Saturday, October 02, 2010

Carragher: We Need To Help Torres

Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher insists there is nothing wrong with Fernando Torres but reckons the rest of the team has to improve if they are to help their star striker.

The Spain frontman failed to score for the seventh time in eight appearances this season in the goalless Europa League draw at FC Utrecht on Thursday night.

It has led to more questions about the 26-year-old’s form and confidence but Carragher said the problem was not with Torres but the service he was receiving. The forward fed on scraps for most of the match in the Netherlands and of the three half-chances which did fall his way one was ballooned over with his weaker left foot, one was well saved at the near post and the third saw him try to round goalkeeper Michel Vorm but take heavy touch and run the ball out of play.

Manager Roy Hodgson opted to field a midfield which had two defensive players in Lucas Leiva and Christian Poulsen with Joe Cole and Raul Meireles, who operate better centrally, either side of them.

As a result there was little created out wide and very few through-balls for the striker to run onto.

Carragher said tactics have to be modified in European away games but accepted that the players have to do more, especially at home to Blackpool in the Barclays Premier League tomorrow, to get the best out of Torres.

"I think Fernando had one chance and the keeper made a good save but we are not creating as much as we would like,’’ Carragher said.

"But obviously at home to Blackpool we want to create a lot more chances for Fernando.

"We are not a one-man show. Torres is not always going to get the ball and beat four or five players to score but history shows if we provide him with chances you are looking at getting 25 to 30 goals a season.

"If you give him chances he will score goals – at the moment we are not providing enough, but we are only seven or eight games into the season.

"I don’t think there is anything to worry about with Torres. It is up to ourselves to do more to help him."

Meanwhile Ian Holloway has backed Liverpool to cheer up their fans by overcoming their current problems – but hopes it will be his Blackpool side providing the entertainment at Anfield tomorrow.

"They have got all sorts of problems off the field which doesn’t help any football club and they need to get resolved for them to be the force that they need to be," Holloway said of this weekend’s opponents. "It is not that they want to be – they need to be, for their supporters, and I have got no doubt that will be the case in the future.

"But we have got to do our utmost to not let it be the case on Sunday.’’

£30M Dzeko Key To Liverpool & Manchester City Transfer Plans

Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko is set to be a key figure in the January transfer window plans of both Liverpool and Manchester City. The Bosnian star has once again been in prolific form in the Bundesliga with five goals in six league appearances for Steve McClaren’s new side. However, depending on the outcome of Roberto Mancini’s quest to sign Fernando Torres, Dzeko could be on his way to either Eastlands or Anfield.

Manchester City hasn’t hidden the fact they are after another top class striker after making approaches for Fernando Torres in the summer. Mancini still eyes the Spaniard as his number one striking target as he ideally would like a striker that would not need time to bed into the Premier League. However, if Roy Hodgson refuses to sell the £60m rated star, then the Citizens are ready to turn their considerable financial attention towards Dzeko.

Hodgson is a big admirer of the 6 ft 3 striker and he would be a big name replacement that would appease the Liverpool fans if he were to sell Torres to one of the club’s rivals. More importantly he would be available at between £25m to £30m which is considerably less than Manchester City are willing to pay for Torres.

The Liverpool number 9 has been a shadow of his former self this season with just one goal in seven appearances and Hodgson has doubts at the player’s ability to hold-up play up top which he prefers his main striker to do. Bobby Zamora was a key element of the Fulham side under Hodgson and Dzeko is more suited to that style with his physique and awareness. The fact that Torres is also highly injury-prone is also a factor with Liverpool aware that a poor season overall will see the player’s fee decrease rapidly. Despite the Spaniard’s poor showing, Mancini remains keen on bringing him to Eastlands and Manchester City are keen to bring another trophy signing to the club as a statement of their intent. Dzeko is second choice on the list.

It’s not surprising the cream of Europe have been eyeing Dzeko as his record in Germany is outstanding. He has scored 61 league goals in 100 appearances (85 starts) including 26 goals in 29 league starts in 2008/09 and 22 in 33 league starts in 2009/10 in what was a disappointing season for the club. No wonder Manchester City and Liverpool are casting admiring glances at the Bundesliga ace.

When Wolfsburg won the title in 2009, Dzeko’s goals were key. He ended the season in a rich vein of form after netting 23 goals in his last 17 domestic appearances including five braces and two hat-tricks. This talent marks the two-footed, quick Bosnian as the ideal replacement for Torres at Liverpool or the best alternative to the Spaniard at Manchester City. It will all depend on the Spanish international’s desire to stay at Anfield and whether Mancini will pay the huge £60m fee the Reds will demand.

Jovanovic Hints At Reds Exit

Liverpool new boy Milan Jovanovic has admitted he is considering leaving the club just two months into the season.

Jovanovic joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Standard Liege in the summer in a deal already agreed by former Reds boss Rafa Benitez.

However, the Serbian international has struggled to hold down a regular place in Roy Hodgson's side and he is not happy with the current situation.

"I am starting to find the time dragging on," Jovanovic is quoted as saying by The Sun.

"I'm a fighter but if things do not sort themselves out I will change club - even though it is too soon to think about it yet.

"I'm on form, I'm working hard and I have started eight competitive games.

"But I've not been in the starting XI for the last few matches - and I've not even come on as a sub."

Jovanovic admits he is missing his former club Standard Liege as he is struggling to adapt to the rigours of English football

He continued: "I have to adapt to a new system over here. I have to defend all the time.

"Just three or four teams in the Premier league play attractive football. The others set great store by commitment, discipline and defending.

"I miss Standard and the city of Liege."

Don't Rush Liverpool Takeover For Short-Term Gain, Says Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher said yesterday that the Liverpool board must not jeopardize the club's long‑term future by rushing the takeover process simply to appease disillusioned members of the Anfield dressing room.

Liverpool's poor start under Roy Hodgson has come against the familiar backdrop of uncertainty at ownership level, with Tom Hicks and George Gillett having to repay loans of at least £237m to the Royal Bank of Scotland before 15 October and fellow directors – including the chairman, Martin Broughton, the managing director, Christian Purslow, and the commercial director, Ian Ayre – resistant to further refinancing by either of the American co-owners.

Hicks is continuing to search for a financial rescue package that would enable him to retain control at Anfield beyond 15 October while Broughton has gone almost six months without securing a buyer willing to meet the Americans' asking price. But despite the inevitable impact on the Liverpool squad, and doubts over whether the club can compete for major honours while the saga drags on, Carragher believes the board cannot allow players' ambitions to influence a decision on the ownership.

The Liverpool vice-captain said: "We went away in Europe to a difficult place like Utrecht, got a valuable point and people are still asking questions and disappointed because they expect Liverpool to win. Obviously the stuff off the pitch is not really helping us and maybe it's putting even more focus on the team and giving us even less time to settle down together. I don't think it helps much on the pitch.

"The ownership situation is not something that is going to be sorted out quickly, you cannot put a deadline or timescale on it. It is a massive decision for the club. It's not about the players who are here now. We are looking 20 or 30 years down the line. It's got nothing to do with keeping players who are here now happy. It's about the future of our club, for our children. There is also the stadium to think about. It is a decision that we have to get right."

Fernando Torres, who has cut an isolated and frustrated figure at times this season, and Steven Gerrard were both persuaded to remain with Liverpool by Hodgson and Purslow this summer, although no suitable offers arrived for the pair. Liverpool, who host Blackpool at Anfield tomorrow, have made a faltering start under the former Fulham manager but Carragher believes Hodgson deserves the same period of grace given to his predecessors Rafael Benítez and Gérard Houllier.

"We're only seven or eight games into a new regime if you like, and I have been here before with new managers," the defender said. "The first season has been a difficult one in terms of getting new ideas across and really I don't see why people think this will be any different.

"It's not an instant fix, it's difficult in the Premier League, it's about results and, if you're not winning, there's always going to be pressure. But people have short memories. They forget that when Rafa Benítez first came, when Gérard Houllier first came, their first seasons were very difficult. We had players there from the last regime and a different manager. It was not their team, they made new signings and it takes a long time. People really should allow the manager some time to put his own imprint on the team, to change things around and gel things together.

"I think Roy should be given the same time as Rafa and Gérard were given. We have got new players, the manager is trying new ideas. Every manager has his own ideas and we have to get used to them. We have only just started with a new manager. It's hardly the time to be judged."

Hodgson has appeared increasingly disgruntled in public recently but Carragher says there is no sign of pressure internally, although he accepts restrictions in the transfer market have had an effect. "Roy is fine in the dressing room. He might get angry with some of your questions but he has probably had a lot worse, at Inter Milan for instance," Carragher said. "I am sure he's used to the pressure and the spotlight. He's not really that different from the previous manager. I don't think there's that much difference in football. The main thing is probably signing as good a player as possible - I think that is what makes the real difference and that's no secret."

Xabi Alonso Liverpool FC Return May Not Be So Far-Fetched

Real Madrid’s start to life under Jose Mourinho has been relatively inauspicious and word reaches Blood Red that all might not be well within the squad at the Bernabeu.

During a recent Champions League game, Mourinho was heard constantly barking out orders at Xabi Alonso and the rare occasions he squandered possession were greeted with exclamation of ‘Xabi! Xabi! Xabi!’ from the technical area.

Moving to Real Madrid was a dream for Alonso.

But if, for some reason, he fell out of favour, wouldn’t it be a dream to see him in a Red shirt once again?

Alonso returning to Liverpool in January would, in so many ways, be a dream come true.

Here’s hoping a rich investor can be found immediately to increase the possibility of it happening from none to slim.

Liverpool FC Facing Five October Debt Day Scenarios

With Liverpool FC continuing to struggle on the pitch, the battle for control off it is seen by many fans as vital to a revival in fortunes.

This month is regarded as crucial in settling the long-term ownership of the club with the expiry date for the Royal Bank of Scotland’s £237m loan to Liverpool’s American co-owners possibly less than a fortnight away.

The majority of fans hope an inability to pay off that loan will force Tom Hicks and George Gillett out of Anfield, allowing a new owner to take the club forward, hopefully with that crippling debt removed.

But there is a fear Tom Hicks could even raise extra finance to take over the club on a solo basis, regardless of the sever reservations of the rest of the LFC board.

Today, we examine the five potential scenarios which could soon unfold at Anfield. You can also vote on which of them you want to happen, and which is most likely, by clicking here.

Some finance experts envisage that the October deadline could pass without any firm resolution about the Reds’ future established.

James Dow, a partner in the northwest accountancy firm Dow Schofield Watts who has advised Barcelona and Celtic, described Liverpool’s predicament as a “stand-off.”

And he predicted it may take many more months for the ownership to be clarified, possibly dragging the uncertainty even until summer, 2011.

Mr Dow told the ECHO: “If Hicks can find finance, I don’t think any lack of support from the board will make a difference.

“But for now, a deal isn’t happening as there’s a stand-off going on.

“Liverpool are in a no-man’s land.

“But ultimately, this could drag on and on, and not even be resolved until next summer.”

Royal Bank of Scotland Call In The Debt

The Royal Bank of Scotland call in their £237m debt, and effectively repossess Liverpool FC – in much the same way a bank would repossess your house if you defaulted on your mortgage.

This, however, would likely be a temporary arrangement, with RBS maintaining the current English board structure and Hicks and Gillett removed from the picture.

Observers speculate it would give the bank time to quickly find a more realistic buyer for the Anfield club, drastically bringing down the sale price from the lofty £500m-£600m currently being touted by Hicks.

"Interested parties" are likely to "show their hand" once figures of around £300m, thought to be a more realistic estimation for Liverpool, are proposed.

The Americans would doubtless launch their own legal challenge if RBS took over running of Liverpool.

Kop Holdings Goes Into Administration

Although unlikely, the bank could technically place Kop Holdings, Liverpool FC’s parent company, into administration.

But the ECHO understands the Premier League would not view that move as Liverpool Football Club itself being declared insolvent.

Regular discussions have been taking place between Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton and league chief executive Richard Scudamore.

The Reds have been seeking clarification on what would be the potential scenario if RBS took temporary charge at Anfield.

Sources have indicated a nine-point deduction, threatened to football clubs when they go bust like Portsmouth last season, would not materialise.

League chiefs crucially consider the debt to rest squarely on the shoulders of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, co-chairman of the club and owners of Kop Football Holdings.

Managing director Christian Purslow has repeatedly said that there is no prospect of Liverpool Football Club going into administration.

Speaking last week he said: "When we sell the business the debt will be reduced or go away which will make us the most profitable club in the Premier League. Liverpool is not going bust."

As Liverpool has proved they have steady revenues – TV rights money, ticket sales, sponsorship – the club would avoid incurring any penalty.

Although Steve Horner, of campaign group Kop Faithful, said: "I am sure that the majority of Liverpool fans would settle for a nine-point deduction if it meant that Hicks and Gillett would never darken our door again."

New Buyer Comes Forward

A bidder puts forward a package to buy Liverpool which is considered acceptable by the Reds board before October’s refinancing deadline.

With the structure of the board crucially changed during the summer, Broughton, Purslow and Ayre could now out-vote the Americans.

The only formal offer made for Liverpool came from the Rhone Group in March when they proposed to pay £110m for a 70% stake in the club, making the Americans passive shareholders.

In many Anfield quarters it was considered a "solid" proposal to pay down a portion of the debt and make transfer funds available.

That bid was dismissed by Hicks and Gillett, and tellingly, the make-up of the board changed after the event, allowing the English board members to effectively out-vote the owners. A proposal from Chinese mogul Kenny Huang and QSL Sports company was withdrawn in August.

It was said to be for £325m, but the ECHO understands it failed to impress the Anfield board who considered it incomplete and not supported by genuine finance, although it is hoped it may be resurrected.

With consortiums, possibly just two currently in dialogue with Liverpool, biding their time before the club price falls, a bid before deadline remains improbable.

The Americans themselves had lent £145m to Kop Football Holdings. But at the insistence of RBS in one of the previous refinancing rounds, the Americans converted the loans into equity.

Add the £145m to the £237m owed to the banks and around £30m of penalty charges, and the Americans must sell for more than £410m to merely break even.


Royal Bank of Scotland agrees to extend the refinancing deadline to give Tom Hicks time to establish new sources of funding (effectively debt).

Liverpool FC officials view this step as the "worst possible scenario" for the club and Christian Purslow has consistently said would be opposed by the board

This extension could be anything, starting from just a couple of weeks to allow the club to be sold to a bidder needing more time to complete due diligence before a purchase.

It could be longer if RBS finds the prospect of taking over or forcing administration to be unpalatable or too legally complex.

The bank, however, could potentially place caveats on any extension, for example that the Americans are forced to accept lower offers than the figures they are currently seeking.

With the prospect of legal challenges, RBS may have little choice but to extend temporary finances.

Hicks Pays Off The Debt

Tom Hicks manages to raise the appropriate funds to pay off the Royal Bank of Scotland debt and retains ownership of the club.

The English members on Liverpool’s board – managing director Christian Purslow, chairman Martin Broughton and commercial director Ian Ayre – would almost certainly lodge objections against such a move if any new debt was secured against the assets of Liverpool FC.

They have already consulted solicitors regarding blocking a new financing package from the Texan.

But how successful such a challenge would be remains untested as some law experts told the ECHO covering the RBS debt would give him “carte blanche” to rip up the existing board structure and appoint new members of his choice.

Privately, Liverpool view Hicks’ attempts to persuade a private equity company to shoulder the £237m arrears as highly unlikely.

The easiest way for Hicks to retain control of the club is for him to raise the finance himself, without securing it against the club’s assets.

This has sparked fears about his intentions in creating a new investment company for which he is currently trying to attract investors.

According to papers registered with the USA’s Securities and Exchange Commission, Hicks Acquisition Company II is seeking to raise $230m (£145m).

Shares are being offered for $10 in the “newly organised blank check company formed for the purpose of effecting a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganisation or similar business combination with one or more businesses.”

The initial public offering papers also warn prospective investors that “investing in our securities involves a high degree of risk”.

The company is registered at the same address as Hicks Holdings – from where Hicks conducts his business affairs.

The underwriters for the deal are Citi Bank and Deutsche Bank Securities, with the company expected to start trading on Thursday, October 7.

Reds Ace Eyes China Prize

Frederic Vervisch produced a solid performance to secure a place on the third row of the grid in qualifying at the Ordos International Circuit on Saturday morning.

The Reds racer, who has enjoyed a promising start to life behind the wheel of Liverpool FC's Superleague Formula car, made it into the quarter-finals after finishing third in Group A.

However, the Belgian lost out to Bordeaux in the last eight shoot-out and will now start the first race of round 10 in China alongside Robert Doornbos of Corinthians on Sunday morning (11am start time).