Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Henry Must Dig Deep For Liverpool's Rebuilding Job

The memory of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez-inspired dismantling of Manchester United in March was still fresh and Damien Comolli’s mobile phone was trilling incessantly.

“I was getting phone calls from agents telling me that their player would love to come,” said Anfield’s director of football towards the end of last season.

Yet the engaged tone that greeted callers to Comolli’s mobile is no more, with reality having bitten since for Liverpool, who returned to pre-season training yesterday. First Phil Jones, then Ashley Young and now Gael Clichy have all escaped their eager clutches, opting instead for the instant lure of the Champions League now on offer on both sides of Manchester’s football divide.

Consider that the £9 million fee paid by Sunderland for long-term target Connor Wickham was ultimately deemed too excessive, that Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux pitched up at Newcastle and Brad Friedel opted for the No 1 jersey at Spurs rather than a back-up role at his first English club, and Liverpool now have work to do to regain the feelgood factor that followed manager Kenny Dalglish’s return.

There is still time to recruit high-calibre reinforcements and there will be no sense of panic but, in fairness to Comolli, the onus inevitably now falls on the owners, Fenway Sports Group, to underline their enthusiasm and ambition. With Liverpool already appearing resigned to moving for players who would ideally only be second choices, finalizing long-standing interest in Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing would avoid raising more awkward questions.

Principal owner John W Henry insisted last week he is committed to building for the future before highlighting the need for Liverpool to operate “within the parameters UEFA have set forth under their Financial Fair Play rules”. Their looming introduction was a huge factor in persuading Henry to invest £300m in Liverpool last October, the notion of a level playing field convincing him he was buying a team who would be able to compete.

Yet it would be better for Liverpool to make sure they are in Europe – and preferably the Champions League – before becoming too sidetracked by red tape.

A transfer policy focusing on buying young players needs to be flexible enough to recognize Liverpool need reinforcements for today, not just players for tomorrow.

And having previously targeted English or British talent, it is also a bit rich for Liverpool to now mumble of inflated prices and of having to switch to the Continent for players given they set a precedent by paying £35m for Andy Carroll.

£6M Is A Shrewd Bit Of Business From King Kenny

Liverpool is looking to bolster their defensive options this summer with a move for Croatian international, Dejan Lovren. The Reds are keen to bring in a new centre back, with Jamie Carragher reaching the latter stages of his career and the club sees the Lyon man as the natural replacement.

The Lyon centre back has been capped at all levels for the Croatian national team and has shown his potential to play in the Premier League. With the recent acquisition of Jordan Henderson, it seems as though Liverpool are looking to build for the future, particularly British talent. However, after missing out to Manchester United in the race for Phil Jones’ signature it looks as though the Merseyside club have taken their search abroad.

Ligue 1 is also host to another Liverpool defensive target in Paris Saint Germain’s Mamadou Sakho but Dalglish is believed to prefer the 21 year-old Croatian. Reports also suggest an interest in relegated Birmingham’s Scott Dann.

The new American owners at Liverpool are looking to make a real impact in the transfer window this summer as they target young talent across Europe. Dalglish and Comolli will have a battle on their hands if they are to bring Lovren to Anfield as Lyon will not want to let a rising young star go on the cheap.

Lovren’s introduction to the club would possibly spell the end of Sotirios Kyrgiakos’ Liverpool career as they look to ship him out this summer after a poor first season in the Premier League.

Reds Try For Savic

Liverpool is trying to hijack Manchester City's move for Montenegro star Stefan Savic, skysports.com understands.

However, the Reds' late efforts look set to be in vain as the 20-year-old is believed to be fully focused on completing a move to Eastlands.

Savic arrived in England on Monday evening ahead of a planned medical with City, whilst talks over a potential £6million deal continued.

Skysports.com understands Liverpool have made moves to try and prise him away from City's grasp.

But the Partizan Belgrade defender is believed to have his heart set on a move to City and will seemingly not let any rival interest deter him.

The 20-year-old is regarded as one of the best young defenders in Europe, so it is little surprise Liverpool have shown an interest.

Liverpool Prepare £7m Move For Barcelona Winger

Liverpool target Jeffren is set for talks with Barcelona this week to decide his future, talkSPORT have reported.

The winger, who is also attracting interest from Aston Villa and Fulham, will hold talks due to the impending arrival of £32m signing Alexis Sanchez from Udinese.

It was originally thought Jeffren would join the Italian club as part of the Sanchez deal but the 23-year-old rejected the opportunity to move to Serie A.

And according to talkSPORT, the Barcelona trainee will, along with his father/agent Efren, meet with Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta to discuss what future he has at the Nou Camp.

Jeffren is highly-regarded at Barca but has so far failed to establish himself in the first-team. If the arrival of Sanchez is confirmed, it could spell the end of his career with the European champions.

Various reports have linked Liverpool with a move for some time but it is claimed Fulham are the only club who have lodged an official offer.

Valencia are also believed to be interested, particularly with Joaquin joining Malaga and the future of star man Juan Mata still undecided.

Efren revealed last month that his son would be rejecting the move to Italy but is interested in a move to the Premier League.

"Playing in Italy is not a good option for Jeffren," he said. "He has more attractive offers from Spain and England."

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is looking to build a squad capable of challenging for silverware and £7m-rated Jeffren fits the profile for the type of player he is looking to recruit.

Liverpool Move On To French Winger After Giving Up On Downing

The Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has had a few disappointments in the transfer market so far, but he is still searching for the classy winger that is much-needed at Anfield.

Dalglish lost out on Ashley Young, who went to Man Utd, and now they appear to be priced out of a move for Stewart Downing as Aston Villa are demanding £20m for Young’s team-mate.

So it is being reported today by the Metro that Dalglish has now moved on to Charles N’Zogbia of Wigan, who has been transfer listed by Roberto Martinez after refusing a contract extension, and with just 12 months remaining on his contract the Frenchman will be available for around £9million which is more suited to Liverpool’s budget.

N’Zogbia made it clear he wants to move to a more ambitious club than Wigan when he said: “I have one-year left on my contract, and after two-years I think the coach and the owner are satisfied with what I have produced.

“Now they know that I want to sign with a bigger club, with bigger goals who can play in Europe and also help me with France.

“I said to them that if I am still at Wigan then I would give them 200 per cent, as I am loyal to the club.

“But they have opted for a transfer and I hope it will happen under good conditions and that everyone will be happy.”

Could N’Zogbia land a dream move to Liverpool?

Liverpool Winger Heading For Anfield Exit

Liverpool winger Milan Jovanovic has been given permission to find a new club, after being told he no longer features in the club's plans.

The Serbian has only been at Anfield for one-year after joining last season on a free-transfer from Belgian club Standard Liege.

Despite appearing to find a place in Liverpool's starting XI, the winger subsequently found himself frozen out of the team when Kenny Dalglish took the helm in January.

The 30-year-old was brought in last summer, along with Joe Cole, to offer width and relieve the burden placed on Dirk Kuyt. Jovanovic failed to impress in his debut season though, and earlier in the year admitted it was difficult to adjust to life in England.

Jovanovic reportedly said to a Greek media outlet: "I got the paper from Liverpool that I am free to search for a new club."

The Serbian international has been linked with Greek side Olympiakos, but has confirmed that there is no concrete offer in place. "Up to now, I still haven't received an official offer from Olympiakos, but I am looking forward to hearing their plans," he said.

Jovanovic's departure will help to slash the massive wage bill club owner John W. Henry inherited when he bought the club last season. Jovanovic is reportedly picking up a cool £120,000-per-week.

With the club keen to bring in younger talent on minimal wages, it appears as though Jovanovic will not be the only departure from the club this summer.

England international Joe Cole has been touted with a move away from Merseyside, with London a likely destination.

Suarez Earns Uruguay Draw

Luiz Suarez's first-half equalizer ensured Uruguay started their Copa America challenge with a 1-1 draw with Peru in Group C.

Liverpool striker Suarez struck with virtually the last touch of the opening period in San Juan to bring his side level after Paolo Guerrero had put Peru ahead.

Diego Forlan then had the chance to win it for Oscar Tabarez's men, but the Atletico Madrid striker was off target when it would have been easier to score.

After a slow start, Peru brought the game to life in the 24th minute when Guerrero sprung the offside trap and raced half the length of the field to round Fernando Muslera and open the scoring.

Maxi Pereira had a shot deflected wide as Uruguay sought a way back into the match, and Forlan thought he had it when he curled a free-kick towards the top corner, only to see Raul Fernandez claw it away.

But Suarez did the business when he found himself one-on-one with the keeper just before the half-time whistle, slotting coolly under his body for an 18th goal for his country.

Juan Manuel Vargas dragged a shot just wide for Peru after the break, before Suarez played Forlan through on goal, only for the normally accurate striker to sidefoot high and wide.

Vargas then saw another effort drift wide and Guerrero had more time than he realized with a free, last-ditch header as the match ended in a draw, the fourth in five games so far in the tournament.

Reds Are In Good Shape

Darren Burgess admits he was thrilled with the condition of the Liverpool players who returned to Melwood following the summer break on Monday.

Each member of the Reds' playing staff was issued a specially-prepared fitness programme to follow over their holidays to ensure they came back to the club's training base in good condition - and the players appeared to be in fine shape as they got their preparations for 2011-12 up and running.

Head of fitness and conditioning Burgess told Liverpoolfc.tv: "Training is going well. The boys have looked really good.

"It was a pretty hard session on Monday. We certainly put them through a tough session, especially early on - but the boys handled it pretty well. Better than I thought they would, actually, which is good.

"They did a football-fitness circuit, where they combined a little bit of running with a little bit of football. There was a little bit of passing, but mainly a fair bit of hard work and then they did some possession drills with the coaches after that.

"We gave them a couple of weeks off at the end of last season and then they all had individual programs to follow, which included a bit of running, a bit of gym and some injury prevention work. Based on training, I would say they've all carried out those programs.

"It's massive that they look after themselves over the summer. The Premier League is getting quicker and quicker and we only have a six-week pre-season to try and get the players from a base level to a level where they can compete in the Premier League, so they needed to do some work during the off-season - and they certainly did that."

A little over six weeks had passed since the final day of the 2010-11 season before the Liverpool players were being put through their paces at Melwood once again.

They'll now spend the next half dozen weeks undergoing meticulously prepared training sessions to ensure they're in prime condition by the time Sunderland visit Anfield on August 13.

Burgess explained: "The players finished their session on Monday morning, had some lunch and then spent the afternoon doing some medical, physiotherapy and fitness screening, so we'll know by the end of today exactly where each player is at and then we can work out their program based on it.

"Each session is planned in terms of how far we want them to run, how many sprints we want them to do and how much time we want them out there. That's planned by myself, the fitness staff, the coaches and the medical staff.

"We pretty much want to predict what the players are going to do at the end of each week so we can make sure they're on track and ready for pre-season, so as you can imagine that takes a fair bit of planning."

He added: "We have the whole of pre-season planned - in theory of course. It doesn't always work like that because numbers of players change and coaches often change sessions based upon what they've seen the week or day before, but in theory we have got everything planned up until we play Sunderland."

Liverpool will spend the week at Melwood before departing for Asia to embark on their tour of the Far East.

Burgess and his staff are planning to get as much hard work done as possible in the milder Merseyside climate before they land in what is likely to be a hot and humid China next week.

He said: "It will be a very tough week this week. When we go to Asia it will be quite warm and the humidity will be quite high, so it will be harder to get a lot of work in when we're over there, so we want to make sure we get a fair bit of work in at Melwood before we head over."

Burgess and co had virtually a full squad to work with on Monday, a contrast to last summer when the players' return to Melwood was staggered due to the World Cup.

However, while the likes of Luis Suarez and Lucas Leiva may be in Argentina, they are still in daily contact with Liverpool's medical and fitness teams keeping them up to speed with the work they're doing with their countries.

"The squad we took to Bad Ragaz (Switzerland) last year compared to what we've got here and the quality of football we've seen is excellent," said Burgess. "Even Luis Suarez and Lucas are sending me information daily on what they're doing with their teams.

"It's important to keep in touch with them. Like I said, they're sending daily information and we'll try and make sure they can get some downtime whenever they can as well because they are going to be pretty important for us for the season.

"I am excited about the new season. There is a really good feel about the place. We've got a new coach in (Kevin Keen) and it's definitely exciting to be here."

World Cup Agony For LFC Six

Six Liverpool youngsters saw their U17 World Cup dream end as England fell to a 3-2 quarter-final defeat to Germany on Monday night.

The Three Lions went 3-0 down in Mexico despite the best efforts of winger Raheem Sterling, who had two long-range efforts saved in the first half and created two excellent chance in the second.

Left-back Brad Smith was also on the pitch as England embarked on a commendable fight back with goals from Sam Magri (pen) and Hallam Hope, while winger Jack Dunn entered the game on 68 minutes - but it wasn't to be.

Adam Morgan, Matty Regan and Tyrell Belford were all unused subs on the night.

The six will now return home.

Kevin Keen On His Dream Job At Liverpool FC

New Liverpool coach Kevin Keen says he is “privileged, proud and honoured to be part of such a fantastic club.”

And the 44-year-old former West Ham midfielder is even prepared to forgive Kenny Dalglish for spoiling his Football League debut 25 years ago!

Dalglish appointed Keen as first team coach yesterday following Sammy Lee’s departure, with Steve Clarke moving up to assistant manager.

And Keen admitted that the Upton Park afternoon in September 1986 when the reigning champions put five past a side which had run the Reds close to the title just four months earlier, had already been discussed.

“It’s already been mentioned,” joked Keen after completing his first training session at Melwood yesterday.

“I was a sub that day and we lost 5-2. I think Kenny was a sub as well but he scored a couple of goals. It wasn’t often that West Ham beat Liverpool!”

Keen signed a three year deal and took his first coaching session at Melwood as the Reds senior stars returned to pre-season training.

“I feel really privileged, proud and honoured to be here and to be part of such a fantastic club,” he explained.

“I grew up in the 70s and 80s, during the glory times for Liverpool when they were winning European Cups and winning the league every year. They are memories from my childhood.

“In my eyes Liverpool are one of the greatest clubs in the world so I am really quite humbled to be here.

“I was back coaching at West Ham for nine years and was a player at West Ham for nine years as well, so they have been a big part of my life. When I got the call from Liverpool I thought the timing was perfect for me.

“To come here and be a part of what Kenny, Steve Clarke, Damien and the owners are looking to do in taking the club forward is very exciting.

“I know Steve very well from my West Ham days and learnt a lot from him when he was assistant manager to Gianfranco Zola. He’s very meticulous with his planning, he’s a fantastic coach and a really nice person to work with.

“I want to come in here and to contribute to us winning trophies for the supporters.

“We’ve a lot of work to do between now and the first match of the season against Sunderland but for me, this is where I want to be. I want to be out training and to help players improve, whether they’re 16, 17 or 18 or whether they’re 33. I want to get the best out of everyone.”

As a player Keen made more than 200 appearances for West Ham in the 80s and 90s, helping The Hammers to promotion in 1990–91 and to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

His final game for West Ham in May 1993 was another promotion clincher to the top flight, this time against Cambridge, before a dispute over a new contract saw him drop down a division and join Wolverhampton Wanderers.