Thursday, April 21, 2011

Scrap January Transfer Window And Make Managers Prove They Can Coach

There is a bit of the politician in all football managers. Most relish issuing the media with manifestos full of worthy pledges about raising coaching standards, enhancing youth development and eliminating financial waste from transfer budgets.

Such promises sound good but a mixture of human weakness and the English game's free-market system makes honouring them tough. Rather like some government ministers, certain managers are addicted to spending as many millions as possible and may find overseas scouting missions more enjoyable than less glamorous, mud‑on‑boots assignments overseeing young academy prospects.

Aware that improving existing playing staffs through coaching is arduous and time-consuming and is not always successful, some of the men placed in charge of our leading clubs struggle to resist the temptation to bet the farm on high‑stakes transfer-market gambles. With trading permissible during the summer and winter transfer windows, some are able to operate in an almost Trotskyite spirit of permanent revolution but, too often, all this upheaval either proves detrimental to their aims or makes little discernible difference to performance.

Take Steve Bruce. Since arriving at struggling Sunderland less than two years ago he has signed 19 new players – four have subsequently departed – while off-loading a similar number. The changes are dramatic; their impact superficial. Once again Bruce's team is fighting for Premier League survival and he is already planning another "major close-season rebuild".

There is a simple, yet intriguing, way to break this cycle of despair. Scrap the January transfer window and leave managers to rely on coaching and motivational abilities for an entire campaign, without the option of buying a way out of trouble halfway through.

In early 2011 this would have left fans fascinated by Kenny Dalglish's endeavours to put Fernando Torres's attacking game back together again at Liverpool. Similarly, Gérard Houllier could have shown us his mettle by steering Aston Villa away from relegation waters without the £24m injection of Darren Bent's goals.

Not that shutting the January swap‑shop alone would be sufficient to create a significantly spicier, much more meritocratic league. Its removal must be allied to a system that punishes all recruitment errors. This should involve clubs being heavily fined – potentially millions – for moving a player on within two years of acquisition. If a new defender, for instance, disappointed and was transferred for £2m 12 months after arrival, 75% of that fee could automatically be directed to a football‑related charity.

In an added twist designed to reduce talent wastage and avoid leaving erstwhile stars whose faces no longer fitted rotting in the reserves, further fines might be imposed on occasions where recent signings aged over 21 featured in less than 80% of a team's fixtures when fit.

By forcing managers to think twice before importing new players this would represent a huge incentive to offer bright academy prospects first‑team chances. The Harry Redknapps and Rafael Benítezs of this world may not approve, but watching such wheeler‑dealers subdue their trading impulses would provide considerable, intensely psychological human drama.

If Tottenham discarding the £15m David Bentley was suddenly no longer financially viable, rebuilding a right-winger once regarded as David Beckham's natural heir would be the manager's only feasible option. A similarly reformed Benítez may even start to regard the days when he signed 77 players in six roller-coaster seasons at Liverpool as his mid-life crisis.

Just as eternally restless householders with bizarre compulsions to paint their sitting rooms new colours every six months could make better use of all that time and energy, managers might learn that improving existing players – sometimes beyond all measure – offers far greater satisfaction than simply replacing anyone regarded to have the merest flaw.

Meanwhile realization would begin to dawn that in terms of raw, unpolished ability there are minimal differences between most Premier League players.

Equally importantly, the new regulations would also help prevent players and their representatives from routinely trying to break already generous contracts by agitating for increasingly lucrative transfers.

What could be better than a system destined to upset agents, restrict greed, improve coaching, promote gifted youth, minimize panic buying and, above all, reveal the identities of those who can and cannot really manage a football team successfully?

Comolli Comes To Front Line For £7m Wing Gem

Liverpool have been given a boost in their hopes to secure France international winger Dimitri Payet, according to reports.

The official Liverpool website has cited sources claiming that the winger, who is reportedly worth £7 million, has been fielding interest from big name clubs throughout Europe, with Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish keen to grow his attacking force.

And contract talks with AS Saint-Étienne and the star have also stalled, meaning that Dalglish might just get his way with the winger's signature.

Liverpool Director of Football Damien Comolli is a personal fan of Payet’s, with the 24 year old scoring twelve goals so far this season for Ligue 1 side Saint-Étienne, as well as setting up countless goals for teammates.

Comolli reportedly sees Payet as being able to supply the ball to dangerous Liverpool forwards Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.

Comolli praised Payet’s efforts in November last year, comparing him to star playmaker Luka Modric.

“On a natural class level, Dimitri is stronger than a player like Modric, (who) I saw very closely at Tottenham,” Comolli told France Football.

“It is a very high level. We never stopped repeating to him: 'It is only up to you to join a French team'.”

Payet had been linked to Liverpool on a number of occasions last year, and with the transfer period drawing closer, the speculation is no doubt going to grow around the Frenchman.

Agent Says Liverpool Should Contact Wolfsburg For Simon Kjaer

Simon Kjaer's agent has told suitors of the player to direct their interest to Wolfsburg if they wish to make an offer.

The Danish international has been a long-term target for a number of Barclays Premier League clubs, but moved to the Bundesliga instead of England last summer following a successful World Cup.

However, things have failed to work out in Germany after he left Palermo, with Wolfsburg fighting a relegation battle in a season that has seen Steve McLaren sacked as manager.

With the cub four points adrift of safety, relegation would almost certainly lead to the player's exit in the summer, although agent Mikkel Beck has told clubs to direct their interest to the club should they wish to secure a deal.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was recently claimed to have made a personal trip alongside Damien Comolli to watch the player, while Chelsea scouts have also been tracking the player's progress.

Arsenal have also been linked, with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger known to be in the market for a centre back and keen to make a permanent signing at the Emirates in the summer transfer window.

It's Liverpool who the agent referred to directly when speaking to though, despite the reported interest of other clubs such as Manchester City and Manchester United.

“Every club can see that Wolfsburg are struggling and therefore a couple of teams are following him a little closer ahead of the summer," stated Beck.

“If Damien Commoli called me I would tell him to contact the club (Wolfsburg). He must see if the club is willing to sell before approaching myself or the player. We are under contract until 2014 so anyone interested in Simon must contact the club.

“We will see what happens in the summer, but it would surprise if Wolfsburg were to sell Simon, as they want to develop the team. But it depends on the situation.”

Whilst a potential fee for the player is not discussed, recent valuations in Germany have placed the player at around the €12 million mark. Liverpool have the finances available should they wish to try and bring the player to Anfield, and owners Fenway Sports Group could be called upon to secure the deal.

Arsenal aren't short of transfer funds either though, and could make it an interesting end of season battle should they wish to pursue the player again.

Liverpool Looming Over Ligue 1 'Leader' Addition

Rennes captain Kader Mangane will become the subject of a summer transfer tussle between Liverpool and Aston Villa according to

The 28-year-old Ligue 1 star has established himself at the heart of the French outfit's defence since his 2008 move from Lens.

His commanding displays have been rewarded with the captain's armband in recent months, with his fine form attracting the interest of a number of potential suitors.

With Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish looking to strengthen his defensive department, the Reds boss wants to add a natural leader to his squad and has earmarked Mangane for a move to Anfield.

Currently contracted to Rennes until 2012, Mangane has made his intentions quite clear by stating his dream is to test himself in the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli has strong links to the French domestic league, and is thought to have utilized his contacts in a bid to gain comprehensive scouting reports on Dalglish's prospective target.

Having made 22 appearances for Rennes this season, Mangane has been one of the standout performers in Ligue 1 this campaign.

The Senegalese international is now hoping to capitalize on his fine form this year, and use it as a platform to move on to greater things.

If Liverpool step up their interest in Mangane they will likely face competition from Villa, with former Anfield boss Gerard Houllier also rumoured to be monitoring the player's situation.

He is also keen to bring a defender to Villa Park, as a potential replacement for James Collins who, ironically has also been linked with a summer move to Liverpool.

Liverpool's Serbian Stopper Search Stalls

Borussia Dortmund look set to keep hold of defender Neven Subotic after the club issued a 'hands off' warning to potential suitors.

The German club, runaway leaders in the Bundesliga, is expected to be raided this summer after an impressive season and Subotic is one of a host of names being linked with such a move.

Liverpool were tipped to be the front runners for his signature but Dortmund chief Hans-Joachim Watzke says the club have no intention of parting with the defender.

"Neven Subotic is not for sale, not for any price," Watzke told Ruhr Nachrichten.

"He is contracted to us until June 2014 and he is an important part of the club's first team as much as for the future of this club."

Kenny Dalglish, who is expected to be given a permanent deal at the club as well as plenty of money to spend this summer, has been charged with building a Liverpool squad capable of challenging for Champions League places and eventually, for the Premier League title.

Having signed Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez in the January transfer window, its clear Dalglish will be trusted again in the summer window to attempt to sign players capable to match such ambitions, alongside Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli.

Poulsen Poised To End Miserable Liverpool Stay

Liverpool flop Christian Poulsen is on the verge of ending his Merseyside misery with a return to former club FC Copenhagen.

The midfielder, signed by Roy Hodgson during his disastrous six month reign at the start of the season, has made just nine league starts for the club after costing £4.5m from Juventus in the summer.

The Denmark international was made a scapegoat for Liverpool's poor start to the season after failing to fill the gap left by Javier Mascherano as the club's deep-lying central midfielder.

Reports in the Danish press claim the 31-year-old has already signed a one-year deal with the Champions League side with a further year on offer if the former Schalke man impresses the Superliga champions.

Kenny Dalglish: Alberto Aquilani Could Come Back To Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish has revealed that Liverpool would welcome Alberto Aquilani back into the fold should he not make a permanent move to Juventus.

The Italian joined the club during Rafael Benitez's reign in 2009 as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, who had left for Real Madrid.

But the former Roma midfielder failed to recover quickly from an ankle injury that he had been carrying since his time at the Italian capital, and struggled to make much of an impact on Merseyside.

The appointment of Roy Hodgson last summer saw the 26-year-old being sent out on a season-long loan to Juventus, with the Turin-based club having the option of a permanent transfer this summer.

However, it is believed that Juve are not keen on coughing up about £14 million for the midfielder's services, while Dalglish has maintained that the Reds would be happy to have Aquilani back next season.

"When people talk about next season, I’m surprised they don’t give Alberto a mention," he said. "Everyone seems to have forgotten about him.

"I know he has done really well at Juventus this season. When the loan finishes at the end of the season, he reverts back to being a Liverpool player.

"Nothing is cast in stone and he could be coming back to play for Liverpool. He could be a valuable asset here next season. He’s still our player."

Dalglish added: "He certainly didn’t have the best of luck last season.

"At times he did really well and at other times he didn’t do quite so well but you can say that about most players. What I do know is that he’s had a fantastic season at Juventus."

Jovanovic Regrets Reds Move

Out-of-favour Liverpool midfielder Milan Jovanovic admits he regrets moving to England last summer.

Jovanovic joined Liverpool on a free transfer after seeing out his contract at Belgian side Stanard Liege.

The Serbian international has found it difficult to make an impact at Anfield and has hardly figured since Kenny Dalglish took over from Roy Hodgson in January.

The 29-year-old, who has been strongly linked with a move away from Liverpool in the summer, admits he is unhappy with his current situation.

Asked if he ever regretted his move to England, Jovanovic told Sportske."If I'm completly honest, I must say that I regularly think about this. If I would move to Italy or Germany I would be happier than in England - my life would be nicer.

"And also for my career it would be better to play in Serie A or the Bundesliga.

"In Belgium I was living in an area where there were so many people from Serbia and my life was different, more dynamic.

"Liverpool is such a different place. I'm here alone, without anybody. I'm just a very lonely stranger.

"In my months here I haven't met anybody from my country. If I wouldn't have my wife and my kids I just couldn't speak Serbian with anybody.

"But Liverpool is of course a club which you can't refuse."

Jovanovic was signed by ex-Reds boss Rafa Benitez, but the Spaniard left Liverpool before the attacker's arrival on Merseyside.

The Serbian admits Benitez's departure has affected his own situation feeling he would be playing more if the Spaniard was still in charge of Liverpool.

"My only regret is, that the coach, who brought me at Anfield, left the club even before my arrival," he said.

"If Rafa Benitez would have stayed in Liverpool I believe everything would be different for me.

"There were 15 other clubs which followed me but I chose Liverpool and make a mistake."

Reds Go Top After Baggies Win

Liverpool U18s moved to the top of Barclays Premier Academy League Group C with a 2-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday afternoon.

A dominant Reds performance saw Krisztian Adorjan fire Rodolfo Borrell's men into a first-half lead.

Adam Morgan doubled Liverpool's advantage in the second period, netting for the 14th consecutive game - 13 of which have been for the U18s.

It means the Reds moved to the summit of the table, level on points with Everton but with a vastly superior goal difference.

Furthermore, Borrell's side has a game in hand with four left to play - though the Blues are next up on Tuesday morning.