Wednesday, April 06, 2011

John Henry Admits He Was Shocked By Liverpool's Lack Of Depth And Wage Bill

Liverpool owner John Henry has admitted he was shocked by the sky-high wage bill the club was paying for a squad suffering from a chronic lack of depth and quality when his Fenway Sports Group consortium completed their takeover at Anfield in October.

The last set of accounts released by the club showed that Liverpool paid more than £100 million on salaries — at the time, the third highest in the Premier League — for the 2008/09 season. That figure is likely to have increased by the time FSG paid £300 million to buy the club last year.

But Henry has acknowledged that the biggest concern of the group was quite how little on-pitch class that outlay had secured Liverpool.

“The worst surprise was the lack of depth in the squad,” Henry told FourFourTwo magazine. “Our biggest concern in taking on this responsibility was this issue and it was a bigger issue than we feared. There was a huge multi-year pay-roll for a squad that had very little depth.”

Solving that problem is likely to be FSG’s priority in what Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s director of football, believes will be an immensely “busy” summer of transfer activity.

Though the club’s new owners will continue to recruit after making clear their intentions in January — signing Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll as Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel departed — FSG believes the wage bill has to present better value for money.

A number of first-team squad players are expected to leave the club to balance the books, with the likes of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Fabio Aurelio, Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole all likely to be available, as well as Alberto Aquilani, Paul Konchesky and Emiliano Insua, all currently on loan from Anfield.

How thin the squad available to Kenny Dalglish remains, despite the club’s vast wage outlay, is highlighted by the fact that the Scot is so stretched for defenders — with concerns continuing over injuries sustained by Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson in the defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday — that he is considering drafting two Academy players into his squad.

Both left-back Jack Robinson, Liverpool’s youngest-ever player at 16 years and 250 days when he came on as a substitute against Hull City last May, and John Flanagan, a teenage right-back, have been involved with first-team squads this season but both may now be handed the chance to offer the club’s supporters a glimpse of the future over the coming weeks.

With Martin Kelly and Aurelio also missing, Dalglish only has four defenders — Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Kyrgiakos and Danny Wilson — fit for Monday’s visit of Manchester City.

Henry, Comolli and Dalglish are well aware that such a dearth of resources cannot be allowed to happen again if the club are to fulfil the American’s vision of a 20th league championship in the near future.

“Our number one priority is to win the Premier League title,” explained Henry. “That is what we take with us each day to work as the force that drives us to excel. If we can accomplish that we will have put ourselves in a position to be successful on all fronts including Europe. Success is winning championships. It is nothing less than that.”

Liverpool FC Will Get Top Stars, Insists Comolli

Liverpool’s Director of Football, Damien Comolli, says he is confident he can convince football’s top stars to join the club this summer – despite not having the lure of Champions League football.

Furthermore, Liverpool may miss out on qualification for Europe altogether with hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top five diminishing.

But Comolli is confident this summer will be a big one for the Reds on the transfer window, and the club remains a very attractive outfit to join.

“There will be movement (this summer),” he said.

“We are very attractive because of what we did in January and a game like that [against Man Utd in March]. Since the day after I was getting phone calls from agents telling me that their player would love to come and that we’re going to compete next year if we get it right. We want to bring top players to this club.”

Comolli also hinted that there will be a focus on a younger generation of players coming through, bridging the gap between the first team and what is happening at Liverpool’s Academy.

“A big part of my job is to make sure that there is a pathway between the Academy and the first team,” he added.

“If there is a big talent in one particular position in the reserves or the youth team, we need to anticipate that there will be room for him in the first team.

“If there is a very good young full-back we need to make sure we do not sign another player in front of him from outside.

“That’s the strong message I give to the staff at the Academy and the scouts, don’t push players in a position where we already have a talented player. If we did then we may as well shut down the Academy.”

Liverpool And Everton Chase Sevilla Winger Diego Perotti

Liverpool are reportedly monitoring Sevilla winger Diego Perotti with great interest, but will face competition from Everton in their pursuit of the Argentine.

According to talkSPORT, scouts from the Merseyside rivals have been to the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán to watch the 22-year-old in action and have been 'highly impressed' by his performances.

Reportedly valued at £16 million, Perotti could be available in the summer should Sevilla's demands be met - with Liverpool seemingly more likely to meet the valuation than Everton.

The Toffees' financial constraints have been well-documented while, conversely, Liverpool demonstrated their financial clout in January with the acquisitions of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group are expected to back Kenny Dalglish - or whoever the permanent manager may be next season - with significant transfer funds as they further look to transform fortunes at Anfield.

The signing of Perotti would certainly signify positive intent from the Liverpool owners, with the potential completion of a deal representing quite a coup for the Anfield club.

Liverpool are known to be keen to add more penetration on the flanks and the signing of Perotti would go some way to Damien Comolli achieving his objective.

Liverpool Set Sights On QPR Starlet Adel Taarabt

Liverpool are reportedly interested in QPR playmaker Adel Taarabt who has been in fine form this season helping the West London side to the brink of return to the top flight after an absence of 15 years. The Moroccan international has been a big hit since his arrival from Tottenham and is now being trailed by a number of Premier League sides.

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli is keen on bringing the former Lens man to Anfield and was the man who brought the young attacker to White Hart Lane in 2007 and is more than aware of what the talented youngster is capable of.

QPR boss Neil Warnock has talked of his concerns that a big club could come in and make an offer that would tempt Taarabt to leave Loftus Road and with the likes of Chelsea and Newcastle United said to be interested the emergence of Liverpool as a prospective suitor may put further weight to those fears.

Liverpool are looking to bring in more creative attacking talents and also have an eye for youthful signings with good sell on value and Adel Taarabt may helpfully fulfil all those criteria. Thus far this season the 21 year old has netted 15 goals and assisted another 15 as he has helped QPR to a seemingly unassailable nine point lead at the top of the table with eight games left to play.

£9m rated Taarabt can either play in the hole behind the strikers or on either wing and given that the likes of Joe Cole, Maxi, Milan Jovanovic and to a lesser extent, make-shift wide man Dirk Kuyt, have all failed to deliver the goods from the wide areas a move for new attacking options would appear very wise.

Liverpool FC Owners Urged To Splash The Cash To Sign Cahill

Liverpool legend John Aldridge has called on the club's owners to embark on a summer spending spree.

And the former Kop hit man has earmarked Bolton's Gary Cahill as one of the players which Fenway Sports Group must lure to Anfield in order to kick-start the Reds' rebuilding process.

Aldridge believes that the England international would 'fit the bill' with Liverpool's defence currently ravaged by injury; a problem heightened during Saturday's defeat at West Brom when Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson were both withdrawn before the half-hour mark.

Cahill has been a target of both Liverpool and Arsenal in recent months following his rise to prominence since arriving from Aston Villa in 2008.

Former Republic of Ireland international Aldridge also believes that Kenny Dalglish's side lack options in wide positions, reducing the amount of goalscoring opportunities presented to Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez - the Americans' first key purchases since becoming owners.

“The defeat at West Brom only told us what we all already knew – Liverpool’s squad is in urgent need of strengthening this summer,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“Kenny Dalglish has done a great job since he took over but he can only do so much with the players he has available. When Dalglish is confirmed as the permanent manager he will address those problem areas but he needs a lot of cash to do that.

“We need a left-back and we also have a problem at centre-back which needs addressing at some point.

“There’s talk of Liverpool going in for Bolton’s Gary Cahill this summer and I think someone of his stature would certainly fit the bill.

“The lack of width in the side sticks out like a sore thumb. We desperately need someone capable of beating a man and providing crosses for Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. We’ve got a strike force to be proud of now but we need to improve what’s behind them.

“We could do with five players but there’s no point bringing in squad players. We’ve got enough of them. What we need is top drawer players in order to take the club forward."

Fabio Aurelio In Line For Return From injury

Fabio Aurelio is in contention to ease Liverpool’s defensive headache ahead of next Monday’s clash with Manchester City at Anfield.

The Brazil left-back is on the comeback trail after a month out with a torn hamstring he suffered in the home win against Manchester United.

Aurelio, below, has endured an injury-plagued season and has made just 10 starts in all competitions since re-signing for the Reds last summer.

However, his return to training is timely with boss Kenny Dalglish currently without defenders Martin Kelly, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger.

Dalglish is still waiting to discover the extent of the damage to Johnson (hamstring) and Agger (knee) who both limped off early on in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at West Brom.

The manager is also sweating on Steven Gerrard (groin) with a scan set to reveal the severity of the setback the skipper sustained in training last Friday. As well as Aurelio, Dalglish could turn to talented teenagers Jack Robinson and John Flanagan to bolster his back four.

The two reserve team regulars were omitted from the second string’s 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa last night and are expected to train with the first team this week.

Left-back Robinson, 17, is the youngest ever player to feature for Liverpool following his cameo at Hull City in May 2010, while right-back Flanagan, 18, is yet to make his senior debut but has been an unused substitute in three Europa League games this season.

Dalglish has spoken highly of both in recent months and has vowed to give youth the chance to shine at Anfield.

Home-grown talent like Kelly and Jay Spearing have flourished following the Scot’s appointment in January, with his faith in them richly repaid.

Agent Clarifies Honda Future understands that CSKA Moscow striker Keisuke Honda will not be leaving the club in the summer despite rumoured interest from Liverpool, Arsenal and AC Milan.

On the back of the Japanese international’s superb performances at the World Cup finals last summer, the 24-year-old was lauded as the player of the tournament by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who alongside Kenny Dalglish and Serie A giants AC Milan, have been perpetually credited as admirers of the precocious youngster.

The Osaka born forward, who was named the Most Valuable Player at the recent Asia Cup in January, will reportedly stay in the Russian Premier League for the foreseeable future according to his agent.

“There is no progress with Keisuke (Honda). He is a CSKA Moscow player and he will stay a CSKA Moscow player.” Kees Ploegsma explained to

“The simple fact is he has a contract at CSKA Moscow and he will be honouring that and staying with the club. I can tell you nothing more than he will be staying in Moscow.”

The talented frontman, who signed a 4-year-deal with the Russian giants after moving from Dutch club VVV-Venlo in 2010 for an undisclosed fee, will continue to spearhead the Russian club’s attack next year.

Honda started his career at Gamba Osaka, the same club as former Arsenal player Junichi Inamoto, before moving onto Nagoya Grampus Eight, the club from whom Arsene Wenger joined the Gunners in 1996.

Barcelona Planning Fresh Swoop For Liverpool FC Man

Barcelona is attempting to re-sign Liverpool academy coach Rodolfo Borrell.

Borrell ended his 13-year association with the Catalan giants in summer 2009 to become a core part of Rafael Benitez's new-look youth set-up, and the sterling work undertaken at the club's centre of operations in Kirkby has not gone unnoticed by his former employers.

During his time at the La Masia academy, he oversaw the development of youngsters at all levels and has been credited with Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique's graduation to the first team ranks at the Nou Camp as well as that of Everton's Mikel Arteta and Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas

Liverpool's under-18 side have remained in contention for the Premier Academy League title and closed the gap on leaders Everton with a 2-1 win over Manchester United on Monday.

But Barcelona remain hopeful of tempting the Spaniard back to La Masia after almost two years of nurturing Anfield's future, despite seeing their two previous overtures rejected.

A third offer from the runaway La Liga leaders remains on the table but the ambitious Borrell is currently settled on Merseyside and understood to prefer continuing his rise through Liverpool's coaching ranks by progressing to the role of reserve team manager in the near future.

Pep Segura, Liverpool's Academy Technical Director and one of Borrell's former cohorts at La Masia, is expected to relinquish control of the club's second string at the end of the current season, having taken temporary charge following John McMahon's departure last month.

Mixed Emotions For Segura

Pep Segura admitted he had mixed emotions after seeing his young side lose 3-1 to a strong Aston Villa outfit at Villa Park on Monday night.

Jonjo Shelvey enjoyed a 56 minute-run out as he played his first game since February after returning from a knee injury, and David Ngog played the full 90, but it was a fairly young side picked by Segura.

Villa by contrast had eight players on show who have figured for the first XI.

Marc Albrighton gave Kevin MacDonald's side the lead with a superbly struck effort before Gary Gardner made added a double, including a penalty, to make it 3-0.

Toni Silva then reduced the deficit with a superb individual effort, and despite the Reds going close on several occasions Villa got the three points.

"It was a disappointing result but in the first 15 minutes of the game we started very well and had two very clear chances through Tom Ince so it could have been a different outcome," Segura told

"We conceded two goals from two crosses which was too easy for them and that was disappointing.

"I thought the players showed a good character in the second half and played well. Okay, the result is bad and we are disappointed but I thought the players did well, particularly in the second half.

"We played with the likes of Matty Regan who is only 17 and I thought he played very well.

"For our young players to play against a good experienced team was difficult but they will learn a lot from this for the future."