Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Liverpool Want £20m Spain International After Downing Bid Rejected

Kenny Dalglish has made Valencia winger Juan Mata a priority signing after Aston Villa rejected an improved offer for Stewart Downing earlier this week.

According to a report on the Mirror Football website, the Merseyside club upped their bid from the £12 million they tabled two weeks ago to a generous £15 million.

However, Villa are thought to be holding out for an astronomical sum of around £20 million, and Liverpool are not willing to shell out so much to bring the 27-cap England international to Anfield.

Despite clearly being keen to move on from the Midlands outfit having stalled with contract negotiations, Downing will have to find another suitor able to provide European football.

Meanwhile, Dalglish will look elsewhere to find a steady supply of assists for his new strike partnership of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.

Given the immense form of Mata during Spain’s successful European Under-21 Championship campaign over the course of last month in Denmark, the Liverpool manager is likely to put together an attempt to raid the Mestalla.

Valued at close to £20 million by his current employers, Mata has achieved a great deal in the game in spite of his tender age.

Still just 23 years old, he has compiled 11 senior caps for his country, during which time he has scored four goals.

Though he was restricted to a single substitute appearance in the 2-0 group stage win over Honduras, Mata was a part of Spain’s squad throughout their run to World Cup victory in South Africa last summer.

Arsene Wenger is also known to be a fan, having allegedly attempted to break Arsenal’s club transfer record with an £18 million bid for the player last week.

Aston Villa Want £19m For Stewart Downing

Aston Villa have slapped a price tag of £19m on winger Stewart Downing, Press Association Sport understands.

Villa have rejected a second bid - of around £15m - for the England international from Liverpool.

New Villa manager Alex McLeish would like to keep hold of Downing after losing the services of Ashley Young to Manchester United.

But if the player is to leave, Villa will hold out for what they consider to be a fair price for the former Middlesbrough player.

A source close to Villa said: "The club has made it known what they regard as a fair price for Stewart Downing, if he is to be sold."

Liverpool had an initial offer of around £12m turned down for Downing - the price Villa paid for him when he moved from Boro two years ago.

Downing has two years remaining of his contract but made it clear last month that he would not be signing a new deal at this juncture.

He told Press Association Sport: "My agent had a meeting with the club - just one meeting - and he just felt it was the right time not to sign my contract.

"I've still got two years to go, so I've still got a long time to go, so I just decided to leave it as it is.

"Will I be at Villa next season? I'm not sure."

Downing is due to report to pre-season training on Friday with Villa.

He endured an injury-hit first campaign after signing for them when still recovering from a broken foot.

But last season Downing was in outstanding form and was Villa's player of the year.

Monaco Star Issues 'Come And Get Me' Plea To Liverpool

Monaco midfielder Park Chu-Young has issued a come and get me plea to Liverpool - and insists he doesn't want to go anywhere else.

The South Korean captain will snub possible moves to AC Milan, Spurs and Paris St Germaine to fulfill his boyhood dream and play for his hero Kenny Dalglish.

The 25-year-old is available for around £6million and, with Liverpool touring south-east Asia this summer, Young's arrival could not be timed any better from a commercial sense.

It’s well known that Liverpool’s shirt sponsors Standard Chartered are keen to see Asian players don the red shirt to help the bank exploit one of its biggest markets.

Standard's £20m-a-season sponsorship deal with Liverpool is one of the most lucrative in Premier League history, and Gavin Law, the group head of corporate affairs for Standard Chartered, said: “We would love the club to have players of nationalities from the markets in which we operate. Look what Park [Ji-sung] has done for [Manchester] United in terms of coverage in Korea.

"Liverpool is more aware than most other clubs we've spoken to of the commercial opportunity for them. If they can sell a million shirts with another Mr. Park on the back, why wouldn't you?"

Pool Want £9million For Adam understands Blackpool have placed a £9million price tag on midfield star Charlie Adam.

Adam is one of the most sought-after players in the Premier League following Blackpool's relegation to the Championship.

The Scotland international is thought to be keen on staying in the top flight and a number of clubs are chasing his signature.

Liverpool is thought to be leading the race for Adam after having a couple of bids rejected for his services during the January transfer window.

Aston Villa and Tottenham are also thought to be keen on Adam and they are monitoring his situation at Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool is resigned to losing Adam, but they are holding out for the highest offer for the former Rangers man.

The Seasiders are thought to have informed Adam's suitors it will take a fee of £9million for them to let the classy playmaker leave this summer.

Liverpool is thought to be reluctant to meet the fee, but they are expected to increase their efforts to land the Scotland international in the next few days.

Spurs To Move For Cole If Modric Quits For Chelsea

Tottenham are set to renew their interest in Joe Cole - if Luka Modric is allowed to go to Chelsea.

Liverpool outcast Cole looks destined to leave Anfield after just a year and he could be reunited with his old Hammers boss Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane.

Cole is surplus to requirements on Merseyside following the summer arrival of Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, but the 29-year-old’s move south depends on Spurs granting Modric his dream move across London to Chelsea.

Tottenham are determined that any deal for Modric will include Didier Drogba moving in the opposite direction, but the strict wage structure at Spurs is likely to prove a stumbling block to that move.

The 33-year-old Ivory Coast international is reportedly earning £120,000 per week at Stamford Bridge.

Quartet Eye Darby Move understands a number of clubs are chasing Liverpool defender Stephen Darby.

Doncaster and League One trio Rochdale, MK Dons and Oldham are all thought to have enquired about the full-back's availability.

The quartet are waiting to see if Liverpool would be prepared to loan him out again or even consider selling the former youth team captain.

Darby spent the majority of last season on loan at Notts County and he impressed during his spell at Meadow Lane.

The 22-year-old is highly-rated at Anfield, but he is likely to find first-team chances hard to come by next season with Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly ahead of him in the pecking order.

Liverpool Decide Not To Risk Steven Gerrard's Fitness On Far East Tour

Liverpool will not gamble on Steven Gerrard’s fitness by taking him on their Far East tour as he continues to recover from the groin surgery he had in March.

‘I’d really been looking forward to travelling out to China, Malaysia and Singapore,’ said Gerrard, whose team play Guangdong next Wednesday, face a Malaysia XI on July 16 and host a training session in Singapore the next day.

‘But it’s been decided the best course of action is for me is to continue my rehabilitation program at Melwood [training ground].’

The England international has not played since March 6 and started just 20 of 38 Premier League matches last season, compared to at least 30 in each of the previous five campaigns.

Instead, Liverpool is hoping Gerrard will be fully fit for their season opener against Sunderland on August 13.

Manager Kenny Dalglish said: ‘They are in the final stages of getting him back to full training. I'm sure there will be supporters disappointed that Steven is unable to be with us in Asia but I'm sure the same people will appreciate the importance of Steven giving himself the best possible opportunity of being fit to play against Sunderland on the opening day of the new campaign.

‘Steven continuing his rehabilitation program at Melwood is in everybody's long term interests.’

Jordan Henderson To Miss Liverpool FC’s Asia Tour

Jordan Henderson won't be travelling to the Far East with Liverpool on their pre-season tour.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who joined the Reds from Sunderland for £16million last month, has been given extra time to recover following his exploits with England at the Under-21 European Championships.

Henderson is due back at Melwood when Liverpool return from their eight-day tour of China and Malaysia.

Liverpool will fly off on Sunday without Henderson and skipper Steven Gerrard but all other first team stars - with the exception of Copa America duo Luis Suarez and Lucas Leiva - are expected to make the trip.

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina had a hernia operation during the close season but is set to travel to Asia.

Skrtel Glad To Be Back

Martin Skrtel admits pre-season training has been tough so far - but he's relishing being put through his paces as Liverpool gear up for the new campaign.

The centre-back joined his teammates at Melwood on Monday morning as the Reds' preparations for 2011-12 got underway.

And Skrtel is determined to ensure he's in prime condition for Sunderland's opening-day visit to Anfield on August 13.

He told his official website: "I'm back in Liverpool now. I came back on Sunday and we had our first training session on Monday.

"It was hard at times but I understand why we train this hard - a new challenge lies ahead and we want to be ready.

"It was great to be with boys again. We will be here for a week and then we travel to Asia for a pre-season tour.

"We want to be ready and we have some business to do this time. I hope this will be a much better season than the last one."

Liverpool Can't Afford Another Wasted Summer

During the fanzine explosion of the late 1980s a magazine was brought out with a title that drew attention to Liverpool’s most glaring weakness of that era. Another Wasted Corner was its name but if a similar publication had been launched at any time during the last three years it would have to have been called Another Wasted Summer.

The last three summer transfer windows have been and gone without Liverpool signing a single player who it could be claimed has significantly improved the squad. There are those who have at times made a positive impression – Raul Meireles, Glen Johnson and perhaps Albert Riera being the most notable examples – but the overwhelming majority of new recruits have struggled to make any kind of impact at all.

Robbie Keane and Alberto Aquilani both cost in the region of £20 million only for the former to be sold after just half a season and the latter to be sent out on loan after only one full campaign.

Money has been spent – even if at times transfers were conducted under financial pressure from the bank or the boardroom – and it has not been spent wisely enough. That is one of the fundamental reasons why Liverpool has gone from being title contenders in 2008/09 to also rans in 2010/11. It may only have been a short space of time but it was sufficient for a flawed transfer strategy that saw good players leave and not so good ones arrive have a negative effect on performance levels and standards.

The blame game has already been played in respect of this fall from grace and whether you blame managers, executives, owners or whoever no longer matters. The most important thing is that Liverpool learn from these failings and do not repeat them because the one thing that they can least afford is another wasted summer.

Almost every single summer since Liverpool stopped winning league titles in 1990 has been billed as the most important in the club’s recent history but the feeling is that this one really does fit that description. With new owners, a new manager and a new sense of purpose the forthcoming campaign is one in which Liverpool can rejoin English football’s elite. But that will only happen if they buy well; there can be no duds this time around.

Giant strides have already been taken since Kenny Dalglish returned as manager last January. The style of football is much improved, there is an obvious togetherness in the playing squad and at times there has even been a feelgood factor about Liverpool. It is for these reasons that there are so many people within the game who feel that the forthcoming campaign could be a special one for Liverpool, one in which they reassert themselves at the top end of the table and challenge for trophies.

That in itself shows how far the club has come since this time last year when Liverpool’s hopes of getting in the mix were null and void. There may have been those who unrealistically harboured a belief that success was just around the corner but hindsight has shown us that there was no chance of glory given the problems that continued to plague the club.

This time around it is different though. There is no danger of Liverpool being plunged into administration by the banks nor is there a manager in charge who is hopelessly out of his depth. Disharmony has been replaced by unity and cancerous negativity washed away by a sea of positivity. If ever there was a chance for Liverpool to reassert themselves and start living up to their glorious past again then that time is now.

There will be those who say that claiming a place in the top four is out of the question given the immense spending power of Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs. Even if that is the case, and shelling out vast fortunes on players does not always yield improvement as countless examples prove, then at worst that still leaves fourth place up for grabs, a position which occupied last season but are by no means guaranteed to hold on to this time around.

The changes that are about to take place at Arsenal are likely to leave them more vulnerable than they have been for some time and Liverpool’s first target for the new campaign should be to usurp the North London club. Should they take the momentum from the tail end of last season into the start of the new one then there is no reason why they cannot send a message out to Arsenal and the other teams who expect to finish in the top four that Liverpool are genuine challengers.

Again though, for that to happen Liverpool have to do something that they haven’t done for far too long and that is to buy well. The starting point for that is for Dalglish to be backed in the transfer market with whatever funds are available and it is to be trusted that the club’s owners will do that. Then it is up to the manager Damien Comolli, the director of football, and their global network of scouts to identify and recruit those players who will improve the squad and give it a chance of fulfilling its potential.

This summer has to be different to the previous three and the cycle of poor recruitment must be broken. Liverpool cannot afford another wasted summer, they have to make this one count.