Saturday, July 03, 2010

Cole Unlikely To Join Liverpool & City After Champions League Pledge

The agent of Joe Cole has dismissed reports claiming the former Chelsea midfielder had agreed terms with AC Milan, and suggested the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City may lose out on the 28-year-old’s coveted signature because they can not guarantee Champions League football next season. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are the current frontrunners for the England international after Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger both openly expressed their admiration for the former West Ham United prodigy, and although Manchester United have allegedly ruled themselves out of the running, it is perhaps too early to discount Sir Alex Ferguson.

Cole’s Chelsea contract expired today after he failed to agree an extension at Stamford Bridge, and the player’s agent, David Giess, suggested the midfielder’s next move would be founded on football reasons and not financial ones. Giess claimed the long-serving former Chelsea star wanted to play Champions League football which would seemingly rule out both Liverpool and Manchester City who finished seventh and fifth in the Premier League last season. The midfielder’s agent also intimated that his client wanted to remain in England, despite reportedly lucrative advances from Serie A giants AC Milan, and therefore the race for Cole would appear to be between Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Since Chelsea announced their decision to withdraw Cole’s contract offer after lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations, the former West Ham United starlet has been one of the most in-demand players on the continent. A host of the Premier League’s top clubs have been linked, but comments from his agent, would on the surface at least, appear to rule Manchester City and Liverpool out. Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and possibly Manchester United would now appear best placed to sign the former Chelsea player, and in the past Harry Redknapp, Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson have all been admirers of the mercurial playmaker.

Cole’s underwhelming but ultimately brief showings at the World Cup finals, where he failed to start in any of England’s four games, actually saw the midfielder’s stock rise because of the mediocrity displayed by those picked ahead of him. Despite Chelsea’s decision to release the player, he remains one of the most coveted players in the Premier League, with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City all at one stage or other being linked.

Giess told Soccernet: "Football is the most important thing to Joe and continuing to play in the Champions League is high on his priorities."

Cole’s agent also played down reports linking him with a move to AC Milan, dismissing talk of a profitable three year deal worth £3 million a year as "pure press speculation". The ex-Chelsea star’s agent hinted a move to the continent was unlikely.

Hodgson Defends Rovers Record

New Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has defended his record in English football and insisted he has learned from failures earlier in his career.

The 62-year-old's appointment on a three-year contract at Anfield has received a lukewarm response in some quarters.

Despite his relative success with Fulham, making them a solid mid-table Barclays Premier League side and guiding them to the Europa League final, there are those who still remember his unsuccessful spell at Blackburn between 1997 and 1998.

Hodgson led a side which narrowly escaped relegation to a sixth-placed finish in his first season only to be sacked in December 1998 with the club bottom of the table.

But Hodgson still defends his time at Ewood Park.

"Blackburn was the only place I have been sacked and that was somewhat harsh," he said.

"I took a team which had avoided relegation by one point into European football and then lost four of the very best players - three to injury and one to a forced sale to Rangers - the following year.

"Admittedly the start of the following season was not as good and we built up expectations but it is difficult for me to see Blackburn as a complete failure.

"I did make mistakes there; you always make mistakes when you fail somewhere.

"I have analysed those failures but I don't think they were quite as blatant as some people would like to think."

The former Inter Milan boss also hit out at critics who say he has not had enough experience at big clubs.

"Blackburn were a top side when I went there, we finished sixth in the league, Udinese have had success in the past and the four years I had with the Swiss national team going to the World Cup and European championships was successful.

"I regard comments like that as far too insular."

If expectations were high at Blackburn the targets Hodgson will be set at Liverpool will be astronomical in comparison.

First he has to persuade star players Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to stay, then he has to somehow strengthen a squad lacking in depth on a very tight budget and finally get the club back into the Champions League after finishing seventh last season.

Hodgson wants to bring in some new faces but will fully assess the merits of the squad he has inherited before making any decisions.

"I haven't had time to sit down with the chairman (Martin Broughton), chief executive (Christian Purslow), with Kenny Dalglish, Sammy Lee, with Eduardo (Macia), the chief scout," he said.

"Before we decide what we need I need to canvas the opinions of all these people about what has been going on.

"I need to hear what the backroom staff think and not base my opinions on the Liverpool matches I saw this season.

"We need some players and I would like to come into the club with one or two players which will freshen things up.

"But we have to make very good decisions and use any money we get very wisely - we won't be able to splash out money left, right and centre."

Broughton: No Reds Bids Yet

Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton has revealed the club has not yet received any bids since they were put up for sale in May by co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

There has been much speculation about who is interested in taking over from the American pair, who finally admitted two months ago they had taken the Reds as far as they could after three turbulent years.

But Broughton said he expected the first serious offers to come in within a couple of weeks and the process would then continue after that with a view to a final sale being completed by August or September.

"There have not been any offers at this stage," said the British Airways chairman who was brought in to oversee the sale.

"There haven't been any offers to turn down and I wouldn't have expected there to have been at this stage.

"There are a number of interested parties but there's no specific deadline on it.

"We are looking to the middle of July-ish for the first round of bids but that's not a final stage - that's a first entry through.

"We're hopeful - and I wouldn't put it any stronger than that - that a deal can be done by the end of the transfer season.

"That was always from the outset a hope rather than necessarily an expectation, because these things can take time.

"We are on course, pretty well, with where we would have expected to be."

Hicks had been quoted as suggesting the asking price for the club could be as high as £800million and they would hold out for the best offer.

However, Broughton - appointed by Barclays Capital - confirmed Hicks and Gillett could not veto a sale and no acceptable figure had been set to sell.

"The process is well under way. The owners have stepped aside, stepped down. I'm overseeing the process and Barclays Capital are running the process," he added.

"The owners can't block the sale of the club. I read all too frequently numbers being floated about in the media, normally associated with Tom Hicks' name. I would like to make it clear there is no number. There is no base line.

"This is a willing buyer, willing seller auction. We will do a deal with what we consider to be the best bidder.

"The best bidder may not be the highest bidder. It's about more than just money.

"It's about stadium development, the team and the whole piece.

"Once we've been through the process, the best bidder gets it."

Hodgson Gets Instant Boost

Roy Hodgson has been handed an instant boost as the new Liverpool manager after being told he will not have to sell prize assets Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, despite the club's financial difficulties. Supporters had feared the ex-Fulham boss would have to sell the duo this summer to help service debts. But chairman Martin Broughton assured Hodgson he will not have to offload any players.

"Players are not for sale," said Broughton. "We don't need the money and we don't have to sell them because of the debt."

Hodgson, who is not allowed to return to Fulham to sign any of his former players as part of his severance deal from the London club, admits he is facing one of the biggest challenges of his long managerial career but cannot wait to get started.

He has not discussed his transfer budget yet, but is expected to make several signings and knows he will come under immediate pressure to stop the rot at Anfield after replacing Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard quit Anfield last month after six years following a disappointing season that saw them finish seventh in the table.

"I expect the club and supporters to crave success and it's my job to make sure we deliver when it matters and not let them down," said Hodgson. He said he will speak to Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in the next week to discuss what went wrong on the pitch last season, and is determined he has the ability to transform the fortunes of the club.

Liverpool were the pre-eminent club in English football during the 1970s and 1980s. But they were last crowned champions of England in 1990 and have not won the domestic title in the Premier League era. Hodgson, 62, who has signed a three-year contract, said: "The number one priority is always the team. I want to help them do better and get back into the Champions League where the club has always been. My work will be on the field with the players and the training ground. I want to be a football manager and coach."

Earlier he was heralded as the "right man for the job," by club captain Gerrard while Carragher, the vice captain, said "his appointment has given us all a lift," he said.

Hodgson said it was important to the club to keep hold of the two key players. "I personally can't nail their feet to the floor, but I can persuade them to stay here and have a good season because there is everything to play for. The club is anxious to keep best players and we will do everything in our power to make it happen," he said.

Hodgson won plaudits last season for guiding lightly regarded Fulham to the final of the UEFA Europa League, the successor to the UEFA Cup, beating Italian giants Juventus along the way. He had previously steered the west London club to an unprecedented seventh-place finish in the Premier League in 2008/09 and last term kept the Cottagers in mid-table despite their European commitments.

Named by his fellow league managers as manager of the year, Hodgson had been linked with England after their disappointing FIFA World Cup™ campaign under Fabio Capello, but negotiations were already at an advanced stage with the Merseysiders who moved to close the deal with speed.

Unlike many English counterparts, Hodgson has spent much of his managerial career abroad, having started with Swedish side Halmstad in 1976. He enjoyed instant success, leading them to two Swedish titles and would later coach Malmo after a brief stint with Bristol City. He has also been in charge of Inter Milan and Premier League Blackburn while, at international level, he has also had stints as manager of Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.

Ian Rush: Sceptics Must Give Roy Hodgson A Chance To Prove Himself At Liverpool

Former Liverpool striker Ian Rush believes that the Reds' hierarchy has made a wise decision in appointing Roy Hodgson as the new manager at Anfield.

The appointment has received a lukewarm reaction from some quarters, with many pointing out Hodgson's lack of genuine success at the very highest level.

Rush dismisses such suggestions though.

"I know Roy quite well and it's a good appointment," the former Wales international told The Liverpool Echo.

"When he was manager of Finland I spent some time over there and when I was doing my UEFA Pro badge in Wales he came down to do two days with us.

"I've also met him at various UEFA meetings over the years and I've always been really impressed with what he has to say.

"Tactically, he's very astute, he's highly respected across Europe and if you look at his CV he's been everywhere.

"He's proved himself at club and international level and has managed big clubs like Inter Milan.

"Roy was being talked about as the next England manager so it's good to see Liverpool move quickly to get him before the FA make any decision about Fabio Capello."

Rush believes that Hodgson's fine record at Fulham in the last two seasons is reason enough to trust the man at Anfield.

"He did a fantastic job at Fulham turning them from a club in danger of going down to one which reached the final of the Europa League," the Welshman added.

"They had one of their best seasons ever and that was down to Roy's organizational skills. He exceeded expectations.

"Now he's got a better squad to work with at Liverpool so let's see what he can do.

"I think Liverpool or Manchester United are the only two clubs Roy would have left Fulham for so it just goes to show what a massive name the club is.

"Roy's target has to be to get the club back in the Champions League next season; that's where we belong.

"I'm sure he will sit down with all the key players in the near future.

"Roy has to sell his plans to them and show them the way forward."

Roy Hodgson Lines Up Sami Hyypia For Return To Liverpool As Coach

Sami Hyypia could be in line for a shock return to Liverpool as part of Roy Hodgson’s backroom staff, UK can reveal.

Hyypia, who spent a decade at Anfield before joining Bayer Leverkusen last summer, has another season to run on his contract with the Bundesliga club.

But Hodgson, who was manager of the Finland team that Hyypia captained during their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, has told friends that he would like to reunite the central defender with Liverpool in a coaching capacity.

The pair had a strong working relationship with Finland and Hyypia said last year that he would like to return to Anfield one day as a coach.

Hodgson, who was appointed as the new Liverpool boss earlier this week, is starting to assemble his new coaching team.

He will be joined at Anfield by his former Fulham assistant Mike Kelly although there has been no official approach for him yet, and Rafael Benitez’s deputy Sammy Lee is expected to be part of Hodgson’s new set-up.

It would also represent a coup for Hodgson to have such a popular recent former player on his backroom staff as Hyypia, who is held in such high esteem by supporters for his service to the club.

Yet the centre-back may prefer to wait another year before going into coaching. After sliding down the pecking order in his final season at Liverpool, he featured in 32 of Leverkusen's 34 Bundesliga matches last season as the unfancied club finished fourth in the league.

Hodgson Appoints Dalglish As Head of Football Development

New Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is keen to retain the services of club legend Kenny Dalglish - even though he was appointed to the top job the Scot was overlooked for.

The 62-year-old officially took over on Thursday after signing a three-year contract having impressed in a final round of interviews at the weekend against one other unnamed candidate.

Dalglish, who given the role of identifying candidates to replace Rafael Benitez, had wanted a return to the role he successfully undertook in the late 1980s and early 1990s but was not even considered by Liverpool’s board.

The man generally regarded as the club’s greatest player may see that as something of a slight but Hodgson, a friend of Dalglish, very much wants him to remain on board.

Dalglish is currently involved in youth development at the academy and is an ambassador for the club.

"Kenny will play a very big part in bringing youth players through," said Hodgson.

"If he is going to take on the role of head of football development his role in making that bridge between Kirkby (where the academy is based) and Melwood (the first team training ground) is going to be a vital one.

"I think he has lots of other roles to play. With his position at the football club I compare him to Giacinto Facchetti at Inter or Bobby Charlton at Manchester United - they have such a role to play.

"When this club needs representing, especially on a foreign stage, who better to represent it than Kenny Dalglish?

"I am hoping that between those two roles, ambassador and head of youth development, and the advice and help he is going to give me in my job, we will get great currency out of Kenny if he wants to be part of that and I hope he does.

"I had a long conversation with Kenny before I got the job and we need to sit down together now to work out how it will work in practice.

"With goodwill on his side - and there is plenty of goodwill on my side - we should find a solution."

Chairman Martin Broughton was somewhat dismissive when asked about how Dalglish’s expression of interest in the manager’s job had been received by the board.

"Kenny put his name forward for wanting the job and we appreciated the fact he was keen to do it but for us he was never a candidate and I explained that to him," he said.

"We see Kenny as having an excellent long-term future at this club.

"He is happy in his current ambassadorial role but we would like to build on that role - although we haven’t defined what that will be yet because it is for Roy and Kenny to work beyond that."

Hodgson said who the board chose or did not choose was out of his control but that in no way did he want to force Dalglish out of the club, quite the opposite in fact.

"Kenny Dalglish should be at Liverpool until he decides he no longer wants to be a part of football," added the former Fulham manager.

"I can’t have any comment on the people who wanted to be candidates, it was up to the board to decide who they wanted and the chairman distinctly answered that question by saying they did not want Kenny to be a candidate for the job, but they do want him to be a part of the club today and in the future.

"They want him to use all of his skills to be part of the club long-haul to make sure we bring some players through."

Julio Baptista Faces Premier League Future As Liverpool & Manchester City Join Race To Sign Him

Roma striker Julio Baptista continues to be linked with the Premier League, and now Liverpool and Manchester City have joined Tottenham in the race to sign him.

Il Romanista newspaper reports the player's agents Alessandro Lucci and Juan Figuer will be in London this weekend to open up dialogue with the trio of Premier League clubs.

Tottenham have been tipped as the favourites to land the former Arsenal loanee, but they face competition from Anfield and Eastlands.

Roma are hopeful of selling the player they signed from Real Madrid two years ago. Since then Baptista has been unable to break ground at Trigoria and he was peripheral to Claudio Ranieri's plans last term.

He is eager for a fresh start and he wouldn't mind a return to the Premier League having played there with the Gunners. A €9 million offer could see him leave the capital, but last week agent Lucci said that he had not received any offers from clubs in England.

Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun To Ink £5.5m Deal At Chelsea On Friday

Yossi Benayoun will confirm his exit from Liverpool within the next 24 hours and put pen to paper on a £5.5 million deal to join Chelsea, according to a report from The Sun.

It is understood one of new Reds boss Roy Hodgson's first acts in his new role was to rubber stamp the winger's departure.

The Israeli is expected to commit to a four-year contract at Stamford Bridge.

Meanwhile, The Independent reports that Benayoun will earn around £55,000 a week with the Blues.

It also claims that Hodgson will be handed around £15m by the Anfield board to bring in reinforcements, with Javier Mascherano also expected to leave the Reds and uncertainty still surrounding the futures of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.