Thursday, March 31, 2011

Liverpool Actively Seeking Stadium Naming Rights Deal

Liverpool's newly-appointed managing director Ian Ayre has revealed the club are actively seeking stadium naming rights partners should they move to a new stadium.

The club's owners, Fenway Sports Group, have made clear that boosting Liverpool's gate receipts through an increased capacity is central to their plans to restore the side to former glories. They have yet to make any official decision on whether that will be achieved through building a new stadium or redeveloping their current home.

Speaking at the SoccerEx forum in Manchester today, Ayre said the club is seeking naming rights partners should they move to a new stadium. However, the club is keen to stress that their current home would not be renamed should they stay put.

Arsenal earned £100 million for a 15-year naming rights deal with the airline Emirates, though that also included an eight-year shirt sponsorship clause.

Liverpool see the sphere as one the club needs to exploit if they are to make ground on Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in terms of off-pitch income.

Reds Face Battle For Striker Signature

Tottenham have jumped ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool in the race to sign Ipswich striker Conner Wickham who is valued at around £15m.

The 18-year-old has attracted attention from many of the big clubs, and the Reds were thought to be the favourites for his signature but the arrival of Andy Carroll at Anfield appears to have cooled their interest.

Harry Redknapp is now ready to nip in and land the striker beating off interest from Arsenal and Manchester United in the process.

Spurs are aided by the fact that assistant academy boss Bryan Klug knows Wickham from his days at Portman Road and the player himself has already stated he wants to play at the highest level and apparently expects to be moving in the summer.

Liverpool Reportedly In Negotiations With PSV Eindhoven For Ola Toivonen

Liverpool representatives have reportedly met with PSV Eindhoven to discuss a deal for Ola Toivonen, according to reports.

The Swedish international forward was heavily linked with an Anfield move back in the summer, and was again thought to be on the radar of the Merseysiders in January.

Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur have also taken an interest in the past, according to reports, but it's Liverpool who is now thought to be in pole position to land the player.

The Metro claims Liverpool are looking to 'thrash out a deal' for the 24-year-old, who can also play in an attacking midfield position.

Toivonen began his career with Degerfors before moving to Örgryte and then Malmo. Two years later, a transfer fee in the region of €4.5 million was paid by the Eredivisie side to bring the player to Holland, and the striker has flourished at the Phillips Stadium.

With 13 goals so far this season, the player's stock continues to rise and the rumours have re-surfaced that the Reds are once again interested in a move.

Kenny Dalglish has hinted at a number of personnel changes at Liverpool this summer, with another striker thought to be on the agenda despite spending in excess of £55 million on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in the last transfer window.

Whilst a left back and winger are the reported priority, Fenway Sports Group have vowed to back the Liverpool boss financially should he stay on permanently and Toivonen could be one of the players on the wishlist.

Lucas Leiva Agrees New Deal To Keep Him At Anfield Until 2015

Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva has put an end to any doubts over his Liverpool future by signing a new, long-term contract that will keep him at Anfield until 2015.

The 24 year-old has emerged over the last two years as one of the club’s most improved players and the club’s newly-appointed director of football, Damien Comolli, revealed that tying him to a long-term deal was a priority after his arrival on Merseyside last year.

The former Gremio player had made no secret of his desire to extend his stay at the club, despite facing fierce criticism for his early displays, and manager Kenny Dalglish admitted on Wednesday that the affection was mutual.

“He is happy to be here and to be playing for the club,” said the Scot.

“He is getting everything he deserves at the moment, including being a fixture in the Brazilian team, because of how he has performed on the pitch.

''Certainly since I came in he has been a great asset to the team and has done tremendously well.

''We're delighted for him because he's a really honest, genuine fella and that's reflected in the way he plays.

Lucas, after struggling more than most during Liverpool's slump in form last season believes the club can now start to look forward to regaining their place among Europe's elite.

''Everyone wants to be in the Champions League again and to win titles,'' he said.

''That is what Liverpool is about. The way everything is going I think it will be a very good next few seasons.

''We have some new players who have come here and that shows we are moving in the right direction.

''I am pleased with the way Liverpool tried to keep me and now I want to keep doing my best for them.

''For me it was an easy decision because I know how big Liverpool are and I can see Liverpool are committed to me and are planning for a future with me.

''I don't think people thought I could stay here for so long, but now I want to just keep on improving.''

Ian Ayre: New Uefa Rules On Spending Should Be Hard And Fast

Uefa’s new financial fair play rules will be ‘killed’ if they are not applied equally across Europe, according to Liverpool’s incoming managing director Ian Ayre.

Ayre, who also confirmed Liverpool are pursuing naming rights for any new stadium, is concerned there will not be a level playing field when the rules come into force in 2014.

The regulations will ban clubs from European competition if they spend more than they earn, but the rules will initially be enforced by national associations and leagues.

Ayre says Liverpool’s recent takeover by American John Henry has cleared most of their debt so the club would comply with the regulations.

But he said: ‘These rules should be rules and should be hard and fast.

'What will kill the initiative or certainly stifle it is people easing themselves into it rather than the rules applying and everyone operating within them.

'You cannot have a half-rule process.

‘We see it as a positive step but the reservations around it are how it will be applied.

‘Will people be given grace periods, will sanctions be applied?

‘If it is not managed well, we would all question the outcome of it.’

Uefa’s head of club licensing Andrea Traverso said the rules were ‘a sort of soft salary cap’ and insisted they would be overseen by an independent panel to ensure it was being applied fairly.

Alberto Aquilani Open To Liverpool Return

Alberto Aquilani believes that the Premier League is the best domestic league in the world and is open to a return to Liverpool when his loan period with Juventus ends at the end of the season.

The 26-year-old joined the English giants in the summer of 2009 from Roma but after a disappointing time at Anfield came back to Italy, this time to play for Juventus on loan for the 2010-11 campaign.

Aquilani has improved in Turin and regained his fitness levels, but his future beyond the summer remains unclear. Juventus are having yet another disappointing campaign and are likely to make changes at the end of the season, meaning that a number of players’ futures are uncertain.

Juventus will also have to pay Liverpool £14 million to make Aquilani’s deal permanent and there has been no concrete indication from the Italian giants that they will do so.

Aquilani, though, is not hell bent on staying in Italy and is open to a return to Liverpool to play “in the best league in the world.”

"The future? I'm at Juve, but I don't know what will happen,” the Italy international told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I'm on loan and if I'm not retained I'd go back to Liverpool in the best league in the world. We'll see."

Aquilani is also coy about going back to his old club Roma and reveals that he is following the ownership changes at the Lupi.

"It is a delicate question,” said the midfielder. “I would do, but I think it will be difficult. As a fan I'm curious to see what happens, especially if they begin to buy players and to revolutionize the team."

Aquilani’s agent Franco Zavaglia is also keeping all options open and has reiterated that the ball is in Juventus’ court.

“I have been saying the same thing for months and it is the only truth, regardless of what the newspapers say,” he told Tuttomercatoweb. “Last year, when the transfer was set out and Juve were happy to accept this deal, there were commitments made with written clauses.

“If the Bianconeri respect these agreements, then fine, otherwise he will have to return to Liverpool. It is up to the Juventus directors to decide.”

Aquilani has been a regular for Juventus this season and has made 26 appearances in Serie A, scoring twice and providing three assists.

Christian Poulsen Desperate To Depart Liverpool

Christian Poulsen is desperate to quit Liverpool this summer after being warned his international career could be over if he remains on the fringes at Anfield.

Despite being captain of Denmark, the out-of-favour Liverpool midfielder was left on the bench on Tuesday night and given a blunt message by national coach Morten Olsen.

The 61-year-old said: 'I don't know if he is going to get in the Liverpool team during the remainder of this season, but if he isn't, he will not be in my squad for the Euro qualifying game against Iceland on June 4.'

Poulsen has struggled to win over Liverpool fans since being signed by former manager Roy Hodgson at the start of the season.

While there is interest in Poulsen in Italy and Spain, he could remain in the Barclays Premier League by linking up again with Hodgson at West Brom.

Lawyers For Thomas DiBenedetto Confirm There Is No Conflict Of Interest With Liverpool In Roma Takeover

Thomas DiBenedetto will assume control of Roma as agreed, as lawyers working in relation to the takeover confirm there is no conflict of interest with Liverpool.

On Wednesday, The Guardian reported DiBenedetto's assets in New England Sports Ventures - the company that owns Liverpool - could jeopardize the takeover as it reportedly breached UEFA rules which state it's forbidden for "persons or clubs to control or influence more than one club registered for European competition".

However, the legal team working on the takeover, which is expected to be completed in three weeks, have said there is no conflict of interest.

Speaking to the Ansa press agency, a legal team representative said: "There is no case in relation to UEFA's article three of their regulations, and there is no conflict of interest in relation to the Roma takeover."

It follows yesterday's statement which confirmed DiBenedetto had agreed to purchase Roma from their holding company Italpetroli.

The statement said: "Italpetroli S.p.a., UniCredit S.p.a. and Di Benedetto AS Roma LLC announce that negotiations in Rome over the past few days have reached a basic agreement to buy up control of AS Roma S.p.a.

"Based on this agreement, the buy-out should be completed by a company made up of 60% Di Benedetto AS Roma LLC and 40% UniCredit S.p.a.

"There is also an option for UniCredit to sell their shares to other strategic Italian investors.

"Over the next few days we will proceed to write out the definitive versions of the agreements reached today, which also include commitments for the reinforcement and future development of AS Roma."

Roma will become the first Italian club to come under foreign ownership once the takeover is complete.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Liverpool Monitoring Renato Augusto, Reports Claim

Liverpool is reportedly interested in Bayer Leverkusen attacker Renato Augusto.

The Brazil international has been compared to compatriot Ronaldinho and has been lighting up the Bundesliga with a series of cultured displays.

According to sources in Germany - as rehashed by tribalfootball.com - Liverpool is one of a number of clubs monitoring the 23-year-old, who is said to be keen on a move to the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli is allegedly an admirer of the versatile forward and the former Flamengo star could provide the Anfield club with extra dynamism in attack.

Comolli is understood to be monitoring a number of potential goalscoring acquisitions and Liverpool is to invest heavily in their playing squad again when the transfer window reopens.

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group made their mark on the transfer window in January when £58 million was spent to capture Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez and a busy summer at Anfield awaits.

Liverpool Winger Ince Wanted At Juventus

Liverpool winger Thomas Ince is a target for Juventus.

Ince, the son of former Liverpool and Inter Milan midfielder Paul Ince, is off contract in June and yet to settle on new terms with the Reds.

Tuttosport says Juventus are aware of Ince's situation and are monitoring developments closely.

Juventus’ General Manager Beppe Marotta is well aware of Ince's talents and confident he can settle quickly in Turin after his time in Italy as a child.

Mihaylov: Reina Wants To Leave

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov has claimed Pepe Reina has wanted to leave the club for "one or two years".

Bulgaria international Mihaylov, 22, was signed by the Reds in 2007 and loaned out to FC Twente in a bid to secure a work permit.

He has since joined Twente on a permanent deal but, as he has now become a regular for his country, he has claimed Liverpool retain an option to take him back to Anfield.

"Liverpool is a huge club," he told Darik Radio. "It wasn't possible to get a work visa when I went there but now there'll be no such problems because I'm playing regularly in the national team."

Asked about Liverpool's option to re-sign him, Mihaylov said: "I think it's absolutely real. The option was made when Rafa Benitez was in charge."

Mihaylov believes Liverpool will be in need of a new goalkeeper in the near future as Reina has a desire to return to his home country.

"I know from my agent Pepe Reina wants to go back to Spain," he said. "His desire dates back one or two years.

"It's not difficult to see this. I know him well - he's one of the best 'keeper in the world but his current form is not as it should be in a club like Liverpool."

Skrtel Rules Out Summer Move From Liverpool

Martin Skrtel has distanced his name from the group of players expected to leave Liverpool this summer, insisting Kenny Dalglish has changed the mood of the football club.

Following the departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea, Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson have both been linked to summer departures, but Skrtel will not be following suit.

Skrtel's future was the subject of speculation back in January when he was enduring a poor run of form but the 26-year-old is happy at Anfield.

''Why would I go anywhere else? I know I am at a huge club - one of the biggest in the world, with a history and a set of supporters that no other club can really match,'' he told LFC Weekly.

''We have great players like Stevie Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Not everybody gets to experience this. I am very proud to be here.

''I have a contract for the next three-and-a-half years. I am happy here, so if the manager and people at the club are happy with my work, I'm happy to be here too.''

Skrtel believes Dalglish's man-management skills have been key in turning around their failing season. Dalglish took over from Roy Hodgson in early January after his disastrous six-month spell in charge and, since then, the Reds have accrued 20 points from 10 matches, losing just twice. That has put them within touching distance of fifth place - and the final qualifying spot for Europe - in the Premier League.

The Scot has still to have a permanent contract offered to him by owners Fenway Sports Group, having originally been appointed until the end of the season only, but Skrtel would welcome him being given an extended deal.

''He knows how to take the pressure away and protect the squad,'' said the Slovakia international. ''A lot has changed at the club recently, but the most important thing has been confidence. Kenny has given us that. 'With confidence in football you can achieve great things. Everybody is happy now, looking forward to every single training session, every match.

''If he gets a contract for a long time, I'll be very happy. Every day he makes work interesting and enjoyable. We are winning games now. You can tell Kenny is a winner.''

Suarez - I'm Not A Hero Yet

Luis Suarez insists he has not been at Liverpool long enough to be considered a 'real hero' by the club's fans.

The Uruguay ace has made an immediate impact at Anfield since signing from Ajax in January, scoring two Premier League goals in five appearances.

The 24-year-old striker has also been an instant hit with the Liverpool faithful, who have already given him his own song.

But Suarez is adamant he has work to do on Merseyside if he is going to become a true idol at the club.

"I've only been here a month-and-a-half and it's good to see the fans are happy," Suarez told LFC Weekly.

"I came here to work hard for the team and to do my absolute best. If they are singing my name maybe it shows I'm doing my job well.

"But there are a lot of games and there is a lot of time to go before I am a real hero. It's too early for that."

He added: "I think the fans at this club play a major role, bigger than at some other clubs.

"The only part of the song I can recognize is my name.

"Although I might not understand what exactly they are singing, I know my name is mentioned. That's important to me."

Cole Still Feels Privileged

Joe Cole has insisted he will never take for granted how lucky he is to be a professional footballer playing for a club of Liverpool's stature, while he has also stated that new team-mate Andy Carroll has the potential to emulate Didier Drogba.

The signings of Carroll and fellow striker Luis Suarez have fuelled excitement among the Anfield faithful about what the future could hold for the club.

Cole's own arrival last summer was also greeted with enthusiasm but the campaign has not gone smoothly for the experienced midfielder.

He has struggled to show his best form and currently finds himself well down the pecking order under manager Kenny Dalglish.

However, the former Chelsea man has not lost sight of how fortunate he is to have such a career, and is especially honoured to be a part of such a club like Liverpool.

"I'm privileged to play for Liverpool Football Club and privileged to be a professional footballer," he told LFC Weekly.

"The best thing you can do as a player is make sure that you don't take that for granted every day because it's a great lifestyle. There is nothing you would want to change.

"It's been a bit stop-start for me this season but football's all about ups and downs and sometimes you just have to ride the rollercoaster. I just try to have a positive outlook and keep going.

"I'm enjoying my football at the moment and taking every day as it comes, making sure I work hard every day from the moment I come in to the moment I leave."

Cole admits there is a sense of optimism around the camp and has credited the appointment of his former Chelsea coach, Steve Clarke, as having a major influence.

"I don't think you'll find a better coach around than Steve Clarke," he said. "The lads really enjoy training and I am coming into work with a big smile on my face every day.

"I think all the lads are happy and results have picked up."

Cole played alongside Drogba for several seasons at Stamford Bridge and sees a similar type of striker in Liverpool's big-money January recruit, Carroll.

Cole even feels that Carroll is ahead of Drogba in terms of his development at this stage of his career.

"He's very much like Didier Drogba," said Cole.

"Andy's 22 - we all know what a cracking player Didier is, but he wasn't playing at this level at that age.

"There's still a lot of developing for Andy to do so he can get better and better.

"He's a good lad and I think you'd have been hard pressed to have found two better signings in January than Andy and Luis Suarez."

Capello Hails Carroll Display

Fabio Capello is confident Andy Carroll's first international goal will help to ease his transition to the England stage.

The £35million striker's first-half strike looked like earning England a Wembley victory until Sunderland's Asamoah Gyan levelled for Ghana in stoppage time.

It was a fitting conclusion to an evening of immense promise for England, with Capello delighted by Liverpool frontman Carroll's contribution on his second senior international appearance.

Carroll has only recently returned to club duty after a thigh injury and Capello was pleased with hisreturn.

"It is important for the strikers to score goals," Capello said. "He was the same player that I saw before he got injured.

"He ran a lot but he needs games. He is a big person, so it is impossible for him to recover quickly, like Jack Wilshere or Aaron Lennon."

Carroll's was just one of a number of pleasing performances that kept the crowd entertained.

Stewart Downing and Ashley Young also turned in outstanding displays, leaving Capello pleased.

"I am really happy because I saw a fantastic game," the England boss said.

"It was not a friendly game. Every tackle was a fight. The players did very well and the new players did very well.

"It is interesting for me to know the value of the players when they have a match at Wembley."

The crowd also got to see Danny Welbeck, who was introduced for his debut to huge boos from the vast visiting contingent after he snubbed the opportunity to play for Ghana, the birthplace of his parents.

However, Capello has denied handing Welbeck his debut just to keep him out of Ghana's clutches.

"Absolutely not," said Capello, when asked whether he was merely blocking Ghana from picking Welbeck in the future.

"I work for England. I always select the best players for England. Yesterday, Aaron Lennon was injured. That is why I picked Welbeck.

"Danny Welbeck is going to be a very important player for England and Manchester United," said Capello.

"I monitored him last year. He was an important player then. I went to see him three times but then he got injured. However, he is a really good player."

Richard Keys Insults Scousers

Richard Keys has sparked more outrage by accusing Liverpool fans of seeking revenge before the Heysel Stadium disaster.

Richard Keys suggested the ugly riot that left 39 Juventus fans dead was part of a payback for beatings Liverpool fans took from Roma fans.

Tragedy struck when a wall collapsed as fans clashed before the 1985 European Cup Final at the Brussels ground.

But Keys, 53, shocked listeners on his TalkSport radio show by making out it was Kop supporters taking their revenge after being attacked by Roma fans the year before.

The ex-Sky Sports host implied the disaster followed retribution for the beatings Liverpool fans suffered during 1984’s European Cup final, which the Reds won on penalties.

His comments stunned ex-Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar, 53, who had been discussing the tragedy with Keys and co-host Andy Gray, 55.

Keys butted in: “Liverpool fans were looking for revenge the next time they were playing an Italian team.”

Reds fan Paul Glassard raged: “He has slandered thousands of fans. It was so unbelievable what he said, to claim they took revenge by killing other fans.”

Gordon Fidler of Liverpool Supporters Club said: “There is no way what happened was revenge. Keys is talking rubbish again. The sooner he’s out of a job the better.”

The gaffe comes just two months after Keys and Gray landed the job following their departure from Sky Sports for making sexist remarks.

Keys quit and Gray was sacked for suggesting assistant referee Sian Massey, 25, did not understand offside.

TalkSPORT and Liverpool FC both refused to comment.

Liverpool Could Face A Conflict Of Interest In Europe Next Season

Will the takeover of Roma by the Boston-based private-equity investor Thomas DiBenedetto have any implications for Liverpool?

Digger only asks this question because DiBenedetto is also a stakeholder in the Fenway Sports Group, which owns 100% of the shares in the Anfield club. As the two teams' respective leagues currently stand, Roma would qualify for next season's Europa League. Liverpool is four points off qualification for that competition.

If both clubs qualify, then it is possible Uefa's rules governing the integrity of its competitions would come in to play. This state: "No individual or legal entity may have control or influence over more than one club participating in a Uefa club competition". This is defined as "holding a majority of the shareholders' voting rights" or "being able to exercise by any means a decisive influence in the decision-making of the club", among other things.

If any clubs fall foul of these rules the lower-ranked team (in this case Roma) would be excluded from the competition. It is possible that these rules would apply in this case, though one can not be certain because it is impossible to ascertain how much of the FSG DiBenedetto owns.

Last week FSG sent out a press release announcing that it would no longer be trading under its former guise of New England Sports Ventures LLC. However, NESV is still the name of the holding company that is registered with the Massachusetts Corporations Division. This official channel has no publicly available information relating to NESV's equity structures. Neither does the Division of Corporations of the State of Delaware, where NESV is ultimately domiciled.

Usefully for investors who do not wish to disclose their identities or the nature of their investments, Delaware never does oblige them to make public this sort of information. The Premier League does oblige its clubs to make public the identities of any shareholders with stakes in excess of 10%. Regrettably, Liverpool does not do this, saying only: "The sole owner of the Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited is New England Sports Ventures, trading as Fenway Sports Group. John Henry and Tom Werner are generally responsible for the management of Fenway Sports Group."

Ian Cotton, the Liverpool executive who deals with matters relating to the club's ownership, could not be contacted. An email to FSG's generic address went unanswered. So Digger asked the media department of the Boston Red Sox what it knew of FSG, the parent it shares with Liverpool. It responded that it would attempt to put Digger in touch with DiBenedetto (he did not call back last night either, although he was probably quite busy putting his deal for Roma together). It also said that the identity of the clubs' shareholders and their respective stakes "is not public information".

The one little chink of light FSG has recently shed on who owns it is as follows: "Fenway Sports Group is led by Principal Owner John Henry and Chairman Tom Werner, with additional ownership interests being held by a select number of prestigious individuals and The New York Times." Why so secret? Surely fans are entitled to know who owns their club, whether they are baseball or football fans, because sometimes it just might have an impact on the integrity of a competition.

Liverpool Team Handed Significant Financial Boost

Liverpool Ladies Football Club has entered into a multi-year agreement with health club chain Total Fitness ahead of the start of the new soccer season.

Under terms of the two-year deal, Total Fitness will enjoy significant brand exposure at the Liverpool FC affiliate's home matches, due to be played at Skelmersdale United's 2,500 capacity stadium.

Additionally the entire Liverpool Ladies squad and staff will receive full Total Fitness gym membership.

"It's a fantastic time to be involved in women's football," said Chris Done, Total Fitness business development manager.

Liverpool Ladies FC is one of eight semi-professional women's soccer clubs competing in the FA Women’s Super League (WSL). ESPN will broadcast live WSL games and highlights programs covering the inaugural season, which is due to launch in April 2011.

Though financial details were not released, Liverpool Ladies 2009 deal with Total Fitness was estimated to be worth US$25,000 annually and the new agreement is thought to be on a similar level.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Madrid Set £6m Asking Price For Liverpool Playmaker Target

Liverpool must pay £6 million to land Spanish starlet Sergio Canales, according to reports in his homeland.

The Real Madrid youngster rejected a move to Anfield in January, according to Spanish paper Sport, but it goes on to claim that the Reds will come back with another offer in the summer.

Canales has emerged as one of the hottest prospects in European football, with a transfer battle taking place last summer between a number of Barclays Premier League, La Liga and Serie 'A' sides for his signature.

Madrid won the chase for the Racing Santander star, paying an initial €4.5 million for the midfielder's services.

However, first team opportunities at Los Blancos have been limited for the 20-year-old playmaker, with reports emerging in the Spanish capital that the player has become frustrated under manager Jose Mourinho.

Liverpool is developing as a hot bed for young talent, with director of football Damien Comolli looking to invest heavily in youth players on Merseyside.

Kenny Dalglish is also keen to use the youngsters, with Raheem Sterling, Suso and Connor Coady all involved in first team activities at some stage this season with Liverpool despite their teenage years.

Sport goes on to claim that Madrid will allow the player to leave the club, if Liverpool meets their asking price of £6 million.

Dalglish has hinted at a number of squad changes in the summer, with an attacking midfielder thought to be high on the agenda for the Liverpool boss. Canales appears to be a player earmarked by the club, and a bid at the end of the season could be in the offing.

Liverpool's Reported Dutchman Pursuit Takes Another Twist

Newcastle have joined Liverpool in pursuit of Feyenoord winger Georginio Wijnaldum, according to reports.

The Sunday Sun suggests the Magpies have sent scouts to keep tabs on the 20-year-old attacker, who is also said to be attracting interest from Real Madrid.

TalkSPORT had previously reported that Liverpool had dispatched representatives to watch the Dutchman in action this season and a move to Anfield could come to fruition when the transfer window reopens in June.

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt could prove to be a key figure in the quest to bring Wijnaldum to Anfield, with the former serving as a mentor to the latter during his time at Feyenoord.

"Dirk Kuyt is my role model. He left Feyenoord when he was the best, I am not that far," Wijnaldum was reported as saying by Goal.com.

Liverpool have also been linked with Lille youngster Eden Hazard and Frenchman Charles N'Zogbia as they look to add more potent wide options to their ranks in the summer.

Javier Pastore Bids 'Expected From Man United, Liverpool & Chelsea'

Palermo have suggested they are expecting bids from a number of English clubs including Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea for midfielder Javier Pastore in the summer, according to reports.

Sources close to the Sicilian club have been quoted in the Italian press, suggesting the three Premier League giants are set to go head to head to sign Pastore, 21.

The playmaker has been linked to Chelsea in the past, and only last week AS Roma were mentioned as potential suitors - provided a proposed buy-out of the club is completed before the summer.

Pastore is expected to command a monstrous fee when the transfer window reopens, as club president Maurizio Zamparini has claimed to have already turned down an offer of €50million (£44m) for the Argentinean.

Manchester City's millions are also expected to come into the equation - especially if they qualify for next season's Champions League.

However, Pastore is rumoured to be more interested in either of the other giants of the north-west - Liverpool or Manchester United - because of the respective clubs' histories.

The Reds' new owner John W Henry is already lining up targets for the summer, with Pastore said to be top of his wish-list.

United are themselves planning a massive spending spree and the 21-year-old's potential to become the next South American star would fit Sir Alex Ferguson's typical transfer profile.

But Chelsea may also still have a say off the back of Roman Abramovic's spending power, which clearly hasn't waned after splashing out £75million on Fernando Torres and David Luiz in January.

Liverpool To Offer Alberto Aquilani In Wise £10m Inter Milan Swap Deal

Liverpool will reportedly attempt to land Inter Milan left back Davide Santon by offering Alberto Aquilani in return for the talented young Italian international. Anfield director of football has identified the young San Siro full back as an ideal answer to what has become a problem position and believe that by offering a swap deal they may well persuade Nerazzurri boss Leonardo to sell.

Santon is considered one of the hottest prospects in Italian football but is finding it next to impossible to dislodge either Maicon or Christian Chivu who currently occupy the wide areas of the Inter Milan defence. The 20 year old has therefore been farmed out on loan to struggling Cesena.

Though Santon can operate on either flank Comolli would look to the attack minded Italian to ply his trade on the left as the right side of Liverpool’s defence seems covered with youngster Martin Kelly proving a very able customer and Glen Johnson also available in that position.

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani is currently out on loan to Juventus but the Turin side are unwilling to come close to the valuation placed on the former Roma man and the Merseyside outfit are not willing to budge on price so will look instead to offer the proven Italian international in a swap deal to land Santon.

Leonardo may well be interested in such a deal as he seems likely to offload the likes of Sulley Muntari (on loan to Sunderland) whilst Dejan Stankovic and Esteban Cambiasso are both getting on in years and the signing of the 26 year old Liverpool man may represent a good bit of business for all parties concerned.

Liverpool Star Set For An Italian Job

Napoli head the queue for Liverpool midfielder Lucas, who has not yet been offered a new Anfield contract.

The Brazilian international is closing in on the last 12 months of his current deal, and there have been no moves from within the club to extend.

That suggests his days on Merseyside are numbered, with the club already preparing their transfer plans for the summer under new director of football Damien Comolli.

The fact that talks have not even opened suggests it is now unlikely to happen, and Serie A side Napoli have taken note.

The Italians are ready to offer around £3million, which could be enough for them to get their man as Liverpool are hoping to get ready-made replacement Charlie Adam from Blackpool for a similar figure, given that he too will only have a year remaining on his contract at the end of the season.

Johnson Absent From Training

Glen Johnson was the only absentee as the England squad was put through their paces on Monday.

Of the 20 players still available to Fabio Capello ahead of a friendly date with Ghana on Tuesday, only the Liverpool full-back failed to make training.

Johnson works to a strict fitness regime which means sometimes he has to skip sessions shortly after games.

The England coaching staff are happy to adhere to those rules and had no qualms with him sitting out Monday's exercises.

Johnson will still be hoping to be involved at Wembley in midweek, with Capello set to shuffle his pack against the Black Stars.

National skipper John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Dawson have been allowed to return to their clubs following Saturday's 2-0 victory over Wales in a Euro 2012 qualifier.

Their absence has opened the door to others, including Kyle Walker and Matt Jarvis who are both looking to make their senior debuts.

The decision to give Terry a break means the armband has also been moved on, with vice-captain Steven Gerrard currently sidelined.

The Football Association has announced that Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry will lead the side out against Ghana.

Liverpool Target £32m Triple Swoop

Liverpool are ready to splash out £32 million on Charlie Adam, Ashley Young and Jeffren to help re-shape their midfield this summer, reports caughtoffside.com.

The 25-year-old Adam was on the verge of a move to Kenny Dalglish's side in the January transfer window, but Blackpool decided to keep hold of the winger as they look to retain their Barclays Premier League status.

Young, who stared for England at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday against Wales, has long been linked with a move away from Aston Villa, with Liverpool and Manchester United both linked with the winger.

Barcelona man Jeffren has made just 18 league appearances for the Catalan giants in his five-year career in the first team and is set for a move away from the Nou Camp this summer.

Although yet to be given a permanent deal at Anfield, Liverpool manager Dalglish is set to be given a mammoth transfer kitty this summer to re-build a faltering squad on Merseyside.

Liverpool are far from guaranteed a spot in next season's Europa League after crashing out of the competition at the hands of Braga and after enduring a poor season in the Barclays Premier League.

Dalglish has already spent £58 million on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in January and is expected to be allowed more license in the next transfer window.

Liverpool Star Reveals He May Quit Anfield

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani's future at Anfield is less than certain, as the Italian flop has not yet been offered a permanent deal by current club Juventus, but looks unlikely to remain at Liverpool.

In 2009, Rafa Benitez signed the 26-year-old Italian midfielder for £17 million from Roma, but a succession of injuries left the talented international on the fringes of the Liverpool side.

Aquilani made just 18 appearances in a Liverpool shirt, struggling to make a serious impact on the pitch and consistently failing to regain full fitness. He was eventually loaned out to Juventus in August 2010, whereby the club agreed a season-long loan with the option to sign Aquilani permanently.

Scoring his first goal for Juventus in October against Lecce, Aquilani has since made 26 appearances for the Turin club, and is now desperate to make his stay at the Stadio Olimpico permanent.

Roma have been touted as potential suitors for Aquilani, but the player’s agent Franco Zavaglia has ruled out a return to his former club. Instead, Zavaglia believes that Juventus’ first-option to buy Aquilani make them the most likely destination for the Italy international.

“Aquilani to Roma?” Zavaglia asked the Italian station Radio Mana Mana. “That will be difficult. Juve has the priority and I don't think they will let him escape.

"On June 30 Juventus will be able to buy Aquilani and they should act now," Zavaglia continued. "They could sign him by making three to four delayed payments; a system which was established last summer.

“The agreement between Liverpool and Juventus is already there. It all depends on the willingness of Juventus. Maybe Juventus want to save something and Liverpool do not want to lose anything. But there is an expiration date, everything is organised.

“I think Aquilani will stay at Juventus and there will not be any obstacles.”

Aquilani has made no secret of his desire to return to Italy, considering the switch to Liverpool an important moment in his career, but ultimately an experience that never quite worked out.

“I wanted to come back to Italy after my English experience,” Aquilani revealed. “I wanted to play in Serie A and Juventus gave me this chance. I hope to pay back the faith.

“I’m playing in a system with two central midfielders. If one goes forward, the other stays back to keep the team’s shape.

“At Liverpool it was different. Often I was played further forward, at the top of the diamond behind the striker. Things are going really positively here and we share the desire to win.

Aquilani favours a return to Italy, though the lack of talks over a permanent deal mean that there is still a degree of uncertainty as to where he will end up. When asked about a potential return to Roma, Aquilani stated; "It looks difficult, but hopefully in future.”

"I have not had any contact with Liverpool or Juventus directors," he added. "But there is an agreement, and I was aware it was a loan and that things would be dealt with in May. So, I am tranquil over my future now."

Trio Star In Belgium Win

Academy trio Brad Smith, Raheem Sterling and Adam Morgan all featured for England U17s as they came from behind to beat Belgium 2-1 on Monday night.

Left-back Smith played the full 90, Sterling played for 74 minutes and Morgan played for just over an hour of the game which was played at the Stadion De Leunen, Geel, in Belgium.

Matty Regan was an unused substitute.

This victory sets up a fascinating battle with Spain on Thursday to determine who will top the Elite Qualifying Round Group 5.

Spain can afford to draw the game as they have a superior goal difference.

Meanwhile, Conor Coady, Jack Robinson and Conor Thomas have been called up by England U18s for the development match away to Italy on Tuesday, April 12.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gerrard Eyes Reds Return

Steven Gerrard is hoping to make his return from a groin injury in Liverpool's next game against West Bromwich Albion.

The midfielder underwent a groin operation earlier in March and was initially expected to be sidelined for a month.

The injury forced Gerrard to miss England's Euro 2012 qualifying win over Wales on Saturday, but he is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

He expects to return to full training during the week and is aiming to be involved in next Saturday's trip to The Hawthorns to face former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson's West Brom.

"It's good," Gerrard told Goals on Sunday. "I'm probably three or four days away from full training, so hopefully I'll be involved against West Brom.

"It depends on how the next three or four days go.

"Being injured is the worst part of being a footballer. It's frustrating not to be involved in a game like England v Wales at the Millennium Stadium. It's a fantastic game.

"Hopefully I'll be available for the next qualifier in the summer which is Switzerland.

"There are big games still left to play this season. It's frustrating missing games being on the treatment table so you do everything you can in your rehab and away from football to get back as quickly as possible."