Thursday, October 28, 2010

Torres And Reina Ready To Use Secret Escape Clauses To Quit Liverpool In January

Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina are ready to quit Liverpool in January thanks to secret escape clauses in their contracts.

The Spain internationals made the get-out agreements with their Anfield bosses in the summer when they were persuaded to stay despite the departure of Spanish boss Rafa Benitez.

Now Torres and Reina, key to Roy Hodgson’s attempts to steer the club away from the relegation zone, want out after promises of major team investment went unfulfilled.

Mirror Sport understands the pair will tell the club in December they wish to leave, with Manchester City keen on £50 million Torres and Manchester United and Arsenal pursuing £20m Reina.

The double whammy will devastate Liverpool fans who hoped John W Henry’s purchase of the club would bring the glory days back to Anfield.

Instead, the American has made it clear there will be no major spending in January, and with many players unhappy with the direction the club is taking under Hodgson, Torres and Reina are ready to make a move.

Torres was talked into staying in the summer when a three man delegation flew to Madrid for secret talks with with the striker’s representatives on July 14 - three days after the World Cup Final.

It is understood Torres lawyer Margarita Pilar Garay-Bret and Jose Antonio Martin were present at the meeting.

One member of the delegation remained in Madrid to speak directly with Torres before returning to Liverpool confident the Spaniard would stay.

Torres and Spanish teammate Reina - a powerful voice in the dressing room - were both poised to quit Liverpool at the time with Chelsea having tabled a £50 million bid for Torres while Arsenal had offered £20 million for Reina.

Both were upset at the lack of investment, the club’s failure to secure Champions League status and the grim reality of their Premiership title hopes.

Torres was eventually persuaded to remain at Liverpool after three days of talks - during which the delegation described in detail plans laid out specifically by Christian Purslow, the club’s chief executive who quit last week following the sale of the club.

Torres was told the new owners - that were not identified to him - were in place and ‘days’ away from completing the Liverpool takeover.

It is claimed he was told Roy Hodgson’s appointment was a temporary measure and a big name manager was already lined up - armed with a £100 million transfer kitty offered as a ‘quick fix’ to drag the club back on terms with Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

It is understood Liverpool planned to spend £50 million in the summer with a further £50 million available in January for targets no longer chasing Champions League ambitions.

Torres and Reina reluctantly agreed to stay at Anfield - but only on condition they each had an escape clause written into their contracts.

Mirror Sport can reveal the pair are now furious at the subsequent takeover - not directly with new American owner John W Henry or New England Sports Venture - but with the management team they feel misled them over the club’s future.

Hodgson has been told there will be no marquee signings in the January transfer window leaving Torres and Reina feeling they have wasted a season.

Insiders at Anfield fear that without Champions League qualification the club will struggle to make a profit - but crucially then have nothing to offer potential big name signings.

Mirror Sport revealed on Tuesday that Reina has been targeted by Sir Alex Ferguson for a sensational switch to Manchester United - and that now could happen in January.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will resume his quest to sign the keeper and the immediate lure of Champions League football will prove a massive draw for the World Cup winner.

Torres will have his pick of clubs - even though the ‘big’ clubs very rarely make marquee signings in January because most major players are cup tied - thanks to Liverpool’s failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

Representatives of Torres and Reina did not respond to attempts to contact them yesterday.

Liverpool Block Eccleston Loan Exit

Liverpool's teenage hotshot Nathan Eccleston will have to wait for another loan move because of the current striker shortage at Anfield.

Eccleston,19, impressed on loan at League One Huddersfield during the second half of last season playing 11 games and scoring one goal.

And following two first-team appearances for Liverpool last term, the highly-rated striker has already appeared three times under new manager Roy Hodgson since the summer.

But Eccleston looked set for another loan move to gain further first-team experience in the rough-and-tumble of League One, with Plymouth Argyle reportedly favourites to land him.

But talkSPORT understands Hodgson is keen to put any temporary switch on ice, because he is currently light of options in attack.

Dirk Kuyt is unavailable until at least mid-November with an ankle injury while summer-signing Milan Jovanovic has been used mainly in midfield by Hodgson this season. That has left Fernando Torres and David Ngog as the only senior strikers at Anfield.

But it is thought that Eccleston will be made available for loan again in January should Hodgson land a new forward when the transfer window re-opens.

Liverpool Target £22m Benfica Pair

Liverpool are preparing a January move for Benfica pair Fabio Coentrao and Oscar Cardozo. Roy Hodgson is keen to bring in new additions when the transfer window reopens and has set his sights on the Lisbon based duo but knows that he may struggle to persuade both to make the move unless by the time the transfer is open they are firmly back in the hunt for a top six spot.

Fabio Coentrao was one of the few bright spots of Portugal’s World Cup campaign and the left wing-back helped Benfica to the Portuguese title last term and has been targeted by a number of Europe’s elite and the 22 year old appears to be a player Hodgson greatly admires.

The second Benfica player earmarked as a target may well be a very tricky signing secure. Paraguayan international Cardozo has been a huge success at the club since his move to the Stadium of Light in the summer of 2007. Last term the rangy striker netted an astonishing 38 goals in all competitions. including three against Liverpool in the Europa League.

Hodgson has been looking to sign a target man to play alongside Fernando Torres but failed in last ditch moves to sign Roman Pavlyuchenko and Carlton Cole in August. He may see the tall 27 year old as an ideal foil for Fernando Torres.

The pair would set the Merseyside club back around £20-22m to secure and the Anfield boss has reportedly been promised a significant injection of funds to improve his decidedly average squad.

Bayern Munich Ready To Offload Liverpool Target Gomez

Bayern Munich have launched a £40m bid to rival Manchester City for Edin Dzeko.

The German giants have struggled domestically this season and want to freshen up their attack by splashing out on the Wolfsburg striker.

Sportsmail revealed City are determined to land their long-term target in January but they now face a fight with Bayern, who believe they have the pulling power and finances to better City.

Manchester United are also admirers of Dzeko, 24, but are reluctant to spend such a vast sum.

Bayern, though, can offset their spending by offloading Liverpool target Mario Gomez.

Diego Forlan Keen On January Move To Liverpool Or Tottenham

Liverpool and Tottenham are set to battle for Atletico Madrid star Diego Forlan in January after the striker revealed he would be interested in moving to either club. UK has learned that the Uruguayan striker is targeting a move to England after setting his heart on a return to the Premier League when the transfer window re-opens.

It is understood Atletico are reluctant to sell the former Manchester United flop but both Liverpool and Spurs have been made aware of the €17 million-rated striker's availability.

New England Sports Ventures, the new owners of Liverpool, will back manager Roy Hodgson in January with funds to strengthen the squad and the former Fulham boss has made signing a striker to partner Fernando Torres his priority.

Tottenham are also in the market for a top class striker as their four frontmen – Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane – have scored just two Premier League goals between them this season. UK understands Spurs made a summer enquiry for Forlan but were put off by the €27m asking price.

Chairman Daniel Levy felt the price tag offered no value for a 31-year-old but he could be €11.5m cheaper in January after privately indicating he wants to leave the Spanish capital.

While Spurs are determined to make a marquee signing in January, NESV are believed to be hesitant about splashing large sums on older players and want to focus on bringing young talent to Anfield.

Both clubs could struggle to meet Forlan’s wage demands of around €115,000-a-week but will be heartened that one of the world’s most lethal strikers has publicly flirted with a return to England.

"Everybody says things, that maybe you don't want to go back," said Forlan earlier this month. "The time I had in England was great and I enjoyed it and if I had the chance to go back I would be really happy."

Forlan’s stock has never been higher after he starred at the World Cup in South Africa, scoring five goals and being awarded the Golden Ball for the best player in the tournament. This week he was named on the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or.

His performances attracted interested from clubs across Europe including Manchester City and Inter.

Hodgson has suffered at the hands of Forlan’s eye for goal as he struck twice in Atletico’s 2-1 win over Fulham in the Europa League final last season.

Forlan has twice won the Pichichi Trophy for being the top scorer in the Primera Division and would take the pressure off Torres, who has felt the strain since coming in for criticism in South Africa.

The striker wants to prove himself in England following a nightmare two-year spell in Manchester after his £6.9m transfer from Argentine side Independiente in January 2002.

He scored just 10 goals in 63 league appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side before signing for Villarreal in August 2004.

Martin Skrtel Admits Focus 'Has To Be All About Winning'

Liverpool's Slovakian centre-back Martin Skrtel has called on his teammates to carry on their winning form into the rest of the season, starting with the Premier League clash with Bolton Wanderers this coming weekend.

Liverpool had suffered a bad run of form from the start of the season as manager Roy Hodgson found the pressure and the expectation mounting with his side sat in the relegation zone. But, following the side's solid 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, Skrtel believes that Liverpool's season will start to begin in earnest.

"A team like Liverpool has to be all about winning and I hope that we will carry it on from Blackburn on to the Bolton game," Skrtel told the Liverpool Echo.

The Slovakian defender also cited the problems with the club's ownership as a reason for the poor performances on the pitch but indicated that the new ownership of NESV will help drive the club forward.

"I think our performances will get better and better now. In the past few months there has been some trouble around the club [with the owners] and now we know the situation is done," he noted.

"That means it is all about the players now. We have got to carry on and work hard on the pitch for the club. We have got to show our quality and our heart and keep going so we can improve."

Kuyt And Johnson Injury News

Dirk Kuyt could be in contention for an early return from injury against Chelsea a week on Sunday, Roy Hodgson today revealed. reported on October 15 that Kuyt would be out for a month with an ankle injury sustained on international duty.

However, the Dutchman has been making a speedy recovery at Melwood.

Hodgson told us: "Dirk Kuyt is making incredible progress. He shouldn't be as far advanced as he is with his ankle but he's looking good. I don't think he'll be fit for the weekend but maybe the weekend after."

Meanwhile, Glen Johnson is a doubt for Sunday's trip to Bolton with a muscle injury which has seen him miss our last three fixtures.

"With Glen Johnson it's one of those things that will be touch and go for the weekend," said Hodgson. "He's making strides but he's not 100 per cent."

In other injury news, Ryan Babel and Fabio Aurelio both featured in a reserve friendly with Huddersfield on Tuesday - though the former was forced off after a knock to the ribs.

Hospital scans have since discovered no serious damage.

Hodgson said: "Ryan got a nasty knock in the friendly match with Huddersfield, which is unfortunate. A player landed on him and his knee went into Ryan's ribs. Fortunately nothing is broken or cracked. That's good news but it's still a painful blow.

"It's a question of how quickly the pain subsides and whether he can tolerate it. It's not a major injury but it might take a couple of days.

"Fabio's fine. We wanted to give him some game time because, unfortunately, after the Trabzonspor game he played he missed a lot of football again. The sports science team were building him up and he did well against Napoli when he came on for 20 minutes.

"He played for an hour yesterday, so he's definitely making strides."

Elsewhere, Hodgson confirmed Daniel Agger was still some way short of full fitness.

Pepe Saluted By German Reds

Pepe Reina was named Player of the Year for 2009-2010 by the German Reds at their third annual meeting in Liverpool.

Supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Moenchengladbach have built up a great relationship since the famous meeting of the two teams in the 1977 European Cup final in Rome.

This year's event was once again held at the award winning Ship and Mitre Public House in Liverpool City Centre on Saturday, October 23, and German Reds branch secretary Graham Agg declared the evening "an outstanding success".

It is a unique gathering between supporters of two great teams and Agg is extremely proud of the friendly relations that exist and led to the formation of the German Reds.

Highlight of the night was the awards and members named Reina as their Player of the Year.

Meanwhile, David Ngog was also recognized for the contribution he made last campaign when he was named German Reds Young Player of the Season 2009-10.

After sampling one or two of the fine real ales the Ship and Mitre have on offer, the German Reds members were entertained during the evening by three guest speakers.

First to speak to the assembled audience was lecturer and Chorley based author Chris Shaw who has just published a fantastic new book titled "Our Liverpool" which explains all about Liverpool FC's worldwide fan base. The book is now available to buy in all good book shops and retail outlets.

Next to speak was German national Tommy Keiner, official committee member of the Spirit of Shankly Supporters Union.

Last but by no means least to address the German Reds members was John Mooney, spokesman for Jamie Carragher's "23 Foundation".

John spoke about the aims and aspirations of the "23 Foundation" and presented the German Reds LFC Official Supporter's Club (AIB) with signed shirts after Agg and his members made a substantial donation to the Foundation.

The committee of the German Reds would like to thank the guest speakers for giving up their time to address our members and also thank the Ship and Mitre staff for their help in hosting the event and making it such an outstanding success.

Thanks must also go to all the members who travelled to Liverpool from all parts of Germany and also to the members who travelled from as far afield as Austria and Switzerland.