Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New England Sports Ventures Begin Assimilation Of Liverpool Football Club

Joe Januszewski, the man who reportedly acted as a catalyst for New England Sports Ventures' (NESV) takeover of Liverpool Football Club after he sent an email to John W Henry, is being tipped to take up a senior role within the Liverpool board room.

"It was as a fan, really, but also as a businessman who follows sport. I told him that we should take a look at this opportunity," said Januszewski, a senior-vice president at NESV and a passionate Liverpool supporter.

Januszewski's first Liverpool game was a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in January 2005 however, crucially to his kop credentials, he was present for Liverpool's European Cup victory in Istanbul.

“People walk into my office at Fenway Park and, OK, I work for the Boston Red Sox but there is another club that wears red which has a pretty solid representation on my wall. There's souvenirs, ticket stubs, all the rest. People look at me and say, ‘What's the deal?’ I tell them baseball is my business but Liverpool FC is my passion.”

Januszewski's new position at Liverpool is, as yet, unknown however he is expected to be joined by an experienced soccer administrator.

Reina Blames Torres Form On Lack Of Service

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina has defended Fernando Torres' form, blaming the lack of quality service from team-mates for the striker's return of just two goals this season.

Torres hit only his second goal of the season in Sunday's 2-1 win over Blackburn and has looked out of sorts mentally and physically for much of the season but Reina said the basic problem was that his team-mates had not been doing the Spanish forward justice.

"All strikers are about scoring goals, scoring winning goals, and I think he can build on that strike from now on,'' Reina said. "It is more or less what is happening to David Villa (who has scored just twice in the Primera Division) at Barcelona now. It is about time because they are great players but when strikers are not scoring fingers are pointed at them - it is not fair.

"I think we were not assisting him rightly in the last few weeks and he could do nothing at all. He can win you a game easily but we have to feed him in, that is the point.''

Reina believes things have started to improve, and in the first 70 minutes against Rovers the team was almost unrecognizable in its attacking intent from the one which performed so badly against Blackpool on their previous appearance at Anfield. Reina thinks playing a side like Blackburn helped them in their approach, but he knows it is something they now have to carry forward into Sunday's game at Bolton.

"It was an important game, we knew that, and that is why we started with a high tempo,'' he added.”We knew it was going to be a more physical game against Blackburn and that is why you are even more focused on the second ball and partly because of that we were making sure we were covering those long balls. That is probably why we were a bit more focused but this is the way we have to be every single game.

"The supporters were great once again because we were showing a little bit of the old spirit and we have to keep believing in ourselves because we are not such a bad team. If we play like that and deliver this kind of performance there will be more victories than defeats. It is all about confidence, when you are not winning games it is difficult to be out there and competitive.

"We just have to win a couple of games in a row and get ourselves back on a better track and keep that philosophy that we have had for the last few seasons. We are not a bad team but we have to show it week in, week out. We have just to keep winning games and not give it up.''

Reina is hopeful the club will be able to make great strides forward following the £300million takeover by New England Sports Ventures (NESV), owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise.

"It was an important step and it has been a great moment for the club,'' he said.”Let's see if we can build up from now and they (NESV) can help us a little bit in the winter transfer window. They are very committed to the club and, from what I understand, they have been doing really good stuff in Boston so we have to be optimistic now.''

Liverpool Boss Sets Sights On £9m Rated In Form Bundesliga Midfielder

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is lining up a January swoop for Borussia Dortmund’s highly rated in form youngster Nuri Sahin. The Turkish international has been in superb form this season helping his side to second place in the Bundesliga and appears to be a player that the Anfield manager is interested in bringing in to boost the club’s midfield.

Now in his fifth season in the Dortmund first team Sahin has been in sparkling form this term with his box to box performances attracting a lot of interest including from German giants Bayern Munich who appear to have a healthy interest in the young Turk.

Hodgson is hoping to have a decent injection of transfer funds in January and he may well deem a move for the talented midfielder as a realistic purchase for his struggling side. When Sahin first burst onto the scene in Germany he was considered one of the hottest prospects in the Bundesliga and is the youngest player to compete in the league aged just 16.

After a couple of consistent, but unspectacular seasons, he was loaned out for a season with Feyenoord where he did well and now the £9m rated 22 year old appears to be fulfilling his early promise.

Benitez Set To Battle Liverpool For Mainz Ace

Rafael Benitez is ready to battle his old club Liverpool by making a move for Hungarian striker Adam Szalai.

The Inter Milan manager's reign at Anfield was brought to an unceremonious end this summer and Benitez has since criticized the Liverpool board following his exit to Italy.

And now he's ready to rival his former club for Mainz ace Szalai, who has been in fine form in the Bundesliga.

The 22-year-old has been watched by Liverpool and Inter in recent weeks and the scouts have seen him score five goals in his past four games.

Hodgson is desperate to add to his squad in January and has targeted a striker to lessen the burden on Fernando Torres - but he faces a fight with Benitez to land Szalai.

The Hungarian's contract at Mainz expires in 2013 and the German club values him at around £4m.

Fergie Plots £12m Reina Raid

Sir Alex Ferguson wants Pepe Reina to be Manchester United’s new No.1.

United boss Ferguson is at the head of a queue of clubs who believe Liverpool star Reina may become available because of unrest at Anfield.

The Spain international is to hold talks with Liverpool’s new owners NESV after becoming concerned about the club’s long-term direction.

He could be the first man to move between Liverpool and their bitter rivals in either direction since Phil Chisnall left Old Trafford in 1964.

With Liverpool struggling under Roy Hodgson, American tycoon John W Henry faces a battle to convince top stars like Reina, Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson that the future is bright.

Ferguson has been assured that money will be made available for big signings after the Glazer family promised Wayne Rooney they will compete in the transfer market, and Reina would set them back £12million.

Liverpool do not want to sell, and especially not to their fierce rivals. But there is a growing feeling that Reina may be available.

The Spaniard is believed to be unhappy that Hodgson is using 68-year-old former keeper Mike Kelly as part of his coaching team and he has been putting Reina through some training routines.

Ferguson’s current No.1, Edwin van der Sar, turns 40 on Friday.

Ex-Real Madrid Coach Manuel Pellegrini Says Liverpool Contacted Him

Former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini says he has been contacted by Liverpool regarding the possibility of replacing Roy Hodgson as manager.

"I had lots of offers, some that I like. Ideally, I would like to find a club in December," Pellegrini told the Spanish press.

"Yes, Liverpool contacted me. It is a great club with many Spanish players who I already know, and it is my intention to work in the Premier League."

A poor start to the season has meant Hodgson's future has been the subject of much speculation since the takeover by NESV, even though Liverpool's new owners have backed him publicly.

Liverpool claimed only their second win of the season on Sunday against Blackburn, and lie in 18th place in the Premier League.

LFC's New Owners Are Told To Speed Up Their New Ground

Liverpool FC's new owners have been urged to make a swift decision on its plans to replace the club's current stadium

It is still unclear whether John Henry and his NESV group will build a new stadium or revamp the old one.

City council leader Joe Anderson met NESV'S Tom Werner on Sunday and explained the urgency felt by local residents in Anfield.

Mr. Anderson said the talks "went really well."

The council wants the club to decide quickly on whether to build a new, redeveloped or shared stadium.

Council and club officials are due to have further talks in two weeks time.

Residents living in the derelict streets surrounding Anfield Road have been waiting years for the regeneration.

Huge billboards declaring the area a "regeneration zone" were erected some time ago, but many residents feel the only sign of a revamp so far has been the installation of a plastic cow in Walton Breck Road.

John Page owns a barber shop on the same road, which cuts through the heart of Anfield.

He said: "Luckily enough I'm old and I'm nearing the end of it all anyway. But it is just so sad, everything is just going and disappearing, I'm just watching it all disappear."

Houses are boarded up, pubs can no longer afford to open during daylight hours because of the lack of business, shops are closing and many are moving out of the area.

A house in Anfield can cost as little as £31,000 compared to the average price of a property in Liverpool being £132,000.

When Tom Hicks and George Gillett took the club over in 2007, there had been promises of a new £60m stadium which would lead to much of the area being regenerated which would attract new shopping plazas, restaurants and cafes.

None of this has happened. Now, with new owners, the area once again seems on the brink of something new.

However, Mr. Anderson has pledged to revamp the area whether the owners build a new stadium or not.

"The regeneration can go ahead without the involvement of Liverpool but we need to get to the bottom of what the owners are planning to do," he said.

"We want to reassure the people of Anfield that from the council's point of view we will not be sitting idly back waiting.

"We are not going to allow what happened with Hicks and Gillett who wanted to wait until the economic situation in the country to change."

He indicated between £20m and £30m would be spent to revamp homes and build new ones. If Liverpool FC get involved, he said, many more millions could be spent on the area.

The Inner Circle Behind Liverpool's Takeover

No fans would have recognized him.

None would have known to thank him.

But as Philip Hall took his seat in the Anfield Directors' Box for the match against Blackburn, he allowed himself a smile of satisfaction.

As the man who brokered NESV's dramatic takeover of Liverpool, the Senior Partner of American investment bank Inner Circle Sports knows better than most what went in to the club's change of ownership. For months, Hall worked tirelessly, desperately scouring the world for somebody who would buy the club from Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Now, finally, he could reflect on the fruits of his labour.

For NESV chairman Tom Werner and the other new Anfield directors David Ginsberg and Michael Gordon, the match against Blackburn was their first experience of Anfield since the deal was completed 10 days ago, and for Hall it was extra special too.

"It felt like the end of a journey for me," the Harvard MBA graduate says in his soft Manhattan accent.

"Anfield is always a very special place to take in a match. It was good to see familiar faces and most importantly for the club to get three points. Gerry Marsden's rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone in person was particularly moving. Tom and the other attendees from NESV were in awe of the atmosphere. They spent a few minutes with manager Roy Hodgson after the match to congratulate him on the victory and to get his take on how it went."

Back in 2007 it was Inner Circle themselves who had introduced Hicks and Gillett to Liverpool as the men to carry the club forward. Some would suggest that Hall and his colleagues had a responsibility to help bring an end to the controversial regime they had helped put in place in the first place. But, with the threat of a $1.6bn lawsuit hanging over the club and the takeover, Hall is understandably diplomatic and sympathetic towards the former owners.

"George and Tom were well-intentioned and wanted the best for club but a number of events conspired to not allow them to follow through" says Hall.

"The relationship between both themselves and with former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was difficult."

Inner Circle are effectively a football finance 'dating service', bringing clubs and potential investors together, not only in the US but increasingly in Europe. Having overseen the sale of Liverpool to Hicks and Gillett, the company then focused on arranging Ellis Short's takeover of Sunderland and began work on finding a new buyer for Sheffield Wednesday. But even though Hall stopped working for Hicks and Gillett in 2008, he maintained key relationships with senior figures at Anfield, constantly looking out for someone with the money to buy the club.

"I kept working talking and working behind the scenes" he commented. "I always hoped this day would come. It's a huge sense of accomplishment. I had a good relationship with NESV and three months ago I started talking to them seriously about the possibility of a deal. Three weeks ago we came to London to agree a purchase with the club's board. A lot of people played key roles, including the team from Shearman & Sterling (the corporate lawyers advising NESV), but then obviously things got delayed."

Hicks and Gillett's opposition to the £300m sale to NESV meant that the purchase Hall had brokered went down to the wire as the drawn-out dispute was dragged through courtrooms in London and Dallas.

"It was very difficult, hearing about all this back in the US" he says.

"I was waking up at 2am to read reports in the media. It was an emotional rollercoaster but in the end it was a great result. This was the culmination of two years hard work, of countless meetings and phone calls. It tugs at you a little bit because I knew how much Liverpool fans wanted this to be done."

Hall, whose interest in European football stems originally from his Leeds-born father, understands the reservations of Liverpool fans who are wary of another American, introduced and advised by the same company that brought about the previous regime, but he insists Henry and his associates can be trusted.

"This is not some fantasy. NESV is a very strong business which underpins their investment. NESV are fiercely competitive, they want to win and understand the frustration of Liverpool's fans. They will do the right thing.

"They won't be a Sheikh Mansour or Roman Abramovich, they'll take a more holistic approach, applying sound business judgement on all aspects of the club, including what to do about a stadium. It's not going to be easy but they're here for the long-haul. They're not interested in a 'quick flip' sale in a year or two. They want to turn this around, right the ship and win. Debt will not be an issue, they do not believe in building brands with leverage."

Hall believes the new owners will give Hodgson time and listen and take a long-term perspective as they seek to usher in a revival at Anfield - but should Liverpool supporters expect an influx of signings in January?

"They should be patient" says Hall.

"The summer is when there may be a surge, rather than the new year. These are well-intentioned individuals but above all they are winners. Look at what they've done at the Boston Red Sox. They are intensely competitive."

With Liverpool, Manchester United, Sunderland and Aston Villa all owned by Americans, and Stanley Kroenke hovering just short of the shareholding level which will force him to make an offer for all other Arsenal shares, the influence of the United States over the Premier League is growing. So does Hall believe the trend will continue?

"The challenge is that only a few of the Premier League clubs have the global brands and international resonance that US investors are looking for.

"However, the game in England is still 10 to 15 years behind the US when it comes to the commercialization of sports so the Premier League remains an intriguing proposition."

According to Hall, in Liverpool NESV saw a similar "unpolished diamond" that the Boston Red Sox represented when they were bought in 2002. Two world titles, a renovated stadium and a reinvigorated business swiftly followed. If the same can be achieved at Anfield, Liverpool supporters might spare a thought for Hall and the 'inner circle' behind John W Henry's arrival.