Thursday, June 03, 2010

Rafael Benitez Left Fuming As Liverpool Board Tell Him There's No Transfer Cash This Summer

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez would appear to be on a collision course with the Anfield hierarchy after being told that there will be no money for him to spend in the transfer market this summer, according to a report from The Daily Mirror.

Benitez apparently met Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow in secret last week and was left angered by the news.

The club's co-owner Tom Hicks last week publicly stated that there would be "significant investment" this summer.

Benitez is seeking assurances that any money he raises from player sales will be pumped straight back into recruitment, but it would appear that he has been left frustrated. Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel and Albert Riera are set to be sold this summer.

The Spaniard is planning a major overhaul of his squad, and apparently has plans in place should the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard leave, something he apparently believes is likely should he remain in charge.

Benitez's own 'escape routes' from Liverpool are becoming limited should he decide he wants to leave though. Juventus, who had apparently pursued him for six months, recently decided to appoint Luigi Del Neri.

Real Madrid, also mooted as a possible destination, have of course appointed Jose Mourinho. Inter apparently remain interested, but their search for a successor for Mourinho has seen them turn to other targets recently.

England manager Fabio Capello has reportedly been on their hit-list, and has apparently now been joined by Fulham boss Roy Hodgson.

Rafael Benitez Set For Third Round Of Talks Regarding His Liverpool Future

Rafael Benitez will meet Liverpool officials for the third time this week for discussions about his future at the club, according to a report from The Sun.

The Spaniard is seeking a transfer kitty of £15 million for the summer, according to the report, and will meet with club representatives again to see if any progress can be made.

Italian giants Inter are apparently interested in taking Benitez to the San Siro as coach, but the Reds' gaffer is discouraged by the prospect of having to follow Jose Mourinho, recently appointed as Real Madrid coach, who has just won the Treble with the Nerazzurri.

While other reports suggest that Benitez has been left fuming by the Liverpool hierarchy's refusal to guarantee him what he sees as essential funds to completely overhaul his team, The Sun also claims that Benitez could yet be tempted to join Inter if he feels that the Reds are destined for a repeat of last season's disappointments.

Ever Banega: Rafa Closing In On £8.5M Argentine Playmaker For Reds

According to reports in both the Spanish and Argentine press, Liverpool are set to sign Valencia’s talented young midfielder Ever Banega for a fee of £8.5m as Rafa Benitez begins his rebuilding process at Anfield. The young Argentinean has been a long-term target of Benitez but also David Moyes who attempted to sign the 21-year-old on loan last summer. However, it would seem that Liverpool rather than Everton have won the race for his signature.

Last summer Everton attended a home office meeting in London to push through the necessary paperwork to seal a late transfer window move but the deal could not be agreed. The Toffees loss could be Liverpool’s gain as he could be a very exciting signing for the club and fill the role that was vacated by Xabi Alonso’s exit last summer.

The 21-year-old joined Valencia in January 2008 but after just 47 League appearances for the club (40 starts) the Spanish side are likely to offload the youngster. Valencia’s financial problems are well documented but they are set to take a loss on a player signed for £14m. Ironically, Banega has had his best season with the club after making 35 league appearances (33 starts which is a major breakthrough considering in his first season he only started seven league matches and then was loaned out to Atletico Madrid. However, despite a tough start to his time in Europe, Banega has shown enough talent to impress Rafa Benitez who is keen to bring him to Liverpool to join fellow Argentines Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez and Emiliano Insua.

The youngster has endured a difficult time since joining the Spanish giants. He was signed by Ronald Koeman who was soon sacked and then was also embroiled in a webcam scandal in Argentina similar to that of former Eastenders star Leslie Grantham. Not the best way to start your career at a new club especially one that was severely and surprisingly struggling in the league. Despite a poor 2007/08 season by their standards, Valencia did end up winning the Copa Del Rey. However, despite featuring in 5 cup matches including both legs of the semi against Barca, Banega did not feature in the final.

Last season Banega was loaned out to Atletico Madrid when he made 24 league appearances but only started 5 of those games while scoring just one goal. The player had suggested he wished to remain with the Madrid club but Atletico did not make a permanent move.

Banega told So Foot that he “wants to continue at Atletico”, but knows that lack of communications suggests the feeling is not mutual.

“I am young but not naive. If they have not spoken with me then it is bad. In any case, I will not return to Valencia, even though I still have a contract with them,” he said. However, despite his comments and Everton’s interest he did return. Now his time in Spain looks to be coming to an end with Liverpool in negotiations.

Despite struggling in Spain, the player that turns 22 in June has won 3 senior caps for his country against Guatemala, Mexico and USA. He was also part of the Argentine side that won the U20 World Cup in Canada in 2007 and the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. He played alongside the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero in both of those tournaments. He also represented his nation at the Toulon Tournament where Argentina finished 3rd. Banega is a skilful deep lying playmaker who is mobile and likes to dictate the tempo of his side which is something that Liverpool have lacked following Alonso’s sale.

The young star was born in Rosario, Santa Fe and began his career with Boca Juniors where he came through the youth ranks. He replaced Real Madrid star Fernando Gago in the Boca Midfield when the former star moved to Real Madrid and after just 28 League appearances for the club Valencia stepped in with a big money bid. His last game for the Buenos Aires club was in the World Club Championship 4-2 final defeat to AC Milan.

Banega is a central midfielder very much in the Michael Carrick mould rather than Roy Keane’s. His main attributes are his excellent passing ability, tactical discipline and ability to read the game. The Argentine is not afraid to tackle as 25 bookings and 4 red cards in 99 career League games perfectly illustrates and could turn out to be a key signing for Liverpool who are looking to bounce back from a poor season with a new-look side next season. Rafa Benitez has already declared he needs at least five or six new signings, Ever Banega looks set to be one of the first new arrivals at Anfield as the Reds rebuild.

Fulham Interested In Signing Fabio Aurelio From Liverpool

Fulham are believed to be interested in procuring the services of Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio on a Bosman transfer.

The Reds had offered the full-back a pay-as-you-play deal owing to his injury-prone nature. But having rejected the offer, the Brazilian will be leaving Anfield - as confirmed recently by manager Rafael Benitez.

The 30-year-old was believed to be headed in the direction of a lucrative deal with Greek heavyweights Olympiakos, but The Daily Mail reports that the player remains keen to continue plying his trade in England.

The London-based club is consequently believed to be in talks over a potential deal that could see the left-footed player swap Anfield for Craven Cottage.

It has been speculated that if the move reaches fruition, it would pave the way for Paul Konchesky to transfer to Birmingham City.

Real Madrid Move For Liverpool Star Steven Gerrard

Real Madrid have set their focus on signing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, according to news daily Marca.

New Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is a known admirer of the England international's qualities, having tried to sign him during his time at the Chelsea helm.

The self-proclaimed Special One is scouring the market for players to add to his side as he looks to guide the Merengues to their first Champions League trophy since 2002.

Marca indicates that manager Rafael Benitez's stay at Anfield could induce Gerrard's departure from the Reds, whom he has represented his entire career.

The Spanish news daily also claims that Liverpool, who finished seventh in the Premier League, are in serious need of cash to buy new players in the summer.

Cooper - Wilson Would Suit Reds

Liverpool youngster Alex Cooper is hoping his fellow Scot Danny Wilson will be joining him at Anfield.

The Reds were once renowned for the number of Scottish stars on their books, with the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness firm Kop idols.

However, Cooper is currently the only man from north of the border within the Liverpool ranks, having left Ross County for Merseyside in 2007.

That situation could change this summer, though, with Rafa Benitez reported to be keen on Rangers full-back Wilson.

Cooper believes the Gers ace would love life in England, even if there is added competition for places, and has called on the 18-year-old to make a move if the opportunity arises.

"I've been playing in the reserves at Liverpool for the past four months and the majority of that team are internationals," Cooper told the Daily Record.

"There are only three or four British boys in the squad and the rest are European and South American players - from countries such as France, Iceland and Argentina.

"It's a great experience to play alongside them, you're mixing it with good players all the time.

"I'm certain if Danny came down he'd enjoy himself.

"I first heard about Danny coming here when one of my friends told me Liverpool were in for him. I played with him for Scotland's U17 side a few years ago and always thought he was a good player.

"I'm not surprised Liverpool are interested in him. All I would say to him is, it's great down here and the standard of player is very high.

"The facilities and the academy at Liverpool are brilliant. It's huge and I've yet to see anything better than we've got. The Melwood training ground is second to none.

"All the young players come from different places around the world but I think that has actually brought us all together. We have a great team spirit in the camp.

"I haven't spoken to Danny recently but I rate him very highly and think he'd do very well at Liverpool. It won't surprise me if he comes and starts challenging for a place in the first team.

"However, there are a lot of top-quality youngsters around so it won't be easy for him.

"If I was to speak to him and he was undecided, I'd definitely tell him to go for it.

"I know he's achieved a lot at Rangers this season but I'm thoroughly enjoying my time here."

Steven Gerrard Ready To Adapt His Role For England’s World Cup Plans

Steven Gerrard is ready to become England’s Mr. Versatile – as Fabio Capello confirmed Jamie Carragher’s incredible international return.

Both Gerrard and Carragher, along with Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson, have been included in England’s 23-man squad that will fly to South Africa ahead of the forthcoming World Cup finals.

Carragher was persuaded to end a self-imposed three-year international exile by Capello after a raft of injuries to England’s defence, a decision that has now been justified by his inclusion.

As vice-captain, Gerrard was a certainty for the squad but not so definite is his role in the team during the finals.

Gerrard has been employed on the left wing and as a second striker by Capello, and spent much of his playing time in the recent friendly victories against Japan and Mexico in central midfield.

And while happier in the latter position, the Liverpool skipper believes his game is benefiting from his varying roles.

“Everyone knows I always enjoy it when I play in the middle,” said Gerrard. “But I’ve always said that if I make it to the final squad, then I’m aware the manager is going to want me to play in different roles and I’m happy and ready for that.

“Maybe earlier on in my career I’d have sulked a bit if I was asked to play in a few different positions. But I think now I have the maturity and experience to know what is best for the team, and I actually quite like playing in different positions.

“It helps me develop as a player and you learn more about yourself and opponents when you can see the game from different perspectives. But as I say, I cannot complain if I am on the field playing for my country.”

All told, there will be 12 Liverpool players representing their countries at the forthcoming World Cup, the most in the club’s history.

Hurst: Gerrard Should Partner Wayne Rooney

Sir Geoff Hurst believes England could have the most lethal strike partnership at the World Cup should Fabio Capello decide to pair Wayne Rooney with Steven Gerrard in attack in South Africa.

Having decided on his final squad yesterday, manager Capello now has 10 days to decide on his starting XI before England take on the USA in Phokeng on June 12.

For the majority of his time in charge, the Italian has chosen to adopt a 4-4-2 formation with Rooney being partnered by a targetman usually in the shape of either Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch.

Capello has tinkered with his formation at times though by choosing to employ a 4-5-1 formation with an attacking midfielder positioned just behind Manchester United striker Rooney.

Gerrard is familiar with that role having played there all season supporting the Reds talisman Fernando Torres, making him an ideal candidate for the role at international level according to 1966 World Cup hero Hurst.

"I am convinced that 4-5-1 is the formation he should play," he said.

"I think that our best combination up front to compete with the best would be Rooney and Gerrard - they would arguably be the best partnership in world football.

"Wayne has played well on his own up front. If you had asked me two years ago then I would've told you he wouldn't be able to do it. He has had a magnificent season though and for a lot of the games he has played up front alone in that system.

"I think Steven Gerrard's best position is where he plays for Liverpool - just off Fernando Torres.

"He and Wayne already have a tremendous working relationship. I've seen that when they play for England. They haven't played too many games up front together but when they have there have been instances where they have shown a good understanding and together I think they can be a very dangerous pairing, certainly towards the latter part of the tournament."

Fears about Rooney's participation in the tournament were raised when the Manchester United striker picked up ankle and groin injuries towards the end of the Barclays Premier League season.

United's top scorer has also struggled with his form for England recently, failing to find the net in his last six internationals.

That is not a worry to Hurst, however, who believes that the 24 year old can end the tournament as top scorer if he stays fit and gets the support he needs from the rest of the team.

"I'm not worried about his form, not at all," said Hurst.

"Overall he has been fine. He is capable of scoring goals. A good player doesn't lose his form overnight.

"He's up there with the best, then and now. He will perform when it matters and I think in the bigger games we will see what he is capable of producing.

"The last few games have been friendlies and it's hard to get yourself up for these matches. If he stays fit he will be successful.

"He can be top goalscorer if England perform well then he is quite capable of having a run, it depends on the team.

"The strikers get the benefits of the football that the team is playing and the chances that they create. If we do that then he will knock in his fair percentage. I don't know what odds he is but you wouldn't back against him."

Hurst believes that this summer's tournament will be the last shot at World Cup glory for some members of the England squad.

He said: "This is the last chance that England will have to win it for a while because you have key players in there who could be playing their last World Cup - players like John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and maybe Ashley Cole. They will be hard to replace.

"I'm optimistic though. I think that had the team been managed better they could have won it last time.

We have a real chance of making at least the semi-finals."

Stevie Eyes Five More Years

Steven Gerrard hopes the forthcoming World Cup will not be his last as he eyes five more years of top-level football.

The midfielder turned 30 on Sunday but has no plans to hang up his boots any time soon.

However, with England's so-called Golden Generation reaching its peak, Gerrard accepts South Africa may be his best chance to claim football's greatest prize.

"If I want to win a World Cup, I'm going to have to do it soon," said our No.8.

"But I'm in good shape and I've still got five years to fight for the top prizes in football. I don't know if this will be my last World Cup but I want to give it everything.

"We've (England's current crop of players) been together for a long time, so I don't think there are any excuses for us any more. It's time to deliver. The team is winning and confidence is high, but we still have some improving to do if we want to go all the way."

Gerrard was one of three players to miss in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out loss to Portugal back in 2006 - a rare low point in his glittering career.

The Liverpool man is keen to put things right should penalties come into play this summer.

"Of course I'd take one," he said. "Missing a penalty in the quarter-final in 2006 was the loneliest place in the world, and I want to put that right.

"It's bad enough losing, but to feel responsible for a loss is the worst kind of failure."