Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jordan Henderson Not Daunted By Huge Liverpool Transfer Fee

Jordan Henderson today declared the size of the transfer fee Liverpool paid Sunderland for him filled him with confidence, not fear.

Henderson admitted it had been a hectic week after he was allowed to complete his move to Anfield before linking up with the England Under-21 squad for their European Championship campaign in Denmark.

The midfielder, who turns 21 on Friday, reportedly cost in the region of £16million and some have questioned whether Liverpool paid over the odds.

But Henderson has vowed to prove he is worth the money and revealed he plans to begin repaying his fee by helping the Reds qualify for next season's Champions League.

"I don't really make the figures up but it just shows that Liverpool have faith in me," he told Press Association Sport.

"So I'll work hard and improve as a player and learn a lot and hopefully I can repay them."

Henderson has a chance to win over the doubters while on international duty this summer, but ultimately he will be judged on whether he manages to help Liverpool get back into the Champions League, which they have missed out on in the past two seasons.

He added: "Every player wants to play in the Champions League, but I think we've got to focus on the Premier League first.

"Hopefully, this season can be a good season for Liverpool."

Henderson insisted it was not an easy decision to quit Sunderland, the team he grew up supporting.

"You've got to think about these things," he said.

"It's a massive, massive thing in my life and my career but obviously it's a great opportunity for me to go there and improve as a player.

"So it was an opportunity I couldn't really turn down to be honest."

Henderson added of the past five days: "It's been a little bit hectic but it's been brilliant as well.

"So a really good week for me and hopefully it'll get better."

Henderson was unable to show off his skills in England Under-21s' 1-1 Group B draw against Spain on Sunday night, which saw Stuart Pearce's side get out of jail in a game their opponents completely dominated.

"On Sunday, Spain made it really difficult for us," said Henderson.

"They're obviously a gifted team on the ball but I think that we showed great character and a good attitude to stay in the game and get the late goal.

"I think that's what the positives were that we've got to take out of the game.

"We didn't have much of the game but we managed to get something out of it."

There is always the danger England's players could feel they have got the hardest group game out of the way ahead of Wednesday's clash with Ukraine and Sunday's match with the Czech Republic.

Henderson urged caution, though, and said: "Ukraine and Czech Republic are two massive teams still.

"We've got two big games coming up but we'll prepare for them and we'll be ready for them."

Liverpool Set For Adam Talks

Sky Sports News sources understand Liverpool will hold talks with Blackpool's Charlie Adam later this week.

The Scotland international has long been a target of the Anfield club and they failed in an attempt to agree a deal in the January transfer window.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's interest in his compatriot is not thought to have ended and he is again attempting to secure the playmaker, with Sky Bet suspending their market earlier on Monday.

Sky sources understand discussions will consequently take place with relegated Blackpool and Adam later this week.

The Reds have already signed Jordan Henderson from Sunderland and are expected to continue to remodel their squad this summer.

Ongoing interested in Adam, who suits Fenway Sports Group's policy for young, British players, adds to the uncertainty surrounding Raul Meireles.

Despite a promising debut season in the Premier League, it has been speculated that the 28-year-old could be sold due to his age and doubts about his fitness.

Liverpool Linked To Birmingham Center-Back Duo

With Daniel Agger continually injured, Martin Skrtel's form regressing somewhat and Jamie Carragher continuing to age, Kenny Dalglish finds himself in need for both depth and future at center back as part of Liverpool's summer spending spree.

To that end, the Birmingham City center-back duo of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann has been linked to Anfield moves, according to Sky Sports.

While the Blues were relegated this past season, Johnson and Dann were seen as blameless in that result, with the club actually being relatively stingy in defense -- simply lacking any ability to score goals.

Dann's midseason injury also was widely viewed as a turning point.

With Blackburn's Phil Jones heading to Old Trafford and Bolton's Gary Cahill most often linked to a move to the Emirates, Dann, 24, is perhaps the best young Premier League center-back prospect available.

Johnson, 28, is a little bit older than Dann, but he has proven to be a rock at the back, and has started every Premier League match for the past two seasons. Both are valued at approximately £4 million, though they would likely cost more.

Prem Quartet Chasing Milosevic

Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Sunderland are reported to be doing battle for the signature of Swedish defender Alexander Milosevic.

A number of scouts are believed to have watched the 18-year-old full-back in action against Malmo on Sunday.

Milosevic's agent, Nenad Lukic, admits he is aware of interest in the defender from England, but insists there have been no offers for the teenager.

"I know that there are English clubs that are interested but we haven't heard anything concrete," Lukic told Aftonbladet.

"We respect AIK (Solna) too. They were courageous enough to give a young player the chance to play in the starting XI."

Solna's sporting director, Jens Andersson, knows there are clubs chasing Milosevic, but he refused to reveal their identities.

"I know that there are several clubs that follow him but I never comment on specific clubs," noted Andersson.

Inter Line Up Bid For Liverpool Midfield Ace

Inter Milan are considering a move for Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles, according to reports in Italy.

Inter president Massimo Moratti reckons the Portugal international would fit in well at the San Siro and is keen to press ahead with an enquiry.

The 28-year-old moved to Anfield from Porto in a £13m deal last summer and enjoyed a promising first season in the Premier League, scoring five goals in 33 appearances.

But Meireles will face fierce competition for places at Liverpool following the arrival of Jordan Henderson and the return to fitness of Steven Gerrard over the summer.

And, should Liverpool complete their rumoured move for Blackpool's Charlie Adam, there could be another central midfielder for Meireles to compete with.

He is under contract until 2014 but reports suggested a bid of around £14m might be enough to test Liverpool's resolve to hold on to him.

Agent: 'Subotic Won't Quit Dortmund For Liverpool'

Liverpool have been told they will need to look elsewhere for a new central defender after Neven Subotic confirmed he has no intention of leaving Borussia Dortmund.

Kenny Dalglish is eager to improve his options in central defence this summer and Birmingham City defender Scott Dann is also a target.

Subotic has been discussed at Anfield and the Dortmund defender has no shortage of admirers across Europe.

Manchester United, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid have all expressed an interest in the 22-year-old defender, who played Under-17 and Under-20 football for USA.

Subotic joined Dortmund from Mainz in 2008 and his performances in defence since then have attracted a long list of potential suitors.

But the player's agent, Stephen Kelly, insists Subotic is eager to remain at Dortmund and represent the German champions in the Champions League next season.

"Neven will not be leaving Dortmund this summer, I am certain. He is happy there and has a very good contract, one that expires in 2014," he said.

"Of course there is interest and, has been from the beginning, but he does not want to leave the club. He wants to play for them in the Champions League."

Jewell: No Bids For Conor Wickham

Ipswich have not received any firm bids for teenage striker Connor Wickham, according to manager Paul Jewell.

Liverpool and Sunderland are among a list of clubs in recent weeks to have been linked with the 18-year-old, who is currently away with Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad at the European Championships in Denmark.

Jewell told the club's official website: "Everyone seems to be talking about Connor, but there's been no bid for him.

"We've had enquiries, but enquiries don't mean anything. I could ring up Barcelona and enquire about Lionel Messi, but it doesn't mean I'll get him.

"Connor is happy here and as far as we're concerned he'll be with us for next season. The good thing is that we don't have to sell anyone."

Wickham made his first-team debut for Ipswich as a 16-year-old against Doncaster in 2009.

Arbeloa Admires Dalglish Style

Alvaro Arbeloa feels Kenny Dalglish has succeeded where predecessor Roy Hodgson failed at Anfield because his style is more suited to the team.

The six months the ex-Fulham boss had in charge saw the side struggle for results and performances with many criticizing the Englishman's tactics.

Dalglish replaced him in early January and the turnaround on the field was marked, with the team enjoying the kind of form which would have put them on a par with Chelsea and Manchester City had it been reproduced over a full season.

Real Madrid full-back Arbeloa watched from afar as a club he still holds in great esteem struggled at times and agreed with the consensus that Hodgson was just not the right fit for the Reds.

"I think they played maybe too many long balls under Hodgson," said Arbeloa.

"I think Liverpool are the type of team that has to play more football.

"Technically they have some really good players and they need to play more football.

"I think with Dalglish, who was one of the best players in the history of Liverpool, they look more confident and they improved a lot."

Many attributed Liverpool's problems to a gradual decline since they ran Manchester United a close second in 2009, which appeared to be prompted by the departure of Xabi Alonso to Real.

However, Arbeloa's Madrid team-mate, whom he also played alongside at Liverpool, believes that was too simplistic an explanation and was disrespectful to the players who remained.

In the absence of the experience duo of Alonso and Javier Mascherano, who left for Barcelona last summer, Brazil midfielder Lucas Leiva enjoyed his best season in a Reds shirt.

But Alonso stressed it would be wrong for his former club to be looking for a player with an identical match to his own talents.

"I think that Lucas for example, has improved quite a lot the last few years, he has won a lot of importance in the team and has become quite mature," the Spain international told sportsillustrated.com.

"But [let's not] think about a new Alonso. Try to think of a new pattern, a new pattern of play, a new idea of how to play and that comes from Kenny, as well as (assistant manager) Steve Clarke who's done a great job.

"That's going to be important to create a style, and that's what they're going to try to work on.

"And now, when they sign new players, try to gel them as well as possible."

Pepe Reina Undergoes Surgery

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has undergone surgery on a double hernia.

The Spanish international, one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League, had the non-emergency operation in Munich on Monday morning.

The former Barcelona and Villarreal shot-stopper, who captained Liverpool on occasions when both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were unavailable last season, is expected to return with the rest of the squad for pre-season training next month.

Jonjo's Ups And Downs

It’s been an up and down first season at Liverpool for England young gun Jonjo Shelvey, having juggled a big move away from home, captaining his country and trying to establish himself at a new club.

That’s no mean feat for someone who only just turned 19 earlier this year and it’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the Romford-born midfielder.

A regular for England at U16 and U17 level in previous years, Shelvey had the honour of captaining England’s U19s in the first half of the season as he helped Noel Blake’s side through the First Qualifying Round of the European Championship last October.

"It's always an joy to play for England and I've been fortunate enough to have done it since the U16s and it's something that I enjoy," he said.

"To captain them is something special and after playing for the U16s, U17s and U19s, the next step is the Under-21s so that's where I have to be aiming now."

Unfortunately, injury curtailed his international appearances in the second half of the campaign but his move to Anfield has been a different story and there are encouraging signs for his future.

After being a first team regular with Charlton Athletic since he was just 16, Shelvey’s performances at the Valley saw a whole host of clubs chasing his signature and when Liverpool won that race last summer, it was a big move north for the player but one that he has taken on and adapted to particularly well.

Shelvey believes the switch has certainly helped him improve as a footballer, having had to tailor his game a little more since joining the Merseyside giants.

"The defensive side of the game was very new to me when I first came here,” he admitted.

“The staff here organize you very well defensively, and it’s helped me as a person on and off the pitch.

"I'm not so attack-minded any more, I'm getting to know what my job is in the team.”

Shelvey has been rewarded for his development too, making 15 appearances for the Reds in a variety of competitions this season and he admits that it’s all been a bit of a dream for him in his maiden season.

“I enjoy it here and hopefully I can get more starts and be a Liverpool player for a long time," he added.

"The highlight is just coming into training every day. It's a pleasure to get up in the morning knowing you're coming into work at Liverpool Football Club. It's an honour.

"I speak to my brother and he hates getting up in the morning. He gets up at 7am to get a train up to London and he can't stand it. It's just an honour for me to get up and do what I love doing.

"I knew the club was a hard working and family orientated club as soon as I joined. Everyone loves coming to work here. I don't think you could find a better place to work. Everyone is friendly, everyone gets on with everyone."

As a central midfielder, Shelvey has no shortage of players to learn from in training either but there’s one man in particular that he looks up to and it’s no surprise to hear that it’s Liverpool skipper and England dynamo Steven Gerrard.

"I think he's the benchmark for young midfielders - he is for me,” explained Shelvey, whose early performances for Liverpool have seen him compared to his idol in certain quarters.

“Everyone has someone they look up to but he's the one for me and hopefully I can achieve half of what he's achieved.

"It's not a burden for me, it's nice to be compared to people like that. If something's not going well, you can tell yourself, 'Come on, you're supposed to be the next whoever.' It's a bit of inspiration.

"It's nice to be labelled, but you can't rest on what you've done. You have to be your own player, train day in and day out and try to become the best player you can."