Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Liverpool Coach Hails Pepe Reina Among The Top Five Goalkeepers In The World

Liverpool goalkeepr Pepe Reina is one of the top five custodians in the sport, according to the coach who works with him every day.

Reina, 27, has developed into a world-class shot stopper at the club since joining from Spanish side Villarreal in 2006 and inked a six-year contract extension this season.

Although he is second choice behind Real Madrid's Iker Casillas at international level, this has not stopped Reds coach Xavi Valero from hailing his work.

Speaking to LFC Weekly, Valero said: "All of the top sides in Europe have a top goalkeeper who they can build a side around.

"At the moment there are only four or five world-class 'keepers in the game and we have one of them in Pepe. His new contract gives us stability for the immediate and long-term future.

"Pepe is at an age now where he feels he can control a game both technically and emotionally and be reliable for the team throughout 50-55 games a season.

"It is really hard for a 'keeper to remain focused in a game because sometimes they may only touch the ball five to 10 times in a match. So they must remain focused, possibly more than any other player on the pitch.

"You have to be intelligent to be a top 'keeper now. It is important to be clever and understand the game properly. It is ideal for a goalkeeper to read the game and be able to foresee what is going to happen in front of them so their reactions become automatic.

"When you have a goalkeeper who can control a game, only then do you have a goalkeeper who you can rely on. Pepe is that goalkeeper."

Inter Make Offer For Liverpool Manager Rafael Benitez To Succeed Jose Mourinho

Inter made their first offer to try and prise Rafael Benitez away from Liverpool at the weekend, according to a report from The Sun.

The Nerazzurri are seeking a successor to Jose Mourinho, who was introduced to the press as the new Real Madrid coach on Monday evening.

The club has been heavily linked with a move for England boss Fabio Capello once the World Cup is over.

However, The Sun intimates that that ploy has been little more than a smokescreen to distract observers from the real object of their pursuit.

The Italians apparently fear though that Benitez will still turn down the chance to coach at the San Siro, and double his £4.5 million a year Anfield salary, because the pressure of succeeding a highly successful coach like Mourinho is just too great and will make the job too difficult.

Liverpool Eyes Real Madrid Youngster

Liverpool is competing with a host of clubs from across Europe for Real Madrid starlet Daniel Opare, understands.

Opare is regarded as one of Africa's brightest talents and was spotted by Real early on as he moved to the Spanish capital in 2007.

The Ghana youngster was tipped to make the breakthrough from their Castilla side last term, but injury hampered his progress.

Now fully fit, the versatile full-back, who can also play anywhere in midfield, is now set to be allowed to move on loan next season.

This has alerted a string of clubs from across Europe, with England very much a potential destination with Liverpool understood to be keen on taking him.

Also keen to snap him up are the likes of Lyon, PSV Eindhoven, Club Brugge, Buraspor and Steve McClaren's Wolfsburg.

The player's representative Chris Nathaniel confirmed to that interest in Opare was significant.

"Daniel is fully fit again now and is ready to play next season," he told

"Of course his injury means he will not be considered for Real's first-team but he hopes a spell on loan somewhere could help him come to the attention of Jose Mourinho.

"With that in mind, Daniel is now considering his options carefully as he has a number of options and he is already looking forward to pre-season training - wherever that may be."

Liverpool: No Bids Yet For Benayoun

Amid much speculation over the future of want-away midfield maestro Yossi Benayoun, Liverpool insisted Tuesday that they had yet to receive a formal bid for the Israeli.

“There has been no approach from any club for Yossi Benayoun,” a club spokesman was quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo.

Earlier Tuesday, the Daily Mail reported that Liverpool was set to demand £10 million for Benayoun in a bid to ward off Chelsea.

According to the newspaper, Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez is desperate to keep Benayoun away from the Premier League champions, and would rather sell him abroad.

Russian side Spartak Moscow has reportedly prepared a £6-million bid, although Benayoun is believed to favour a transfer to Chelsea.

The Guardian reported Monday that Chelsea had already had a £4-million bid for Benayoun turned down.

The Israeli enjoyed another solid season at Liverpool, scoring nine goals in 42 appearances.

His contract expires at the end of the 2012/2013 season.

Inter Will Move For Liverpool's Fernando Torres If Diego Milito Joins Real Madrid

Inter have made plans to replace Diego Milito with Liverpool hitman Fernando Torres as Real Madrid bang on the door for the Argentinian.

Il Corriere dello Sport reports Jose Mourinho has told chiefs at the Bernabeu that 'El Principe' is the striker he wants, and the club are willing to go to great financial lengths to land him.

Inter will only let Milito leave in light of a mega offer, and they will use the money to make a move for the Reds striker.

Milito himself has sent mixed messages about his future. First he said he "had important offers", only to change that stance and say he is "happy at Inter" after he was rebuked by the club.

Moratti has already said he was in no mood to unclench his fists with the striker, with reports suggesting a better deal with an increase in wages was a possibility.

But Florentino Perez's cash will appeal to the club. Real plans to lure in Milito and Maicon in one swoop by tabling around €50 million. Inter want something nearer to €70m - more than enough to move for Torres.

Aussie Loss For Agger

Daniel Agger completed 90 minutes for Denmark in a 1-0 defeat to Australia in South Africa on Tuesday afternoon.

The Liverpool centre-back was unable to prevent his nation from slipping to a narrow loss in their penultimate fixture ahead of the start of the World Cup finals as Josh Kennedy's 71st minute strike secured a win for the Socceroos.

Denmark will take on South Africa in a friendly on Saturday before beginning their Group E campaign against Holland on June 14.

Agger has been included in coach Morten Olsen's 23-man squad for the tournament.

Carragher Makes Final England Cut

Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson are all heading to South Africa after being confirmed in Fabio Capello's final World Cup squad.

Seven players were left heartbroken when the England boss cut his group to 23 today - but all three Liverpool stars survived the cull.

They join clubmates Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel (Holland), Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina (Spain), Martin Skrtel (Slovakia), Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina), Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Greece) and Daniel Agger (Denmark) in being guaranteed a place in South Africa.

Those who missed out for England were: Darren Bent, Theo Walcott, Adam Johnson, Leighton Baines, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker and Michael Dawson.

'Youngster Can Make It'

Daniel Ayala has backed compatriot Francisco Duran to follow him into the first-team set-up.

A series of cruciate ligament injuries has stalled the cultured midfielder's development since Liverpool beat Arsenal to his signature in January 2007.

However, he enjoyed an impressive run in the Reserves during the second half of 2009-10 - and Ayala thinks his pal has the ability to make an impression in the Barclays Premier League.

"I think there's a lot of good players there in the Reserves," the Spanish teenager told "In particular I'd mention Francisco Duran, and there are others I think can breakthrough.

"Unfortunately Francisco has been very unlucky with injuries, but he's a very good footballer, he's very good with the ball.

"He's also a very good friend of mine off the pitch along with Emmanuel Mendy."

Liverpool FC Youngster Conor Coady In Dreamland After Captaining England To European Championship Glory

Liverpool starlet Conor Coady has revealed his delight at skippering England under-17s to European Championship glory.

The 17-year-old midfielder was one of four Merseyside youngsters who played in Sunday’s impressive 2-1 final victory over favourites Spain in Liechtenstein.

Coady was joined by Reds clubmate Andre Wisdom and Everton duo Ross Barkley and Luke Garbutt.

It was the first time an England men’s team have landed a major trophy for 17 years.

The last success was at the European Under-18 Championships in 1993 when the side included Robbie Fowler, Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell and Gary Neville.

Liverpool-born Coady said: “I’m just delighted with everything that’s happened.

“At the end I ran over to the dugout and slid on my knees and then I just got piled on and I couldn’t breathe.

“It’s just unbelievable. I can’t believe we’ve done it. Lifting that trophy was just unreal. It’s everything I’ve dreamt about and I’m so proud to have done it.

“I went up and I was shaking people’s hands and the fella gave me the trophy and I just thought ‘let’s get it up there!’ so I gave it a kiss and then just put it straight in the air.

“I’ve loved every minute of this tournament and to captain the side as well, I’m just totally made up.

“It’s been a great experience for us all and I think it will help us as players a few years down the line.”

Wisdom enjoyed an eventful day as it was his own goal which put Spain ahead midway through the first half.

However, the Leeds-born defender atoned eight minutes later when he headed in Josh McEachran’s corner.

Highly-rated Ipswich striker Connor Wickham got the winner just after the break.

Wisdom said: “Spain have got a very attacking team with some of the greatest players in the world at our age and playing against them was a great experience.

“Their goal took a little deflection off me but I forgot about it as soon as it happened because that’s what you’ve got to do as a defender.

“Then, when the ball came in from Josh’s corner I thought ‘right, I’m getting my head on this’ and I’m just happy for the team.

“I don’t score many goals but I just scored in the biggest game of my life so I think I went a bit crazy.

“Winning this trophy is my biggest achievement in the game. We’ve been away for three weeks, training hard and playing well and this is what we’ve achieved. It’s unreal.”

Left-back Garbutt, who joined Everton from Leeds last summer, added: “I’m buzzing. All the lads are really happy.

“I’d been booked towards the end of the game and I was just concentrating on their winger, not diving in and just showing him down the line so I didn’t know it was the end of the game.

“But then I saw everyone rush towards the bench and then I think we all just went mental. It’s incredible.”

It was also a special day for fellow Blue Barkley. The young midfielder played a crucial role in the winning goal.

“I’m made up,” Barkley said.

“We knew we had to settle it down towards the end. We had to stop their counter attacks and when we couldn’t, we just had to defend for our lives.

“I was so relieved when the game ended. This could benefit our careers loads.”

Manager John Peacock paid tribute to his Merseyside quartet.

Peacock said: “I’m absolutely delighted for the players because they’ve worked so hard and the spirit has been first class.

“It means a lot to the English game. We’ve got our critics – that we’re not producing players. I think we have produced many good players in this tournament.

“What was missing was a trophy that we can put our name to. We’ve done that now. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another 17 years for another one.”

Liverpool FC Denies Profiteering From Hillsborough Shirt

Liverpool FC bosses have denied they are profiting from the HiIlsborough disaster by selling shirts with Justice 96 printed on the back.

Fans have complained about the merchandise, seen at the club’s Liverpool One shop.

But a spokesman told the ECHO that a single shirt with the message on the back had been put out on the shop floor by mistake.

He said: “For some years, we have happily printed Justice 96 on the back of shirts for fans who asked for it.

“In this case a shirt was ordered via mail order with Justice 96 on the back, but was returned because of a sizing issue.

“It was then mistakenly put out on the shop floor. “We continue to be happy to print Justice 96 on the back of shirts for fans who ask, but have not marketed the shirts or advertised them. It was a one-off mistake that it was out on display.

“Everyone at the club is proud of the relationship we have with families affected by the disaster.”