Saturday, May 22, 2010

World Cup Makes Signing Players Difficult, Says Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez says the upcoming World Cup finals is hampering his attempts to land his summer transfer targets.

Despite ongoing speculation linking him with a move to Italy, the Liverpool boss has insisted his future is at Anfield and is pressing on with plans to strengthen his squad.

Benitez has already snapped up teenage midfielder Jonjo Shelvey from Charlton for £1.7million and is expected to complete a £2.5m deal for Rangers defender Danny Wilson when the transfer window opens next month.

However, with most top stars currently away on international duty in the build up to next month’s World Cup in South Africa, the Spaniard insists it’s a difficult time to do business.

“We are working on our signings for the next transfer window,” Benitez said.

“But now we have the added difficulty that the World Cup always brings.

“I have my ideas and I know what I want, but we just have to wait.”

Benitez’s coffers have been boosted by the sale of Mikel San Jose to Athletic Bilbao for £2.6m.

The 20-year-old defender spent this season on loan at the Spanish club. San Jose originally arrived at Anfield from Bilbao in 2007.

He was a regular in the reserves but never made a competitive first team appearance.

His new contract will tie him to the Basque club until 2015 and has a buy-out clause of 30million euros.

Benitez was in Spain yesterday to receive the Agustin de Betancourt medal from the University of Madrid. The award marked his contribution to the sport since he obtained a degree in physical education in his home city in 1982.

Benitez insisted his days as a student helped prepare him for life in management.

And he believes the intense pressure he’s under at Anfield won’t ease until he ends the Reds’ 20-year wait for the league title.

He said: “Back then I learned methodology, the habit of studying, analysing and finding solutions and the knowledge to tackle problems.

“As a manager you know you have responsibilities. There are demands on you and you have to get used to it. Every week you have to pass a test.

“As a manager you have to try to be respectful, correct, sometimes positive, other times not so much.

“A coach has to try to protect his players so that they can perform. When things go badly, it is the manager’s responsibility. That is normal. It is impossible to ignore the pressure until you have won the title.”

Sammy Lee Praying For No Injuries To Liverpool Players At The World Cup

Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee will be paying particularly close attention to next month’s World Cup – primarily because he wants to keep a check on the fitness of the club’s players.

Top of the list will be striker Fernando Torres, who has had two knee operations in three months and missed the Reds’ final seven matches of the season as he recovered.

The 26-year-old is likely to spearhead Spain’s attack with David Villa and Lee will be watching to see how well he has recovered.

Other key players likely to be at the World Cup who have struggled with injuries this season include England’s Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson, Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez and Denmark’s Daniel Agger.

“I will be looking at it with great interest,” said Lee.

“We have a number of our boys away with their countries and that shows the strength in depth we have got at this football club.

“Our main concern when our players go away is that they remain fit and don’t pick up any injuries, because that has happened to us over the course of this season and the last one.

So although we are happy for them to go to the World Cup, we will be looking at them with great interest to see if they all stay fit and then come back to us ready and refreshed for pre-season.

“It’s a very proud moment for them to play for their country in the World Cup but it’s also proud for them to play for Liverpool Football Club and that is paramount for us.”

Youngster Set For Reds Move

Bradford City youngster Callum Pilkington is poised to complete a switch to Premier League side Liverpool.

The 14-year-old striker is reportedly set to move to Anfield for an undisclosed fee with add-ons set to follow.

Pilkington will become the latest Bantams youngster to move on to a top-flight club and the second in recent seasons to go to Liverpool.

Andre Wisdom swapped Valley Parade for the Reds two years ago, while Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverly, Ben Gordon and Danny Ward have all moved up.

Bradford are set for another season in League Two next term as they look to get out of the fourth tier.

Rafa Targets West Ham Pair

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is hoping to land West Ham pair Valon Behrami and Matthew Upson.

The Anfield manager has previously been linked with both Upton Park players but will this summer push on with attempts to bring in new talents to the club by offering squad players in part exchange in order to save spending cash.

Right-sided Swiss international Valon Behrami will be starring in next month's World Cup and could well be one player on his way to an Upton Park exit. Co-owner David Sullivan has stated that practically his entire team is available at the right price and Benitez is an admirer of the former Lazio man.

Benitez is also a fan of England international centre-back Matthew Upson and is reportedly hoping to bring in a new defender to help shore up the Liverpool back line that was especially leaky during the first half of this season.

Italian Media: Juve To Make Improved Bid For Midfielder

According to reports in Italy, Juventus will make another approach to sign Liverpool FC midfielder Alberto Aquilani having initially been rebuffed in their efforts by a reluctant Rafa Benitez. Yesterday reports from Italy suggested Juve’s new coach Luigi De Nieri had placed Arsenal FC winger Theo Walcott at the top of his shortlist but today it appears they have earmarked another Premier League player.

Corriere dello Sport claim Juventus’ initial bid for the Liverpool FC midfielder was rejected, but such is their eagerness to sign the player who has underwhelmed at Anfield this season, they will return with a new bid to entice Benitez into offloading the former Roma star. De Nieri’s appointment has seen the club linked with a host of top players around the continent, most notably Arsenal FC’s Theo Walcott and Palermo’s Simon Kjaer, but Aquilani is believed to feature prominently in the club’s plans for the future.

The Italian newspaper claims Liverpool FC rejected an £11 million offer from Juventus, with the Premier League side eager to recoup as much of the £20 million they paid Roma in the summer. Despite Rafa Benitez insisting the player is not for sale, the report suggests he would part with the 25-year-old for £15 million. Whereas the Anfield supremo could be convinced into selling the player, Juventus’ alleged interest in the aforementioned Arsenal FC winger is likely to be given short shrift.

Liverpool Fear That Strained Relationship With Manager Rafael Benitez Could See Steven Gerrard Leave The Club This Summer

Liverpool are worried that Steven Gerrard could leave this summer due to growing frustration with manager Rafael Benitez.

The England international has made over 400 appearances for the Reds in over 11 years with the club, but the midfielder is upset after a disappointing season saw Liverpool finish seventh in the Premier League and fail to qualify for the Champions League.

The executives at Liverpool are fearful that their captain’s relationship with Benitez has been strained to the point enough that the Englishman could request a transfer in the summer, according to the Daily Mail.

Without funds to spend of new players the Reds will have a difficult time competing with England’s elite clubs for top talent in the transfer market.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal appear to be the three top teams in the Premier League, and Liverpool’s position in the discussion of the best clubs in English football could be threatened by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

Anfield stars like Gerrard and Fernando Torres have already expressed the need for Liverpool to acquire new stars to help the club improve, and should the Reds fail to spend it could mean their best players will abandon the team in order to win trophies.

Real Madrid and City have already expressed their interest in big money moves for Gerrard this summer and if the Spanish giants hire Jose Mourinho then the former Chelsea manager could convince the Engishman to join him at the Bernabeu next season.

Liverpool Set To Sign Reality TV Show Winner

Liverpool's first signing of the close season could be a Vietnamese reality TV show winner.

The winner of talent show Vietnam Soccer Prince will be awarded a 12-month contract at Anfield following next week's final.

The show is made by the production company that makes Britain's Got Talent - and features ex-Wycombe and Northampton midfielder Steve Brown as the program's Simon Cowell.

Brown has put the kids through their paces on the training pitch to test skills such as speed, co-ordination, teamwork and decision making, before telling unlucky contestants every week: "It's a no."

He said: "I am the show's Simon Cowell - I've been the one to tell the kids they weren't good enough.

"But he seems a lot tougher than me. Telling the kids they weren't good enough was a killer. I'd have to lock myself in a room for a couple of hours after filming, it really affected me.

"The series has lasted 10 weeks and at the beginning it was easy to let some of them go. But then when you get seven or eight weeks into it, you get attached to them."

Liverpool's Under-16 side has already travelled to Vietnam to play against some of the prospects, aged between 16 and 19.

A total of 2000 boys were whittled down to 20 to take part in the 10-week series. And now six remain in the battle for top honours, with the final due to air Saturday week.

The runner-up will get a one-year deal at Sheffield United.

Brown, who was youth coach at QPR until last year, added: "Four or five of them stood out from the start. Some of the kids over there have got what it takes.

"I look at them and think 'I have no doubt you will be able to handle the Liverpool academy'.

"The aim is not just to send someone there for 12 months; I'd like to see whoever wins to do enough to stay in the academy system at Liverpool."

Ayala Seals Schalke Win

A header from Daniel Ayala was enough to get Liverpool Reserves off to a winning start in the RUHR.2010 Cup in Germany on Thursday night.

The defender nodded home a Gerardo Bruna free-kick on seven minutes to wrap up a 1-0 win over Schalke.

Several Academy youngsters including 17-year-old John Flanagan took part in the game, which was played out in two 30 minute periods.

Nicola Saric was forced off with a groin injury after 25 minutes, ruling him out of Friday night's clash with Bayern Munich. Alex Kacaniklic is expected to come in.

Manager John McMahon said: "It's a good start because we're one of the youngest teams here. A lot of the other teams are older.

"We'll have to make a couple of changes tonight, especially because of the heat out here."

The tournament is based in Dortmund.

Liverpool FC Have Big Plans In South Africa

Liverpool FC, the English soccer club, sent a delegation to South Africa on Thursday led by former Liverpool and England star Phil Neal.

Neal, along with Liverpool coaches Steven Hollins and Eddie Sullivan, will visit the Phokeng Health Centre in an attempt to raise awareness of health issues amongst local children, as well as hold a coaching session at the Bafokeng Sports Campus - the team base for the England World Cup squad, which is expected to include the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

"We are honoured that this esteemed delegation from Liverpool has taken the time to come to the North West Province and share their experience with us," said George Khunou, the managing director of Royal Bafokeng Sports, to

"Liverpool represents excellence in everything it does and has a proud tradition in both football and serving the local community that supports it."