the way for Benitez.

But the former Valencia tactician said he was focusing on plans for his existing employers, explaining Liverpool's status in the world of football would still make it an attractive choice - despite a dearth of cash and no place in Europe's premier club competition.

Benitez said: "Liverpool is a massive club and can attract top-class players because of their name and their history and the quality we have in the squad.

"Always we have targets in mind. We have been working and preparing the targets and every year is the same."

Stephen Darby Scores Penalty Shoot-out Winner To Send Swindon To Wembley

Liverpool’s on-loan defender Stephen Darby fired Swindon to Wembley with the winning penalty in the shoot-out at the end of Monday night’s League One semi-final second leg with Charlton at the Valley.

Charlton skipper Nicky Bailey’s missed penalty proved costly on a night of drama at The Valley.

Midfielder Bailey left the field in tears after sending his side’s second penalty of the shoot-out high over the crossbar, while Liverpool’s Darby converted Swindon’s final spot-kick to secure Town a shot at reaching the Championship.

Swindon had looked down and out midway through the second half when, at 2-0 down on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, they lost defender Gordon Greer to a red card.

But the 10 men levelled through Danny Ward and, when 180 minutes of football plus half an hour’s extra-time, six goals and two sending-offs failed to separate the sides, the Robins prevailed on penalties.

Danny Wilson’s side will now face either Huddersfield or Millwall in next weekend's final, who meet tonight.

Charlton had by far the better of the chances in extra-time but the Addicks, relegated from the Premier League just three years ago, could not find a way through and when penalties came around, the Robins’ and Darby’s nerve held where Bailey’s did not.