Monday, June 06, 2011

LFC Confirm Tour Game In Malaysia

Liverpool FC is delighted to announce they will be playing a Malaysia XI on Saturday July 16 during the Club's Asia Tour - sponsored by Standard Chartered.

Organized by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur will host the match with kick-off at 5.45pm local time. It is the second game to be played in Asia during July with the other match being staged in China.

LFC Managing Director Ian Ayre said: "At Liverpool FC we take these games very seriously. The game in Malaysia will be an important part of our preparations for the 2011-12 campaign and it's a chance for all our fans in Malaysia to get up close to their heroes.

"We will work closely with our main sponsor Standard Chartered and our other tour partners, Adidas and Carlsberg, to ensure we can deliver our best ever pre-season tour."

For the Malaysia leg of the trip, Courts are also official partners.

The Reds enjoy fantastic support in Asia and this summer's visit follows the hugely successful 10-day pre-season tour of Thailand and Singapore two years ago.

The Asia Tour begins with a game against Guangdong Sunray Cave in Guangzhou, China on Wednesday July 13.

"The match will be a piece of football history as this is the first time Liverpool FC will be stepping on Malaysian soil and it has created a lot of excitement," said Julian Kam, CEO of ProEvents, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Malaysia this year. "The Reds have a massive base of football fans in Malaysia.

"We have scheduled the game on a Saturday with kick-off at 5.45pm so everyone can come and watch."

LFC manager Kenny Dalglish said: "I'm looking forward to taking the team to Asia. It is great that we can give our supporters in Malaysia and China the chance to watch the team play. Our last tour of Asia in 2009 was a great success and we're delighted to be returning this summer."

Osman Morad, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank (Malaysia) Berhad, added: "Liverpool FC has a huge fan base in Malaysia; all very loyal supporters impatiently counting the days to see the Reds in action on our own shores.

"Standard Chartered is therefore delighted to sponsor this tour. We like to give back to the communities we operate in, and bringing Liverpool FC to Malaysia is in that spirit. Together with our employees, clients and Malaysian fans, we look forward to welcoming LFC with true Malaysian hospitality."

Liverpool Make New £18.5m Bid For Sunderland Starlet

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish made a new £18.5 million bid for Sunderland's England under-21 midfielder Jordan Henderson on Sunday.

Dalglish increased his opening offer from last week by almost £5 million as he goes for a quick deal, hoping to tie up Henderson as the Kop's first summer signing before the European finals start this weekend.

Henderson is waiting on the call to head for Merseyside for talks and a medical - although Sunderland believe they may yet get more out of the Anfield club.

Sunderland insiders are shocked by how quickly Liverpool has upped their offer. They were thinking of a £16 million sale, but now their negotiators reckon they may get even more.

Henderson has been briefed about Liverpool's ongoing and increasing interest and it seems sure that he will take the move - despite his allegiances to the Black Cats.

Liverpool are also willing to quadruple his salary to more than £60,000-a-week and that is bound to turn the head of the starlet who was in good form for Stuart Pearce's under-21s on Saturday.

Sunderland chief Steve Bruce - currently on holiday - is leaving the thrashing out of a fee to his money men but hopeful that his own transfer kitty may be swollen dramatically in the next day or two.

Liverpool Fight Milan For Witsel

While Milan confirms they are in negotiations for Belgium international Axel Witsel, its reported Liverpool have joined the bidding war.

This week it has become apparent that the Standard Liege starlet is the Rossoneri’s number one transfer target for that left midfield role.

“We are in talks with the Standard Liege directors and made contact over the past few days,” confessed Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani to SportItalia.

However, The People newspaper in England suggests Liverpool are also making a play for Witsel.

It’s claimed they offered £8m for the 22-year-old, who missed a penalty in Belgium’s 1-1 draw with Turkey this week.

However, Liverpool are said to be eyeing Witsel as a replacement for Alberto Aquilani, whose future remains very uncertain.

Juventus continue to drag out their talks over a permanent transfer for Aquilani, who spent this season on loan in Turin, and are increasingly unlikely to raise their offer.

If Aquilani returns to Anfield, then it’s possible Liverpool will step back and allow Milan free rein for Witsel.

Liverpool Give Up On Enrique And Target Cissokho

It was safely assumed by the Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish that the Toon defender Enrique would end up at Anfield next season, but it seems that Alan Pardew will not let the Spaniard leave St. James Park without a fight.

Newcastle have offered Enrique a fantastic new deal and slapped a price of £15m on his head, which Dalglish thinks is well over the top for a player with just 12 months left on his contract.

In light of this, todays Mirror reports that Liverpool has switched their focus to the Lyon left-back Aly Cissokho, who is very highly regarded in France and has recently earned his first international cap for the France senior side against Norway last summer.

At 23, Cissokho fits in with Liverpool’s new policy of buying young talent for Dalglish’s aim to bring Champions League football back to Anfield, while also investing for the future.

Young Seeks Bigger Stage

In-demand Aston Villa star Ashley Young admits he wants to play "at the highest level" as he prepares to discuss his future with Villa chairman Randy Lerner.

Manchester United and Liverpool are both thought to be leading the chase for the England international.

Young, who came off the bench to score England's equalizer against Switzerland on Saturday, is entering the final year of his contract and is widely expected to leave Villa this summer.

The skilful attacker has hinted he would be interested in a move to United after revealing he wants to be playing in the UEFA Champions League on a regular basis.

"I've always had self-belief. I've always had the confidence I can play at the highest level," said Young.

"I want to test myself at World Cups, European Championships and the Champions League. As a kid you always want to play in the best competitions. As a kid I wanted to play in the Champions League - and hopefully one day I will.

"People say the prime of your careers is aged 25, 26, 27. I'm 26 next month so hopefully I'm coming into my prime."

Young's Villa team-mate Darren Bent admits he is not surprised the likes of Premier League champions Manchester United are chasing the winger's signature.

"He has shown people why clubs like Manchester United are after him and he is a top, top player," admitted Bent.

"He has played the last four internationals and got three man of the matches so he is on fire at the moment.

"That's why teams like United want him.

"I have always said the best player I have played with club-wise was Luka Modric at Tottenham but Ash can't be too far behind now, if not on a par with him."

Bent believes it is unlikely that Villa can prevent Young from moving to the Champions League runners-up.

"I am still trying little bits and bobs here and there to make him stay but at the end of the day he a top, top player and a top professional," added Bent.

"If he wants to go and play for the second-best club side in the world, who is going to stop him?"

John Aldridge Backs Suso To Make His Mark At Anfield

Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge believes Academy star Suso will be ready to make an impact on the first team next season.

Reds’ fans have been waiting with baited breath for the Spanish teenager to make the transition into the senior side and it would appear they may get their wish when the new campaign begins in August.

Suso, who rejected the chance to join Barcelona in order to move to Liverpool, has gathered plenty of admirers after a number of cultured displays in the reserves, and Aldridge says the young forward could bring a touch of Catalan-inspired flair to Anfield.

“He started the 2010-11 campaign in blistering form for both the reserves and U18s and although he may have tailed off a little bit before the end of the term, I'm sure he'll be back on top of his game in the coming year,” the ex-Kop favourite told the official Liverpool website.

“Suso is such a gifted footballer and his technical ability is so good. He can be an absolutely joy to watch at times and some of his assists and goals in 10-11 were magnificent.

“He's a natural and a player in the Barcelona mould. I'm in no doubt if he continues to work hard at his game, he'll make the step up to the Liverpool first team.”

Liverpool Target Keisuke Honda Prefers A Move To Spain

Liverpool have been dealt a blow in their pursuit of CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda after the Japanese international claimed would rather move to Spain.

Honda has been heavily linked with a move to Europe since staring in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the Anfield club is understood to be monitoring his progress with a keen eye.

But the midfielder has poured water on a potential move by claiming that if he did leave the Russian side, it would be to move to La Liga.

Honda is quoted as saying by the Daily Star: “CSKA are in the Champions League so staying is not a bad option.

“But I do want to test myself at a higher level if the opportunity arises.

"My preference is still to play Spain."

Poulsen Wants Anfield Stay

Liverpool midfielder Christian Poulsen insists that he wants to stay at the club and be part of the rebuilding process.

The Danish international is reported to be one of several players heading towards the exit door this summer, having only figured a handful of times under new boss Kenny Dalglish.

Poulsen joined the Reds at the start of last season under former boss Roy Hodgson for £5million, but has become a much-maligned figure during his spell at Anfield and accused of not being up to the pace of the Premier League.

Despite struggling over the past year however, Poulsen still feels he can contribute in the centre of midfield and have a part to play in their revival, despite links with a move to Stoke.

"It was a really long season. I came here in August and a lot of things happened during the season - we have got new owners and the manager has changed," he told the club's official website.

"The whole time the dressing room was really good during a season of a lot of changes. The atmosphere is always better when you're winning games, but that is normal in football.

"In the second half of the season we found ourselves as a team and I am looking forward to seeing how Liverpool play next season because I think a lot of things have gone on this year, so if we can have more of a stable season then it will be interesting to see which position we can finish in.

"I am sure Kenny is the right man to lead Liverpool to success in the future because in the short time he has been here, we have only gone one way - and I hope that will continue in the future.

"Of course, I would also like to play a little bit more - and that is my hope for the future.

"To come to Liverpool and to play at Anfield has been really good for me, but I hope I still have bigger moments to come in the future that I will be able to talk about at the end of next season.

"I hope I can get closer to the starting XI. I have been training hard at Melwood to try and get back into the team and that is my aim for the future."

Skrtel Explains His Absence

Martin Skrtel has revealed he is sitting out international duty in order to recover from a thigh injury which nagged him through the final months of 2010-11.

The centre-back missed Slovakia's 1-0 win over Andorra on Saturday on doctor's orders.

He explained: "It is a minor injury. I had problems with my thighs for the last two months and it was quite painful.

"My doctor told me to rest so I need to respect his decision. I did speak with Mr. Weiss (Slovakia manager Vladimir Weiss) and he knows about my problems."

Skrtel did not miss a minute of Barclays Premier League action in 2010-11, a feat matched by just one other outfield player across the division - Everton's Leighton Baines.

In total he played 3591 minutes of league football, scoring two goals and collecting joint most yellow cards with Lucas Leiva on eight.

Xabi On Fans And Returning To LFC

Xabi Alonso has opened his heart about the anguish he felt over his Anfield exit - and left the door open for a sensational Liverpool reunion.

In a world exclusive interview - which premiered on LFC TV on Sunday night - the Spanish midfielder spoke of the disappointment he felt for the supporters after making his decision to quit Merseyside for Madrid in the summer of 2009, but insisted the time was right to take up a new challenge in his career.

In the wide-ranging interview conducted at the Real Madrid training complex in the Spanish capital, Alonso also revealed the reasons behind his departure and spoke glowingly about his memories of the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul.

But it's when asked about his feelings for the fans who idolized him on Merseyside that the emotion on his face is most vivid.

Because while he deliberated over a monumental career-changing decision, the Liverpool supporters didn't make it any easier for their midfield hero.

A pre-season match against Lazio in August 2008 will be remembered more for the backing Xabi received off the field than for anything that happened on it that night, while a trip to Asia the following pre-season again saw him bombarded with pleas for him to stay throughout every inch of the Reds' journey through Thailand and Singapore.

Add to that the support week by week in the domestic games, and the Liverpool No.14 knew he would be breaking thousands of red hearts by sticking with his decision to quit Anfield.

"The Lazio game came at a moment of uncertainty because the transfer window was still open and I didn't know what was going to happen, whether I was going to stay with Liverpool or go somewhere else," he recalls. "The fans made it clear that they wanted me to stay. It was a big boost for me to be even more committed. Whenever you are not in a certain position at a club and you receive that support, you have to commit even more and that's what they did for me. It was fantastic to receive that support from the fans. It was only a friendly but it was one of the most special days for me.

"It was difficult because Liverpool has been and always will be very special. It is in my heart because I have lived very intense things there. It was really difficult to tell the fans what my decision was, but sometimes you have to follow your feelings and that was my feeling at that moment.

"The fans always made it very clear what they wanted and the support I had from the first day I arrived to the last day was absolutely top and I can't have any complaints about that. But it was my decision and my feeling."

After making up his mind that he had to leave Anfield, and after finally putting pen to paper on a contract with Real Madrid, his excitement over the new challenge which lay ahead was tinged with some sadness and some regret that he wasn't given the opportunity to say goodbye to those supporters who had idolized him since his first day on Merseyside.

"It was quite a long summer with so many meetings, so many talks and so many rumours," he said. "I would have preferred to say goodbye properly, like so many other teammates had already done, but because of the circumstances it didn't happen."

His 210 appearances for Liverpool included 19 goals and countless man of the match displays as he quickly earned himself legend status among Kopites.

One of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet off the field and one of the best passers of a football on it, his time at Liverpool was a real-life Spanish-Scouse love affair.

"I miss lots of things. I miss the lads, I miss the atmosphere at Melwood - it was a great place to work, and the scenario of Anfield is unbeatable," says Xabi. "The special nights I have been privileged enough to live, those will be in my memory forever and they are difficult to compare anywhere in the world.

"Since I arrived I have known so many big, big legends as Kenny, Hansen, Souness, Fowler, Stevie, Carra - these will be forever. Sami Hyypia as well, for me he was a big example and someone I learned a lot from. I don't think I belong there but if I am a step below them I am happy to be there.

"Stevie and Carra are very good friends. They were good teammates because from the first day I felt I got on with them well. The importance they had in the changing room, it was very important for me to have a good relationship with them. Being from Liverpool, knowing how things were at that moment and winning the Champions League in the first year made the relationship stronger. That is why they are still very good friends.

"I always had full respect for Liverpool before I signed because I had heard all the stories and the tradition that they had. But once you are involved, if you like football and like the passion from the fans and the important things that matter in football then you will love Liverpool. That is what it is all about, about football, about respecting the game and about supporting the team and you can live that in Liverpool better than anywhere else."

He may not be a Liverpool player anymore, but the power of the internet and the phenomenon of Twitter has ensured he can keep in touch with events at Anfield - and with Kopites all over the world.

At the time of writing over 679,000 people 'follow' Xabi on the social network platform - and it's a fair bet that a decent percentage of that total are Liverpool fans, all of whom would welcome him back to Anfield tomorrow.

"It's great to have this direct communication," he says. "Sometimes when I tweet about Liverpool you see they keep an eye on what you are doing. I keep an eye on Liverpool as well and what is going on around the club. The fans often tell me they would like to see me back in a red shirt."

Xabi's tweet immediately after Kenny Dalglish's appointment as Liverpool manager back in January certainly struck the right chord with fans as he wished 'King Kenny' the best of luck.

"I had the chance to know Kenny a little bit. King Kenny is the biggest legend, so it was like you wanted to write it. It was perfect. I'm really pleased with what he and Steve Clarke have done," he added.

"At the beginning of the season I was feeling for the players because you could see things were not going very well and confidence was low at that moment. But things changed, the club settled down with new ownership. With Kenny's arrival the belief and the confidence of the team looks much better. I am looking forward to next season. It looks like it can be a good season."

But what about on a personal level? A key component of Jose Mourinho's Madrid team, Alonso has helped lead the battle with Barcelona for the Spanish and European trophies this season - and has been left with a feeling of what might have been.

"It's another stage of my professional career and I am enjoying it so far," he says. "We are challenging for big things and you want to be at a professional club. So far we are fighting against a great team like Barcelona, they are making it more difficult to win La Liga, for example, but that makes it a greater challenge than it already was.

"I want La Liga because that's the only trophy I don't have and is the one I am missing. I missed it in Liverpool and hopefully I will be able to make it in Madrid. The Champions League is obviously the Champions League, but I want La Liga.

"I am happy here. It's a big club, we have a great manager and a good team. It's been a very intense season. The cup final against Barcelona was really hard, the Champions League semi-final games against them were hard as well, but we kept fighting, but at the end we couldn't make it. Even just winning the cup, we are not absolutely pleased with the season but we feel we have progressed and are looking forward to next season."

But what about the future beyond next season? Having already mentioned that fans regularly tweet him with pleas for a return to Anfield, and knowing how much he is still loved on the red half of Merseyside, is there any hope that he could wear a Liverbird upon his chest again?

"Why not? I think that in football so many things change, and why not? I have my red passion and if circumstances arrived then why not? At the moment I don't know what is going to happen, but it could be a possibility. Never say never."

And with that final, teasing, answer, our interview with Xabi was almost at an end.

With two young children - Jon, aged 3 - 'he's a Scouser, he was born in Liverpool, has the kit and I will raise him as a Liverpool fan' and Annie - aged 1 - 'she has just learnt to walk so I spend a lot of time running behind her' - to keep him busy away from the demands and pressures of top level football, it's clear Xabi is a man completely happy with his life.

And whether he is reunited with the Reds at some point in the future or not, he will forever be grateful for the time he spent on Merseyside.

"I was for five seasons so pleased and so privileged to be part of the Liverpool family and I just want to say thank you to you all."

U19 Heartache For Academy Five

There was heartache for five Liverpool youngsters as an unbeaten England crashed out of the European Championships on goal difference following a 1-1 draw with Spain on Sunday afternoon.

Despite winning their opening two group games, the Three Lions needed a victory to reach the last eight due to Spain's superior goal difference.

Michael Ngoo set-up Tottenham's Harry Kane for England's leveller on the stroke of half-time during his 59-minute run-out but a winner proved elusive.

Skipper Andre Wisdom, Thomas Ince, Conor Coady and Jack Robinson all played 90 minutes for Noel Blake's side.

Attention now turns to the U17 World Cup in Mexico, which will feature seven of our Academy youngsters.

Raheem Sterling joins Adam Morgan, Brad Smith, Tyrell Belford, Matty Regan and Jack Dunn in the England squad, while Tom King has been selected by Australia.

The tournament kicks-off on June 18 and the final is in Mexico City on July 10.