Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fernando Torres' Injury Puts £50m Chelsea Move In Doubt

An injury to Fernando Torres late into Sunday’s World Cup Final between Spain and Holland may further confuse the striker’s future, with Chelsea hoping he will ask Liverpool to consider offers for him when he returns from holiday.

Torres cut a forlorn figure after he was left out of the starting line-up by Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque - and did not even warm-up with the rest of the substitutes - but he came on at the start of the second-half of extra-time to replace David Villa as his country’s lone striker.

However as he chased down a long ball forward he pulled up suddenly, feeling his groin, before collapsing on the turf in apparent agony. He was eventually stretchered off. It capped a miserable tournament for Torres, although he was involved in the build-up to Andres Iniesta’s winning goal, and there will now be frantic concern over the extent of the injury and whether it might place his hope for a summer move to Chelsea in jeopardy.

Torres did manage to collect his winners’ medal and join his team-mates on a lap of honour but he was clearly in some discomfort and given his constant record of injuries, which has been an issue for him throughout his career then it will be a concern to any potential buyer.

Chelsea are leading the chase for the 27-year-old and are set to open the bidding, hoping that Torres will ask for a move although he may fall short of handing in a transfer request. They remain confident that Torres wants to join them and may, eventually, offer up to £50 million for him.

However this would fall short of Liverpool’s valuation for Torres which is believed to be closer to £70 million. At the same time it’s understood that, significantly, Liverpool is already actively looking at alternatives should Torres eventually be sold.

Contact is believed to have been made with the German club Wolfsburg, now managed by Steve McClaren, over the future of their striker Edin Dzeko who is believed to be admired by Liverpool’s new manager Roy Hodgson.

Negotiations for the Bosnian, who has previously also attracted interest from Chelsea, to move to Manchester City are at an advanced stage although a fee is yet to be agreed.

If Liverpool were to sell Torres for £50 million or more then it would give them the funds to purchase Dzeko and although they would not be able to out-bid City it could well be that the 23-year-old would prefer a move to the Merseyside club.

The sale of Torres would also provide Hodgson - who has stated he wants to keep the striker and intends to hold talks with him when he returns from holiday, if not before - with further funds to strengthen his squad as he goes about re-shaping his team for the new season. That could be bolstered with Javier Mascherano, who may hand in a transfer request, also pushing for a move.

City had hoped that they might strike an agreement with Torres but although they retain interest they also accept that the failure to qualify for the Champions League has severely damaged their chances. Instead they have concentrated on trying to sign Dzeko or, if that bid fails, to secure Inter Milan’s Mario Balotelli.

Torres has been cagey over his future throughout the World Cup, declaring that he wants to hear from Hodgson over his plans for Liverpool before he decides what he wants to do. Earlier this year Torres made clear that he wanted the club to strengthen significantly this summer but they have to generate funds first.

The player is believed to want to stay in England, unless there is a bid made for him by Barcelona who he regards as the only other club he would consider moving too. He has told friends that he wants to now be challenging for major trophies and is desperate to win the Champions League.

Liverpool Turn Down £5m Palermo Bid For Lucas Leiva

Liverpool has rejected a £5 million bid for defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva, according to the People.

The Merseyside club has been in negotiations with Italian club Palermo over the 23-year-old, but the Serie A side has failed to reach Liverpool’s £8 million valuation of the player.

The talks have been headed by Liverpool Managing Director Christian Purslow, with Roy Hodgson having no say in the deal which took place before the former Fulham boss took over at Anfield.

Although Roy Hodgson would like to keep hold of the Brazilian midfielder talks are in too advanced a stage for the 62-year-old to have any influence over the sale.

Palermo are believed to be willing to match the asking price for Lucas though they would first have to sell a number of surplus players in order to fund the move for the former Brazilian young player of the year.

Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner, who is now a free agent, is being touted as a potential replacement for the Brazilian with Hodgson being a great admirer of the former Wigan player.

But Hodgson may also have to look for someone to replace Javier Mascherano who is expected to leave Merseyside in the summer with both Inter Milan and Barcelona showing interest in the Argentina captain.

Liverpool Identify Ever Banega As Replacement For Javier Mascherano

Liverpool has identified Argentine midfielder Ever Banega as their top priority should Javier Mascherano re-unite with former boss Rafa Benitez at Inter, according reports from Italy.

The Corriere dello Sport comments that Mascherano, who has also been linked with a switch to Spanish giants Barcelona, would prefer a switch to the European champions in favour of a switch to the Blaugrana, should his expected departure from Anfield come to pass.

Reds boss Roy Hodgson has reportedly already drew up a list of replacements, and Valencia starlet Banega has emerged as the man most likely to replace Mascherano in the Liverpool midfield next season.

Banega joined Los Che from Boca Juniors in 2008 for a fee of €18m, and after initially struggling to settle in Spain, guided Valencia to a return to Champions League football last season with a 3rd-place finish in La Liga.

Goal.com reported last May that Banega was a target for then-Liverpool boss Benitez, who appeared close to a €10m swoop for the 22-year old, but the move never came to fruition.

However, given Valencia’s financial constraints, should the Reds return with a concrete offer, it would be difficult for the Spanish side to turn down.

Scharner In Liverpool Link

Paul Scharner's agent has revealed a transfer to Liverpool would be a 'dream move' amid reports he is due to discuss a possible free transfer to Merseyside.

New Reds boss Roy Hodgson is thought to be an admirer of the versatile 30-year-old, who left Wigan after his contract expired at the end of last season.

Hodgson tried to sign the Austrian on three occasions when manager of Fulham, but failed in each attempt.

It was also thought that the 62-year-old was trying to secure his signature at Craven Cottage before moving to Anfield at the start of July.

Aston Villa and Sunderland are also rumoured to be interested in landing Scharner's signature, but Liverpool is believed to be his preferred destination.

Scharner's agent Valentin Hobel confirmed Hodgson is a fan of the player and is waiting to see if Liverpool firm up any interest.

"Roy Hodgson and Paul Scharner - this is a special relationship," said Hobel.

"Hodgson thinks that Paul's strengths in midfield are better than his attributes in central defence.

"Liverpool would be a dream, of course, but we are in contact with several clubs. Because he is a free transfer, he can choose."

Huntelaar Hints At Prem Switch

Holland star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has hinted he could leave AC Milan this summer if he does not receive assurances over his first-team chances.

Huntelaar, who started Sunday's World Cup final against Spain on the bench, endured a frustrating debut season with Milan last term.

The former Ajax and Real Madrid hit-man saw his first-team chances limited at Milan and he found himself playing out of position at the San Siro.

A number of Premier League clubs, including Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool are thought to be waiting in the wings to sign Huntelaar and the 26-year-old has indicated he could be interested in a move to England.

"My first focus is on the final and then after that it will be on AC Milan so we will see what happens when I get back to Italy," Huntelaar told The People.

"But the truth is I want to play football - I don't want to be just sitting on the bench - so we will see what happens.

"Of course, the Champions League is important and every player wants to play there but the most important thing for me is simply to play.

"That is the number one priority."

Torres And Liverpool Awaiting Injury Update

Spain's World Cup joy was diluted somewhat by the sight of Fernando Torres being stretchered off towards the end of the 1-0 win over Netherlands.

The forward has had a wretched time in recent months and looked a shadow of his real self during the World Cup. He came on in extra-time of the 1-0 win but fell to the ground in agony after pulling up when chasing down a long ball.

It appeared the groin injury that has long been the cause of concern flared up again. There has been no word from the Spain camp as to the severity of the problem, but the sight of Torres leaving the field in such discomfort suggests he is likely to miss the start of the Premier League season with Liverpool.

Torres is the subject of transfer speculation, with both Chelsea and Manchester City linked with bids, but his future is likely to be up in the air due to his injury problems.

The injury will also be a headache for Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson who is keen to sit down with the Spaniard and discuss his plans for the future.

Kuyt Blames Webb For World Cup Woe

Dirk Kuyt pointed the finger of blame for Holland's World Cup final defeat by Spain at English referee Howard Webb.

Webb brandished 14 yellow cards and one red - a record for a final - in a fiery encounter which saw Andres Iniesta's extra-time goal secure a 1-0 win for Spain.

The South Yorkshire official was booed by Dutch fans at the final whistle and Liverpool forward Kuyt said: "We are angry that we lost because we came so close. I know you cannot blame others, but the referee favoured Spain.

"We had many more yellow cards than we deserved. That ultimately cost us the cup."

Holland coach Bert van Marwijk suggested Webb might have been influenced by Spanish media blaming the referee for Spain's defeat by Switzerland in their opening match.

The Holland coach said: "I don't think the referee controlled the match well. But let me be clear about this: the best team won the match.

"I'm trying to analyse the match as best as possible. But I read a few things today about how angry Spain were at the refereeing in the first match against Switzerland.

"If you view the performance (of the referee) today, you'd almost think now that that first match had an influence on this game now."

Van Marwijk admitted some fouls had been "terrible" but said both sides were responsible, although challenges by Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel were particularly X-rated.

He added: "It's not our style. Let me put it this way, it's not our style to commit horrible fouls. It's not our kind of football.

"It was a World Cup final and people were tense. Look at the rest of the tournament. I think both sides, also the Spaniards, committed terrible fouls.

"I'm on the bench and I haven't seen any replays. I'd have to see the replays. The way I saw it from the bench was very different."

Van Marwijk said the Dutch had done well to reach the final and could have won it.

He continued: "No-one expected us to be here, in the final. We came very close to a penalty shoot-out. We could even have scored through Robben.

"Whether we would have deserved that, I don't know. But it's a final. It's very disappointing. You want to win it, and we might have done. I think we performed really, really well to get this far."

Van Marwijk also defended Holland's attempt to 'win ugly' and said that had not been the plan from the start.

He added: "It was still our intention to play beautiful football, but we were facing a very good opponent.

"Spain are the best footballing country in the past few years, so we needed to have a top day to beat them.

"We did a good job tactically on them. We got into good positions at times. Both sides committed fouls. That may be regrettable for a final. It's not our style, but you play a match to win.

"It's a World Cup final, and there's a lot of emotion out there. You saw that with both teams. I'd loved to have won that match, even with not so beautiful football."

Roy Hodgson Arrived Too Late At Liverpool FC To Save Yossi Benayoun

Former Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun has welcomed the appointment of Roy Hodgson as Reds boss – but the new Chelsea signing says the switch came too late to save his own Anfield career.

In a withering attack on former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez over the weekend, Benayoun said: “It is good for Liverpool Benitez has gone, but it is too late for me. I know everyone working there will be a lot happier and Roy Hodgson is a good choice.”

The 30-year-old Israeli international says the Spanish boss was his main reason for leaving Anfield earlier this summer, when he sealed a move to Chelsea for a fee believed to be between £5.5-6m.

“I made up my mind to leave a long time ago because of Benitez,” he rapped. “He never treated me with the respect I deserved. If I played well, I never felt he gave me credit.

“When I scored, I still expected to be out of the team the next game.

“And when the fans wanted me to play, Benitez told me he couldn't understand why.

“There are many examples of him treating me badly.

“Last season, against Fulham and Lyon, the fans booed when I was subbed. They thought I was playing well but Benitez told me he was surprised they booed because I was not good enough.

“It was as if the fans' reaction worked against me. The situation got worse afterwards.

“He tried to destroy my confidence. You can't treat a player like this and expect him to be happy.

“I felt so unhappy but, out of respect to the club, I never spoke out. The players and the people at the top of the club knew how I felt.

“I don't want to speak on behalf of other players at Liverpool, but people know what happened to Albert Riera and Xabi Alonso.

“It was the same for me. Benitez tried to break me like he broke Riera.”

Benayoun made 44 appearances last season – starting 29 – and scoring nine goals.

He was also responsible for eight assists, but said: “Everyone asks me why I left Liverpool. There is only one reason – Rafa Benitez.

“I agreed to join Chelsea before Roy Hodgson was appointed Liverpool's new manager.

“It's a dream for me such a fantastic club have given me this opportunity.

“On the day before the final game of last season at Hull, Benitez pulled me to one side after training and said: ‘You will not be in the squad for this game. Thank you for your three years of service, now you can call your agent to do a deal with another club.’

“That's when Chelsea made an offer and the deal was done before Benitez left.”

Benayoun scored the third hat-trick of his Anfield career – and the first in the Premier League – against Burnley last season.

But he pinpointed his ultimately fruitless Europa League semi-final strike against Atletico Madrid as the most meaningful moment of his Reds career.

“I scored against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final,” he said. “It was a really emotional moment for me. The fans could see what it meant.

“I couldn't say at the time, but I knew this was my last season at Liverpool and I wanted a special end.

“I thought: ‘No matter how the manager is treating me, I'm showing the fans the club is in my heart.’

“I knew I had to get away from Benitez. A lot of people at Liverpool treated me well and asked me to stay, but I could not turn down such a massive club as Chelsea.”

Liverpool FC Salutes A World Cup Winner For Second Time

Liverpool saluted a World Cup winner for the second time on Sunday evening.

Fernando Torres followed in the footsteps of England’s 1966 hero Sir Roger Hunt when he helped Spain claim the most coveted prize in world football for the first time.

Anfield team-mate Pepe Reina was also in the Spanish squad, but watched from the dug-out as Torres ended the match a World Cup winner.

There was a scare for the Liverpool striker, though, as he pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury.

He lay flat out on the turf for a full minute before getting gingerly to his feet, but he was later able to ascend the Soccer City steps to collect his winner’s medal.

His experience was in stark contrast to clubmate Dirk Kuyt and Everton’s Johnny Heitinga who were in the defeated Dutch camp.

Heitinga also suffered the ignominy of being the fifth man red-carded in a World Cup final.

The Spanish, however, were celebrating and coach Vicente Del Bosque said: “The dressing room is delighted, ecstatic. But Spain, the country, deserves this triumph, this World Cup.

“This goes beyond sport. We have to celebrate. All the people have been behind us in Spain, and we’re delighted to reward them with this victory.”

Torres will now enjoy a holiday before returning to Merseyside in around three weeks when the first item on new manager Roy Hodgson’s agenda will be to convince the forward his long-term future is at Anfield.

With Chelsea and Manchester City reported to be lining up bids Hodgson said: “Fernando is a wonderful striker and I understand the fans’ concerns about his future.

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to meet him face to face for another few weeks.

“When I do meet him, I will be doing everything I possibly can to convince him that Liverpool is the place to be. 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.”