Tuesday, November 09, 2010

John W Henry Determined To Keep Fernando Torres And Pepe Reina

Liverpool’s new owner, New England Sports Ventures, is determined to prove its ambitions match those of its most valuable assets, Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina, to keep them at Anfield.

Though NESV has held initial talks with both Spanish internationals — as well as a number of other senior players — to discuss both their contractual status and any issues they have with the club, it knows that both goalkeeper and striker will need to see tangible evidence of change if they are to remain on Merseyside beyond next summer.

Clauses inserted into Reina and Torres’s contracts last summer would allow the former to leave should an offer of £20 million arrive next year, while it is believed the latter has a gentleman’s agreement that he would be permitted to depart should Liverpool remain out of the Champions League next season.

NESV is aware that both players’ disenchantment stems from a year of empty vows on forthcoming investment made by Liverpool’s previous hierarchy. While the consortium’s principal, John W Henry, has made clear he does not intend to keep unhappy players at the club, he is determined to use the next nine months to convince them not to activate those clauses.

That will require substantial investment in the playing resources at Roy Hodgson’s disposal in January — hence the rapid appointment of Damien Comolli as director of football strategy — while NESV’s cause will be helped by the improvement in results in recent weeks.

From the ignominy of sitting in the relegation zone after defeat in the Merseyside derby — a result which seemed to condemn Hodgson to the briefest of reigns at Anfield — Liverpool now stand just five points behind third-placed Arsenal after winning three Premier League games in a row.

“We are now moving in the right direction,” said Torres after the most recent of those successes, against Chelsea. The 26 year-old is keenly aware, though, that Liverpool must maintain those standards in forthcoming games against less illustrious opponents.

“I am really happy with the victory, just like all the fans,” he said. “It was a day we have to enjoy but now we have to be focused on our next game.

“We always play like that against the top teams. When we play Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea we often produce a great performance, but now we have to do the same against the teams in the middle of the table. If we do that we will be fighting for big things at the end of the season.”

The first of those tests comes against Wigan at the DW Stadium on Wednesday night, the stage for a 1-0 defeat that was arguably the most disappointing Liverpool performance in 18 months of almost ceaseless gloom. Hodgson’s side will make the journey up the M6 with rather more spring in their step than they might have done, though, thanks to their rejuvenated Spanish striker.

“This is the worst time to play Liverpool,” said Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager. “On Sunday you could see the old Fernando Torres was back. That is a good sign for Liverpool, and a very bad sign for everybody else. He is part of that elite group of top strikers. There are only five or six in the world, but he is unique in the Premier League.

“Looking back at the amount of niggles and injuries he has had, as well as the fact that all the big players get to the World Cup and try and put extra energy into it, that affects the starts of the next season.

“But he is a clinical finisher and his movement is excellent. Like all the big players at Liverpool, he looks happy and like he is enjoying his football. He is a really focused boy, and if you look at how he was the youngest captain in Atletico Madrid’s history, it shows how mature he is.

“When he came out in the summer and made clear he wanted to stay, it was never in doubt he would get back to his best.”

He was helped against Chelsea, of course, by Hodgson’s decision to alter his system to suit the Spanish international’s strengths. Raul Meireles and Maxi Rodriguez were given licence to support him from the flanks, Steven Gerrard and Lucas attacked from midfield, while Dirk Kuyt was employed as a deep-lying forward to free the striker from defensive duties.

The most significant factor, though, according to the Dutchman, was that the confidence imbued in Liverpool by their recent run of impressive results manifested itself in a high-tempo, disciplined performance which created the sort of chances Torres thrives on after weeks of famine.

“We say in Holland that one and one is two,” Kuyt said. “It means that when the team plays well, the striker plays well. That is what happened with Fernando.”

Liverpool To Sell £4.5m Flop Christian Poulsen In January

Liverpool are ready to ditch Christian Poulsen just months after he signed for the club, Goal.com UK can reveal.

The Danish midfielder has failed to impress since his £4.5 million summer move from Juventus and could be on his way out of Anfield as soon as January.

New director of football strategy Damien Comolli does not believe Poulsen has a future at Liverpool and wants to bring in a younger replacement with more potential.

It is believed manager Roy Hodgson would back the sale of the former Sevilla star but only if an upgrade can be brought in as he is concerned by the small size of his squad.

Poulsen, 30, has lost his place in the Reds starting line-up over the last few weeks after a series of substandard performances at the start of the season.

Pepe Reina Warns Liverpool He May Leave At The End Of The Season

The Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has indicated that he will consider leaving the club at the end of the season if he is not satisfied with their progress.

The Spaniard has ruled out asking for a move in January but said he wants to feel certain that the team will challenge for major honours under the club's new owners, New England Sports Ventures.

"I signed a six-year deal seven months ago and I'm happy at the club but every footballer wants to be competing for trophies and winning things," Reina was quoted by the Daily Mail. "I will stay at Liverpool until the end of the season. I know there are rumours of me leaving but I want to make it clear that I have no intention of going back to Spain."

Reina has won only one major trophy, the 2006 FA Cup, since he joined from Villarreal five years ago, although he did play in the 2007 Champions League final defeat by Milan.

He spoke glowingly of the club's former manager Rafael Benítez, who signed him. Benítez left last summer to take over at Internazionale and was succeeded by Roy Hodgson, who has overcome a difficult start at Anfield to record four straight wins, including Sunday's over the Premier League leaders and champions, Chelsea.

"Rafael Benítez was an essential person for this club and the reason I came to Liverpool," Reina said.

The goalkeeper recently held talks with Liverpool's new owner, John W Henry, as did the striker Fernando Torres, another player who has been linked with a possible move if the club's fortunes do not continue to pick up.

Henry said he had been "heartened by the response" of Reina and Torres and "the intelligence of these players". The American described himself as "upset" at suggestions they could leave in January.

Liverpool Ready To Sign Unhappy Aston Villa Midfielder Stephen Ireland

It is being reported that Roy Hodgson is monitoring Aston Villa playmaker Stephen Ireland with a view to making a move for the Irishman if he is indeed placed on the transfer list as some sources are stating will happen in time for the opening of the January transfer window.

The 24 year old has not had the best of starts at Villa Park and has started just three Premier League matches under the Gerard Houllier regime leaving many to believe the former Man City man may not be a player the Frenchman values.

Roy Hodgson has publicly stated his desire to bring in five or six players in to help improve his Anfield squad and the former Fulham boss is known to be an admirer of the talented attack minded midfielder. A move for Stephen Ireland is likely to set back Liverpool around £12m a figure the club’s new owners are more likely to accept now that they have seen the Merseyside club experience a sharp up turn in fortunes.

Liverpool Issued Warning Over French Midfield Maverick Bid

Liverpool have been warned over any potential bid for Saint-Etienne midfielder Dimitri Payet.

The 23-year-old has been linked with a move to Anfield by the Daily Mail after Damien Comolli took over as Director of Football strategy at Liverpool, with the Frenchman's links to Les Verts sighted as the reason for Reds being favourites.

Payet is wanted by a string of Europe's top clubs, with Inter Milan, Napoli and Aston Villa also thought to be chasing the player's signature. However, the Ligue 1 club's co-president insists there has been no contact from Liverpool or any other club.

"We have built a roster for the season. There will be no departures during the winter transfer window," Roland Romeyer told France Football.

"Should there be any movement, it would be the other way. Depending on injuries, for example, we could sign a player."

An attacking midfielder who can play on the wing, Payet has come to form this season at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, scoring eight goals in 12 games this season.

New Liverpool owners NESV have promised Hodgson money to spend in the January transfer window, with the former Fulham boss hoping to make 'five or six' additions at Anfield in the opening month of 2011.

The Merseyside outfit is thought to be in the market for a striker and attacking midfielder, with Liverpool linked to Juan Mata, Peter Crouch and Carlton Cole to name just three players in the last week.

Payet, a young French international, fits the mould of a rising star and is the type of player John W. Henry would like to see at the club. With the Comolli connection, the former Nantes starlet seems a viable transfer option for Liverpool despite the French club's comments.

Liverpool & Juventus Among Clubs Chasing Ajax Winger Urby Emanuelson

There appears to be little doubt about it that versatile winger Urby Emanuelson is on his way out of Eredivisie giants Ajax after clubs from England, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain have shown an interest in signing the Dutch international.

Emanuelson has an expiring contract with the Godenzonen and talks about a contract extension recently broke down, meaning that the left footed midfielder could leave Ajax on a free transfer and this hasn't gone unnoticed in Europe.

According to a report in De Telegraaf, fallen English giants Liverpool and Serie A titans Juventus are just two of the clubs that are closely monitoring the situation of the 24-year-old Emanuelson, but they're facing stiff competition in the race for the versatile player's services.

Clubs such as Genoa, Lazio, Villarreal, Malaga, Benfica, Porto, Hoffenheim, Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg and Hamburg are all eager to add Emanuelson to their squad ahead of the 2011-12 campaign.

"There are plenty of interest clubs. I won't confirm or deny any names though. However, I've told interested teams that Urby won't leave Ajax during the winter transfer window," Brian Berkleef, Emanuelson's agent, was quoted as saying.

Liverpool FC Eager For Martin Kelly To Sign New Contract

Liverpool have opened talks with Martin Kelly over a new contract as reward for the defender’s impressive breakthrough into the first-team fold.

Kelly’s current deal expires at the end of the season and Anfield officials are keen to tie the 20-year-old to a lengthy agreement.

The England under-21 international made his debut two years ago and has this season become a regular feature in Roy Hodgson’s matchday squad, making nine appearances.

However, his outing against Chelsea at the weekend was the first Premier League start of his career, with Kelly’s only other top-flight exposure coming as a substitute in the 4-1 win over Portsmouth in March.

Kelly stepped in at right-back against the champions at short notice after Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Glen Johnson were ruled out on the morning of the game, and the youngster’s performance earned the plaudits of his manager.

“If you are going to single out someone then Martin Kelly deserves a lot of praise,” said Hodgson.

“It was a tough game for him to come into because the left side of Chelsea’s attack is a very dangerous one and you have to make some very nuance decisions there and I think he did pretty well.

“He might not have been in the 18 had Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Glen Johnson not gone down with sickness and injury on the morning of the game.”

Hodgson also had words of encouragement for Lucas Leiva, the much-criticised Brazilian who produced arguably his best display in a Liverpool shirt by helping the home side dominate Chelsea’s midfield.

“Lucas has been strong mentally and he needs to be because he is a good footballer, like many of the other players who are getting stick or will get stick,” said Hodgson.

“We don’t have that many bad players here but it is a big arena to play in and people expect a lot from players.

“Where Lucas has been strong is to put the criticism he has been receiving over the last couple of years behind him and get out and show he is a very good player.

“I’ve always believed in him and to be fair my predecessor never doubted him, playing him on a regular basis, so he didn’t give the criticism any credence either.”

Having disposed of the champions and league leaders, Liverpool face three of the bottom four in the next 10 days with trips to Wigan Athletic and Stoke City followed by a home clash with West Ham United.