Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gerrard Excited By Transfer Activity

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is hopeful the club's transfer activity this northern summer will give his side the opportunity to redress the balance in its long-running battle with Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side edged one ahead of its arch-rival in terms of championship titles with its 19th success in May.

By contrast, Liverpool has not won the league since 1990 - when Kenny Dalglish was in charge first time around - and its last trophy of any kind was the 2006 FA Cup.

With owner Fenway Sports Group willing to invest heavily in players for the long-term future - having recently signed England Under-21 midfielder Jordan Henderson in a £20million deal - Gerrard is optimistic his club can match United and he will win more trophies before the end of his Anfield career.

"As a Liverpool fan and a player it's frustrating when you see your arch-rivals lifting trophies but you've got to give credit where it's due. They've won it, they've overtaken us," said the 31-year-old.

"Now the challenge for us is to equalize. We've got to make sure we've got a squad capable of going into the season and competing with Manchester United.

"It's a big statement by the club getting a big signing in early and now we're watching anxiously for a few more to follow. It's exciting times.

"It's important this team delivers very soon because we've been a number of seasons without putting a trophy in the cabinet and that's not what Liverpool is about.

"I want to play well, I want to score goals - but it's much more important that the team plays well and we all end the season happy."

Gerrard is currently undergoing a program of rehabilitation - the club's physios have been working with him every day at his holiday home in Portugal - after groin surgery in March but he will be ready for the start of pre-season.

It has been the longest spell on the sidelines of his career but the England midfielder is confident he and Liverpool will feel the benefit when the new campaign kicks off in August.

"I want to come back with a bang, I want to have a big season," Gerrard told liverpoolfc.tv.

"It's been non-stop football for me since I started when I was 17. I've never had a period of more than four or five weeks out of the game, so it's been nice to rest mentally.

"You don't want to miss games but when you're watching them it gives you that edge, that buzz to get back.

"I'll come back hungry and hopefully there's a very productive season ahead for me.

"I've had a rest mentally, my injury's coming on well and I can't wait for the season to start.

"There's still a lot of time for me to achieve bigger and better things. I'd like to finish my career with a few more trophies.

"I always look at the 35 marker. If I get there and I'm still involved with Liverpool I'll be delighted but at the moment I'm feeling as good as ever.

"I've had time to get my body right, get my body strong. I'm still four or five weeks away from playing a game but I believe I'll come back in better physical condition than I've ever been."

Dalglish Versus McLeish In Battle For Downing

Kenny Dalglish will refuse to give up on his pursuit of Stewart Downing, despite Aston Villa's reluctance to sell.

The Liverpool boss has identified England winger Downing as his number one attacking priority in the summer transfer window, and is ready to offer big money to get his man.

New Villa manager Alex McLeish has made keeping the exciting international one of his main priorities, as he looks to head off fan unrest at the club.

The Scots boss knows his arrival is hugely unpopular with the Villa Park faithful, and he accepts the inevitable sale of Ashley Young to Manchester United will hardly help matters.

Downing's departure too, could create mutiny amongst the fans, and McLeish knows he must fight tooth and nail to keep the player as he looks to calm the situation.

The new manager virtually confirmed yesterday that Young will leave, but he insisted the battle to keep Downing continues.

"No chance do we want Stewart Downing to go. We certainly don't want to lose Stewart - he's a top player," McLeish explained.

"I need to see what Stewart's thinking when he comes back because I know that he made some comments when he was away on England duty.

“I’ll have a chat with one or two in the coming days and weeks before pre-season training starts and once I get them in for pre-season training proper then I’ll get a better idea.

“It’s not confirmed yet but it does seem likely, that Ashley Young will leave. In my humble opinion it will be very difficult to keep him."

But Liverpool are still confident the winger wants to come to Anfield, and Dalglish believes he will get his man if a price can be thrashed out with the Midlands club.

Liverpool Face Competition From Chelsea In Eljero Elia Battle

Chelsea have joined the race for Hamburg winger Eljero Elia, according to reports.

The long-term Liverpool target is reportedly unsettled at Hamburg, and is again being linked with the Imtech Arena exit door after a turbulent second season with the Bundesliga outfit.

Former Reds boss Roy Hodgson was first linked with a move for the player in the summer of 2010, with his form for the Dutch national side in the World Cup alerting a number of sides throughout Europe.

Hodgson's successor at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish, was also linked with a move for the 24-year-old back in January, with Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli believed to be an admirer of the player.

After securing the services of Jordan Henderson for £20 million, the Liverpool boss is targeting a left back, striker and winger to bolster the club's ranks on Merseyside, and Elia is one of the widemen linked with a move.

Ashley Young, Eden Hazard and Charles N'Zogbia have also been speculatively placed on the Liverpool radar, and with money to spend Dalglish is likely to make a move for one of the targets sooner rather than later.

However, The Metro claims Chelsea have now joined the race for Elia, who is valued at £17 million according to the paper.

The arrival of Frank Arnesen at Hamburg is believed to give the Blues an advantage in the race for the player, with the west London club's former sporting director heavily involved in transfer activity at the club.

Arnesen has already raided the Stamford Bridge outfit for players and staff in the last month, and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will be hoping the former Denmark international might return the favour over Elia.

The former FC Twente star has previously confessed to being interested in a move to England, and may have options at his disposal should both Liverpool and Chelsea pursue their interest further.

Liverpool Join Race For Republic of Ireland Star

Liverpool is the latest club to join the race to sign Irish and Manchester United defender, John O’Shea.

The Waterford man is surplus to requirements at Old Trafford and will leave the club this summer.

It had originally been expected that he would join Sunderland, but the player has held out for the best deal available and is now being chased by five clubs.

It seems likely that he will turn down the Black Cats and hold out for an offer from the Anfield side. Spurs, Newcastle and Aston Villa are the other Premiership sides that have been linked with O’Shea.

Kenny Dalglish has made no secret of the fact that Liverpool need at least one central defender and quality winger, if they are to mount a serious challenge for the title next season.

Liverpool Make Move For Croatian International Defender

Liverpool is set to continue their summer spending spree with a move for promising Lyon defender Dejan Lovren.

The 21-year-old centre-back made 28 appearances in Ligue 1 last season after joining from Dinamo Zagreb for £8m last summer.

The Croatia international is contracted to Lyon until 2014 but has been placed on the transfer list and would command a fee in the region of £3million.

According to newspaper Le 10 Sport, Damien Comolli, Liverpool's French director of football, has already held meetings with Lyon in an attempt to seal the transfer.

Sunderland Hoping To Wrap Up Deal For David N'Gog

Liverpool striker David N'Gog was initially thought to be part of a player-plus-cash deal with Sunderland over Jordan Henderson, but the 22-year-old ended up staying with the Reds for the time being.

Sunderland is still keen on N'Gog, who has been deemed surplus by Kenny Dalglish, and are hoping to wrap up a deal soon.

Steve Bruce could land the young Frenchman for about £5 million, and he will likely get the chance to score against his former team right off the bat as Sunderland heads to Anfield on the first weekend of the 2011-2012 season.

Zapata Exit Talk Premature

Cristian Zapata's agent has played down reports the Udinese defender is set to complete a move to Liverpool.

Last week the Colombia international was quoted as saying he was close to sealing a deal with the Premier League giants.

Bayern Munich had also made an approach for the 24-year-old, who was previously a target of Arsenal.

But his agent, Massimo Italiani, believes Zapata's comments may have been misunderstood and suggested his immediate future will be best served by staying with Udinese.

"The statements coming from South America travel too many miles and sometimes they have different meanings from the original ones," he told notiziariosportivo.com.

"There is no news regarding his future.

"Of course, his dream is to play in the Premier League one day, but to leave a club like Udinese you need a request from a big club.

"Cristian will now be involved in the Copa America and we hope he will be a key figure after having a fantastic season with his club.

"Udinese is the ideal environment for him to grow without much pressure."

Zapata helped Udinese finish fourth in last season's Serie A and he still has two years left on his contract at the Stade Friuli.

Henchoz: Future's Bright With Kenny

Stephane Henchoz believes Kenny Dalglish will help Liverpool write another successful chapter in their illustrious history books.

The former Reds defender has been impressed by the impact the Scot has made since returning to the Anfield hot seat in January, during which time he steered the team from 12th to sixth in the Barclays Premier League.

And Henchoz is predicting Dalglish can position Liverpool amongst the forerunners for the game's top honours once again.

He told Liverpoolfc.tv: "I think the future looks bright. Kenny Dalglish is back as the manager and I am sure he is going to bring back success to Anfield. The players they have signed, especially Suarez, have done very well.

"The young players have got a lot of quality, so for me next year I think they will get back into the top four and from there they can push on from that.

"Hopefully in a couple of years time they can win the title."

Henchoz was back on Merseyside over the weekend as he helped a team of Liverpool legends to glory in the Selco Mersey Masters at the Echo Arena.

The Swiss defender displayed the sort of defensive qualities that made him such a hit with Reds fans during his five-and-a-half year spell at Anfield, as well as turning on the style in attack.

"I had a great time and winning the tournament made everybody, including the fans in the arena, happy," reflected Henchoz.

"I played in Malaysia a few months ago for the first time, and playing in the Masters in Liverpool and wearing the shirt again was a great pleasure.

"It's very different to when you are still playing because you just want to enjoy it. You still want to win, obviously, but you don't have the same pressure.

"It was nice to see the players again, come back to the city and have a drink with the lads. I think everybody really enjoyed it."

Manager Robbie Johnson To Make Liverpool Ladies Changes

Liverpool Ladies manager Robbie Johnson says he is intent on improving his squad ahead of the resumption of the Women's Super League in July.

The Reds are bottom of the new league and are without a win in seven games.

"The league table doesn't lie and we are where we are," Johnson told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"We're certainly on the lookout for new players, some to freshen up the squad and some to bring improved quality to the squad."

He added: "We're looking for a defender. We've brought a central midfield player in, Chloe Jones, who came in time for the last game of the first part of the season.

"We're trying to see if there are any other players that might be able to lift us in certain positions. It might be another forward that we need, to go with Ruesha Littlejohn but we'll have to see."

The mid-season break has coincided with the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany, and having had time to reflect on the opening to the campaign, Johnson says there were a number of positives he can take.

"We're certainly looking to improve results," Johnson continued. "The performances at times have been OK, with the draws in the Birmingham and Everton games being examples of that.

"I believe the season stopped too early for us after the Birmingham result."

Liverpool resumes their FA WSL campaign away to Arsenal at Boreham Wood FC on Sunday, 24 July.