Thursday, December 13, 2012

Liverpool Handed Double Boost In Spanish Striker Chase

Fernando Llorente insists that he hasn't agreed to sign a deal with Juventus, with the Spaniard continuing to be linked to Liverpool.

Llorente has long been a target for the Reds, with the striker revealing last year that the club had come in to sign him, but because of their refusal to match his £30 million exit clause, Athletic Bilbao said no.

And as speculation claimed that Juventus had beaten Liverpool to the star, Llorente has said that he has not decided where his future lies.

"No. That's totally untrue," he told Sky Sports of the rumours. "I think it's normal that people talk about these things, but ultimately you have to respect the rules.

"I am an Athletic player and, until January 1, I cannot sign with any other team."

Llorente also hinted that a move to the Premier League would be the preferred option, with Arsenal and Manchester City also believed to be pursuing the 27 year old, as he enters the final six months of his contract with Bilbao.

"It is true that we are approaching the date when I can sign for other clubs," he explained.

"I'm trying to keep it so that it is something which is managed by my brother and my representatives. That leaves me to focus in my football and help my team, Athletic, and nothing else, maintain focus.

"I really like the Premier League and I've mentioned on more than one occasion that it's a league which appeals to me a lot.

"You never know. It's one good option in terms of my future but we'll have to wait until the end of the season to see what happens."

Liverpool is desperately in need of striking power, with the club relying heavily on Luis Suarez to deliver the goals as they push for a top four spot.

The Uruguay international has been outstanding across the Premier League this season, but will need some assistance if the side hopes to be in contention for the Europa League trophy and push for Champions League qualification.

And while Liverpool have continually insisted that they don't have an unlimited budget like in seasons past, if they do sell the likes of Andy Carroll and Joe Cole like reports are suggesting, and Llorente chooses to move to the Reds, they could offer him an attractive salary.

Liverpool Make Butland Move

Liverpool have stepped up their chase of English goalkeeper Jack Butland as Arsenal prepare to make an £8 million move to sign Pepe Reina. has learned that the Merseysiders have made third-party contact with Birmingham City about buying Butland in January.

Wigan Athletic’s Ali Al-Habsi and Swansea City’s Michel Vorm also feature on Liverpool’s wish-list as they prepare the ground for the increasingly likely departure of Reina.

The Spaniard is believed to be open to a move to Arsenal in the forthcoming window and is even ready to contemplate a drop in his £120,000-a-week Liverpool salary to push the deal through.

The firm No.1 choice to succeed Reina is Butland, who is expected to be sold by cash-strapped Birmingham next year should their valuation be met.

The Championship club rejected a £6m offer from Southampton for the 19-year-old during the summer but is unlikely to stand in the way of a move in January, given the state of their finances.

Liverpool is wary of overpaying for potential, and will not be held to ransom, but club scouts have identified Butland as an outstanding young talent.

Butland, who has represented England at all age-group levels, came to prominence while on loan at Cheltenham Town last season before being selected in the England squad for Euro 2012 following an injury to John Ruddy. He was the Great Britain No.1 at the Olympics and then made his senior England debut in the friendly against Italy.

The teenager’s progress has continued in his first season in the Birmingham team, with West Ham and Manchester City the other clubs who are closely monitoring his progress.

However, Liverpool is the frontrunners in the race for Butland’s signature and is expected to make a formal move should Arsenal step up their pursuit of Reina. revealed last month that Reina tops Arsenal’s three-man goalkeeper shortlist to challenge established No.1 Wojciech Szczesny, followed by Vorm and Stoke City’s Thomas Sorensen.

Arsene Wenger is a long-time admirer of Reina, who he tried to sign from Anfield in the summer of 2010 for what the goalkeeper claimed in his recent autobiography was £20m.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers tried to flatten mounting rumours of Reina’s possible exit last week, claiming that “what is worth putting on record is that I’m not looking for another goalkeeper” and “any areas we will look to improve will be elsewhere”.

Privately, there is a growing acceptance at Anfield that the 30-year-old keeper could be ready for a new challenge.

Reina is contracted at Liverpool until 2016 and it would take an offer of around £10m to persuade the Merseysiders to part company with the fans’ favourite.

Dortmund Interested In Bringing Back Sahin

Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has said that if on-loan Liverpool midfielder Nuri Sahin wants to come and play for the Bundesliga Champions, then, they may consider an approach.

Sahin played for BVB before moving to Real Madrid in 2011, but struggled to cement his place in the first team and is now on loan at the Reds.

The playmaker has found it difficult to adapt to life in both England and Spain and Watzke has said Dortmund would think about bringing Sahin back to the club, if the Turkey international showed his desire to play for them.

“I told him: If he comes to me and says, he doesn't want anything else than playing in Dortmund, we will think about this issue. But it has to be feasible," he told Bild.

The German champions have also sold on other players such as Shinji Kagawa and striker Lucas Barrios in recent times and the chief executive believes as well as Sahin that the duo are not currently as happy as they were when playing for BVB.

He added: “Which player, who has left us is happier now, Kagawa? Sahin? Barrios? No one."

Agent Plays Down Sanchez January Exit

Liverpool target Alexis Sanchez will not be leaving Barcelona any time soon, according to his agent, reports talkSPORT.

The 23-year-old Chilean winger has struggled to hold down a regular place in Tito Vilanova's side after suffering an injury-plagued start to his career at Camp Nou, and is once again being linked with a move to the Premier League.

Manchester United were interested in signing Sanchez from Udinese when he opted instead to move to Spain, but now it's Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who wants to lure the South American star to Anfield.

However, Liverpool's hopes of securing his signature in January have been dealt a blow after Sanchez's representative Fernando Felicevich ruled out a move for his client.

"In no case will Alexis leave Barcelona," he told "He has returned after injury and played well.

"Alexis stays in Barcelona. Has no reason to leave. He is at the best team in the world. In addition to that Barca has [Lionel] Messi, a player that everyone can learn from."

Rodgers is keen to boost his attacking options on Merseyside, with Luis Suarez currently Liverpool's only fit first-team striker.

Sanchez's ability to play on either wing as well as through the middle would be an attractive attribute, if only the club can convince him and his agent, Felicevich, that his future would be better served in England.

Daniel Sturridge & Thomas Ince Set For Liverpool

Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge is set to move to Liverpool in January for £12 million and so is Blackpool star Thomas Ince.

The Sun report that talks are at an advanced stage for both players and they want to get the business done as early as possible when the transfer window opens.

Liverpool turned down the chance to sign Sturridge back in the summer window but boss Brendan Rodgers ignored the opportunity because he was concerned about his character.

Sturridge is keen on moving to Anfield after growing disillusioned at a lack of openings at Chelsea and being used on the flanks when he plays.

Meanwhile, midfielder Ince, 20, left the Kop for just £250,000 18 months ago but has starred at Bloomfield Road.

Rodgers has also looked at Celtic ace Georgias Samaras.

Rodgers Unsure On Joe Cole's Liverpool Future

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has said that Joe Cole's future prospects with the club depend on the player himself.

The 31-year-old midfielder scored his first Premier League goal since April 2011 in Sunday's 3-2 victory at his old club West Ham, but has not featured regularly for the Reds this season.

Cole has been out of action because of injury for parts of the season, but when fit he has only started cup matches and reports suggested he could be set for a move away from Anfield.

"I'm just going along game by game," said Rodgers on the Liverpool Echo website.

"There is every opportunity for every player.

"It's not just about the games. Every player gets a chance every single day to show what they are all about.

"Is his future here? You would have to ask him that."

Rodgers has not got any fixed views on what the future holds for Cole.

"The guy is still a Liverpool player and while he's a Liverpool player I'll work as hard as I can with my staff to try to make him the best we possibly can,” added the Liverpool boss.

"If he's not going to play as often as he wants then he's no different to any player really. Players are about game time and money.

"But he's not any kind of problem, he's a good guy and we will see what happens over the coming months."

Cole Not Looking For January Move

Joe Cole has indicated that he is not looking to leave Liverpool in the January transfer window, insisting that he wants to fight for a first team place at Anfield.

The former West Ham Ham and Chelsea attacker has been linked with a number of moves away after a relatively poor first half of the season, most notably with a chance to reunite with Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers. But after finding the back of net in his last two games against Young Boys and the Hammers, Cole has underlined his desire to claim a role in Brendan Rodgers’ first team.

"All I'm doing is giving my all in training every day, and trying to keep my place in the squad when we play Villa. That's all I can do,” Cole told the Daily Mirror.

"It has been difficult recently but I have scored in my last two appearances and I want to keep the sequence going if I can. And when I'm called upon, I will do the best job I can."

Cole has made a paltry eight appearances for the Reds this season, with only half of those coming from a starting position in the team and none of them coming in the Premier League. Fresh reports this morning suggested that Liverpool had made significant steps in their pursuit of Chelsea’s Daniel Strurridge and Blackpool starlet Tom Ince, who have been touted as replacements for Cole and the similarly underwhelming Stewart Downing.

Young Reds Head To Singapore

With the U21 reserve league on its winter break and a bit of time to fill for Liverpool's various youth teams, a handful of the club's more promising prospects are headed off to Singapore for a U19 mini-tournament this week. With only four teams involved, Liverpool are set to face off against a Singapore XI on Friday for the right to play the winner of Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon in Sunday's final while the two losing sides face off in a third-place playoff.

Liverpool have sent their strongest possible squad half way around the globe for a bit of experience, and promising prospects like Ryan McLaughlin, Brad Smith, Jordon Ibe, and Jerome Sinclair will joined by occasional first team players Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil in their efforts.

"It will be a great learning curve for our young players and a great opportunity for them to compete against some of the world's most promising players," said academy director Frank McParland of taking part in the inaugural edition of what organizers hope will become a yearly event. "It also gives us a chance to meet and play in front of our passionate fans in Singapore."

Once they arrive, the biggest difficulty for the players may be the humidity rather than their opposition. And though the honour of winning a fledgling two-match "tournament" may be open to debate, at a stage when every competitive match and new playing experience is beneficial to their development it's at the least an intriguing venture.

"I think the trip will be just as important for what happens off the pitch as well as on it in terms of the players' development," added McParland. "They'll go on two flights for 16 hours, they'll get used to the travelling and being in hotels with a lot of down time.

"And while we're there we'll also be going into schools and they'll be doing a lot of media - so it's not just about the football. It's about learning to be a footballer and, more importantly, it's about learning to be a Liverpool footballer."

Fulham Withdraw Complaint Against Liverpool

Fulham have withdrawn a complaint to the Premier League relating to Liverpool's pursuit of Clint Dempsey in the summer following an apology from Tom Werner, the Anfield club's chairman, for their “unprofessional” behaviour. exclusively revealed in August that the Cottagers had flagged the Merseysider's conduct to the FA, and the west London club have since accepted the apology which cited actions that were “simply not acceptable” and added that Werner “emphasized his regret for the entire episode.”

Fulham said on their official website: “Liverpool’s Chairman Tom Werner apologized personally to Mohamed Al Fayed, stating that his club were wholly responsible for unprofessional behaviour toward Fulham and emphasized his regret for the entire episode.

“The chairman decided that this sincere action was enough, and as a gesture of goodwill, instructed that all complaints against them be dropped.”

The Reds came under criticism for the manner in which they tried to tempt Dempsey to Merseyside, including a premature announcement of his transfer to Liverpool appearing on owner's Fenway Sports Group's website in July.

The Cottagers felt that after a sustained campaign to unsettle Dempsey and no forthcoming bid, Liverpool's behaviour was a form of tapping up their attacker, who was the club's top scorer in the 2011-12 season with 23 goals. Subsequently Fulham made a complaint against the Merseysiders after Dempsey moved to Tottenham on deadline day for £6 million.

The move prompted a war of words between the Texan and Martin Jol, with the former claiming he would have stayed at the club if he had been made to feel loved.

“If you always felt valued and appreciated enough, I don’t think you’d ever leave,” Dempsey said. “But it came to a point where I didn’t feel valued and appreciated, not by the fans, but by other situations.”

Yet Jol, refused to entertain the explanation, instead suggesting Dempsey wanted a move to earn a better contract.

“I told Clint in our last conversation that I loved him like a son, but he didn’t care because he wanted to move,” the Fulham manager said.

“So it’s a bit far-fetched and I don’t think it was personal because he never said he didn’t feel loved by me. I think he didn’t feel appreciated and that means, he told me, ‘you have all the money in the world’, but I haven’t. He wanted a financial move and he wanted to play Champions League.”

Hillsborough Hearing Date Set

The Attorney General's attempt to overturn the original Hillsborough inquest verdicts will be heard on 19 December.

Dominic Grieve made the application to the High Court in the wake of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's damning report into the 1989 disaster, which caused the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters.

And a spokesman for the Judicial Office said: "The Attorney General's application to quash the Hillsborough inquest verdicts has been listed for a substantive hearing before the Divisional Court on Wednesday 19 December, subject to any applications by interested parties to adjourn.

"The Lord Chief Justice, sitting with two other judges, will hear the application."

The original inquest, which did not consider evidence from after 3.15pm on the day of the disaster, returned accidental death verdicts.

But the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report concluded that 41 of the 96 victims could have survived if the emergency services' response had been better.