Monday, June 14, 2010

Roy Hodgson will head out to the World Cup this week still waiting to hear whether he is going to be offered one of the biggest jobs in English football and become Liverpool boss.

The Fulham manager has made it clear to the Anfield hierarchy that he wants his future sorted out before he begins a stint as a pundit in South Africa.

Hodgson, who took Fulham to the Europa League final last season, feared he was being kept in reserve as Liverpool failed to attract a world-renowned coach such as Louis van Gaal, Guus Hiddink or Marcello Lippi.

But with a growing bandwagon of support for Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool have realised they must move quickly to stop themselves being pressurised into appointing the Scot.

They plan talks with 62-year-old Hodgson in the next 48 hours, while Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill could also be sounded out. Hodgson is due to fly to South Africa on Wednesday to work as a World Cup pundit for the BBC and Fulham hope Liverpool's hesitation will let them hang on to a manager who has turned them from relegation candidates to European finalists in less than three years.

A friend said: 'Why would Roy want to undertake a massive rebuilding job at Liverpool when they might lose Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano?

'Bill Shankly was only 42 when he went into Anfield - Roy's 20 years older than that. He is comfortable living in the south and has been active in arranging all of the club's pre-season friendlies.'

The key to Hodgson's future may depend on whether he believes he is the undisputed No1 choice at Anfield. Taking charge of one of Europe's traditional giants is an undoubted temptation for the current Manager of the Year. But he knows Liverpool are turning to him because other stellar names are not prepared to take up the challenge while the club are not in the Champions League.

To complicate matters, many fans want to see Dalglish in charge and past players have been queuing up to support his claims, to the irritation of some powerbrokers at the club.

Fulham would not be able to demand massive compensation for Hodgson, who signed a rolling one-year contract in March. But they hope the turmoil at Anfield will persuade him to have second thoughts.

Liverpool have been put up for sale by owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and a £350million debt is likely to curb spending unless key players are sold.

Former boss Rafa Benitez, now at Inter Milan, hopes to take advantage by swooping for Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt and Serbia midfielder Milan Jovanovic, who signed an agreement to join Liverpool from Standard Liege.

Some at Anfield prefer Hodgson to Dalglish, seeing him as the safe pair of hands needed to bring stability after a turbulent year. But others are concerned that Hodgson's only experience at such a big club came more than a decade ago with Inter Milan.

Al Fayed: Hodgson Will Turn Down Liverpool

The battle for Roy Hodgson’s services is about to hot up.

Liverpool are on the brink of making an official approach for the Fulham boss.

Although it is unlikely Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed would try to stand in Hodgson’s way if the Reds come calling, the Craven Cottage supremo is confident that his manager is likely to reject a move to Anfield.

Al Fayed said: “I don’t think he’ll leave me. I’m sure he’ll have lots of approaches from other clubs, but I give him anything he wants to reach results and we have a very good relationship.”

Despite increasing ­speculation that Hodgson is Liverpool’s No.1 target, no official approach has yet been made.

In fact, at the recent Premier League summer AGM there was no formal or informal discussions about Hodgson by the two clubs.

Under the terms of Hodgson’s rolling one-year contract, Liverpool will only be required to find around £2million in compensation to secure his signature.

But a senior Fulham source said last night: “Roy’s his own man and if an approach was forthcoming I’m sure he will sit down and evaluate the situation. He is very private and keeps his own counsel, so you can never second guess what he’s going to do.

“However, the indications are it would take something extraordinary to convince him to leave Fulham and I’m not sure given all the documented financial problems at Liverpool he’d see that as ideal move.

“Roy has an incredibly good relationship with the owner as well.

“Given that he is pressing ahead with player recruitment for the new season, I’m not sure that is an indication he is planning to leave.”

Fernando Torres: Nobody Was More Hurt About Liverpool's Poor Season Than Steven Gerrard

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres insists that Steven Gerrard was more upset with the Reds poor Premier League season than any Anfield supporter.

After impressively finishing in second place last season, Liverpool missed out of the Champions League after a disappointing seventh place finish.

Torres acknowledged that Gerrard considers the Liverpool fans family and he is itching to win a Premier League title with the club.

“This season Liverpool have been written and talked about a lot,” Torres told the Daily Star.

“But what people forget is that fundamentally last season hurt the players and the boss.

“The club means a lot to us and the fans mean a lot to us. We didn’t want to give them a season like that.

“Trust me when I tell you nobody will be hurting more than Stevie.

“He is Mr. Liverpool and he sees the Liverpool fans as family. Last season really hurt him.

“He desperately wants to win the Premier League with Liverpool and every season that he does not do it hurts a bit more.

The Spain international is adamant that Gerrard is the perfect choice to captain England at the World Cup and believes that the Liverpool skipper is the finest captain he has played with.

“Stevie is the right choice as captain.

“With all due respect I would have made him captain anyway before the Rio Ferdinand injury.

“He is the best captain I have ever played under. As long as we don’t meet earlier, I see it being an England versus Spain final.

“They have fantastic players all over the pitch. I have been telling the Spanish lads all about them.

“I see Gerrard and Rooney on the same level as Messi, Xavi, Kaka, Ronaldo and the other top players.

“It would be a dream to play England in the final and an England-Spain final would be a showcase of the two best nations in world football.”

Liverpool Set For Potential £24m Double Inter Milan Bid For Aquilani And Lucas

Rafa Benitez is rumoured to be interested in attempting to lure Anfield pair Alberto Aquilani and Lucas Leiva to the San Siro. The new installed Inter Milan manager apparently wants to bring the two midfielders to the Serie A side as he prepares to lose a number of his side in the summer as Jose Mourinho considers snapping up the likes of Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder.

Brazilian international Lucas Leiva has come under a lot of fire during his three years at Liverpool but is clearly a player that Rafa Benitez had a lot of faith in. The 23 year old started 32 Premier League matches last term and has improved greatly during his time on Merseyside.

The signing of Alberto Aquilani was one that baffled many as the Roma man arrived at the club for a fee of £20 yet was in the middle of a spell out with a long term injury. When he was fit he was used sparingly and only showed patches of the form that had made him one of Italy’s leading lights.

Liverpool Ready For Mega £40m Real Madrid Bid

Liverpool are this week preparing themselves for a mega bid from Real Madrid for captain Steven Gerrard and providing the money on offer is an acceptable amount then the England captain will be leaving Anfield this summer for the sunnier climate in Madrid. Reports in Spain are that Madrid are very serious about Gerrard and that they want him signed sealed as soon as possible.

When Jose Mourinho took the job he made it clear that he wanted Steven Gerrard and expected the funds to be made available to sign the Anfield legend, Mourinho now has the money he wanted and intends to go after Gerrard with immediate effect, he will have to wait though for England’s participation to end in South Africa first, it is hard to see Gerrard signing a contract while away on England duty.

No fee has been mentioned in the reports, however it is understood that Real Madrid will make Liverpool an offer that will be acceptable, they are not going to play the games that Barcelona are playing with Cesc Fabregas, they intend to make an offer that is accepted almost immediately.

As far as the Spanish are now concerned, Steven Gerrard will be a Real Madrid player next season and it will be up to whoever the new boss will be at Anfield to find an adequate replacement.

How will that be achieved? Chances are it will not be and Liverpool will be all the more weaker for it.

Agger: My Chance To Shine

Daniel Agger cannot wait to show the world what he can do at his first major international tournament.

Despite breaking into the Danish side in 2005, Agger has yet to feature in a big competition due to his country's failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and the Euros two years later.

"Yes, there is a lot of excitement," he admitted, ahead of Monday's opener against Holland.

"I think Denmark was a bit spoiled a few years ago and played in almost every tournament, even though we are a small country. So yes, the excitement is there."

Denmark have been pitted against Holland, Japan and Cameroon in Group E.

One concern for Agger is the Danish public expecting too much from him and his teammates.

"People in Denmark don't often seem to believe in the team," said the 25-year-old.

"Then if we qualify for the World Cup or European Championships the expectations go up an awful lot. They probably don't expect us to win it, but they want us to go far. I'm sure that will be the same this summer."

Denmark are led by veteran coach Morten Olsen - the man who gave Agger his international breakthrough five years ago.

"He gave me the chance with the national team quite early, so I am grateful for that," said Liverpool's No.5.

"He is a really, really good coach. I can't say anything bad about him. He knows everything about the game and is a proper football man."

Frank Lampard And Steven Gerrard Prove They Can Play Together

Too similar, some will say. They get in each other’s way. It has to be one or the other for the sake of the team.

During the World Cup qualifying period, the issue died down because Fabio Capello kept them apart by using Gerrard on the left and Lampard in more of a holding role in central midfield. All was fine and dandy.

It was different on Saturday night against USA though. The Liverpool and Chelsea boys were paired again, slap bang in the middle of a four-man midfield. Would they work things out for this crucial opening game?

Well, it took only four minutes to get some kind of an answer, that’s if creating a goal counts in any way. Both were involved. First, Lampard received Glen Johnson’s throw-in about 30 yards from goal before trying to find Wayne Rooney.

The effort didn’t find its target and Lampard was arguably fouled as he released the ball but, fortunately for England, his attempted pass ran through to Emile Heskey who, for all the criticism he has received down the years, knew exactly what to do with his first-time lay-off. It was perfect and justified Capello’s decision to start him.

And here comes the main point. Gerrard had made one of his trademark forward runs that we all know so well. The perfectly timed sort that cuts through a rearguard into the penalty box.

Not only that, he made that run because he was working off Lampard. His partner, admittedly, was in a fairly advanced position, but it wasn’t far enough forward to discourage England’s captain.

One touch to set it, the second to clinically finish. After only four minutes, Gerrard had made a convincing argument for the possible efficiency of this partnership.

More promising still, Gerrard went on to enjoy a fantastic first half, tearing about like a man on a mission, which, of course, he was.

Bombing forward, tackling back, while Lampard, in the main, played a more conservative role by holding his position, only venturing forward at the right time.

That’s all it took - a bit of common sense.

As for whether this axis will continue into the next game against Algeria on Friday, well, you have to doubt it.

When push comes to shove, Capello prefers a more conservative style in that area. Gareth Barry is likely to return and resume his previously successful partnership with Lampard.

Still, it was good while it lasted. That is until Robert Green’s dreadful howler five minutes before half-time changed everything.

Apart from perhaps closing down Clint Dempsey quicker, there was nothing either Gerrard or Lampard could do about that.

Mascherano And Maxi Prevail

Javier Mascherano skippered Argentina to a 1-0 victory over Nigeria in their World Cup opener on Saturday.

The Liverpool man was at his destructive best in the middle of the park as a Gabriel Heinze header sealed a Group B win.

Maxi Rodriguez was introduced for the final 20 minutes in what was an impressive showing from the South Americans.

Diego Maradona was able to field attacking talent such as Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi, but it was former Manchester United full-back Heinze who opened the scoring on six minutes with a diving header from Juan Sebastian Veron's corner.

Higuain missed two sitters during an entertaining first-half, while man-of-the-match Messi brought two world-class saves from Nigeria stopper Vincent Enyeama.

Argentina were scintillating going forward, but they at times looked vulnerable at the back and could have conceded on 28 minutes when Chinedu Obasi was fed through only to drag wide.

The game was nearly put beyond the African side's reach just after the restart when Messi - who at times looked unplayable - ghosted past his man before jabbing Veron's superb cross wide.

Maradona's superstars should have doubled their advantage on 65 minutes when Messi planted the wrong side of the post after four Argentina attackers were left with just two defenders to beat. Seconds later Higuain again missed a chance to get his name on the scoresheet when he fired too close to Enyeama.

While ever Argentina failed to kill the game off there was always a chance of an equaliser and it almost came on 71 minutes when Taiye Taiwo whistled wide from distance.

Ten minutes later Kalu Uche had a full sight of goal but volleyed over from 12 yards.

The final opportunity for Argentina followed a Messi one-two on the edge of the area before the little maestro was denied by the goalkeeper's legs.

Defeat For Kyrgiakos's Greece

Sotirios Kyrgiakos and his countrymen have given themselves a mountain to climb to qualify from World Cup Group B following a 2-0 defeat to South Korea.

The Liverpool defender had to watch from the bench as goals from Lee Jung-Soo and Manchester United winger Park Ji-Sung confined Greece to a deserved loss in their competition opener.

Next up for the 2004 European champions is Thursday's clash with Nigeria, a game they may need to win heading into their final group encounter with Argentina.

Kyrgiakos is one of a record 12 Reds taking part in the World Cup - plus we've got the soon-to-sign Milan Jovanovic representing Serbia.