Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lucas Thanks Rodgers

Lucas Leiva insists the kind words of new boss Brendan Rodgers helped him make a remarkable recovery from knee surgery.

The 25-year-old Brazil international went under the knife after damaging his knee ligaments last November and was not expected back until the autumn.

But the midfielder stunned medical staff at the club by declaring himself fit for Liverpool's pre-season tour of the US and came off the bench to face Tottenham in Baltimore.

It is rumoured he is expected to play a key role in a mobile midfield trio with Steven Gerrard and transfer target Joe Allen as Rodgers looks to recreate the Spanish style he was handed at Swansea by former manger Roberto Martinez.

And Lucas puts his speedy comeback down to a desire to repay the faith shown in him by Rodgers when he first walked through the door as Kenny Dalglish’s replacement this summer.

"On my first day back in Liverpool, he spoke with me and said I was in his plans," Leiva told the club's official website.

"Those words helped me to relax a little bit more because he was a new manager coming in and everyone wants to impress.

"I was coming back from an injury and knew I wouldn't be at the same level as the other players.

"It gave me the confidence to progress slowly and I am really happy to have his support from the beginning.

"When a manager says great things about you, it always gives you extra confidence and motivation - but I was already motivated enough. I am at a big club and very happy to play for this club.

"It's just a question of time and being patient. He has been very important from the first day."

Newcastle Prepared To Offer Liverpool €23m To Sign Carroll

Newcastle United are expected to bid again for Andy Carroll, even if the release clause in Demba Ba's contract is not activated by Tuesday's deadline.

lan Pardew's side have not yet followed up their initial offer of a season's loan with a view to a permanent move in a year's time.

But Goal.com understands that the north-east club's hierarchy is continuing to closely monitor Carroll’s situation, which remains delicately poised despite Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' public assurances that he wants to keep the striker.

Sources have said that Newcastle are willing to bid up to €23 million (£18m) to buy Carroll back, just 18 months after selling him to the Reds for €45m (£35m).

Rodgers has insisted there is no chance of Carroll leaving Liverpool on loan, but the manager admits the Merseysiders will consider offers for the 23-year-old.

West Ham increased their efforts to sign Carroll last week by offering to take the England international on loan for an initial fee of €2.5m (£2m) with €20.5m (£16m) added on top of that to make the move permanent, provided the Hammers avoid relegation from the Premier League next season.

Neither Liverpool or Carroll are keen on such a deal. The Anfield club are holding out for around €25.5m (£20m) for their record signing, while the player would prefer a return to Newcastle if he is sold by Liverpool rather than a move to London.

Privately, West Ham accept they have little chance of pulling off a deal that would be regarded as quite a statement by the newly-promoted club.

Manager Sam Allardyce is a huge admirer of Carroll and is trying to recruit a high-profile targetman before the transfer window closes, but a combination of the player’s cost, his salary and reluctance to move to West Ham make such a transfer a long shot.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that West Ham's co-owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, will sanction a repeat of the €115,000- (£90,000)-a-week salary they paid Wayne Bridge during his loan from Manchester City in 2010-11.

Newcastle insiders believe a deal is possible even if Ba is still at the club at the start of August.

The striker has an €8.9m (£7m) release clause in his contract that expires on Tuesday night, but it is understood that the most serious interest has been from Turkish clubs Galatasaray and Fenerbahce.

Ba wants to remain in the Premier League but anticipated interest from Tottenham and Chelsea has failed to materialize and the player looks set to remain on Tyneside this season, barring a dramatic 11th-hour transfer.

Newcastle manager Pardew is believed to be pushing strongly to supplement Ba and first choice striker Papiss Cisse with Carroll next season.

Manchester City And Barcelona Chase Livepool Defender

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has become a target for Premier League champions Manchester City, after the Danish international told manager Brendan Rodgers that he sees his future away from Anfield.

The Daily Mirror report that Manchester City have already tabled a bid of £13 million for the 27-year-old, with Real Madrid and Barcelona also monitoring the availability of Agger, who has voiced his desire to move on.

News that Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has returned home earlier than planned from City’s pre-season tour of Malaysia after picking up a thigh injury may have heightened City’s urgency to invest in additional central defence cover.

Aside from Kompany and England international Joleon Lescott, City’s only other alternatives at centre back are the inexperienced Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure, the latter whom is likely to leave the club this summer.

The Daily Mail report that interest from Barcelona is substantial, and that it may be left to the Catalan giants and Manchester City to fight over the Dane’s signature. Similarly to City, Barcelona find themselves in a position where they are lacking cover in central defence. Tito Vilanova's side have grown increasingly frustrated in their attempts to lure defender-cum-midfielder Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao, and have identified the 26-year-old Liverpool defender as a viable option, the Mail report.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo also report that Agger would favour a deal to Spain. Last season Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets found themselves frequently deployed at centre back at Barcelona, as the form and fitness of Gerard Pique, deviated. Vilanova may be looking to bolster his defensive line with an accomplished central defender to reduce the chances of this happening so often again.

Liverpool Reject Man City Bid For Agger

Manchester City have reportedly had their shock £13 million bid for defender Daniel Agger rejected by Liverpool.

Agger reportedly informed Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers that he does not want to stick around at the under-achieving Merseyside club, but is still undecided on whether to extend his stay in the Premier League or move to Spain.

However, the Liverpool manager has insisted that the player is going nowhere and despite both Real Madrid and Barcelona pursuing the star, neither have had their interests materialize into a formal bid.

City are apparently ready to offload Kolo Toure in order to make place for Agger in their squad, with the Ivorian defender targeted by Turkish club Bursaspor and Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal.

However, they reportedly do not want to sell Toure until they sign Agger, as they would run short of cover at the back if club skipper Vincent Kompany’s injury turns out to be more serious than first assumed.

The Belgian has flown back to Manchester half-way through the Citizens’ pre-season trip to Malaysia, and is hoping to return to fitness in time for the start of the new campaign.

Alberto Aquilani Jets To Italy After Liverpool Accept Fiorentina Bid

Liverpool has accepted an offer from Fiorentina for out-of-favour midfielder Alberto Aquilani.

The 28-year-old had been expecting to be given a chance under new manager Brendan Rodgers after his failed loan spell at AC Milan, but the club accepted an undisclosed fee over the weekend.

Aquilani did not travel back to England with the rest of the Liverpool squad after their tour of North America, and has instead made for Rome, where he will meet with Fiorentina to discuss a transfer in the next 24 hours.

The deal brings to a close a frustrating three years for Aquilani, who has struggled to settle and been besieged by injuries after moving from Roma in a £20 million deal in 2009.

He has since spent time on loan at Juventus and then Milan, both of whom decided against taking up their option to buy the player for a bargain price of £5 million.

The decision to sell Aquilani came late last week, with Liverpool officials confident they will be able to tie up the signing of Swansea's Joe Allen as a replacement.

Aquilani was not included in the Liverpool side that drew 0-0 with Tottenham and Saturday, with Rodgers keen to keep the player injury free after negotiations began with Fiorentina.

It's thought that Liverpool will net £3 million from the sale, with £2 million in potential add-ons.

No Offers For Gaitan

Nicolas Gatain's agent insists that no offers are on the table for his client, and he is happy at Benfica.

The Argentine playmaker has been linked with a move to England all summer, firstly with Manchester United and most recently Liverpool.

The 24-year-old has admitted he would be attracted by a move to England, but insists he is happy at Benfica.

And his agent insists that Gaitan fully intends to be with Benfica next term.

"Gaitan is a Benfica player, and he is happy with them," Jose Iribarren told the Record.

"I do not know of any offer on the table, I have only seen what was written in the newspapers.

"If an offer appears we would study it but the intention of Nico is to be with Benfica next season."

Lucas Leiva Backs Jonjo Shelvey To Shine At Anfield

Lucas Leiva has backed Jonjo Shelvey to become a key player for Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.

Lucas, who made a stuttering start to his career at Anfield before becoming a first-team regular, has been left impressed by Shelvey and is confident the midfielder will capitalize on any opportunities handed to him by Rodgers.

“Jonjo is a young player, but he’s been with us for two or three season so we have seen every day he has a lot of quality and I think he will be a very good player for this club,” Lucas told Liverpool’s website.

“He has been very impressive in pre-season and I am looking forward to helping him when he wants me to. Hopefully he will be a great addition this season.

“My advice to him would be just to keep working hard and when he gets a chance, to try and take it.

“He has a little bit of experience already and played a few games last season, so I think he won’t have a problem when he has his chance – and I will try to help him on the pitch.”

Bale Blasts 'Coward' Adam

Gareth Bale has labelled Charlie Adam "a coward" after being left on crutches by a tackle from the Liverpool midfielder.

It is the second time Bale has been hurt by an Adam challenge, the latest coming during the goalless draw between the Reds and Spurs in Baltimore.

The previous incident, in May 2011, saw Bale suffer ankle ligament damage which meant the Wales international was out for three months.

In quotes reported by several national newspapers, Bale said: "He's a bit of a coward. What he did was over the top. Some people are like that and it's just wrong.

"It's flattering when players try to take you out in a game but, when it threatens your career, it becomes more serious than that."

Bale and Adam have history following the latter's challenge when he was playing for Blackpool in 2011.

Bale added: "There are pictures on the internet of what he did before when he snapped all my ankle ligaments. I was out for three months that time. He's come for me twice now - and he's got me twice.

"When someone makes a very bad tackle on you, you expect an apology. I've had no apology. And I'm not going to accept his apology."

Academy Trio Spread Community Cheer

Three of Liverpool's promising young players spent a day bringing cheer to children in the community recently when they paid a visit to the Royal School for the Blind and Alder Hey hospital.

Academy trio Henoc Mukendi, Yusuf Mersin and Villyan Bijev were a credit to the club as they firstly visited the pupils at the school in Wavertree before moving on to Alder Hey to hand out some presents to the children on the wards.

The visit to Alder Hey is part of a new ongoing initiative, which will see Academy starlets visit the hospital each month.

Clive Cook, Academy education and welfare officer, told Liverpoolfc.com: "It's important for the players to come to initiatives like this, it helps them to put things into perspective because a setback for them can just be a loss of form, whereas a setbacks for these children happen every day.

"It's very inspirational for the players and what they can learn is that despite the unfortunate circumstances, these children are still really happy.

Christine Done, head of fundraising at Alder Hey, said: "I think what Liverpool are trying to do with the Academy players is a really good thing - it's really given them a grounding and shown them there is something outside of football.

"It can be very difficult for the children when they're in hospital, so it's fantastic that the players have come in, brightened up their day, cheered them up and given out some lovely gifts."

During the visit, the players saw a number of children going through rehabilitation following serious injuries.

Villyan Bijev said: "As a professional football player we live with the fear of injuries, and to see how these kids deal with it is very inspiring.

"We brought some presents and when we handed it to the children they just lit up. It was great to see."

Earlier in the day the players had visited the children at the Royal School for the Blind - the oldest blind school in the country.

All of the schools pupils are blind or visually impaired, but also have various particular needs as well.

The players, accompanied by the European Cup and League Cup trophies, joined in with a sing-along with the help of club chaplain Bill Bygroves, much to the delight of all the children.

Bygroves said: "You could see today the pick-me-up it brought to the whole school.

"These young people are inspirational - and it's a privilege for our club to be associated with the school."

Joseph Byrne OBE, the school's headmaster, also spoke of his delight at the players visit, adding: "We are coming towards the end of term and I've been promising the children something special the day before we finish. The Liverpool players turned up, their promise and everyone had a lovely time."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spurs And Liverpool Draw In USA

Liverpool played out a drab draw with Tottenham in the final game of their USA pre-season tour at the M&T Stadium in Baltimore.

Aaron Lennon missed the best chance of the first half when he hit the post when it seemed easier to score, as Spurs marginally shaded the opening period.

A flurry of substitutes after the interval saw Steven Gerrard and Liverpool's new signing Fabio Borini enter the fray.

It helped the general quality of the game to improve but both sides will be hoping they are at peak fitness at the start of the season.

Lennon should have scored just three minutes before the interval when he fired against a post from close range following Harry Kane's pass.

Liverpool had controlled the early moments, with Stewart Downing missing a decent chance in the 11th minute and again shortly afterwards, while Adam Morgan was unable to beat Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel from a tight angle.

And after Lennon had somehow failed from two yards, Liverpool continued to create chances after the break with Joe Cole missing his kick when he looked certain to score.

Martin Skrtel forced a save out of Friedel while, at the other end, William Gallas lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi and also the crossbar.

Kane fired a free-kick high over the bar but in the heat of Maryland, the game petered out in a draw.

AVB Fury At Adam's Bale Tackle

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has criticized Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam for a heavy challenge on Gareth Bale in their goalless pre-season friendly in the United States.

Spurs and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw at the M&T Bank Stadium, home of NFL franchise the Baltimore Ravens.

In a game which marked the Liverpool debut of summer signing Fabio Borini, Villas-Boas was critical of Adam who has previous history with Bale. The Spurs boss is now waiting to learn the extent of the injury.

In May 2011 the Scotland international injured Bale in a tackle, an incident Villas-Boas was only made aware of following game in Baltimore.

Bale was out for three months with ankle ligament damage after that incident and Villas-Boas was unhappy with Adam's latest challenge.

Villas-Boas said: "I think it was a very nasty challenge from Charlie. The player had gone and he came in from behind on Gareth's ankle. I did not know the previous history between the two. I do now.

"It is a difficult one to be fair. You do not want to end up in a game with Liverpool with 10 men.

"At half-time Charlie came to me and said something about the challenge. I can accept that but I think he should go to the player to say sorry."

The incident left Villas-Boas waiting to hear on the seriousness of Bale's injury.

He added: "If the player escapes hospital it is because he is very lucky. The last time he was out for three months and in the end it is the Premier League that suffers without a player of Bale's talent."

Bale's appearance on Spurs' United States tour had already caused controversy as he scored in the game with Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday despite having pulled out of the Team GB squad for the Olympics with a back injury.

Liverpool To Offer £18 Million For United Midfield Target

Liverpool is ready to go toe to toe with Manchester United for Benfica midfielder Nicolas Gaitan, according to Portuguese newspaper Record.

Gaitan has been heavily linked with Manchester United for some time now, and while he remains on the radar of the Old Trafford club, their interest has cooled sufficiently to give Liverpool hope they can land their man.

Negotiations with Manchester United have been on-going for some time; however the stalemate in talks has opened up room for Liverpool to pounce.

Record report that Benfica are willing to consider offers for Gaitan in order to secure their financial future, with Liverpool ready to offer £18 million for the Argentinian maestro.

The 24-year-old, who impressed against Chelsea and Manchester United in the Champions League last season, has a release clause of around €45 million written into his contract, however the financial instability of Benfica means a deal could potentially be done at a much lower price.

News of Liverpool’s impending approach may serve to revive Manchester United’s interest in Gaitan, who, according to Record, are still keeping an eye on developments.

Newcastle Handed Advantage In Pursuit Of Liverpool Star

Newcastle are in the driving seat to re-sign Andy Carroll after it was revealed he would only leave Liverpool for European football.

The England striker is understood to be keen on staying at Anfield and proving himself to new manager Brendan Rodgers but is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that his future may lie elsewhere.

And with European football being a deal breaker for any club looking to sign him from Liverpool, it would appear Newcastle, who he left to join Liverpool for £35m in January 2011, have the advantage over West Ham who are also understood to be keen on the 23-year-old’s services.

Reports suggest the Hammers have tabled a club record bid in an attempt to convince Liverpool they are serious about signing Carroll.

Rodgers is beginning to remodel his squad and while he insists there is no chance of Carroll leaving Liverpool on loan, he admits the Reds will consider any offers they receive for the forward.

"There is talk of him going on loan, but there is absolutely no way I would be looking to loan a player like that, especially after the investment the club have paid," Rodgers said last week.

"But his condition will be the same as every player. If an offer comes in for any player at the club we would either look at it, or dismiss it, and Andy's no different to that."

Rodgers Wants Carroll To Stay

Brendan Rodgers says that there have been no offers for Andy Carroll and insists that he is not looking to push him out of the door.

The striker has been heavily linked with a move away from Liverpool after claims that he did not figure in the plans of new boss Rodgers, with both Newcastle and West Ham keen.

West Ham are reported to have failed with a £17million bid, while Newcastle have tried to take him back on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent move.

However, Rodgers says that he is unaware of any bids for the player and has dismissed claims he wants to move him on before the start of the new season.

When Rodgers was quizzed over whether there had been any bids, he replied: "Not that I am aware of. Obviously I'll know more when we get back.

"There has been a lot written about Andy, but you saw today he's happy to be here and he's worked very well since he's been here.

"The reality is he's still a Liverpool player, he can fit into how I want to play, and he's happy here.

"I'm certainly not wishing to push him out of the door."

Rodgers Aims To Sell Aquilani Back To An Italian Club

Liverpool hope they can finally offload Alberto Aquilani back to Serie A after informing the Italian he is not part of Brendan Rodgers’ plans.

Aquilani did not return to Merseyside with the rest of the Liverpool squad when they flew home from their North America tour on Saturday.

Instead, he headed to Rome to see if a deal could be struck with numerous Serie A sides, one of which is believed to be Fiorentina.

The 28 year-old, who cost Liverpool £20 million in 2009, now realizes there is little chance of him reviving his career at Anfield, but offloading him is not easy because of his staggering financial package.

The Italian’s lucrative contract equates to around £6.5 million a year, an expense which has only been reduced in recent years thanks to loan deals. He spent last year at AC Milan and has also been loaned to Juventus in the past.

To put it into perspective, the £125,000 a week he is currently costing the Anfield club double what Anfield stalwart Jamie Carragher earns.

Rodgers hopes that the desire to revive his career will motivate Aquilani to seek pastures new and reduce Liverpool’s extortionate wage bill. Aquilani still has two years of a five-year contract remaining.

Rodgers left Aquilani out of the last tour game, a 0-0 draw with Tottenham in Baltimore, before giving him permission to fly to Italy instead of Merseyside.

Liverpool are unlikely to raise more than a nominal fee for Aquilani’s services when he is sold.

Agent Rules Out Aquilani Move

Alberto Aquilani's agent has dismissed reports linking the Liverpool midfielder with a move to Fiorentina, insisting the Italian is happy at Anfield.

Aquilani, 28, is back at Liverpool after two seasons on loan in Serie A, first with Juventus and then with AC Milan, and is now hoping to make a mark under new manager Brendan Rodgers.

However, the £17 million signing from Roma was linked with a swap deal involving Fiorentina's Juan Manuel Vargas in the Italian and English press over the weekend.

"Let's not open up a soap opera, please," agent Franco Zavaglia told Radio Sportiva. "Aquilani is a Liverpool player and he is happy where he is now.

"We have not received any requests from [Fiorentina sporting director] Daniele Prade, but that was only to be expected, seeing as Aquilani will only leave on a permanent move and at figures Fiorentina cannot afford.

"I would rule out a current return to Italy. At the moment Alberto is relaxed and on Tuesday he'll attend pre-season training with Liverpool, as planned."

Earlier this week, Aquilani said he believes he will have an opportunity to rescue his ailing Liverpool career under Rodgers.

"I had a very good talk with Brendan where we were able to share our thoughts and it was a very positive chat," he explained. "I like his footballing philosophy and I like the mentality he has because it matches my own skills."

Bellamy Will Bounce Back

Craig Bellamy is confident he will be fit for Team GB's second Olympic fixture despite taking a few knocks during a physical opening encounter with Senegal.

Stuart Pearce's side were held to a 1-1 draw by their Group A rivals on Thursday after putting in a nervy display at Old Trafford.

Their efforts to make a flying start to their gold medal quest were not helped by some rather questionable challenges from the Senegalese.

Welsh duo Bellamy and Joe Allen were forced to limp out of the action, but the former says he will shake off a few bumps and bruises in time to face the United Arab Emirates.

"I got caught on the end of probably the worst tackle I faced and it just tweaked my medial ligament a little bit," said the Liverpool forward.

"I should be alright for the UAE match. Now it's all about preparing for that game and making sure we bounce back."

Bellamy was also happy to have the Old Trafford faithful on his side for once, with club colleague Luis Suarez taking much of the flak during Uruguay's clash with UAE earlier in the day.

"I was expecting what Luis got earlier," said the Welshman. "I was prepared for it but I was grateful Luis was playing first.

"Look, I'm a Liverpool fan and Liverpool is my club but it's always an honour to play at Old Trafford.

"It is a truly remarkable place, so to represent Great Britain here, and to represent my own country, which is Wales, was special."

Gerrard Excited By Lucas Return

Steven Gerrard has backed the returning Lucas Leiva to once again underline his class to Liverpool fans.

The 25-year-old was displaying his most consistent form since joining the Reds in 2007 when he damaged his cruciate ligament at the tail end of last year.

Lucas, though, has now recovered from the injury and is poised to start the 2012/13 campaign at the heart of Liverpool's midfield.

Most observers blamed Liverpool's mid-season slump on the Brazilian's absence, and that is a point not lost on the Reds' skipper.

"It was a big factor, because when he got the injury he was probably our best player, form-wise," Gerrard told the club's official website.

"He was playing superbly well, and he plays that position in the team where he does the ugly work, the work you don't really like to do: breaking up the play, protecting the back four, and when we lose the ball and teams counter-attack, he stops a lot of goals.

"It's great to have him back. He's a great person; he's great for the squad."

Lucas was signed by Rafa Benitez but initially struggled with the demands of the Premier League and failed to win over the Kop.

However, it was testament to his character that he redoubled his efforts to become central to the success of the team.

"You've got to come through the lows, and it was certainly a low for Lucas when the fans weren't giving him the backing," Gerrard added.

"All the players stuck with him because you could see it in training and in parts of his game that he was a young lad who was always going to come good.

"Credit to him - he rolled his sleeves up, he worked hard, he hit the gym and got himself stronger physically and it's turned around for him."

Joe Cole: Rodgers' System Suits Me

Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole believes that the style of football Brendan Rodgers wishes to implement at Anfield will suit him.

Over the past two seasons, the creative midfielder has been castaway from the Merseyside club, spending the 2011-12 campaign on loan at Lille.

The England international has been involved in Rodgers' pre-season plans, however, and thinks that he can make an impact this season.

"Yeah, I think the system is good for me," Cole explained to Goal.com. "I [also] think it's going to be good for the team mainly. We've taken the ideas on board.

"It's a different style of play, it's a very 'un-British' style of play."

Cole featured in Liverpool's 0-0 draw with Tottenham at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday and is eager to get the new season started after the team's tour of North America.

The Reds drew 1-1 with Toronto FC in Canada before suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Roma in Boston.

"It's exciting to be back," he said. "We are really happy with the progress we've made on this tour with this team. We're going to keep going in the right direction."

Gerrard: Time For Youngsters To Step Up

Steven Gerrard has urged Liverpool's youngsters that they can't afford to be patient and must prove themselves worthy of a place in the first-team.

The likes of Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey and Adam Morgan have impressed while on the club's pre-season tour and will be hoping that new Reds manager Brendan Rodgers gives them a chance in the Premier League.

However, Gerrard believes that the next generation of Liverpool stars should not be waiting for their chance, instead giving Rodgers no other option than to pick them however old they are.

"I see or hear some young lads talking about being patient or waiting for their chance," Gerrard told Liverpool's website. "It sounds like they feel they need a 15-minute cameo in a first-team game to prove what they can do. That's not what it's about. It's about proving yourself every day in training.

"We train from 10am until 1pm or 2pm. In that time you have to show you don't want to wait around. Their attitude should be: it doesn't matter how old I am, I'm good enough.

"They don't want to be getting to September or October and wondering why they didn't get a chance in a game. Do it now is my message to them. They have to go in every day and prove to the manager that they are better than those players who are in the team."

Gerrard broke into the Reds' first-team in 1998, with a teenage Michael Owen already an established senior player and defender Jamie Carragher also making 20 appearances in the 1997-98 campaign.

"Myself and Jamie and Michael didn't wait around on the fringes of the squad hoping we'd be selected some day," he added. "We showed on the training pitch that we would do whatever it took to make the boss put us in.

"We showed the mental strength required. We proved that we were as good as, if not better than, those who had been ahead of us. That's what these lads need to do."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gerrard Eyes Top Four Finish

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has backed new boss Brendan Rodgers to lead the club back into the UEFA Champions League next season.

The Reds have missed out on Europe's premier competition for the last three seasons after finishing outside the top four.

Former Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish paid the price for the club's by being sacked earlier this summer, although Liverpool owners John W Henry and Tom Werner insist Rodgers is under no pressure to deliver the Champions League in his first season in charge.

Gerrard has been impressed by the early impact Rodgers has made and feels if they are a bit more clinical in the forthcoming season they can achieve their goals.

"I do think we will get in the top four," said Gerrard. "I think we will get it. I am confident we will get it.

"I am not being unrealistic. If we can play like we did in a lot of games last season, be clinical and take our chances, I think we will be high up in the table. I do.

"It has got to come. We are Liverpool. We can't finish eighth. We have got to put that right. We have got to take the criticism for underperforming last year. We can't be doing post-match interviews saying 'we should have got the points or we were not clinical enough'. We have got to be clinical. We have got to get the points we should get.

"I don't think it's ever happened that a team has gone from eighth to first, but there are still other big targets for us to achieve short term. Getting in that top four again is certainly the priority.

"I thought we were brilliant at times in the league, it's just that we never got out of games what we deserved. Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. There were times when we murdered teams. We just hadn't come off with what we deserved.

"But there were other times you would come off thinking no wonder we are sixth, seventh and eighth in the league. We hadn't played well enough. It was frustrating but if you look at the season as a whole, you can't use an excuse for finishing eighth. It wasn't good enough."

Gerrard admits he was sad to see Dalglish leave, but not surprised by the club's decision to replace the Reds icon after a disappointing eighth place finish in the Premier League

"Kenny knows himself that when Liverpool finish eighth, the owners and supporters are going to ask questions," added Gerrard.

"Everyone knows that. While there was shock and disappointment at the time, you understood the decision. You move on with what the club wanted to do and they wanted Brendan Rodgers in. They wanted a young manager with a vision for the long-term. They want him to bring stability and that is hopefully what will happen.

"I think we'll definitely see a much bolder Liverpool team and more exciting too, but with a quick transition when we lose the ball.

"Over the years sometimes Liverpool have come up against certain type of opposition and we have shown them too much respect. Maybe we had to because of the style we've been asked to play.

"There were times under previous managers when we did that, but I think this manager is the opposite and wants us to play like a big team.

"There is a lot of hard work and a lot of learning to be done sharpish if we want to implement that straight away.

"In my second session we were already doing team shape and he is telling players what he expects movement wise, how he wants the team to do the transition when we lose the ball to win it back.

"The manager has made me aware of where he's at and what he's trying to do - I've been really impressed with him."

Rodgers Open To Aquilani Return

Brendan Rodgers has left the door open for a return to the Liverpool first team for forgotten man Alberto Aquilani.

The Italian arrived in a blaze of publicity in 2009 for a fee of £20m while still recovering from surgery on an ankle injury.

But the 28-year-old failed to settle on Merseyside, making just 18 appearances in total for Liverpool - half of which were as a substitute.

As a result the talented midfielder has spent the last two seasons on-loan in his homeland of Italy with Juventus and the AC Milan.

But Rodgers is willing to wipe the slate clean after he featured in Liverpool's friendly defeat to former club Roma and offer the injury-jinxed midfielder a fresh start at the club.

"I need to have a close look at Alberto," said Rodgers. "It's been difficult for him during his time in England, and this is probably the first period where he's felt happy, according to him, and he's working.

"I need to assess, and that's what I'm doing at the moment. Come the beginning of the season I hope to have a group that I'd like to go forward with on our journey this season.

"I'm assessing all the players, young and senior, at the moment."

Hammers Offer £17m For Carroll

Sky Sports sources understand West Ham United have made a £17million bid to sign Liverpool striker Andy Carroll.

The Premier League new-boys have ambitiously offered to pay an initial £2m loan fee before making a permanent deal next summer.

Liverpool are thought to be willing to listen to offers for the permanent sale of Carroll, who they signed from Newcastle in a record £35m deal under Kenny Dalglish in January 2011.

Brendan Rodgers has succeeded Dalglish this summer and is ready to sell in order to raise money for new signings, including his £15m-rated former Swansea colleague Joe Allen.

Carroll has endured a difficult time at Anfield since becoming the most expensive British footballer in history and he now appears to be surplus to requirements.

Sam Allardyce's West Ham failed in an original approach to sign the England international solely on loan earlier this summer but have returned with a permanent option.

Liverpool want closer to £20m as they aim to recoup as much as possible on Carroll and his wages, which are reportedly close to £80,000-a-week, but the fee would represent a record deal for West Ham.

The most the Upton Park club, who won last season's Championship play-offs, has paid for a player in the past has been £9m for Savio Nsereko in January 2009.

And West Ham co-owner David Sullivan's son, Jack Sullivan, has added to the rumours by saying on Twitter: "Dad is working on the biggest signing in the history of the club - twice as big as anything the club has done before!"

West Ham are also reportedly hoping the friendship between former Newcastle team-mates Kevin Nolan, now West Ham captain, and Carroll can help influence any potential move.

Liverpool Striker Interests Sunderland Boss

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll could be set for a sensational switch to Sunderland, after Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill hinted that he would like to bring him to the Stadium of Light.

Carroll, who cost Liverpool £35 million 18 months ago, looks to be leaving Anfield this summer, after new head coach Brendan Rodgers indicated that the 23 year-old didn't feature in his plans for the forthcoming season.

Newcastle appears to be the front-runners for his signature, after it was reported that they made a £12 million bid for their former star.

However, as reported by The Sun, the Magpies could face competition from their local rivals for the England international, with O'Neill looking to bring in a striker this summer, following the conclusion of Nicklas Bendtner's loan deal.

When asked about his interest in Carroll, O'Neill remained coy, saying: “Andy Carroll is a really good player, a really good player. Would he come to Sunderland?

“He is a very fine player.”

Carroll is believed to be keen on a return to the north-east after struggling to adjust to life on Merseyside. However, the powerful striker recent spoke of his desire to remain at Liverpool and prove himself.

However, with Rodger's style of football means that Carroll would find first-team opportunities extremely limited.

Ramirez's Agent Arrives In England For Liverpool Talks

Liverpool has moved a step closer to landing Bologna winger Gaston Ramirez after his agent arrived in England for talks.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is desperate to add some much needed width to his new-look team next season, and has turned to Ramirez after baulking at Fulham's £10 million asking price for Clint Dempsey.

A fast, agile and elegant left winger who can play up front, Ramirez is rated as one of the finest players in Italy, and has been tracked by Barcelona, AC Milan and the two Manchester clubs in the last six months.

However, it appears that Liverpool, who held initial talks over a deal with Bologna last month, have jumped the queue, with the players agent arriving in England this week to sort out a transfer to the Premier League:

'Gaston is ready to leave Italy - so much so I am in England for talks with a Premier League club,' agent Pablo Betancourt told Mercato.

'He is one of the most important players in Uruguray, so there are no shortage of offers.'

Inter Milan and Tottenham are two other clubs believed to have significant interest in Ramirez, but neither is willing to stump up the £15 million Bologna want for the 21-year-old.

That clears the way for Liverpool to get their man, and they are hopeful they land the player in the next fortnight, despite the transfer being complicated, as Ramirez will be on duty for Uruguay during the London Olympics.

The former Penarol ace, who is contracted to Bologna until 2016, has already set his heart on a move to Anfield.

Liverpool Interested In Venezuelan International Centre Back

According to reports in Spain’s most read newspaper, Marca, Liverpool have approached Fernando Amorebieta’s representatives to express “a serious interest” in signing the Athletic Bilbao centre back.

The Venezuelan international is currently under contract with the Basque club until June 2013, so they will now have to decide whether to renew his contract this summer or risk him leaving for free in a year’s time.

Sources close to the 27-year-old are suggesting that his preference would be to remain at Bilbao, but only if the club can offer him an extension on his contract with a considerably better pay package, which could prove difficult with his club teammate, the recently-crowned European champion Fernando Llorente, also insisting on a significant pay rise.

The biggest obstacle for Liverpool may prove to be the €35million (£27.4M) buy-out clause in Amorebieta’s contract, but Athletic Bilbao have not issued a flat-out refusal to negotiate that clause, which they did almost immediately after being informed of the interest in Javi Martinez from Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

Speculation in the Spanish press suggests that the Athletic Bilbao president, Jose Urrutia, may be willing to accept an offer around £10million for Amorebieta.

Spurs To Rival Liverpool For Team GB Star

Tottenham Hotspur have reportedly joined Liverpool in the race to sign Swansea City’s Joe Allen.

The Anfield club was the only side reported to have a serious interest in the Team GB midfielder, but now a report in The Sun claims Spurs have joined the race.

Allen was impressive for the newly-promoted Swans last season and, when boss Brendan Rodgers made the switch to Merseyside earlier this summer, it was quickly being reported that he wanted his former charge to make the same move.

The report claims Liverpool offered £12.5million plus Jonjo Shelvey on a season long loan for the 22-year-old, but the bid was quickly knocked back and the Swans are understood to be content to wait for something much closer to their £15million valuation.
Spurs' reported interest will please the Welsh club, as it increases the likelihood of their estimation of Allen’s worth being met.

This interest has created a rift between Swansea and Liverpool, with the former releasing a statement expressing their anger at the Reds approach, as it contravened a written agreement signed when Rodgers left, and certain details of his contract being made public.

Aquilani Aiming To Prove Worth

Liverpool misfit Alberto Aquilani is desperate for a chance to prove his worth at the club after being dismissed by previous managers.

The £20 million signing has spent the last two seasons on loan in his native Italy with Juventus and AC Milan after being jettisoned by Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish.

Aquilani, 28, was signed by Rafa Benitez but arrived at the club injured and never got an opportunity to display his range of skills, but he is puzzled at the treatment he has received from the Spaniard's successors.

"How can you pay £20m for a player and this player is never taken into consideration?" he said.

"I never asked to leave but I was always pushed by the club. I am here and I would like to play for Liverpool but it doesn't depend only on me."

It remains unclear how prominently the Italy international will feature under new boss Brendan Rodgers.

He played in the first half of Liverpool's defeat against his old club Roma in Boston on Monday and is upbeat about his prospects of playing under Rodgers after their initial conversations.

"I had a very good talk with Brendan where we were able to share our thoughts and it was a very positive chat," he added.

"I like his footballing philosophy and I like the mentality he has because it matches my own skills."

Liverpool fans have rightly wondered why a player acquired for such a handsome sum in 2010 has not been able to stake a claim for a first-team place.

But the playmaker remains determined to show Liverpool fans he can make the grade at Anfield.

"The situation changed after Benitez left," Aquilani added.

"In past years, I felt forced out. I never asked to go on loan but they made it clear it was better for me to go.

"I think Liverpool people have to know that I have never said I wanted to leave the city because my family and I were not happy here. This is not true.

"I cannot say I have unfinished business in English football because I really never played but, the little I did, I believe I was able to show to Liverpool fans that I have quality and that I could have helped the team."