Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kuyt Admits He And Skrtel Happy To Get Away From Liverpool Turmoil

Holland attacker Dirk Kuyt admits he's likely to swap Liverpool war stories with Slovakia defender Martin Skrtel today.

Kuyt says both he and Skrtel are happy to be at the World Cup after a turbulent season with the Reds.

"My team-mate Martin Skrtel will be playing for Slovakia and we know they can defend really well," said Kuyt.

"Martin is a fantastic defender. It's a bit strange because you're used to training every day with each other, playing every game with each other, and now we play against each other.

"Everyone at Liverpool is disappointed about what happened last season. For us as players, the World Cup is now the most important thing, but after this World Cup is finished for both of us, the focus will again be on Liverpool.

"Hopefully the future at Liverpool will be brighter than last season."

Liverpool FC’s Famous Five Set To Miss Start Of Europa League Adventure

Liverpool are facing up to the prospect of kicking off their Europa League campaign without a handful of star names.

The Reds will play the first significant game of the new season in the third qualifying round of the Europa League on Thursday, July 29 – but it is looking increasingly unlikely that the club’s new manager will not be able to call on Pepe Reina, Fernando Torres, Maxi Rodriguez, Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt for what is certainly a crucial fixture.

All players who have been involved in the World Cup are given a mandatory three-week break from the moment their countries are eliminated.

That means the earliest Mascherano, Rodriguez and Kuyt can be expected to report back to Melwood is on Monday, July 26, as they will be involved in quarter-finals this weekend.

And provided World Cup favourites Spain beat Portugal tonight in Cape Town to progress to the last eight, the same would also apply to Torres and Reina.

They, of course, would not be considered for duty so soon after returning from a break and Liverpool can expect to be similarly cautious with the players whose World Cup dreams were ended at the weekend.

Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson were due home today after flying back from South Africa with the rest of Fabio Capello’s squad but they won’t be seen back in the Reds’ fold until the middle week of July.

It’s possible that trio will join up with the party that travels to Switzerland for a training camp but they will definitely miss Liverpool’s opening three friendlies against Saudi Arabian champions Al Hilal (July 17), Grasshopper Zurich (July 21) and Kaiserslautern (July 24).

Those players who have not been involved in the World Cup, such as Alberto Aquilani, Lucas and Emiliano Insua, will return to Melwood this Thursday for the opening day of pre-season.

Liverpool will not discover the identity of their prospective Europa League opponents until the draw is made on July 16, when they enter the competition with teams such as Juventus, Stuttgart and Galatasary.

Liverpool’s UEFA coefficient means they will not get pitted against one of those big names but they could still be handed a tricky assignment, as sides such as IFK Gothenburg, Red Star Belgrade and Maccabi Haifa will be lurking in the draw.

David Villa Launches Staunch Defence Of Liverpool FC’s Fernando Torres

Spain forward David Villa has launched a staunch defence of Fernando Torres and insists he is “totally convinced” his strike partner will regain his scoring touch.

Vicente Del Bosque’s side meet Iberian rivals Portugal in World Cup last-16 clash in Cape Town with Villa having scored three goals from as many matches.

Torres, however, has yet to find the net in South Africa having only recovered from a knee injury just before the tournament.

Villa insists the squad are oblivious to negative reviews of Liverpool striker Torres’ performances so far.

“First of all I haven’t really heard any criticism of Fernando and I certainly don’t share a view of his performances being lacklustre,” said the Barcelona-bound striker.

“Perhaps he hasn’t scored a goal but he’s done spectacular work. He really is very happy in the squad, he’s made an enormous effort to help this team. Let’s remember what state he was in with his knee a month ago.

“He is supporting the team with his play, so I’m very thankful to him and I think his performances have been very good.

He is doing some excellent work, but forwards are always measured by the goals they score and I’m totally convinced that if he continues working as well as he is, he will score goals.”

Villa added: “He had that at the European Championship, he scored goals in the later stages although he hadn’t scored many at the beginning.

“He’s very happy, he’s always with us and he’s always going to be contributing very positively to the side.”

Coach Del Bosque believes the Liverpool striker’s best is yet to come.

“I think he has been very good,” said the Spain boss. “He only played 30 minutes or so in the first match and then more in the next two. I think that’s been very good because now he has fresh legs and we’re hoping he puts on a top show against Portugal.”

Fernando Torres: The Departure Of Rafael Benitez From Liverpool Was The Right Move For Everyone Involved

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres confessed that Rafael Benitez had to leave the club this summer and admitted that he could depart as well.

Benitez was fired after the Reds struggled to a disappointing seventh place finish in the Premier League, their lowest finish in 11 seasons.

The Spaniard went on to replace Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, and Torres believes that Benitez’s departure was the right move.

“At this point I think it was best for everyone,” Torres told Spanish newspaper AS.

“He won everything, and last year they demanded too much from him.”

Benitez led Liverpool to their fifth European Cup victory in 2005 and was instrumental in bringing Torres to Anfield in 2007.

Torres is growing impatient and wants the opportunity to win major club honours in his career and Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City have all shown interest in a big money move for the Spain star.

The 26-year-old stated that he would be happy to stay with the Reds but wants the club to bring in more stars to help the team compete with the elite clubs in England and Europe in the coming years.

Fellow Liverpool stars Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard, Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt have all been rumoured to be on the move this summer.

With Spain’s crunch Round of 16 clash with Portugal on Tuesday, Torres left the questions about his future with Liverpool to be answered after he returns from South Africa.

“They will tell us the situation after the World Cup. At the moment we don't have a coach.

“What Torres wants is to beat Portugal. The rest, we'll see.”

Fernando Torres Turning Into The Spanish Emile Heskey

This might sound like just about the stupidest thing you've ever heard but bear with it for a moment. It's not quite as absurd as you might think. Ok, here goes ... Fernando Torres is Spain's Emile Heskey. On the face of it there is no comparison. Last season the Spaniard scored 18 Premier League goals despite missing much of the season through injury. Heskey got three. In his three years in England, Torres has scored 56 times; Heskey would have to go back nine campaigns to rack up as many. Meanwhile, the Englishman has scored seven at international level, while his counterpart has 24.

It is at international level, though, where there is a curious parallel developing between the two. Neither has scored at the World Cup. In fact, Torres has not scored for Spain since last summer, and Heskey has not scored for England since June last year. But he did at least score during qualification, which is more than can be said for Torres.

It should not have been so long. Torres wasted two wonderful opportunities against Honduras; Heskey failed to take his chance against the USA.

Not that anyone was surprised, or even especially angry. Most imagined Heskey would miss, and scoring goals was officially not his job. When Torres missed, the surprise was greater. But here's the thing: scoring is not his job either.

"David [Villa] is the goalscorer," Torres said. "He's the one whose responsibility it is to score [for Spain]. When I was 17 I would get annoyed if I didn't score but not any more."

For a man with more than 150 goals to his name, it was a startling remark, and Torres does care about getting goals himself. It could also be dismissed as an attempt to ease the pressure – and questions certainly have been asked about the Madrileño's form and finishing.

Yet the sentiment was not entirely misplaced. Both Torres and Heskey have found themselves in a situation in which they are, rarely for a forward, judged not so much on their own performances as that of the man alongside them.

Though the doubts lingered, and are ever greater now, England fans long learnt to value Heskey for something other than goals, Gérard Houllier once brandishing the figures to underline his importance, even if those figures did not include goals scored. Now Spanish fans are having similar discussions about Torres.

He has twice undergone operations this year. This might be a World Cup but he is undergoing a kind of pre-season; against Honduras he started a match for the first time in three months. "The most important thing," he said, "is that I'm progressing." The most important thing is that Spain are. And although superficial judgments suggest otherwise, Torres is a central reason why.

It is the performance of the men alongside them that means Heskey and Torres have such different horizons; and that, in turn, says something about their displays. Wayne Rooney failed to score; Villa has scored three times. Or to put it another way: Heskey failed to help Rooney score; Torres helped Villa score – an interpretation that comes as a comfort to Torres, something to which he can cling in his drought.

Heskey was dropped from and ultimately had to head for home with the defeated squad; Torres will be included as Spain face Portugal tonight believing that they can reach the final on 11 July. The reason is simple: even without getting goals, Torres has proven fundamental.

The Liverpool striker was absent from the starting line-up in Spain's 1–0 defeat in the opening game against Switzerland. When he has been included, Villa has scored three times, mostly coming in from the left. Against Chile, it was Torres's power and pace that presented Villa with the chance – if it can even be called a "chance" – to score.

The move was reminiscent of Villa's first at Euro 2008, a goal he greeted by pointedly celebrating with Torres, the provider.

The roles remain. "Torres generates a lot of space for me – anyone can see that," Villa says.

"Torres hasn't scored goals yet; he lacks pace and his finishing needs to improve, but he is very valuable," says Vicente del Bosque, Spain's coach. "He ties up the defenders, is a constant threat and opens spaces. He always offers himself, especially at the hardest moments, and causes problems with his power and pace."

Javi Venta, the Villarreal defender, adds: "When Torres plays, Villa plays better. He has more freedom, greater mobility."

The former Spain midfielder Victor Muñoz defines it in a phrase: "Torres makes the pitch longer."

Torres adds: "Look at Villa's figures, they're incredible. He's the Seleccion's goalscorer and always has been." Well, not always. The last time questions were raised about Torres's goalscoring ability, during Euro 2008, he silenced them in style. By scoring the most important goal in the country's history.

Torres: Wonderful To Be Linked With Inter

Fernando Torres admits he's flattered by Internazionale's interest.

The striker is one of the Liverpool players who have been linked with the Nerazzurri since Rafael Benitez moved to the Champions League winners.

“It is always wonderful to be linked with big clubs. I can’t help but be pleased and flattered,” Torres told Radio Marca.

“It seems to me fairly normal that the big clubs should be interested in the top players of sides who are struggling.

“For example, Liverpool is out of the Champions League, while Valencia are in a terrible economic situation.

“Aside from rumours, as far as I know there’s nothing concrete.”

Torres is currently in South Africa with Spain, who have qualified for the round of 16.

Liverpool FC Shirt Sponsor Standard Chartered In ‘Excellent Shape’

Liverpool FC’s new shirt sponsor has delivered an upbeat trading statement.

Banking group Standard Chartered said it was in “excellent shape” in its pre-close trading update covering the half year period to June 30.

The group, which is predominantly focused on the Asia-Pacific region, revealed that by the end of May its income and profits were ahead of the same period in 2009, thanks to double digit growth over the second half of 2009.

Standard Chartered chief executive Peter Sands said: “The group has continued to see very good appetite for its name” and reported that during April and June the bank managed to raise £2.6bn of new funding.

Mortgage income is up strongly on a year-on-year basis and some 850 new staff have been recruited within the group’s commercial and wholesale divisions.

A four-year performance-related shirt sponsorship deal worth up to £80m was unveiled by the company and Liverpool FC last September.

Culture Minister Slammed For Hillsborough Comments

A former minister branded Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s remarks on the Hillsborough disaster a "disgrace" in the Commons today.

Labour’s Derek Twigg said relatives of the 96 people killed in the April 1989 incident were "deeply distressed" by Mr. Hunt’s comments.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the judicial inquiry into the disaster had been "absolutely clear" that no Liverpool supporters were to blame and she agreed to meet representatives of the families.

Mr. Hunt’s remark came during an interview about England’s poor performance in the World Cup.

He said he was "incredibly encouraged by the example set by the England fans. I mean, not a single arrest for a football-related offence, and the terrible problems that we had in Heysel and Hillsborough in the 1980s seem now to be behind us".

He later apologised to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured. The 96 fans died and hundreds more were injured after a crush developed in the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

During Commons question time, Mr. Twigg (Halton) told Mrs. May: "You will be aware of the comments by the Culture Secretary this morning linking the Hillsborough disaster to football hooliganism - this is a disgrace.

"I’ve just recently spoken to some of the families who lost loved ones at Hillsborough - they’re deeply distressed by this and angry about what’s happened.

"How can they have trust in the Government that they will see through the proper release of the Hillsborough files given that that’s the view held in high parts of the Government?"

He asked Mrs. May to meet "urgently" Mr. Hunt and the families of those killed to discuss the matter.

The Home Secretary pointed to Mr. Hunt’s apology, adding: "The judicial inquiry was absolutely clear on this point - the Taylor Report cleared Liverpool supporters of any allegations they were to blame for the terrible events that took place at that time.

"The families of those who sadly lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster have conducted a very dignified campaign over the years to try to ensure that the information is released and that they are able to see all the details of what happened at that time.

"I have already met the Bishop of Liverpool to discuss the work that his panel is doing in looking at these issues. I would indeed be happy to meet representatives of the Hillsborough families."

Lord Justice Taylor’s official inquiry into the disaster, which reported in 1990, criticised senior police officers on duty at the match for a "failure of control" and recommended the introduction of all-seater stadiums.

A group set up to study previously secret documents relating to the Hillsborough tragedy met for the first time in February.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, led by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, will oversee the public disclosure of archives held by the emergency services, the city council and other public bodies in Sheffield.