Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sahara Group Drop Out Of Race To Take Over Liverpool

The Sahara Group have dropped out of the running to complete a takeover of Liverpool after expressing initial interest earlier in the year.

The conglomerate - fronted by Subrata Roy - were understood to be one of six parties eager to oust American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks this summer. Speaking to Bloomberg, however, spokesman Abhijit Sarkar declared that no deal would be completed by the Indian company after the club asked prospective buyers to submit information of how a move would be financed.

He said: "The deal for acquisition of the Liverpool Football Club was in our consideration in the recent past.

"However, after considering all related factors, we have decided not to go ahead with it, at least for the time being."

Yahya Kirdi Liverpool Takeover To Be Completed By Premier League Kick Off

Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi expects to conclude his takeover of Liverpool before their Premier League campaign kicks off this weekend, according to Sky Sports News.

The Anfield outfit has been put up for sale after American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks ran up huge debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland. Chinese sports entrepeneur Kenny Huang was believed to be the front runner to gain control of the club, but a spokesman for the Middle Eastern millionaire has stated a deal will be agreed with all parties within the next few days.

Kirdi - who is based in Canada - is fronting a consortium of North American and Middle Eastern investors. He is understood to have promised to pay for a new stadium and clear all debt.

A meeting with the American owners, Kirdi's group, chairman Martin Broughton and RBS is expected within the next few days. The ex-Syria international is believed to want a deal in place before Arsenal travel to Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

Elsewhere, Kenny Huang's rival consortium has approached the 'Spirit of Shankly' supporters group to arrange a face to face meeting. A statement on their website read: "We cautiously welcomed the approach and restated our position, made clear recently that we are keen to engage with those charged with selling the club and any credible potential purchasers.

"We recognize that the intentions of any potential purchasers need to be thoroughly examined prior to any purchase of the club and involvement and discussion with supporters is the key to that.

"However, the club, their agents and any potential purchasers need to recognize where the supporters' organizations came from - they were born out of the betrayal by the current owners of promises they made when they purchased the Club and their action and behaviour afterwards."

Carra In The Dark Over Takeover

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher insists he and his team-mates have not been told anything with regards to the ongoing takeover talk at Anfield.

The Reds are preparing for a Premier League opener against Arsenal on Sunday, which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1, but the club are also busy off the field.

American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks appear to be on the verge of selling their control, with the likes of Chinese tycoon Kenny Huang and former Syria international Yahya Kirdi all being linked with the Merseysiders.

But Carragher is adamant that Liverpool's players are in the dark about the possibly of a takeover and that they are only concentrating on their on-field commitments.

"We haven't been told anything to be honest - it is to do with the people upstairs and I don't think we should get too involved," said the centre-back, who, manager Roy Hodgson has confirmed, is set to be offered a new contract once the ownership saga is concluded.

"Things like that our out of our hands. We just have to concentrate on doing our thing on the pitch."

Carragher is getting used to the new regime at Anfield under Hodgson and admits the club's first aim, having finished a disappointing seventh last season, is to get back into the top four.

And having under-performed so badly, recording their worst league placing for more than a decade, the 32-year-old is confident the Reds will bounce back in the coming campaign.

"With us being out of the Champions League, the main aim is to get back in the top four," he told talkSPORT.

"If we do that we will have done well with the competition from the likes of Manchester City.

"But if we are up there things might change and we can look further.

"Tottenham did really well last season (finishing fourth) but you don't know how Champions League football will affect them.

"Some clubs will drop back and some will go forward - hopefully we are one of the ones going forward."

Agent: Mascherano Keen On Barca

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano would "love" to join Barcelona this summer, according to his Spanish representative.

Mascherano, 26, was strongly linked with a move to Barca last year, but no move was agreed and, having asked to leave Liverpool upon his return from the World Cup, he was expected to join Inter this summer.

However, Inter have indicated that they need to sell before they can fund a move for Mascherano and, with Barca potentially in the market for a replacement for Yaya Toure, agent Horacio Zandonadi hopes a deal can be agreed.

"The player and all of us would love him to be at the club," he told COMRadio, a Catalan station. "The numbers are close to half what Barca were being asked to pay for Fabregas.

"He has not renewed his contract and they promised that this year they would help him leave. We're talking about a much easier situation than last year."

Massimo Moratti Admits Inter Lack The Financial Resources To Sign Javier Mascherano

Inter president Massimo Moratti has admitted it is unlikely that the Champions League holders will sign Argentina international Javier Mascherano from English titans Liverpool this summer.

The Nerazzurri are continually being linked with a move for the holding midfielder, but Moratti has stated that Inter lack the financial resources to meet Liverpool's hefty demands.

"At this moment, we're unable to make any transfers of this magnitude," said Moratti in reference to Liverpool's hefty asking price in an interview with Corriere dello Sport. "We can't make any big transfers until we've sold someone."

Brazilian defender Maicon was continually being linked with a move to Real Madrid in the past couple of months, but Moratti confirmed earlier on Monday that the full-back is going nowhere.

However, striker Mario Balotelli appears to be on his way out of the club and could be sold to Manchester City later this week.

It's not yet certain though whether Inter will re-ignite their interest in the 26-year-old Mascherano once they have cashed in on Balotelli.

Daniel Agger Backs Christian Poulsen Transfer

Liverpool's Daniel Agger has backed potential new signing Christian Poulsen to replace outgoing midfielder Javier Mascherano.

30-year-old Poulsen is on the verge of completing a £6million transfer to Anfield this week, and is being touted as the natural replacement for Mascherano.

Mascherano is expected to leave the club this summer, though favourites Inter Milan have reportedly backed out after Liverpool slapped a £35m price tag on the Argentinian.

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has backed any potential transfer, telling the Sun: 'Christian would be a perfect addition to most of the big clubs in Europe, so he will certainly fit in here.

'He is a top player and will make us stronger. We need to have big signings so we can compete and he is one of those players.

'Christian will improve the team. But we need more improvements if we want to be at the top of the league this season.

'Maybe he will find the pace of here a bit of a culture shock. He will have to get used to the extra high tempo.

'He has played in Italy, Spain and Germany and done very well, so I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be a success with Liverpool.

'We have Mascherano but it looks like he is leaving so there is a gap there.'

Defender Ready To Challenge

Danny Wilson admits the past year has surpassed even his wildest expectations but acknowledges there is still plenty of work ahead if he's to establish himself at Anfield.

An incredible debut season in football saw the 18-year-old help Rangers to a domestic treble and earn himself the SFA and Football Writers' Young Player of the Year awards in the process before Liverpool swooped to snap him up on a three-year deal last month.

And though understandably ecstatic at the path his career has taken so far, Wilson is well aware breaking into the Reds' first team could prove to be his biggest test of all.

"There's being patient and there's sitting back and accepting it," he said. "I want to push myself into the first team at Liverpool as quickly as I can but it's the manager's decision.

"If you ask any player if they feel they're ready to play, they'll say yes and I'm no different. If the manager feels I need more time, I'll accept it and work even harder to get into the side.

"My aim for the season is to get games under my belt and be there or thereabouts. I'm in with the first-team squad right now and I plan to stay there. The training is different but it's something I'm enjoying. There's a lot of defensive focus on it and that will benefit me - I'm only 18 and need to keep learning."

He added: "As a kid, you always have dreams of playing in England for a big club but that's just your imagination. For it to happen in 10 months after my debut is incredible.

"It's more than I hoped for but I don't think I've made it yet. It's important to stay grounded - my family would never allow me to get ahead of myself.

"I want to keep progressing and be the best player I can be. I'll only do that by working hard and not becoming an idiot."

With the likes of Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Sotirios Kyrgiakos already at Anfield, Wilson accepts racking up the appearances may prove easier said than done, particularly in his maiden campaign in the Barclays Premier League.

However, a move to Anfield was one the centre-back simply could not turn down.

"I would have been happy to stay at Rangers had Liverpool not made an offer," said Wilson. "But once I knew they were interested, the thoughts going through my head were that it was a chance I wanted to take.

"It was an offer I felt I couldn't turn down. Rangers are a massive club but so are Liverpool. They're a top club and the offer to go there doesn't come up every day. I didn't want to think in a few years' time, 'I could have gone there'. I wanted to challenge myself and not worry that it might not happen for me."

Wilson is one of several players to have upped roots and left Ibrox this summer, but he's predicting a successful 2010-11 term for Walter Smith's men.

He said: "They've lost a few players but they'll still be the strongest team in Scotland next season - I have no doubts about that.

"That's simply because of Walter's influence and the players they've managed to keep. I still think they can see off Celtic this season."

Carragher: I've Made It Easier For Players To Retire

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has revealed that it is easier for players to retire from international football because of the likes of himself, Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer starting the trend, however, the reds stalwart hopes that international retirement does not become a regular pastime.

Carragher quit international football after years of being left out of England starting elevens with Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Matthew Upson and Ledley King being picked ahead of the Liverpool centre-back, leading to Carragher’s retirement from international football to focus on club commitments.

This week Blackburn Rover’s keeper Paul Robinson and Manchester United’s Wes Brown retired from England duty, following in the footsteps of the likes of Carragher, Scholes, and Shearer.

Carragher told talkSPORT: “I think myself and Paul Scholes (retired from England) in quite a short space of time together and I think Alan Shearer was a few years before that and it was something that wasn’t really heard of or done.” He said.

“We all had our own reasons but even though I’ve done it myself it’s difficult for me to criticise other people and I don’t want do that. But I do hope that it’s not something that happens all the time now because I do think it would take something away from international football.

“I just think that now it’s maybe a little easier to do it because of what myself and Paul Scholes and maybe Alan Shearer done. Maybe we took the flak at the time because it was something that wasn’t that common in the game, people weren’t too happy about it and I totally understood that view.” He continued.

"But I think now we’ve probably made it easier for people and I’m just hopeful it’s not something that is happening on a regular basis now with lots of players.”

Liverpool FC Need To Avoid A Slow Start This Season

It takes around 90 days to build up, but the optimism of a football fan can just as easily be dashed in the space of 90 minutes these days.

A summer spent dreaming of glory can quickly turn into a season spent fearing the worst; such is the “need it now” nature of the modern game.

Accordingly, much of the build-up to the eagerly-awaited Premier League kick-off will centre on the need for sides to make a good/solid/strong/flying start to the campaign. Liverpool will entertain Arsenal at Anfield on August 15 hoping to hit the ground running under new manager Roy Hodgson.

But just how important is it to do so?

Last season, the opening weekend brought with it talk of a title-challenge, but ended in little more than a rude awakening.

Liverpool went down 2-1 at Tottenham – the side who would eventually elbow the Reds out of the top-four. A poor pre-season was allowed to leak into the new campaign; the Reds’ flat, lifeless display at White Hart Lane was an alarming precursor to a season which never got going, and ended with them languishing in seventh place.

Aston Villa would leave Anfield with victory a fortnight later and Rafa Benitez’s side – despite a six-game winning streak in September – never truly recovered.

The strange thing is Liverpool under Benitez traditionally enjoyed reasonable starts, often struggling more throughout late autumn and winter. The Spurs reverse was the only time in the Spaniard’s six years on Merseyside that the Reds lost their opening league fixture.

In 2007 they began the season with a run of 14 games undefeated, before a 3-1 reverse at Reading in early December triggered a collapse. They would record just two league victories between December 2 and February 2.

A year later, it was a similar tale. Benitez’s side went ten games unbeaten until a defeat at struggling Tottenham on November 1, but would see their title challenge unravel with a string of costly draws – especially at Anfield. They ended the season four points behind Manchester United – who had begun the campaign slowly, with just one win in their opening four games.

Indeed, strong starts seem to be something of a Liverpool forte; last season’s opening day defeat was only the fourth time the Reds have been beaten on the opening weekend in the last 34 years. Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish and Roy Evans were all unbeaten in opening day fixtures. But there is little guarantee that a strong start can be maintained.

In 1990/91 for example, Dalglish guided his reigning league champions to a record-breaking eight straight wins to open the season. Liverpool’s first defeat came on December 2, in their 15th game.

Ominously, however, that defeat came at Arsenal, who would go on to overhaul the Reds in the second half of the season, winning the title by seven points. Dalglish would resign in February of that season, and Liverpool, of course, has not won the league since.

Three years later, Dalglish’s replacement – Graeme Souness – would also depart mid-season, despite a strong start in which the Reds won four of their opening five games; hinting at a title challenge before imploding as autumn turned to winter. If a bad start should not be treated as a disaster, then equally a good one should not be met with too much euphoria.

Obviously the alternative scenario is that a strong start enables a side to gain momentum and confidence, which can see them through to a successful season. Liverpool in 1987/88 equalled a top-flight record (then set by Leeds in 1973/74 but since beaten by Arsenal in 2003/04) of 29 games unbeaten at the start of a season. Ultimately it would be, of all teams, Everton who would bring an end to that run, but Liverpool would have the last laugh as they romped to the title, despite a late wobble.

How Roy Hodgson would love a similar start to his reign at Anfield. The former Fulham boss has been dealt a tricky set of fixtures to begin with; after hosting Arsenal in the opening weekend’s standout clash, Liverpool must travel to free-spending Manchester City the following week, and face big games with Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea in their opening ten matches.

Hodgson would do well to take heart from the early results of some of the Reds’ greatest ever managers; Bill Shankly, for example, lost two of his first three fixtures – and heavily, too – after taking over from Phil Taylor in December 1959, whilst Liverpool started so slowly under Kenny Dalglish in 1985/86 that Alan Hansen claimed the side was the worst he’d played in. They went on to win the Double that season.

It will give Hodgson heart to note that history shows a sluggish start need not be fatal to a side’s chances. After all, you get nothing for being top of the table in August.