Friday, July 15, 2011

Dalglish Gambles On Best Of British To Deliver Goods

Kenny Dalglish's last public act on Liverpool's tour of Asia was to engage in some public banter with Phil Thompson in front of 38,000 fans who had come to see his players engage in a little light training.

It proved that, however firm their place is in Anfield's pantheon, Thompson and Dalglish have a limited future as a comedy double act, although the reception they received would have flattered Morecambe and Wise.

Then, the Liverpool manager was driven to the airport for a 6,000-mile overnight flight to Merseyside to meet his newest signing, Stewart Downing.

The chance to welcome the 26-year-old winger, who has never quite fulfilled the early promise he showed at Middlesbrough, was not the reason for Dalglish's journey. There was a family engagement to fulfil but, as a player and a manager, Dalglish has never been slow to seize an opportunity.

Since his return to Anfield in what was a bleak if emotional January, Dalglish has moved swiftly. The £20m fee Liverpool will pay Aston Villa for Downing brings his total spending to £100m in seven months.

Looking at the footballers Dalglish has brought to Liverpool, it is not hard to see where he imagined the deep fault lines that undermined his predecessor Roy Hodgson lay.

There have been two very different centre-forwards in Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, and now three midfielders.

If Charlie Adam has been recruited to provide the telling through ball for Suarez, then Downing's role is to deliver the crosses that were often absent in the narrow teams Hodgson and, in his last season, Rafael Benitez oversaw.

At Blackburn and Newcastle, two clubs where Dalglish also spent big with differing results, the most common cry on the training pitches would be Alan Shearer's voice demanding crosses into the box. At Melwood the Geordie accent is similar but it belongs to Carroll.

Jamie Carragher, for one, understood that this is something Liverpool has long lacked.

"It's a terrific signing, there's no doubt about that whatsoever," said the man who has flung himself into the role of pressing the flesh in China and in Malaysia.

"He's been a top player in the Premier League for the last six or seven years and he will make a difference, with his ability to go outside and down the line to get quality crosses in.

"He was Aston Villa's player of the year and he will give us something that we have been lacking, genuine quality on the left-hand side. Every team looking to compete needs quality players in each position and that is what we are getting back towards."

Suarez apart, the one common link in Dalglish's spending is that it has been focused on British footballers, which underpinned his success at Blackburn. In his brief, sometimes tortured, tenure at St James' Park he often shopped abroad with mixed results.
British players are relatively expensive -- the £35m that took Carroll from Tyneside was enough for Barcelona to land Alexis Sanchez. However, they bring with them certain togetherness.

It is easy to feel optimistic when you are a Premier League footballer in Asia. At last night's training session Dalglish's squad were cheered and the flashbulbs glittered when they passed into an empty net. Their manager's every press conference was book-ended by the kind of applause Dalglish does not expect in England, not even among his own journalists at Anfield.

Nevertheless, Dirk Kuyt, who 12 months ago was toying with a move to Internazionale, said he felt the kind of genuine optimism missing when he returned from the World Cup. And it was not just because, for the first time in five years, he had been able to have a proper holiday.

"When I arrived at Liverpool, five or six years ago, we seemed to have two very good players for almost every position," said Kuyt. "I have just got a feeling we are getting back there. There is more rivalry, more competition but it gets the best out of you.

"The start of pre-season last year was very strange for all of us. We didn't know where the club was going with the owners but since they (Tom Hicks and George Gillett) have gone, there has been a lot of change. A change of manager and a couple of good signings like Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

"It all looks very positive. It is what I want and what the players want. We have to challenge with the best and it looks like we are getting there."

Kenny Dalglish Flies Back To Seal Stewart Downing's Liverpool Transfer

Kenny Dalglish flew back to Merseyside on Thursday night to seal the deal for Stewart Downing that will see Liverpool's spending reach £100m in the seven months since his emotional return to Anfield.

The Liverpool manager had anyway been expected to come back early from the club's Asian tour to fulfil a long-standing engagement, so the opportunity to meet the player who could provide the width that was badly lacking under Rafael Benítez and Roy Hodgson was one Dalglish was not going to pass up.

It is not hard to see where he felt the fault in Hodgson's sides lay. This summer Dalglish has invested £43m on three British midfielders, none of whom has truly established themselves at international level.

According to Jamie Carragher, who is captaining Liverpool in the far east, Downing's arrival could see Andy Carroll, in particular, receive the kind of service he was deprived of in his first half-season on Merseyside. Carroll, who has Alan Shearer's hunger for a well-delivered cross, managed only two goals.

"It's a terrific signing, there is no doubt about that whatsoever," said Carragher of Downing after an open training session in the Bukit Jalil Stadium, which attracted 38,700 supporters, who greeted every simple pass or shot into an open net ecstatically.

"He will definitely make a difference with his ability to go outside and down the line to get in quality crosses. He was Aston Villa's player of the year and he will give us something we have been lacking – genuine quality on the left-hand side.

"When you look at the players who have not come out here – Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Luis Suárez, Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson – they would make the basis of a top team. We are not going to make any statements about what might happen next season but it is pleasing things are looking positive once again.

"I know him, so does Stevie. He knows Andy Carroll and Johnno from playing with England so he is not going to be walking into a dressing room and feeling all on his own."

Stewart Downing's Liverpool Transfer May See Joe Cole Join Aston Villa

Talks between Aston Villa and Liverpool over the transfer of Stewart Downing also included preliminary discussions regarding the future of fellow England midfielder Joe Cole, it is being suggested.

Cole's Liverpool future looks particularly bleak following the news that Downing will move to Anfield in a deal said to be worth up to £20million.

And this comes hot on the heels of Kenny Dalglish shelling a reported £30m on the combined midfield talents of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam.

The news of another arrival in his position leaves Cole in limbo, paving the way for Villa and the Reds to include the England international playmaker in their thoughts.

In confirming a deal to take Downing up the M6 Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner - who admitted the player had handed in a transfer request - confirmed the club are already lining up alternatives.

'We believe there are replacements available in the market who can strengthen our squad,' he added.

Despite discussing 29-year-old Cole, it is not thought he will move to Villa Park straight away in a swap deal with Downing - preferring to hold talks with his current club's hierarchy first.

However, initial discussions between the clubs over Downing are said to have been 'very amicable' - leaving the way open for a return to the negotiating table at a later date, once Cole's future is decided.

The midfielder only joined the Reds on a four-year contract from Chelsea last summer, having rejected offers from both Spurs and Arsenal.

But he has had little joy on Merseyside through a combination of injury and loss of form.

Coach Dalglish is set for showdown talks with Cole's agent to discuss his plans for the player in the first team next season.

And depending on the result, Cole could find himself surplus to requirements - and therefore free to thrash out terms with Villa, who have already shown a desire to take him to the West Midlands.

Speaking about the Downing deal, Dalglish told the club's official website: 'We have been given permission to speak to the player.

'We will now try to agree personal terms with him, but it will all depend on the medical.

'It is a work in progress and we will see what happens and keep you informed.'

Liverpool Target Czech Defender To Fill Problem Position

Liverpool are ready to rekindle their interest in Bayer Leverkusens Michael Kadlec having grown frustrated in their pursuit of a new left-back.

The Reds have limited options on the left side of their defence, where England right-back Glen Johnson was often forced to fill in last season as Anfield flop Paul Konchesky was loaned to Nottingham Forest and yester day sold to Leicester City

Reds boss Kenny Dalglish has found it difficult to solve the problem position so far this summer as top transfer target Gael Clichy opted to join Manchester City , while Newcastles £15m asking price for Jose Enrique has proved a stumbling block in agreeing a deal.

Dalglish will now turn his attention to Kadlec, who was the subject of a scouting mission last summer by Liverpool before former boss Roy Hodgson signed Konchesky.

The 26-yearold Czech Republic international is only under contract with Leverkusen until 2013 and has refused to confirm that he will sign a new deal,

The German outfit value Kadlec in excess of £6m, a valuation based on the fullbacks impressive form last season as he helped the club finish runners-up in the Bundesliga.

Blackpool Set To Land Liverpool Star Permanently

Despite reports suggesting otherwise, Gerardo Bruna's move from Liverpool to Blackpool will be on a permanent basis, we understand.

And the deal is very close to completion, as the Blackpool Gazette also reported yesterday.

Sky Sports and the PFA's website have both published articles in the past few days stating that the Argentine`s transfer to Bloomfield Road would only be on loan.

However, it has come to light that the 20-year-old will be joining permanently as the Seasiders build for the future.

Confusion surrounding the deal came about from the lack of financial clarity during Charlie Adam's switch to Anfield last week, with the media unsure whether extra packages were involved.

That led to many media outlets suggesting/guessing that two players were to travel to Bloomfield Road on loan, but we understand that incoming transfers aren't directly related to the Adam deal. However, it is highly likely that the Bruna link occurred thanks to Blackpool's dealings with the Reds over the £7m move.

There is no word on whether Tom Ince's proposed contract at Blackpool is a loan or permanent.

Christian Poulsen Is Not Leaving Liverpool - Agent

The agent of Liverpool midfielder Christian Poulsen has rubbished reports linking the Dane to Copenhagen, and says that his client will not be leaving Anfield this summer.

Poulsen endured a poor first season at Liverpool after being signed by former manager Roy Hodgson last summer, and made just six appearances under new boss Kenny Dalglish, the last of which came in March.

But his agent Jorn Bonnesen told “No, Christian Poulsen is not on his way to FC Copenhagen and he has not spoken to them.

“Christian Poulsen's future lies at Liverpool.”

The 31-year-old has two years left on his contract at Anfield but many expect him to leave after the arrivals of fellow midfielders Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam.

Poulsen was included in the Reds’ squad for a pre-season tour of China, and scored on Wednesday in a friendly against Guangdong Sunray Cave.

The former Juventus man, signed for £4.5 million last June, has been frozen out since making his last appearance in Liverpool’s 1-0 Europa League defeat against Braga.

Another of Hodgson's signings, left-back Paul Konchesky, has already left the club this summer, joining Sven-Goran Eriksson's Leicester City.

Aquilani Wont Go To Sunderland - Agent

The agent of Alberto Aquilani has dismissed reports linking his client with a move to Sunderland this summer.

Speculations in the English media claim the Black Cats are considering strengthening their squad by signing the Liverpool midfielder.

However, when asked about the link with Sunderland, Aquilani's agent Franco Zavaglia said to "Right now I firmly believe that Aquilani will play at Liverpool next season."

The 26-year-old Aquilani has also been linked with AC Milan, but Zavaglia said a move to the Serie A champions was unlikely.

"There have been no negotiations with Milan regarding Aquilani's reported move there," he added.

"The chances of seeing Alberto in the Italian league next season are very low at this point in time."

Aquilani, who spent last season on loan at Juventus, wants to remain in Italy but has received no suitable offers despite making 33 league appearances for the Turin outfit.

Liverpool signed Aquilani for a reported fee of £20million from Roma in 2009 and he is under contract with the Reds until June 2014.

Coventry City Miss Out On Loan Deal For Liverpool FC Star

Coventry City boss Andy Thorn has switched his attention elsewhere after missing out on rising Liverpool star Dani Pacheco.

The Sky Blues manager had the Spain Under-20 striker lined up to join the club on loan but the deal has fallen through because the Reds rate him so highly that they want to keep him closer to home.

The exciting 20-year-old was on loan at Norwich at the end of last season and scored against City in the last match of the campaign at Carrow Road.

“We were very close on Dani and got knocked back,” revealed Thorn, who is confident of getting a centre-forward in to help fill the goal void left by Marlon King’s exit.

“We thought we had him in the bag but these things happen.

"But that’s the type of quality we are looking at and now we are waiting on another player, well there’s a couple, from Premiership clubs but we will have to wait another ten or 12 days before we get answers as to whether we can take them on loan.

“There’s no urgency at the moment but I don’t want to bring anyone in who isn’t better than what we have got. But we will bring a body, or bodies, in but it has to be at the right time.

“Whoever comes in will also have to fit into the group because we have got a buzz going now.

“I know it’s frustrating for the supporters but we are trying to bring people in.

“But we are waiting on a couple of phone calls because being Premiership clubs they start back a little later than us and we are waiting to see if they will be used in their squads.”

Coady On Cloud Nine

Conor Coady today spoke of his joy after netting a memorable goal on his debut for Liverpool in China on Wednesday.

The Academy graduate and U18s captain came on in the second half of our 4-3 win over Guangdong Sunray Cave and fired home an effort he will never forget.

"It was a fantastic feeling," Coady told

"To score a goal for Liverpool is always special but the fact it was for the first team makes it even better.

"As a local lad playing for the first team is the best thing you can ever do, so to score on my debut was fantastic and it will live in my memory for a long time.

"My family will have been watching. My dad will still probably have a few critical things to say but they are all proud of me."

The young Scouser has been included on a first-team pre-season tour for the first time by Kenny Dalglish and he admits it is a humbling experience.

He added: "Every single one of the team and the boss and the coaches have all made me and the other young lads feel very welcome and we would like to thank them for that. It's a credit to all of them.

"These are the days you wait for as a local lad and when I arrived in the airport and saw the fans waiting for us I couldn't believe my eyes as I've not witnessed anything like that before. They are fantastic."