Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Premier League Season Preview: Liverpool

Next into the Dragon’s Den are Tom and George and they’re looking for £800million for a 100 per cent stake in Liverpool Football Club.

It was the best club in the world but is laden with debt and now can boast only to be the seventh best in England.

The Europa League beckons, the famous Anfield home is earmarked for demolition and Mascherano wants to leave.

Roy Hodgson performed miracles at Fulham and might need to do the same here but he will find expectations and egos scaled up.

Erm, like your pitch but I’m out. Kenny Huang?

Boss’s toughest job
Where to start. Hodgson must prioritise the League and stop the rot. Keeping hold of key players this summer was a good start. Great things are expected of a mediocre squad.

Hiccup on horizon
The Hicks-Gillett saga must surely end soon. Without fresh investment, the club could be the biggest yet to go bust, which would be less a hiccup, more a projectile vomit.

The numbers game
1 - The number of times Liverpool have faced a top-four side (this time Arsenal) on the first day since 2003
20 - How many times the Reds hit the woodwork last season, more than any other side in the Premier League

Alternative sponsor
History Channel - Them were the days. Twenty years and counting.

In – Jonjo Shelvey (Charlton, £1.7m), Milan Jovanovic (Standard, free), Joe Cole (Chelsea, free, right), Danny Wilson (Rangers, £2m)
Out – Albert Riera (Olympiakos, £4.2m), Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea, £6m), Philipp Degen (Stuttgart, loan), David Martin (MK Dons, free), Mikel San Jose (Bilbao, free)

Keep an eye out for
Raheem Sterling Age: 15 Position: Attacking midfielder. Signed from QPR earlier in the year where he was playing Under 18 football at 14. England Under 16 is blessed with abundant pace and skill and can play on either wing or through the middle. Recently made debut in a friendly against Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Fan’s view
Dave Stevens: We need to get back the morale and confidence we lost last season. With the new manager and a new owner I see no reason why we can’t compete at the top.

Liverpool FC Want Two Bids On Table By End Of The Week

Liverpool FC chairman Martin Broughton wants to have at least two firm bids for the club on the table by the end of the week.

Several names have been linked in recent days with a takeover of the club, with Chinese tycoon Kenny Huang and Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi the most prominent figures. But no formal offers have yet been tabled.

Now Mr. Broughton wants the interested parties to prove they have the funds to buy the club.

He hopes to have two or three detailed bids on the table by the end of next week.

He could then enter detailed negotiations with the bidders, who could in turn begin a detailed examination of Liverpool’s finances.

It comes amid warnings that Liverpool FC could effectively become a state-owned enterprise unless a deal is agreed within weeks. State-owned Royal Bank of Scotland could take over the club if a sale is not completed by October 6 – the date the bank’s £237m loan to the club expires.

The leading potential bidder for Liverpool FC is currently a consortium led by Chinese businessman Kenny Huang.

The group said it wanted to pay off Liverpool’s debts, invest in the playing squad, build a new stadium and launch a push to promote the club in Asia.

It has not said how much its bid would be worth, though it is believed to be talking about an offer of £325m – well below the £600m-plus valuation Liverpool FC’s unpopular American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have put on the club.

The group, which includes Mr. Huang’s business partner Guang Yang and American sports consultant Marc Ganis, also denied speculation one of its key funders is the China Investment Corporation – the investment arm of the Chinese government.

Mr. Ganis said: “We haven’t submitted a formal proposal, but we submitted the broad parameters of what a proposal would look like to see if it would be welcomed, and it was.

“What is not one of our goals is the enrichment of the existing owners.

“If we submit a proposal and it is accepted, it would be focused on the future and not the past.”

Rival bidder Mr. Kirdi is understood to be favoured by Hicks and Gillett because a bid from him would leave them with a higher pay-off.

He leads a bid including investors from the Middle East and Canada.

Other potential bidders are reported to include the Kuwaiti Al Kharafi family and private equity company the Rhone Group. Rhone made a bid to acquire a 40% stake in the club earlier this year that was dismissed by Hicks and Gillett.

Leading supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly – ShareLiverpoolFC (SOS-SL) has warned that the club should not simply be sold to the highest bidder.

The 50,000 strong group says Broughton should ensure the club is not burdened with debt and has enough resources to compete at the highest level.

SOS-SL also urged RBS to “select the most suitable investor consortium”.

Liverpool FC’s £237m debt to RBS is due to be repaid on October 6 and if a sale has not been completed by then the bank could choose to take control of the club.

RBS is 83% owned by the taxpayer, meaning the club would effectively be nationalized.

That puts more pressure on Broughton to agree a deal quickly.

Last week Liverpool FC company secretary Ian Silvester said: “From what I understand, and it’s all I can say, the urgency is there due to the pressure from the banks, so I would anticipate that something will be happening within the next four to six weeks or so.”

Kenny Huang Will Make Formal Offer For Liverpool

Kenny Huang will step up his bid for control of Liverpool this week by making a formal offer of about £400million.

Chinese entrepreneur Huang has had positive discussions with Anfield officials and Barclays Capital, who are assisting in the sale of the club, over the weekend and will look to speed up the process.

Huang has already outlined the broad basis of his bid, but plans to formally present a legally binding document showing proof of funding in the next few days.

Liverpool have not set a deadline for bids and chairman Martin Broughton is adamant he will not be rushed into making a decision in an attempt to avoid repeating the mistakes that saw George Gillett and Tom Hicks allowed to buy the club in 2007.

Hicks and Gillett are opposed to Huang’s bid as it does not guarantee them any profit after three years at the helm and have instead been dealing with Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi.

It is claimed that Kirdi, who lives in Canada, is willing to pay £600m for Liverpool, which is more in line with the valuation.

Yet the fact that Kirdi’s potential offer is so high means it is being treated with scepticism by Anfield insiders. He too will be have to put up or shut up in the coming days.

Glen Johnson: Liverpool Aiming For Champions League Return

Right-back Glen Johnson is confident of a good season for Liverpool under new manager Roy Hodgson and says that finishing in the top four is the goal.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Johnson said, “It definitely feels like a new start.

"We are hoping it will be better this year - everybody wants to get back into the top four. Fourth is the benchmark.”

“Roy is putting his thoughts to the team and knows what he wants.

“He concentrates on the organization and how we defend.”

Commenting on the retention of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Johnson said that it is a big boost to the Reds, commenting, “Liverpool stayed strong and we have kept our best players. That’s a statement in itself."

The addition of Joe Cole has also excited the England international, “I’ve known Coley for years and it’s nice to have another Cockney voice around the place.

"He opens defences and I think he will be a great player for Liverpool."

Liverpool Show Interest In Hammers Striker Cole

Liverpool have made enquires to sign West Ham's Carlton Cole, but have been put off by a valuation in excess of £10 million.

West Ham centre-forward Cole has rejected a move to Stoke City, but he would be open to the possibility of moving to Anfield this summer.

Soccernet understands Tony Pulis was prepared to blow his entire Stoke budget on signing the striker, who on Saturday was named in Fabio Capello's latest England squad, only to be rejected.

However, if a big club came in with a bid that equalled or topped Stoke's, then the Hammers could well sell their star striker. An insider told Soccernet: "Carlton would like a move to Liverpool, but they are short on funds as everyone knows."

West Ham has brought five new players to the club already this summer and are now in the process of reviewing potential sales.

Stoke's offer for Cole would have brought them close to the £12 million valuation West Ham have now placed on Cole, though at the start of the summer they thought he might even fetch £15 million.

Liverpool have intimated they will make a knock out bid for Cole, if they can get their act together in time with a takeover that releases funds for new players.

Liverpool might even go to the Hammers £15m valuation, in which case their offer would be accepted. Much depends on a takeover going through before the transfer window closes.

Liverpool Consider Move for £8m Barcelona Playmaker Alexander Hleb

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is rumoured to be interested in making a move for Barcelona bench warmer Alexander Hleb. The Nou Camp attacker has been told he has no future at the Nou Camp and has been linked with an array of European sides who still believe the Belarus international has the ability to make it at the highest level.

The Anfield manager is looking for additions to his squad which do not break the bank and the former Arsenal man could be purchased for around £8m and is an adaptable Barca man who could offer the Merseyside a new attacking threat.

Having brought in Milan Jovanovic, Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Cole thus far this summer Hodgson is reportedly still keen to add one or two new players before the transfer window shuts and Hleb’s success in the Premier League should help persuade any doubters of his worth.

The 29 year old had three personally successful seasons at Arsenal before he chose to leave for Barcelona, a move that doesn’t appear to have paid off with the former Stuttgart man being loaned back to the Bundesliga side last term.

Peter Crouch To Be Sold To Fund Tottenham Move For Nice Striker Loic Remy

Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp is contemplating allowing Peter Crouch to re-join Liverpool in order to raise funds for a move for Nice's Loic Remy.

According to the Daily Mail, Redknapp is willing to let Crouch leave, which has alerted Liverpool.

Remy, who has been linked with Premier League sides all summer, appears to favour a move to Spurs as moves to Liverpool, West Ham United and Stoke City have all thus far failed to materialise.

"A move to Spurs would be interesting. Stoke is not the move that I want. Nice are in real need of money and adapt the price to help sell me." said the 23 year-old.

The French international striker rejected a move to Stoke earlier in the week.

Milan Relishing Vidic Test

New Liverpool striker Milan Jovanovic can not wait to lock horns with compatriot Nemanja Vidic this term.

The Serbia international consulted the Manchester United defender before he moved to Anfield this summer as a free agent after his Standard Liege deal ran out.

He is now relishing the opportunity to test himself against his friend, insisting Vidic will get no favours.

Jovanovic told the Daily Star Sunday: "Yes, I spoke with Vidic (about Liverpool). He respects Liverpool very much.

"I came here to do my best and I'm looking forward to being his opponent.

"If I have the chance to play him, I hope we will fight!

"He is a good friend of mime and we will see a lot of each other.

"I have already experienced playing against English clubs, both Everton and Arsenal, and I know what to expect."

Redknapp: Watch Out For Joe

Jamie Redknapp has backed Joe Cole to have a massive impact on the Barclays Premier League next season.

The former Reds midfielder selected our new boy when the Daily Mail asked for his 'Top 10 to Watch' in 2010-11.

Redknapp said: "Joe has made a great career move by joining Liverpool and it should rejuvenate his career so he can be taken seriously again.

"Anfield fans love to see someone open up a defence with a run or a pass and too often it has only been Torres or Gerrard who could do it.

"Too often, Rafa Benitez bought average players. Roy Hodgson knows Joe's anything but average."