Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Liverpool To Stay Clear Of Big-Money Signings In January Transfer Window

Roy Hodgson will not target any marquee signings in the January transfer window as Liverpool's new owner, New England Sports Ventures, looks to put a stop to the profligate spending which it believes has hampered the club's progress in recent years.

NESV is believed to have been concerned by the millions of pounds haemorrhaged on transfer fees and wages by the club in recent years as it examined Liverpool's finances as part of the due diligence process carried out before the £300 million purchase of the Anfield side was completed.

Under Rafael Benítez, Liverpool spent more than £230 million in six years on fees alone – though much of that was recouped in sales – while the purchases of the likes of Raul Meireles, Christian Poulsen, Brad Jones and Paul Konchesky totalled £25 million in Hodgson's first summer at the club.

Though NESV's takeover freed up £36 million a year of revenue that had previously been used to service Liverpool's £282 million debts to be reinvested into the club, and though its offer did make provision for an immediate injection of funds into the playing staff, the American consortium has made it clear it expects value for money, both from fees and salaries.

"We have to be smart," John W Henry, NESV's principal backer, who will assume a place on Liverpool's board, said after the deal was completed.

"We have to be more efficient. When we spend a dollar it has to be wisely. We cannot afford player contracts that do not make long-term sense. We have to be smart, bold, aggressive. It's a great challenge."

Henry will take an active role in football matters at Anfield, assessing both Hodgson's suggested transfer targets and setting budgets for contract renegotiations of players already at the club.

The 61 year-old has already expressed his concern at the wages earned by older players on long-term, high-value contracts.

NESV's approach – applied with great success at the Boston Red Sox – is likely to rule Liverpool out of the glamour signings which many fans hoped would follow the eviction of previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Instead, the club's recent scouting activity suggests they intend to follow the Arsenal model – for which NESV has been keen to stress its admiration – or, perhaps more pertinently, institute on an informal basis the transfer policy employed at Manchester United, where premium fees are only paid for younger players with resale potential.

"At the Boston Red Sox, we invested a lot in management and the scouting system," said NESV chairman Tom Werner.

"We believe the foundation of any good sports club has to be the experience, valuation and understanding of scouting, so we will invest in that as well."

Those players assessed by Hodgson and his scouting team in recent weeks include Steven Defour, the Standard Liège captain and a long-term target for the Liverpool manager.

At 22, and around £12 million, Defour represents minimum risk for maximum reward.

Likewise Ibrahim Afellay, the PSV Eindhoven winger Liverpool whom have assessed on several occasions.

Already a Dutch international at 24 and heralded for several years as one of the brightest prospects in Europe, Afellay would fall within Liverpool's budget, while his wage demands would remain comparatively modest.

More expensive would be Eden Hazard, Defour's Belgian international team-mate, currently with Lille.

The 19 year-old has attracted interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea and United, and could cost as much as £18 million.

However, Liverpool believe they can tempt the player – who is likely to be advised by his agent to seek a move to a club where he will play regular first-team football – and Kenny Dalglish was watching when the French side played Levski Sofia in the Europa League last Thursday.

Hodgson will not be allowed to add any players, though, without first trimming the squad. Liverpool boast the fourth-highest wage bill in the Premier League – standing at £107 million in 2009, according to football finance analysts Deloitte – but find themselves marooned in 18th place in the table, having finished seventh in Benítez's last campaign.

NESV does not blame Hodgson for that poor performance so far this season, but rather interprets it as evidence that many of the squad do not warrant either their reputations or their earnings.

Henry's experience as a futures trader, as well as his noted obsession with both sporting and financial statistics, put him in a perfect position to analyze such information.

He is acutely aware that figures suggest that, with almost unerring accuracy, a club's league position is defined by their wage bill. That Liverpool's key statistics are so discordant suggests the money is not being spent wisely.

He is also a devotee of Sabermetrics, the statistical analysis of the value of baseball players, pioneered by Bill James and which led Henry to appoint Theo Epstein as a general manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2002 at the age of 28.

Epstein applied James's principles – which are designed to help poorer teams identify value-for-money acquisitions – to lead the franchise to two World Series with a squad largely composed of bargain purchases.

Initial impressions of his time at Liverpool suggest he retains his faith in the method.

Liverpool Want Benfica Star Fabio Coentrao

According to a report in Record, Europa League hopefuls Liverpool are considering making a move for highly rated wing-back Fabio Coentrao, currently under contract with reigning Portuguese champions Benfica.

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is reportedly unhappy with the performances of new signing Paul Konchesky and is therefore looking for a new wing-back. The 63-year-old gaffer supposedly sees Coentrao as the perfect replacement.

Coentrao joined Benfica from Rio Ave in the summer of 2007 and has developed into a key player at the Aguias in the past two seasons. The 22-year-old also impressed with his good performances for Portugal at the 2010 World Cup.

The left-back's current contract with Benfica runs until 2016, but Coentrao could leave the Lisbon giants if a club matches his €30 million release clause.

Bayern Munich and Milan are also believed to be keeping tabs on the versatile youngster.

Liverpool Join Race For PSV Star Ibrahim Afellay

Versatile PSV midfielder Ibrahim Afellay is continually being linked with a move away from the Eredivisie giants and clubs such as Inter, Atletico Madrid and Manchester United are all believed to be eager to sign the Dutch international.

However, a report in Voetbal International now claims that the aforementioned teams face stiff competition from beleaguered Premier League side Liverpool in the race for the creative midfielder's services.

Liverpool are desperate to add some more creativity to their squad in the January transfer window and manager Roy Hodgson supposedly sees the 24-year-old Afellay as the perfect addition to his team.

Afellay is a product of the PSV youth academy and has developed into the absolute star player of the Eindhoven titans in the past couple of years.

The attacking midfielder's current contract runs until the summer of 2011 and Afellay is reluctant to sign a new deal. Therefore, PSV are eager to cash in on their star player in the January transfer window.

Tranmere Join Loan Race For Liverpool Starlet

Tranmere have joined the chase to take highly-rated Liverpool midfielder Victor Palsson on loan.

The 19-year-old is the captain of the reserve team at Anfield but could be about to make a temporary move away to experience League One action.

The versatile Icelander can play in the centre of defence or midfield but a lack of first-team opportunities means he is looking to get competitive football elsewhere.

The teenager joined Liverpool on a two-and-a-half-year deal in 2009 from Danish outfit AGF Aarhus and has represented his country at youth levels.

Peterborough have also been linked with a move for Palsson but Tranmere will be hoping the prospect of staying on Merseyside will convince the teenager to join them instead.

Babel Injured In Reserves Loss

Ryan Babel has handed Liverpool an injury scare after he was substituted during the reserves' 2-1 friendly defeat at Huddersfield Town in front of the watching Sammy Lee on Tuesday afternoon.

The Dutch international played as a central striker and went close to scoring on several occasions, but he was forced off the field 15 minutes from time after taking a knock to his ribs.

Liverpool's No.19 was clearly in pain when he left the pitch and was later taken to hospital for an X-ray to assess the full extent of the injury.

On a brighter note, Fabio Aurelio enjoyed a 60-minute outing at left back as he looks to gain match fitness and he looked sharp throughout.

Nathan Eccleston had given Liverpool an early lead in Yorkshire, but two goals from two corners proved to be Liverpool's undoing as Huddersfield's second string earned the victory.

The home side almost scored straight from the kick-off when a well worked move saw Chris Mavinga make a goal saving clearance in his own penalty area.

Liverpool responded and Eccleston gave John McMahon's side the perfect start when he cut inside from the right, glided past his marker and produced a superb curled finish.

Eccleston enjoyed a loan spell at the Galpharm Stadium last year and he clearly endeared himself to the Town supporters who gave him a nice reception.

With this being half-term there were a lot of youngsters in the crowd and Daniel Pacheco gave them something to cheer with some great play down the left wing, which resulted in his teasing cross being cleared.

Babel had a great chance to make it 2-0 after seven minutes when he cut inside from the left only to see his curled effort well saved by the experienced Nick Colgan.

Aiden Chipperdale went close for the home side with a crisp low drive that flew just wide, and at other end Eccleston was denied by Colgan after a superb Tom Ince pass had sent him clear.

Huddersfield, watched by their assistant manager and Kop legend Terry McDermott, kept plugging away and equalized after 24 minutes.

Brad Jones made an excellent save to deny Joe Garner but from the resulting corner the Australian 'keeper was caught in no man's land when he flapped at the cross and Jamie McCombe steered the ball home for 1-1.

Liverpool should have made it 2-1 in first half stoppage time when Spearing's excellent pass sent Babel clean through, but his weak effort was blocked by Colgan.

McMahon made a switch for the second half when exciting Spanish starlet Suso came on for Ince.

Babel had two great chances to score three minutes after the restart. First he miscued when the ball fell to him invitingly on the edge of the box, and a minute later Aurelio's pinpoint cross from the left found him unmarked but his header was kept out by Colgan. The Dutch international followed up the stopper's parry but again the Huddersfield 'keeper won the personal duel and his third effort was cleared.

The Reds almost fell behind when a brilliant long range strike from Rhodes was deflected onto the bar. However, their sighs of relief were short-lived as the hosts took the lead from the resulting corner when Nathan Clarke headed home at the near post.

Spearing went close to an equalizer after a good run saw him cut into the box but his effort was kept out by Colgan.

With Babel leaving the field 15 minutes from time Pacheco switched to his favoured central role but despite his best efforts, the Spaniard was unable to inspire a comeback.

Liverpool FC Owners Given Deadline For New Stadium

Liverpool fans hoping for a shiny new stadium could get an answer soon - the club's new owners have been given six months to decide what they want to do.

The council's given New England Sports Ventures (NESV) the deadline to try and speed up plans for a new ground.

A new stadium in Anfield would help to improve the area for the people who live there.

It's not yet known whether new owner John Henry plans to build a brand new stadium or renovate the old one.

The council and NESV met on Sunday to talk about stadium plans. They're due to meet again in November.

American company NESV officially took over Liverpool FC from previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett earlier this month.

Hicks and Gillett promised a new stadium when they bought the club in 2007 - but that never happened, to the disappointment of many fans.

Reds' China Build Well Underway

Earlier this month we told you how Liverpool Football Club would leave a lasting legacy in China by sponsoring the build of a new 'Habitat for Humanity' home for a low income family in Shanghai.

With the build now underway, LFC's Regeneration Director Andrea Titterington reports from Shanghai on how Liverpool Football Club are helping to change the lives of one family forever.

On a hot, sunny morning Eric Arndt, the Director for HFH China, met the Liverpool Volunteers for the 70 km journey out of Shanghai to Pinghu. Emerging from the densely populated city on a motorway bordered by new industrial premises, the dominant feature towering above the fields was the elevated track of the Maglev train that travels at over 450 kms per hour.

We entered Pinghu past factories making luggage and clothes which make the village more prosperous than many areas in China. We were quickly driving on small, dirt tracks through rice fields to reach the site of the derelict dwelling that is to be replaced by a new home for Ding Amao and his mother, Chen Gengen. Family houses around are new build, three-storey homes designed for 3 generations, many with solar panels. However, the walls of the family's house were made in 1975 with only rice porridge holding the bricks together.

Team Liverpool's first task was to knock the remaining wall down and clear the site - brick by brick, by hand. The first bit was easy. The latter took most of the day!

We must have seemed a strange bunch in our Habitat for Humanity/Liverpool Football Club tee shirts (which the Evertonians among us wore despite grave misgivings)! But it was soon clear that we were there to work very hard - stopping only for water and a wonderful lunch sourced locally.

By the end of the day, two trenches had been dug - ready for the contractor to start the brick foundations. We had also formed a close-knit team and received a very warm welcome from the family and their neighbours. We even made Mrs. Chen double up with laughter as we attempted collectively to say 'thank you' and 'good-bye' in Chinese.

In four weeks or so the house should have been completed by the contractor. We will keep you informed of progress.