Sunday, June 20, 2010

Liverpool Target Roy Hodgson Insists He’s ‘Happy At Fulham’

It would appear that all and sundry are claiming Fulham manager Roy Hodgson to be the prospective candidate that the Liverpool board would prefer to see succeed Rafa Benitez at Anfield.

However, the man himself has refused to be drawn on the mounting speculation linking him a move that would see him swapping from the last season’s remarkable over-acheivers to last season’s highest-profile under-acheivers.

Whilst running his eye over the Mexico vs France World Cup game for the BBC last night, Hodgson was asked live on air about his immediate future – to which he replied;

“I’m happy at Fulham. It is all speculation and I can’t enlighten you. I don’t know any more than you do.”

Which was apparently an answer just vague enough not to dispell the relentless conjecture surrounding the 62-year-old.

Both the Guardian and the Mirror (amongst others) are professing today that Hodgson in on the brink of being sworn in as Benitez’ successor at Liverpool with the former even going as far as to suggest that the Merseyside club will make an official approach for the Cottagers boss as early as next week.

Which is all well and good until you factor in the comments reportedly made by the agent of former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini earlier today.

Pellegrini’s representative Marco Piccioli is quoted in The Sun today, revealing that his client has opened initial talks with Liverpool over taking over at their recently-vacant helm;

“We are evaluating the move [to Liverpool] and we will soon have a new meeting to better establish the details of this deal.”

Piccioli’s brief statement has led the Daily Telegraph to hail Pellegrini as a late contender to take over at Anfield, despite the Chilean being linked with the post since the evening following the conformation of Benitez’ departure.

True to form, the Daily Mail is still backing ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish as the man they reckon will be given the job, as they fervently believe that Liverpool are looking to appoint a British manager after spending the last twelve years with a ‘johnny-foreigner’ in the hotseat.

So, with all (or at least most) of today’s speculation and counter-speculation considered and evaluated, a clear, concise conclusion is easy to reach.

No-one’s got the slightest clue what’s going on – but at least ‘Woy’ is happy!

Liverpool FC Needs Stars Ready To Face The Fight

Here is a question that has been asked numerous times this week but is never easy to answer – how can players move on when a club doesn’t have a manager?

While many thought the period between Rafa Benitez leaving and his replacement being appointed would see a lull in Liverpool’s news agenda, the futures of Yossi Benayoun and Javier Mascherano have dictated otherwise.

As you will have noted, the Israeli midfielder will, barring an unexpected twist, become a Chelsea player in the not too distant future, while Mascherano – as one of his advisors revealed – is debating whether to join Benitez at Inter Milan.

Inevitably, certain supporters have looked at the picture which is unfolding and decided, rightly or wrongly, that Benitez’s sudden departure will be the catalyst for a mass exodus of talent from Anfield.

The assumption is that players are looking at the lie of the land now that Benitez is no longer around and are deciding it is time to follow suit; maybe, fans will be wondering, Albert Riera’s ‘sinking ship’ analogy wasn’t so far off the mark, after all.

Now the scene which is about to be painted is not an attempt to make it appear that everything in the Anfield garden is rosy; clearly it isn’t and we would not dream of conveniently ignoring certain issues, particularly regarding finance.

But where Benayoun and Mascherano are concerned, it is important to make a few key points to get a better understanding of why these players will be packing up and leaving regardless of who jumps into the hot seat.

Let’s start with Benayoun. He’s been a good servant for Liverpool in the three years he has been on Merseyside and 2009 was his annus mirabilis, the peak being that headed goal in the Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

In recent months, though, it became clear he was getting itchy feet; whether Benitez had remained or not, Benayoun was going to depart; the pair had fallen out and the only thing that wasn’t known was which club it would be to.

Benayoun is not someone who regularly courts the media and limits his interviews to a handful every season; though he is always convivial and happy to talk in passing, he does not want to be quoted all the time.

So when he stopped after the defeat against Chelsea on May 2, it was clear that he had something he wanted to get off his chest and, without warning, he volunteered the following words.

“Personally I don’t know whether I will be here or if I won’t,” he said. “A lot of things can happen. We will have to wait and see. Liverpool is a great club and I enjoy it. But a lot of things are happening in this moment and we will have to see.”

Players do not make such statements unless they are pretty sure they will be on the move and it’s fair to assume that Benayoun’s advisors had encouraged him to keep his options open.

Similar sentiments apply to Mascherano. He enjoyed a terrific second half of the season, filled two positions with aplomb but, for someone who enjoys kissing the Liver Bird on his chest which was encouraging to fans, something didn’t sit right.

That, of course, was the lucrative contract he had been offered remaining unsigned; Pepe Reina may have wasted little time inking his extension but, after getting to a certain point, Mascherano got cold feet.

Some claim his representatives were treated shabbily, others argue his demands were unreasonable; whatever, the paperwork will almost certainly remain unsigned.

If Benayoun wants to join Chelsea and Mascherano wants to join Inter, thank them for their service, wish them well and then move on; if Liverpool are going to progress again, they need men who are single-minded in their love for the club.

What will be interesting to see is whether all the funds that will be brought in from those deals will be given to Benitez’s successor – but that is for another time.

Now it is a case of taking stock and deciding who wants to stick around for what might be a bumpy ride – only the committed need apply.

Omens Are There For A Solid Start To Liverpool FC's Season

The publication of a new season’s fixtures is always a time for excitement but that emotion evaporated among certain Reds on Thursday morning.

Judging by the amount of emails and text messages this column received once they became common knowledge, it’s safe to say trepidation was the overwhelming feeling as games against Arsenal and Manchester City in the first seven days were digested.

Those with gallows humour suggested that there would be no pain and suffering this time around, as the season would be as good as over before the transfer window closes.

Others, though, were much more ebullient and, happily, showed the kind of thinking that has been the trademark of Liverpudlians throughout the years – particularly after they had a quick flick through the record books.

What happened the last time Liverpool played Arsenal on the opening day at Anfield? They won 2-0 on a glorious day in 1985 and went on to finish that season as double winners.

What happened the last time Liverpool faced Arsenal on the opening day? Back in August 1987, they won 2-1 at Highbury and went on to win the league. The omens are there!

I’m Still Joining Liverpool FC, Insists Serbia’s Milan Jovanovic

Milan Jovanovic has given his word that he intends to join Liverpool – as the Reds unveiled their plans for pre-season.

The Serbian forward, who announced himself on the World Cup yesterday by scoring the winning goal against Germany, has been on Liverpool’s radar since January.

With his contract running out at Standard Liege, the Reds put in the groundwork to ensure they beat off competition from clubs around Europe to land his signature.

When Rafa Benitez left Anfield earlier this month, though, there was a slight doubt about whether the move would go ahead.

Liverpool, however, made it clear they wanted to sign a man who can also play on the left and insisted Benitez’s departure would not deter them from pressing on.

Personal terms have been agreed and Jovanovic has passed a medical and the only thing that needs to be done is the formality of completing a work permit.

Now Jovanovic has made similar noises and, once Serbia’s World Cup campaign has come to an end, he will be unveiled as the Reds’ first senior signing of the summer.

“I will not break the contract because Benitez has left,” Jovanovic confirmed.

It remains unclear when Jovanovic will be seen in a Red shirt but supporters can now start to think about when they might watch the team in the coming weeks.

Real Madrid's Bid To Get Liverpool's Gerrard Said To Be Going In Right Direction

Real Madrid’s efforts to bring Steven Gerrard to the Bernabeu “seem to be going in the right direction,” according to the Spanish Sport newspaper.

It comes despite reports that Jose Mourinho’s side had been put off by the asking price for the England World Cup captain.

The paper said that the player’s representative had reached an agreement with the La Liga runners-up, and that the deal between Real Madrid and the Anfield outfit would be tied up after the World Cup.

The paper also said that the midfield maestro was waiting to see who would be appointed as new Liverpool manager before making a final decision about whether to leave the club so close to his heart.

Sport also said the transfer fee was expected to be in the region of 20-25 million euros and not the previously touted 40 million.

Speculation has been rife over the futures of several Liverpool stars following a poor season that culminated in the departure of coach Rafa Benítez for Inter Milan.

Despite the troubled campaign, the 30-year-old still managed to score 11 goals and contribute 10 assists for his side.

His contract with Liverpool is set to expire at the end of the 2012/2013 season.

Javier Masherona Gives Green Light To £25M Reunion With Benitez

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has given the green light to a £25m reunion with Rafa Benitez.

The Argentina star has been hotly tipped to follow former Anfield boss Benitez to Inter Milan after the World Cup.

Inter have made initial contact with Mascherano’s representatives over a possible move to the San Siro – but a deal with Liverpool still has to be agreed.

Mascherano is expected to skipper Diego Maradona’s side as they look for the point they need to progress to the last 16 when they face Greece on Tuesday. And the midfielder has dropped a massive hint that he will be on the way to Serie A once his African adventure is over.

He said: “Me to Inter? Ask Benitez. He is the one who knows more. Rafa is my teacher. I learned so much from him since I came to play in Europe. I am learning Italian, but I don’t know anything about Inter. Does Benitez want me? You should ask him as he would know more than me.”

Inter Milan Preparing To Test Liverpool With Bid

Reports in Italy are that Inter Milan manager Rafa Benitez has accepted that he has got no chance of signing any of Liverpool’s superstar players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres but is confident of landing Glen Johnson. Inter are preparing to lose Maicon to Real Madrid and Benitez has decided that Johnson is the ideal replacement.

It has always been expected that Benitez would raid Anfield in some form and so it comes as no surprise to see the reports in the Italian media linking Benitez with almost the entire Liverpool squad, but in the event that Maicon is sold to Real Madrid then the likelihood of a Johnson bid would be high.

At the same time Benitez holds an affection for Liverpool and there have been reports that he would not do a wholesale raid on Liverpool but he wants the best players at the San Siro and sentiment goes out the window at times like this.

Benitez also is fully aware of the real financial situation at Anfield and that also gives him an advantage, he will already know what the selling point is on most of the players, it is unthinkable that he never had conversations like that with the board.

Hero Jovanovic Sinks Germany

Milan Jovanovic was the Serbian hero as they completed a shock World Cup victory over 10-man Germany on Friday lunchtime.

The forward - who will reportedly sign for Liverpool on a Bosman free this summer - struck the only goal of the contest to throw Group D wide open.

His performance during a 79-minute outing will have impressed Kopites on a day when one of the World Cup favourites were humbled.

The Germans had looked like taking an early lead on seven minutes when Lukas Podolski flashed wide after a neat team move.

Their chances were severely dented on 37 minutes, however, following a clownish decision by Spanish referee Alberto Undiano, who dismissed Miroslav Klose with two innocuous yellow cards.

A minute later the Serbs took the lead when a Milos Krasic cross was headed back across goal by Nikola Zigic for an unmarked Jovanovic to thrust beyond the 'keeper from three yards.

Joachim Low's men almost hit back on the stroke of half-time when Sami Khedira walloped the crossbar, while Bastian Schweinsteiger stung the hands of the Serbian goalkeeper nine minutes after the restart.

Podolski was next to threaten after going one-on-one with Vladimir Stojkovic but the striker dragged harmlessly wide. Seconds later the 2006 Young Player of the Tournament squandered another opportunity - and on 60 minutes his day would go from bad to worse when his penalty following a Nemanja Vidic handball was saved.

Jovanovic very nearly sealed the points for Serbia when he curled against the post following a smart run from Krasic, while Zigic rattled the bar after climbing above his man.

Academy Clinch Top Deal

Liverpool FC's Academy recently revealed a partnership with computer giants Dell that will ensure the stars of the future have the best equipment off the pitch - as well as on it.

The Kirkby-youth base prides itself on preparing youngsters for a bright future in the world of football, but when things don't work out there is an Education department in place to ensure they have qualifications to succeed in other vocations away from the game.

Now, thanks to a burgeoning partnership with Dell, the Academy's classrooms will be blessed with the very latest technology and Steve Felice, President of Consumer and Small & Medium Business for Dell, is convinced the link-up will be of huge benefit to both parties.

"Well the relationship is a fairly new one but it's a great fit for both companies," Felice told

"We know the proud history of Liverpool and all the success the club has achieved - and we've achieved similar success in our field so I think it's a winning partnership!

"We knew the importance the Academy places on the training and development of youth players in the hope of them progressing to the first team - academically as well as on the football pitch.

"Dell realises the use of technology can help people reach their full potential - the academy wants to do this, both on and off the field. I think it's a great result for both of us.

"We wanted to help achieve your goal of significantly improving your education facilities to better compete against the other top clubs by donating around 30 products to the Academy, which included PCs, laptops, printers and projectors."

The Academy's Education and Welfare Officer, Phil Roscoe was delighted to receive Dell's state of the art equipment and was keen to explain how it will benefit the club's youngsters.

"The computers in our classrooms were becoming a little bit dated, so this partnership is fantastic for us," he said.

"As well as the obvious benefits from an educational point of view, we also do quite a bit of match analysis. With that in mind it's great that we will have software in the classroom that allows the players to look at how they have performed both individually and as a team."