Friday, July 09, 2010

Liverpool FC Departures Unlikely Without New Signings First

There are unlikely to be any players heading out of Anfield until replacements have been lined up.

A number of Liverpool players are being linked with possible transfer window moves but manager Roy Hodgson is also keen to see what he has at his disposal before sanctioning any departures.

Fiorentina are reported to be ready to offer Liverpool in excess of £3.5million for left-back Emiliano Insua while newly promoted West Bromwich Albion are thought to be eyeing a loan deal for striker David Ngog.

Including Milan Jovanovic, Liverpool had 13 players on World Cup duty in South Africa – more than any other Premier League club.

With the majority of those players not expected to return to the club until after the pre-season training camp in Switzerland, Hodgson has a threadbare squad to work with and can ill afford to release anyone until he has brought new players in to the club.

First, though, the former Fulham boss has pledged to give everyone a chance to prove their worth at the club regardless of their status under the previous managerial regime.

His first opportunity to do that will be against Saudi Arabian champions Al-Hilal in Liverpool’s opening pre-season game a week on Saturday at the Cashpoint-Arena in Altach, Austria – home of Austrian second division outfit SCR Altach.

One player he may be able to call on soon is Jovanovic who is edging closer to securing his switch to Anfield from Belgian side Standard Liege.

The Serbian international revealed last week that he is hopeful of linking up with his new teammates in Switzerland, and the club are quietly confident that will be the case.

Jovanovic will join Liverpool on a free transfer. He can play as an out-and-out striker or in a wider attacking role and could fill the void left by Yossi Benayoun’s weekend departure to Chelsea.

Liverpool head to Switzerland next Wednesday, July 14.

Hodgson Confident Gerrard Will Stay At Liverpool

Despite heavy speculation surrounding the future of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, new Anfield boss Roy Hodgson is certain the midfield star will remain at the club.

"Obviously Steven and Jamie are the playing heartbeat of the club and it's very important we keep people like that with us,'' Hodgson told LFC Weekly after talks with Gerrard and vice-captain Jamie Carragher .

"I anticipate there might be a situation where other big clubs will try to sign Steven but he gave no indication that he wanted to leave.

"Nobody at the club wants him to go so I will be doing my utmost to make sure he stays. I am confident he will.''

And Hodgson hopes he can convince Fernando Torres to remain at Liverpool, too.

"Fernando is a wonderful striker and I understand the fans' concerns about his future," he said.

"Unfortunately with the World Cup still on I won't be able to meet him face to face for another few weeks - that's just circumstance and you won't hear me complaining about it.

"When I do meet him I will be doing everything I possibly can to convince him that Liverpool is the place to be," continued the 62-year-old. "If he sees progress I am confident that he won't want to go anywhere else. I think he understands the club and the city."

Liverpool's Javier Mascherano Drops Transfer Hint To Inter

Liverpool's tireless Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano has dropped the strongest hint yet that he's set for a possible move to Inter, talking of his great relationship with former boss Rafa Benitez.

Football Italia have reported that Mascherano's agent believes a deal could be done towards the end of the transfer window after the player's post-World Cup break.

Agent Marco Piccioli said: "I know Javier and Benitez have a great relationship."

Inter may well have to sell to supplement a bid for the Argentine, but with the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Mario Balotelli being linked all around Europe, they should be able to persuade Liverpool to part with their midfield maestro. Liverpool themselves are not in the most affluent of situations and may be forced to accept any large bids.

At 26 years of age, Mascherano should still have the peak of his career ahead of him and is becoming an integral part of the national side, with over 60 caps and the current captaincy to his name.

After working with Benitez for more than three years, it would appear the Argentine would see his future with the Champions League holders.

Ngog Linked With Loan Move

Liverpool striker David Ngog claims that he is not aware of reported interest from West Brom or Blackburn but he has not ruled out a loan move away from Anfield.

The arrival of Roy Hodgson as the club's new manager has led to speculation that the France Under-21 international may not feature in the long-term plans of the former Fulham boss.

But Ngog enjoyed his best season to date with the Reds in 2009/10 to represent a highlight in a terrible campaign for the club, which ended in the departure of Rafa Benitez.

The ex-Paris St-Germain forward featured in 37 matches in all competitions and scored eight goals for a struggling side and, amid the speculation regarding West Brom and Blackburn, his immediate focus is on improving.

"This season is a big season for me. I need to be consistent, play more and score more," he said.

"We have a new manager, who is a great manager, so we have to impress him."

But Ngog has not ruled out a loan move to another club, which could enhance his chances of first-team football rather than competing for a place with Fernando Torres, if the Spaniard stays at Liverpool.

The 21-year-old has been mentioned among the next generation of France internationals under new boss Laurent Blanc following their World Cup capitulation and so regular games at club level will be essential.

With regards to a loan, Ngog said: "I am not aware of it yet, but you never know."

Liverpool FC Ace Dirk Kuyt Can Join The Greats

As Holland’s players danced around the Green Point stadium on Tuesday night, their jubilation matched only by the country’s Royal family in the stands, few smiles shone brighter than that of Dirk Kuyt.

The celebrations which marked the Dutch’s first World Cup final appearance since 1978 – remember Buenos Aires, Mario Kempes and ticker tape? – went on long into the night.

Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam found themselves at a virtual standstill; Cape Town was painted orange for the evening.

And in amongst it all stood Kuyt.

It was his floated 73rd minute cross which allowed Arjen Robben to head home the goal that finally killed off Uruguay, and his tireless running and intelligent use of the ball ensured Bert Van Marwijk’s side remained on the front foot throughout a frenetic second half.

He even popped up with a dramatic last-ditch tackle in his own penalty area, as ├ôscar Tab├írez’s men surged forward in pursuit of a dramatic late equaliser.

It was typical Kuyt, and even more impressive given that many experts had criticised the Liverpool man’s selection, amid concerns over his ‘graft over craft’ style.

Van Marwijk’s faith, however, never wavered; it was he who took Kuyt to Feyenoord from FC Utrecht as a 23-year-old, and his former charge has started each of Holland’s six World Cup games this summer.

“In the Netherlands there were quite a few debates about which players I should play,” said Van Marwijk. “Dirk Kuyt, par excellence, is a team player.

“He is the example of a true and genuine team player. He’s so focused, he’s working so hard for the team and gives such a positive signal to the rest of the players. I’m so pleased with him.”

Van Marwijk’s words will sound familiar to Liverpool supporters. Since his move to Anfield in 2006, almost all talk of Kuyt has been punctuated with tributes to his spirit, his dedication, his attitude.

It is now impossible to speak of the 29-year-old without adding a caveat about his incredible work-ethic.

Kuyt himself is typically humble when asked about the role he plays within the Dutch dynamic.

He knows he is no superstar, but football for him has never been about individual glory, and his attitude seems to be infecting the rest of a side notorious in years gone by for an inability to live in harmony.

“There are players who can change the course of a match with a single touch and others who are there to serve the team,” says Kuyt.

“I have no problem admitting I’m in the second category. I try to do what I can to win each match. I’m a battler.

“Every match is equally important to me, and if you win all the time, the titles will eventually come. That’s how I see things, anyway.”

Even Johan Cruyff is a fan. After Kuyt had helped inspire Holland’s quarter-final success over Brazil last week – negating the threat of the marauding Maicon, before setting up the game’s winning goal for Wesley Sneijder – the Godfather of Dutch football took time out to lavish praise upon the 29-year-old.

And considering the pioneer of ‘Total Football’ is today known almost as much for his cutting opinions as for his mesmeric displays of the 70s, that is something to be proud of.

“Look at what he did so far,” said Cruyff, “He started the tournament on the right, then as a forward, and then against Brazil on the left. Not only did he keep Maicon out of the game, he also went and set up the winner. Someone like that is worth his weight in gold.”

Praise indeed. And whilst, aesthetically at least, he and Cruyff could not be further apart – and there are those in Holland who lament the team’s sudden switch from beauty to pragmatism – there is also a growing feeling that players like Kuyt are emblematic of the new Dutch football spirit.

He may not possess the freewheeling appeal of Cruyff, the ruthless potency of Marco Van Basten, nor the effortless grace of Dennis Bergkamp, but he is now ready to tread where none of those icons could. ‘Total Football’ charmed the world in 1974, but ultimately failed. Van Basten, Gullit, Bergkamp and co never managed to right that particular wrong, but the new generation is looking to go one step further.

And if in Johannesburg on Sunday they can do what the greats of the past failed to, and lift the World Cup, then the name Dirk Kuyt may just be mentioned amongst the legends of Dutch football.

Not that he would ever say so himself, of course.

Shaun Wright-Phillips In Transfer Tussle Between Spurs, Liverpool And Arsenal

Arsenal face competition from Tottenham and Liverpool as they try to sign Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.

The Gunners were favourites to land the England international for around £6million after opening negotiations but wages are proving a problem.

City want the 28-year-old off their wage bill as he has two years left on his £60,000-a-week deal.

And the player wants a move after falling out with Eastlands boss Roberto Mancini after the club failed to offer him an improved deal.

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is hoping the cash-strapped Reds can put a package together.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is also interested but it is unlikely his club would match the wages Wright-Phillips is on at City.

Mark Lawrenson: Roy Hodgson Fits The Bill – But He Has A Fight To Keep Liverpool FC Stars

Roy Hodgson might not have seemed like the ideal candidate to be Liverpool manager a year ago.

But when you consider the current plight the club finds itself in, he fits the bill perfectly.

This appointment is not about scouring the continent for a bright, emerging coach, as was the case when Liverpool chased down Rafael Benitez when they were last in the hunt for a manager.

This is about taking someone who isn’t afraid of a challenge and has a proven record of turning round a club’s fortunes.

He’s seen it all before. He’s gone to a place like Inter Milan and changed the whole make-up of the side. He could still be there now, in a behind-the-scenes role taking it easy – but he wants more of a test than that.

He’s dealt with big name foreign players and managed on the international stage.

And, most importantly, he proved in his time at Fulham that he can take a set of players and make them better.

That could be vital at Liverpool because, as good as I think the appointment is, I don’t think he holds the key to persuading the top players to stay.

If a player wants to leave a club, he can be told a new manager’s plans, he can have the vision sold to him, but it’s unlikely to change his mind.

But I genuinely feel Hodgson wouldn’t be fazed by this.

If Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres decide it’s time to leave, even if Hodgson gets half of the money into his transfer budget then that’s good business.

He has a decent record in the market in recent times, proving that he can get results without necessarily relying on superstars.

If he did lose Liverpool’s two best players he would be disappointed – but he would have a plan B.

I think the board has also been sensible in their recruitment, in not going for major upheaval.

They know that if a sale comes through, the new owners could change things drastically and Hodgson could just turn out to be a short term appointment.

No reflection on him, that’s just the way football is.

So we won’t have a situation similar to Benitez, who brought in all his own staff from Spain.

I don’t think Hodgson will bring a whole entourage with him and a lot of the current Anfield staff seem keen to stay so it saves the board money and inconvenience of overseeing wholesale changes.

So all in all it makes sense. I spent a couple of days with Hodgson in South Africa when he was working for the BBC and there’s no doubt that he is a nice guy who is easy to get on with.

But there’s also no doubt that underneath all that he is tough – and the players will respect him.

He is exactly the right person for this job at this time.

Fernando Torres Named One Of The ‘Beautiful People’ At The World Cup Finals

The Dutch may have substituted their usual ‘total football’ for a more functional approach in order to reach Sunday’s World Cup final but it seems ‘The Beautiful Game’ has not disappeared completely.

The self-styled ‘experts’ at, the dating site with a strict ban on ugly people, has put each World Cup player through its merciless rating system to reveal who scores when it comes to looks.

There is plenty of Mersey interest in both the winners and losers with Liverpool’s Fernando Torres coming runner-up overall in the ‘Most Beautiful’ category.

The Anfield hero may have endured a difficult World Cup despite Spain’s progress but he’s been a major hit compared to the man he missed out on for top spot.

According to the ‘test’ Fabio Cannavaro was the most attractive player at the tournament but that should be scant consolation for the Italy captain after his side went from heroes to zeroes as the defending World champions were knocked out in the first round, finishing bottom of their group below New Zealand.

Landon Donovan, who enjoyed a successful loan spell at Everton last season, wept when he helped the USA qualify from their group but he also broke England’s hearts as his last-gasp goal against Slovenia condemned Fabio Capello’s side to runner-up spot and a subsequent second round encounter with Germany that led to elimination.

Along with former Goodison team-mate Tim Howard, Donovan and the Americans also fell at the second hurdle but he was at least named the fourth most attractive player in South Africa.

Greg Hodge, managing director of said: “Collectively, the worst looking team is Algeria.

“The term ‘trophy head’ could have been coined for most of their team.

“England follows close behind, led by the most unattractive player on the planet, Wayne Rooney.

“The England team does have very beautiful wives and girlfriends, but this is surely due to their bank accounts which certainly makes them a lot more attractive.”

Liverpool-born striker Rooney was voted the ugliest out of all the players while David James was the only England player to be rated as beautiful enough for the site.

Most beautiful World Cup players of 2010 (in order of attractiveness) 1) Fabio Cannavaro, Italy 2) Fernando Torres, Spain 3) David Villa, Spain 4) Landon Donovan, USA 5) Thierry Henry, France 6) Edinson Cavani, Uruguay 7) Kaka, Brazil 8) Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal 9) Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast 10) Keisuke Honda, Japan 11) David James, England.

The ugliest World Cup players of 2010 1) Wayne Rooney, England 2) Franck Ribery, France 3) Carlos Tevez, Argentina 4) Vladimir Stojkovic, Serbia 5) Benjamin Huggel, Switzerland 6) Zdenko Strba, Slovakia 7) Rafik Saifi, Algeria 8) Scott Chipperfield, Australia 9) John Terry, England 10) Ryan Nelson, New Zealand 11) Daniel Agger, Denmark.

Ex-Liverpool FC Player Craig Johnston Hits Out At World Cup Ball

The row over the controversial Jabulani World Cup ball is refusing to die down with former Liverpool striker Craig Johnston having written a 12-page letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticising the ball.

Johnston, the Australian who developed the Adidas Predator boot, has collated all the criticism of the ball from players and coaches and delivered a detailed and technical description of the problems with the ball.

The Jabulani ball is manufactured by Adidas but that has not spared them from Johnston’s withering letter.

He puts the fact there have been so few goals scored – an average of 2.22 goals per match, down on 2006 and 2002 – down to the ball.

Johnston says in his letter to Blatter: “If a sponsor came into your office before the World Cup and said: ’We are going to give you a new, perfectly round match ball, the players won’t like it at all, there will be more mistakes made than in any other World Cup, there will be less goals scored, less free-kicks scored, less passes complete, less control by players and roughly 70% of crosses and shots on goal will miss wide and go way over the crossbar. What would you say to them?’

“I am risking my reputation and goodwill within certain football circles by writing this open letter to yourself and anybody else who is interested in the Jabulani ball issue and why its endorsement by FIFA could ruin the game as we now know it.”

Johnston expects to be blacklisted by FIFA as a result of his letter.

FIFA say the Jabulani issue will be one of the main topics debated by the national team coaches at a World Cup de-brief expected to be held in September.