Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Liverpool Consider Chinese Takeover Bid

Liverpool could be bought by a Chinese business tycoon within days, according to a source close to the deal.

Kenny Huang, head of Hong-Kong based investment company QSL Sports Ltd, wants to take full control of the Reds, who have been up for sale since April.

"A deal has to be done before the transfer window closes [on 31 August]," a source close to Huang told BBC Sport.

"Huang has made a firm proposal. The club's board has to sanction the sale and it could be sewn up in days."

Huang has been talking for several weeks to representatives of the Royal Bank of Scotland, with the aim of taking full control of the Premier League club.

RBS are Liverpool's main creditors, owed about £237m by American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

"Kenny is the only serious bidder interested in the club and he's optimistic," added the source.

Huang is offering to clear Liverpool's debt to RBS and hand new manager Roy Hodgson funds to do business in the transfer window.

The tycoon also plans to build the club a new stadium as soon as possible.

Huang was reported to have turned down the chance to buy Liverpool in 2008 because he felt a valuation of £650m was too high. BBC Sport understands he now values the club at about £350m.

Hicks and Gillett bought the Reds in March 2007 in a deal that valued the club at £218.9m.

But the American duo have endured a difficult time at Anfield, with supporters regularly voicing their dissatisfaction at the level of debt taken on by the club after their buyout.

Last October, several hundred Liverpool fans staged a protest march against the owners ahead of their Premier League match against Manchester United.

The board's popularity with the fans disintegrated further when Hicks' son, Tom Hicks Jr., became embroiled in a row with a supporter who alleged the American had sent him abusive emails.

As a result, Hicks Jr. resigned as a director of the club and parent company Kop Holdings, leading to a restructure of the board.

Gillett and Hicks have also endured a fractious relationship with each other, which early on in their reign threatened to undermine their ownership with the former revealing the partnership had become "unworkable".

In 2008, Hicks blocked Gillett's moves to sell his 50% share to Dubai International Capital group as the pair feuded over future plans for the club.

An outright £500m takeover bid by the DIC group was also rebuffed, with Hicks hinting he would attempt an outright takeover bid himself.

They subsequently patched up their differences but took the decision less than four months ago to put the club up for sale, insisting there had been numerous expressions of interest in a buyout.

British Airways boss Martin Broughton was brought in as Liverpool chairman in April to facilitate the sale of the club and along with Hicks and Gillett is part of a five-man board at Liverpool that also includes chief executive Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre.

Why Mascherano’s Exit Could Reignite Liverpool

Javier Mascherano has been publicly angling for a way out of Liverpool for over a year, spitting in the face of the club that made him the star he is today.

Plucked from the shadows of West Ham’s substitute bench at the beginning of 2007, Mascherano went from battling for a first team spot against the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins to taking the stage in Liverpool’s starting line-up against AC Milan in a Champion’s League final in the space of five months.

This belief in his ability seems to have been eradicated from the player’s memory. With the emergence of interest from Barcelona in acquiring his services last year, Mascherano’s head seem to have been spun and any loyalty from a player in his position you would expect was thrown out the window.

This was evident in his inability to put it behind him when the move didn’t materialize and he endured a disappointing start to the start of last season citing the pursuit of Barcelona hindering his form.

There have been countless number of players down the years that have been subject of summer-long transfer speculation, stayed at their clubs and went on to have fantastic season. One great example would be Cristiano Ronaldo; publicly courted by Real Madrid almost every summer after he hit the big time only to stay with Man Utd and break record after record.

Mascherano’s transfer from Liverpool is inevitable, it could be a sweeping generalization but loyalty from Argentine players in the Premiership is something of a rarity. On the same note it could be cultural; the lure of playing for the likes of Barcelona or Inter Milan may be the pinnacle of football for players from Argentina.

Especially if you consider some of their most famous exports have played for these clubs, such as: Maradonna, Zanetti, Messi, Riquelme, Crespo, Passarella and Simeone.

What Mascherano needs to do now is come out publicly, face the fans and say ‘Yes. I want to leave Liverpool’ no more of this hiding behind agents and the like. The fans will respect him for his decision and hopefully understand his reasoning and for having the balls to do it in public.

This needs to happen as soon as possible if Liverpool is to be ready for the new season; this cannot be dragged out until the tail-end of the transfer window.

Mascherano looks to be commanding a transfer fee in the region of £20-£30m with Inter Milan his most likely suitors and linking up with former manager Rafael Benitez, the very man who said he wouldn’t sell him for £50m.

His departure would leave a hole but not one that couldn’t be filled. Standard Leige’s Steven Defour and Juventus’ Christian Poulsen have been touted as possible replacements both valued at around £10m, would leave a significant amount of change to invest in the squad.

Take Mascherano out and replace him with either of these players and the team isn’t significantly weakened, some might argue that the team would be improved as Defour and Poulsen would both offer more of a goal threat.

After a replacement has been found the club can then look to bring in more players with the remaining funds.

Left-back still needs to be taken care of with a maximum of £6m being spent in that position which will come out of the £12m transfer kitty, leaving £6m left over, add that to the change from the Mascherano transfer and the club could be looking at an additional £16m-26m to spend on new recruits.

Spent wisely, on one or two quality strikers and the club could be in possession of one of the league’s finest squads, plenty of depth in most areas and capable of competing on all front and most crucially of all, dealing with injuries.

Dare it even be said; A squad capable of winning the league this season?

Only time will tell of course but as good a player as Mascherano is sure he might save the odd game but will never be a player to win one and his departure may be the key to Liverpool gaining more game winners and the players they so desperately need.

Emiliano Insua's Move From Liverpool To Fiorentina Falls Through

Liverpool defender Emiliano Insua's move to Serie A side Fiorentina has fallen through, according to latest reports.

Sky Sports claims that the Argentine defender couldn't come to a conclusion with the Viola over personal terms and conditions. Liverpool and Fiorentina had reportedly reached an agreement and the only factor missing from the deal being finalized was the player's agreement.

It was reported last week that Insua and Fiorentina would come to an agreement this week but it now appears that things are not going according to plan.

Insua had flown to Italy from Liverpool's pre-season training camp in Austria in July but he is now believed to have rejoined the Reds in Germany for the match against Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday.

Milan Jovanovic: It's Hard To Break Into The First XI

New Liverpool signing Milan Jovanovic admits it will be difficult to break into Roy Hodgson’s starting XI in his first few months at the Merseyside club.

Jovanovic, 29, who was brought to the club by former manager Rafael Benitez on a free transfer from Standard Liege, is expecting a tough battle with the likes of Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and David Ngog all competing for a starting role at Anfield.

The Serbia international featured in the Europa League qualifier in Macedonia earlier this week and after impressing in pre-season will be hoping for a starting place for the Premier League opener against Arsenal at Anfield.

"It will be a hard competition for me to get into the starting XI (when Torres and Kuyt are back) but I'll try my best and we'll see what will happen,” Jovanovic told Goal.com after Liverpool's 1-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.

"I’m learning right now the tactical system of the team. Roy Hodgson is a great manager. He always thinks positive. He emphasizes a lot on discipline, tactics and fighting spirit."

Jovanovic, who reportedly turned down Real Madrid’s advances before his switch to Liverpool, can play as either a left winger or front man and comes to the club with an impressive goalscoring record for Liege, where he bagged 52 goals in just 114 matches.

Roy Hodgson Happy With Progress Despite Sloppy Defending In Germany

Roy Hodgson insisted Liverpool’s flying visit to Moenchengladbach was beneficial despite the day being ruined by some sloppy defending.

The Reds manager was satisfied with the efforts from a squad that was top heavy with young players and, on another day, they might have secured a credible draw.

However, a mix-up between Diego Cavalieri and Daniel Ayala meant Liverpool slipped to a 1-0 defeat but Hodgson was far from flustered after the contest at Borussia Park.

“It’s incredible to have a friendly match in front of 50,000 people,” said Hodgson.

“I thought it was quite an even game and there were not many clear-cut chances.

“Borussia, as was the case against Kaiserslautern, didn’t actually have to score a goal against us because we actually gave them one.

“It was too big a task for Academy players to perform against Borussia’s central defenders because they don’t have the strength or experience to do that yet.”

Hodgson has brought some experience back into his squad after re-signing Fabio Aurelio on Saturday night, to give him cover at left-back.

The Brazilian played the last 30 minutes of the game and is fully focused on relaunching his career at Anfield, having been released by Rafa Benitez at the end of last season.

“My aim is to help the team do better than last season,” he said. “Everything is going really well, so I think we can progress a lot. We have made some good additions and we can be very confident.”

Joe Cole Eager To Line-Up For Liverpool FC Alongside Fernando Torres

Joe Cole admitted he was pinching himself at the prospect of working with Fernando Torres – as Jamie Carragher urged the Spaniard to deliver the news all Reds want to hear.

Torres returns to work at Melwood following his three-week summer break and though boss Roy Hodgson said last week that the striker will stay, his future continues to be discussed.

But Cole, who made his Liverpool debut in the 1-0 defeat to Borussia Moenchengladbach, is only thinking about Torres pulling on a Red shirt and wants to provide with him a raft of goals.

The England international is fully paid up member of the Torres fan club and is confident that, in time, the two will be dovetailing to devastating effect.

“One of the main reasons I came to Liverpool was because I wanted to play with these great players and I’m going to work every day to make Fernando as many chances as I can,” Cole said.

“I’ve been watching the way he plays ever since he came to the club and, the season before last, he was the best striker in the world, without a shadow of a doubt.

“I love playing with strikers who play on the shoulder of the last defender. The best striker I played with at Chelsea was (Hernan) Crespo; his movement was absolutely unbelievable.

“I had a good relationship with him and hopefully I will be able to have that kind of relationship with Fernando. My job is to make chances for the front men and I can’t wait to play alongside him.”

Those sentiments are echoed by Carragher and Liverpool’s vice-captain wants to see Torres follow Steven Gerrard’s lead and publicly reaffirm his commitment.

“Stevie is our best player. For me he’s probably the best player in the history of the club, alongside Kenny (Dalglish), so it’s given everyone a massive lift,” Carragher said.

“Hopefully Fernando will do the same and we can bring one or two more in so that we head into the season with a real feelgood factor.”

Liverpool’s final match before the big kick-off against Arsenal comes on Thursday when they host FC Rabotnicki in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier.

Even though they are leading 2-0 and practically assured of a place in the play-off round, Hodgson is likely to play most of his big guns and Cole is desperate to get another run out.

“We’ve only had 10 days training and it is amazing how much you have to do to get your fitness back – you play for 11 months then have four weeks off and you’re at square one,” said Cole.

“You would think it would be easy just to pick it up. That’s why on Thursday it’s vital we play close to 90 minutes. It’s important to get into the next round but just as important to boost our fitness.”

Jamie Carragher Wants Fernando Torres To Commit To Liverpool

Jamie Carragher hopes that Fernando Torres will join Steven Gerrard and commit his future to Liverpool.

Even though he was receiving heavy interest from Real Madrid, Gerrard decided to stay with the Reds to help the club bounce back from their highly disappointing performance last season.

Chelsea and Manchester City highly interested in a huge move for Torres, who won the World Cup with Spain this summer, and will try to take advantage of the fact that the Spaniard is unhappy that Liverpool will not compete in the Champions League this year.

Carragher is hopeful that Torres will stay with the club, believing the club would be handed a massive boost if the former Atletico Madrid hitman were to follow Gerrard’s lead and stay with the Reds.

"Well, he's our best player," Carragher told www.liverpoolfc.tv.

“For me he's probably the best player in the history of the club, alongside Kenny (Dalglish), so it's obviously going to give everyone a massive lift.

"Hopefully Fernando will do the same and we can bring one or two more in so that we head into the season with a real feel-good factor."

The England international is also happy with the way that former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole has quickly settled into the Liverpool squad.

"He's not taken too long to settle in and he knows quite a lot of the lads from England.

"He's a good lad too and he's staying right in the centre of Liverpool, so a lot of the fans have seen him around.

"He loves playing here and being at Liverpool. You like people to get involved with the city and he's doing that from an early stage."

Jack Wolfskin Signs With LFC

German outdoor clothing outfitter Jack Wolfskin continues its successful campaign to increase brand recognition in the UK with its commitment to sponsor Liverpool FC in the coming season.

A contract period of three years has been agreed and the deal includes a range of rights that will enhance Jack Wolfskin's exposure.

"The decision to partner with a popular and historical club such as Liverpool was in keeping with our goals of increasing brand recognition in the UK by using the popularity of football and to attract new target groups to the outdoor clothing market. This strategy builds on the huge success that Jack Wolfskin has had on the domestic market," is how Manfred Hell, Managing Director of Jack Wolfskin GmbH & Co. KGaA, explains the expansion of the brand's sponsorship portfolio.

"For many years, sponsoring the German league has been one of the most important elements of Jack Wolfskin's brand promotion in Germany, which is why we are all the more delighted to be active with England's most successful club as part of this expansion abroad. This unique combination of tradition and success and the inimitable legend of Anfield Road would set any football fan's heart racing."

Ian Ayre, Liverpool Football Club's Commercial Director added, "We welcome Jack Wolfskin to our family of partners. They are seeking to expand their business in the UK, and our goal is to help them increase awareness of their products that are designed for high altitude and outdoor activities."