Thursday, May 30, 2013

Liverpool Agree Fee For Iago Aspas

Sky Sports sources understand Liverpool have agreed a fee with Celta Vigo to sign highly-rated striker Iago Aspas.

The 25-year-old has scored 60 goals in 130 appearances for Celta and was strongly linked with a move to the Premier League in January.

Reading showed an interest, but was put off by Aspas' price, while Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City had also been mooted as admirers.

However, it is now understood that Liverpool are poised to win the chase for Aspas, who has a €10million (£8.6m) release clause in his contract.

If Liverpool can tie up a deal for the forward, he will become the second signing for Brendan Rodgers since the end of the Premier League season.

On Tuesday, the Reds confirmed that Manchester City defender Kolo Toure had agreed to move to Anfield on a free transfer in the summer.

Aspas' immediate priority, though, is on Celta's relegation battle, with the club inside the relegation zone with just one game to play.

Celta are a point adrift of fourth-bottom Deportivo La Coruna and face Espanyol at home in the final game of the season in La Liga on Saturday.

Liverpool Make €15m Offer For Clement Grenier

Liverpool have tabled a €15m (£12.8m) bid for Arsenal target Clement Grenier, according to the Mirror.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger confirmed his interest in the 22-year-old earlier this week and compared his style of play to that of former Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri. However, it appears Liverpool may have jumped to the head of the queue with the Mirror claiming that the Merseysiders have made a €15m (£12.8m) bid for the playmaker.

Grenier has just 12 months left to run on his current contract at Lyon and the Ligue 1 outfit may have to cash in on the talented youngster this summer as he’s showing no signs of signing an extension. The report claims the Lyon president has slapped a €37m price tag on the players head but that’s likely just to be an inflated figure as part of his negotiation tactics.

The French outfit’s boss Remi Garde is desperate to hang on to Grenier and has advised the player to turn down a big-money move away from the club this summer in order to continue his development at Lyon.

Garde is a former Arsenal player himself and played under Wenger in the late 90′s so the north Londoners may feel they have the inside track if Lyon decides to sell this summer. But it seems Liverpool is keen to land the highly-rated attacker and if talk of a €15m bid proves to be accurate, the Gunners will need to make their move soon or risk losing out on Grenier altogether.

Liverpool Target Luis Muriel As Suarez Replacement

Liverpool is considering a move for Udinese striker Luis Muriel as a replacement for Luis Suarez if their star man leaves Anfield this summer, Goal understands.

Suarez has encouraged a £40 million transfer to Real Madrid by admitting he would find it hard to turn down the Spanish giants as he seeks Champions League football next season.

The Uruguayan has also privately refused to commit himself to Liverpool despite two meetings with the club in recent weeks and the Reds are believed to be ready to sell the 26-year-old to an overseas club.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers would be allowed to re-invest the transfer fee in full - on top of his £20m summer budget - and is lining up potential replacements for a player who scored 30 goals in all competitions last term.

Liverpool is closing in on a £6m deal for Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas but their move for the 25-year-old is unrelated to Suarez’s future as Rodgers looks to bolster his attacking options.

Aspas, who has bagged 12 goals for the relegation-threatened Liga outfit, had also attracted interest from Valencia and Swansea ahead of the summer transfer window.

However, Reds officials moved for the Spaniard after being alerted to Celta’s reduced asking price for the striker, with around £2m being knocked off their original valuation of £8m as a result of the club’s precarious league position.

Meanwhile Muriel has been identified as a potential target to replace Suarez following his impressive displays for Udinese, where he scored 11 league goals in 22 Serie A appearances during a season disrupted by injury.

The Colombian, 22, would cost in excess of £15m but Liverpool believe he has the potential to increase in value, while his style of play and eye for goal are similar to Suarez.

Muriel would be interested in a move to Anfield despite saying last week that he does not feel ready for a big-money move away for Udinese.

"I want to grow and improve as a player,” Muriel told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I want to stay in Udine for another couple of years. I have learnt so much here from boss Francesco Guidolin who helped me during my moments of difficulty."

Liverpool Join Arsenal In Race For Next Drogba

Liverpool have joined Arsenal in the race to sign Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, according to reports.

The Daily Star claims Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has joined Gunners chief Arsene Wenger in pursuing the 20-year-old, who is also on the radar of both Borussia Dortmund and Swansea City.

Lukaku, dubbed ‘the next Didier Drogba’ by the paper, enjoyed a season to remember on loan at West Bromwich Albion last term, netting 17 goals in 35 games for Steve Clark’s side.

And, he’s admitted that he may have to leave Stamford Bridge to play regular first team football once again next season if he’s not in the new manager’s thoughts at Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho is favourite to take over once again under Roman Abramovich, and talks with Lukaku in west London are a priority for the player.

If the Belgian does move, then Liverpool would be more than happy to add an extra attacking edge to their side at Anfield.

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are currently available to the manager on Merseyside, with injury hampering Fabio Borini’s progress on Merseyside.

Lukaku isn’t the only striker on the Liverpool radar though, with Iago Aspes reportedly closing on a move to the club.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are another Premier League team short of attacking options.

Olivier Giroud is the only senior central option available to Wenger, whilst Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski have also appeared through the middle when required for the Gunners.

Newcastle & Liverpool To Rekindle Interest In Barcelona Star

Newcastle and Liverpool could be ready to rekindle their interest in Bojan Krkic after AC Milan decided against keeping the Barcelona outcast.

The 22-year-old has been on loan at the San Siro this season but with opportunities limited, scored just three goals in 19 Serie A outings.

As such, Milan have now confirmed they are not prepared to pay the pre-agreed £12.5m to make the loan move permanent meaning Bojan will return to Barca this summer.

Newcastle and Liverpool have both been linked with the Spaniard, who is still the youngest player to play a league game for the Catalonian giants, and could be tempted to go back for him.

Bojan is also on the radar of Arsenal and Tottenham but it appears as though the north London rivals are ready to pursue other attacking targets.

Liverpool On The Verge Of Luis Alberto Signing

Balague reports this morning that Liverpool are on the verge of signing 20-year Sevilla midfielder Luis Alberto – who has been on-loan to Barcelona B in the Spanish second division this season, and has scored 11 goals across the year.

In Balague’s own words – and he’s an excellent source for transfer news during the Summer months – Alberto is capable of playing in two of “three positions in 4-3-3 midfield, as false 9 or winger” and is “quality (at) set pieces.”

From the sound of it, this is an extremely promising player, and someone who – although probably won’t be a major factor in the first-team next year – will be given the opportunity to grow into the mould of a Liverpool player.

That’s a smart philosophy from Brendan Rodgers and FSG, because if someone like Alberto grows into the player he’s projected to be, then they wouldn’t be able to compete for him financially in three or four years.

Suarez Keen On Anfield Exit

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who is suspended for the first six games of next season’s Premier League campaign, is reportedly keen to leave Anfield this summer and has set his sights on a move to join Real Madrid.

According to reports by Guillem Balague in his latest column for Suarez may turn his back on the Anfield faithful and if he moves away from England then his suspension may not come into play at the start of next season.

Such news will come as a shock to the club’s loyal fan base who are more than aware of just how crucial a member of the Liverpool set-up the 26 year old striker is.

Suarez is in the middle of a ten game ban handed down to him after he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and it has been made apparent by the Uruguayan that he feels unhappy with the manner in which he has been treated by the footballing authorities in the English top tier as well as the constant bombardment he has come under from the nation’s press. Brendan Rodgers has backed this up by saying he feels that the Football Association banned his star striker for the man and not punishment.

A move to Real Madrid for Luis Suarez may well be of interest to club president Florentino Pérezone given that both Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema have failed to adequately support Cristiano Ronaldo and they may be following Jose Mourinho out the Bernabeu back door this summer.

Suarez had an excellent season in 2012/13, scoring 30 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions and has scored a total of 51 goals in 96 appearances since his £22.8m move from Ajax back in January 2011.

It would be a devastating loss to Brendan Rodgers if someone of Suarez’s ability and quality left Anfield but perhaps the manager only needs to look at how Liverpool won three and drew one of the four games, scoring ten goals in the process, at the end of last season when Suarez started his suspension.

Arsenal Set Sights On Martin Skrtel

Arsenal could make an approach for unsettled Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in the summer.

The Gunners are desperate to revitalize their back four, with Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna continually linked with moves away from the Emirates.

Liverpool in the mean time snapped up Kolo Toure on a free transfer, and is still looking to make more defensive reinforcements following Jamie Carragher's retirement.

Though Arsenal have been tracking Swansea skipper Ashley Williams, it seems according to a British newspaper that they are ready to launch a £12m bid for Skrtel.

The Slovakian, who was unhappy about being dropped by Brendan Rodgers towards the back end of last season, has also previously been linked with a move to Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg.

Toure Signs For Liverpool

Kolo Toure will officially become a Liverpool player on July 1 after he completed a medical ahead of his move to Anfield.

Liverpool have agreed in principle a two-year deal with Toure, who has taken a drop in the £90,000 a week salary he was being paid by Manchester City.

His contract expires on June 30 and the formalities of the free transfer will be completed then.

Brendan Rodgers is anxious to bolster Liverpool’s defence in the wake of Jamie Carragher’s retirement and while Toure does not fit the profile of players who Liverpool sign under Fenway Sports Group, the 32-year-old will provide experienced cover.

Liverpool's need for fresh faces at the back is further accentuated by Skrtel's uncertain future at the club.

Speaking this week the Slovakian, who signed from Zenit St Petersburg in 2008, has revealed he is ready to consider offers to leave.

'I have not had any specific offers,' he said. 'But if some should come and they interest me, I would probably ponder it seriously. [But] I do not want to be that specific.

'The club has the biggest say in this in any case, because they have the right for it with me being contracted.

'Besides, I am not saying that I want to leave at any cost. I feel sorry for what happened in this season. But I have been here for five-and-a-half years and I have built a position here.'

Liverpool Await Sturridge Update

Liverpool is sweating on the fitness of Daniel Sturridge after the striker went off injured during England’s clash with Republic of Ireland on Wednesday evening.

Sturridge was stretchered off the field shortly after crossing for Frank Lampard’s equalizer during the 1-1 draw with suspected ankle ligament damage.

The 23-year-old has undergone a scan on his ankle, and will definitely miss England’s trip to Rio to take on Brazil at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday.

"He's not going to Brazil," England manager Roy Hodgson told reporters after the match. "He had a good start and we were sad to lose him.

"He hadn't played for a while and was carrying a slight injury. I fear it will keep him out for a few weeks."

Sturridge was making his first start for England after a blistering end to the season at Liverpool, scoring 10 goals in 14 Premier League appearances.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hamann: Best Has Yet To Come From Joe Allen

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann believes the best is yet to come from Joe Allen for both club and country.

Allen was one of Brendan Rodgers' first signings when he took over at Anfield, taking the 23-year-old from his former club Swansea City in a £15m deal.

He impressed in the Liverpool midfield but the Wales star's season was curtailed by a shoulder injury.

"It's a big step up when you go from Swansea to Liverpool but he had a fantastic start," Hamann said.

"He was absolutely outstanding for the first few months then he missed a couple of games, Lucas [Leiva] has come back in the team who missed the early parts of the season through injury and then he [Allen] found it hard to get back into the team.

"But I think for the first year he's done ever so well and you've got to give him time, he's only young.

"He showed his potential, if anything he'll only get better and I think there's a lot to look forward to."

Allen has been capped 13 times by Wales and also played five times for the Great Britain side that reached the quarter-finals of the men's football tournament at the 2012 Olympics.

The Carmarthenshire native has played primarily in a holding midfield role for Liverpool, where he could break up opposition play before using his range of passing to launch Liverpool forward.

But Hamann, who was capped 59 times by Germany, believes that as Allen develops he will be able to fill other roles.

"If he adds skills to his game then I think he can play in various positions in the centre of midfield because he's a clever player, he's a very good passer of the ball, he spots danger and he's a team player," Hamann added.

"Now he needs to crack on and take his game to the next level, not only for Liverpool but also for Wales.

"He's at a top club now, he will have gained a lot of experience from that and I hope he can put that to good use for his club and country.

"I think you will see a lot more from him in the future because he is a terrific player."

Luis Suarez Voted Liverpool's Player Of The Season

Luis Suarez has won the Standard Chartered Player of the Season, as voted for by Liverpool fans.

The Uruguayan claimed a huge 64 per cent of the votes, clear of captain Steven Gerrard in second and the retiring Jamie Carragher in third.

Defender Daniel Agger and January signing Philippe Coutinho finished off the top five.

Suarez topped the Liverpool scoring charts with an impressive 30 goals in all competitions, 23 of which were in the Premier League.

"It's incredible for me," the striker told LFC TV after earning the award.

"This is very important for my life and I know I have the supporters helping me - it's so important."

The 26-year-old has been linked with a move away from Anfield this summer after such an impressive individual season.

He narrowly missed out on the PFA Player of the Year, being beaten by Gareth Bale, but was named in the PFA Team of the Year.

Liverpool finished a disappointing 7th place and failed to qualify for European football for next season.

"My work is helping the team and I try my best on the pitch," Suarez added. "I hoped the team would be in a better position but we tried our best. We are all ready for next season.

"When the manager arrived here it was a little difficult because maybe he didn't know the players or the club.

"The first season for the manager was good for the confidence of the players. Next season we can be better."

The controversial striker has now scored 51 goals in 96 appearances for Liverpool after his move from Ajax in 2011, but the club now faces a battle to keep hold of their star striker.

Liverpool On Alert As Valencia Attacker Eyes Exit

Liverpool target Sofiane Feghouli has made a U-turn and now fancies leaving Valencia.

talkSPORT revealed in January that the winger had signed a new deal at the club until 2016.

It appeared certain he would snub a move to England, with Liverpool keen, but now his future is uncertain.

It is understood that the 23-year-old has fallen out with key figures at Valencia, namely boss Ernesto Valverde.

The Algeria international, who has scored nine in 62 La Liga appearances, is now planning to leave Valencia this summer.

After tying him to that new deal, the La Liga club will demand upwards of £12million for their man.

Real Madrid Star Quashes Liverpool Speculation

Goalkeeper Diego Lopez has handed Liverpool a transfer blow by revealing his desire to continue at Real Madrid.

The Reds are preparing for the possible departure of long-serving Spaniard Pepe Reina to his former club Barcelona and Lopez is thought to be on their list of potential replacements.

The 31-year-old rejoined Real Madrid last summer as an understudy for Iker Casillas and was handed his first start in January after the Spain captain suffered a hand injury.

And Lopez has not looked back since, starting a further 24 matches while his more illustrious colleague has watched on from the sidelines.

Jose Mourinho's departure is expected to give Casillas the chance to reclaim his first-team berth, but Lopez, who is also being eyed by Ligue 1 side Monaco, is not prepared to give up his No.1 role without a fight.

"[It is] in my plans to continue here," he said. "I believe in having competition and I think the goalkeeper's role will be as open as any other position."

Liverpool And Chelsea Target Teenage French Ace

Liverpool and Chelsea are set to fight it out over Lille starlet Lucas Digne.

The 19-year-old, who is under contract until 2017, is regarded as one of the finest young left-backs in Europe.

Digne was a regular for Lille last season, starting 31 league games, having made 16 league outings during the previous campaign, and is a key figure for France's Under-20 side and his displays have alerted several Premier League sides.

talkSPORT told you back in February that champions Manchester United were on his trail, but Liverpool and Chelsea both appear to have a stronger interest in the full-back.

Although Ryan Bertrand was recently handed a new deal, Chelsea still need a quality long-term successor for Ashley Cole, while Reds boss Brendan Rodgers would welcome competition for Spaniard Jose Enrique.

But both English sides will also face competition from Ligue 1, with moneybags Paris St-Germain keen on the £10m-rated defender.

Juraj Kucka Flattened By Liverpool Link

Slovakia midfield maestro Juraj Kucka is dreaming of a move to Liverpool.

The Genoa star, 26, has enjoyed a fine season in Serie A and has been linked with a summer switch to Anfield.

It'd mean he'd link up with countryman Martin Skrtel and Kucka - a holding midfielder - is already licking his lips at the prospect of it.

He said: "It's good news - I have read it on the internet.

"I am a Genoa player so I have to think that I'll play in Genoa the next season.

"But I can imagine what it would mean to wear the Liverpool shirt."

Kucka made his international debut at the age of 21 and has played 29 times for his country.

Carroll To Reject £15m West Ham Move

Andy Carroll looks set to turn down a permanent £15 million move to West Ham after telling Liverpool he will fight for his place at Anfield, Goal understands.

The 24-year-old striker is ready to accept a role as a bit-part player at Liverpool next season in order to force his way into the side following a successful loan spell at Upton Park.

West Ham agreed a £15m deal with the Reds last week after Carroll scored seven goals while on loan in east London, but he is unsure about a move as he focuses on re-establishing himself at Anfield and earning a place in England's World Cup squad.

"Things haven't worked out for Andy at Liverpool but he went there with high hopes and isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet," a source told Goal.

"He enjoyed his time with West Ham but feels he has unfinished business at Anfield."

Reds manager Brendan Rodgers had hoped to cash in on Carroll to boost his transfer spending this summer, having only been given £20m by owners FSG to improve the squad that finished seventh in the Premier League table.

Carroll is also thought to be keen on a shock return to Newcastle. The Magpies, though, are not believed to be in the running for his signature, with bad blood from the original £35m transfer in 2011 meaning Liverpool are reluctant to negotiate a return.

Carroll faces up to four months on the sidelines with a heel injury, and has withdrawn from the England squad for the upcoming friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

Barcelona Close In On Reina

Jose Reina could sign for Barcelona in the next two weeks after his agent flew in for talks with Liverpool.

The Spanish giants hope to tie up an £8m move for the Reds keeper and a deadline has now been set for the transfer to be completed.

Arsenal and PSG have also shown an interest in Reina but the player has promised Liverpool he will not sign for one of their Premier League rivals, and does not fancy a move to France.

Reina, who is under contract until 2016, wants to return to his first club and Barcelona have targeted him because their current No.1 Victor Valdes is set to join Monaco.

Reina’s agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, met Anfield directors at the weekend and talks will now begin between Liverpool and the Spanish giants.

But the 31-year-old has told Liverpool that if a move cannot be agreed, he will sign a new contract with the club.

Starsport understands there is a new deal on the table for Reina which would keep him at Anfield until June 2018.

But Reina’s Liverpool place is not as secure as it used to be and his form has dipped at times in the last two seasons.

Liverpool wants his future sorted out so they can sign a replacement if necessary.

Stoke’s Asmir Begovic and Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet are both on their radar and the club would use any money from Reina’s transfer to help fund a move.

Danny Wilson Pens Three-Year Deal At Hearts

Danny Wilson sought assurances from Hearts’ hierarchy over the club’s financial future before penning a three-year deal.

The 21-year-old defender rejected overtures from the Championship to make his loan switch from Liverpool permanent.

While Wilson could have made more money elsewhere, he insists that was not his prime objective in deciding where he would go after leaving the Anfield giants.

Finances are in focus at Tynecastle given the threat of administration due to the risk of parent company UBIG being declared insolvent.

But Wilson insisted: “I said all along that if the opportunity came along to sign for Hearts I would take it. I did ask the question.

“The club has said all along there is nothing to concern ourselves with just now.

“I do read and hear things and it can be unnerving, but the club have given me the opportunity to play here and that was all the assurance I needed.

“I don’t think the club would offer me a contract if there was no future here.

“I was happy to sign the deal and I am just looking forward to next season now.

“The last four months here was something I enjoyed.

“Once you find happiness there is no point in seeking change.

“I am happy here and I get on well with the boys and the supporters.

“Hearts were good enough to offer me the opportunity to stay here for another three years and play my football. I was delighted to take it.

“There was interest from the Championship, but I have just moved back up here and I was settled and enjoying my football, so it was not something I wished to seek or pursue.

“I could have made more money elsewhere but I never really spoke to anybody because my mind was made up that I was happy enough to continue.

“I’m happy here, my girlfriend is happy, so I was happy to sign it.”

Wilson hopes he won’t be the only one to extend his stay with the Jambos and would love to see fellow defender Andy Webster do likewise.

Wilson said: “A lot of the talk recently has been about us getting players in, but more important than that would be to keep players like Andy Webster.

“I used to learn from him playing in the reserves when I was 16, and I’m still learning from him five years later. So if we can keep him it would be great.

“But I also know he’s got his own circumstances, so whatever he decides to do is fine. But I’d be delighted if it was at Hearts.”

Hearts could be hit with a 15-point penalty next season if UBIG are declared insolvent, but Wilson is confident the Jambos would be able to cope with that potential setback.

He added: “A 15-point deduction might make things a bit more difficult.

“You need to prepare for every eventuality and if that is the case it’s something we need to meet head-on.

“There is no guarantee of that happening next season so we will need to just wait and see.

“We’ll be well prepared because the young players who were in the team last season as well.

“We didn’t have a great season but the positive thing was that the young players performed well, so they’ll have benefited from that.”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Werner Delighted At Progress

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner admits the club's board have been pleased with the efforts of manager Brendan Rodgers in his first season at Anfield.

The Reds finished seventh in the Premier League this season - one place higher than in 2011/12 - but Werner believes they are well placed to improve on that next term.

Rodgers began strengthening for the future by adding Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho to his squad in January, and Werner is optimistic Liverpool will continue to advance.

"I think Brendan has made remarkable progress," Werner said. "He's a great strategist and has shown strong leadership as he has led the team through this season.

"Obviously there is disappointment that we didn't finish higher in the table but the team has certainly improved as the season has gone on.

"To see the new additions in January, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, perform so well has been very positive to see.

"We scored a lot more goals than last season. The 38 away league goals was the club's highest number in a league season since 1990.

"The club is definitely moving in the right direction under Brendan. Our intention is to strengthen the squad further this summer and as owners we're very optimistic and excited about the future."

Chelsea's Lucas Piazon Linked To Liverpool

Chelsea's young Brazilian player Lucas Piazon could join Liverpool next season, according to Brazilian sports newspaper Lancenet.

The Brazilian newspaper reports that Málaga, where he is playing on loan. are unlikely to keep him next season now Manuel Pellegrini left the club.

He will present himself to Chelsea on July 5, but his future is not certain as manager Benítez left the club and they have not confirmed the new manager yet, although Mourinho is likely to be hired.

Lancenet reports that Liverpool have emerged as a possible destination for the former São Paulo player, as they have been impressed with Coutinho's performances and would like to add another Brazilian player to the squad.

Lucas Piazon has played 11 leagues for Málaga this season, but he has not scored any goals. Despite that, he has had some impressive performances.

Liverpool Turn Towards Joleon Lescott To Fill Carragher Void

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has identified Joleon Lescott as the ideal man to replace Jamie Carragher in the heart of the Reds defence.

After 738 games Carragher decided to call time on his playing career and Rodgers has been alerted to the availability of Lescott as a replacement, with the England man falling down the pecking order at Manchester City.

The 30-year-old centre back has found games hard to come by at the Etihad following the arrival of Matija Nastasic and is unlikely to opt to stay and fight for his place in a World Cup year.

Aston Villa have also been credited with an interest in the former Wolves and Everton man, but while the wrath of Toffees fans may cross his mind, Lescott is unlikely to have been impressed by Villa’s dalliance with relegation last year.

Before the departure of Roberto Mancini, City were said to be willing to listen to offers of around £4 million for Lescott, and with the player himself desperate for first team action he is reported to be willing to take a pay cut in order to facilitate a move.

However, should the Reds fail in a bid for Lescott, Rodgers is also said to be interested in taking his Citizens counterpart Kolo Toure to Anfield.

While Lescott is the preferred choice, Toure also offers the experience that Rodgers craves and the Ivorian is edging closer to the Etihad exit.

Lescott’s place in City’s defensive hierarchy was demonstrated by his 31 appearances this term, but Toure was given just 17 opportunities to pull on the sky blue jersey and will be keen to secure more game time elsewhere.

Whether Lescott or Toure arrive at Anfield remains to be seen, but at 25/1 to win the Premier League for the first time, Liverpool will be looking bolster their defensive ranks come what may.

Liverpool Leading Christian Atsu Chase

Sky Sports understands Liverpool is leading the race to sign Porto winger Christian Atsu.

Sky Sports revealed earlier this week an unnamed Premier League club had tabled a bid for Atsu and it is understood that Liverpool is the team in question.

Talks are thought to be continuing between the Reds and Porto as Brendan Rodgers' side look to win the race for the Ghana international.

However, Liverpool could face competition from Premier League rivals Everton and Arsenal for the highly-rated attacker.

Everton are thought be interested in Atsu especially if current Porto boss Vitor Pereira replaces David Moyes at Goodison Park, while Arsenal are also keeping tabs on the African's situation.

Atsu has found himself out of favour at Porto in recent months after refusing to sign a new deal at Estadio do Dragao.

The 21-year-old, who sees his current contract expire next summer, has continually rejected offers to extend his deal due to Porto's insistence to try and increase his release clause to €30m (£24million).

Atsu, who has previously expressed his desire to play in England, is expected to make a decision on his future once he plays for Ghana in their upcoming games against Kenya, Sudan and Lesotho next month.

Real Madrid To Tempt Liverpool With Luis Suarez Bid

Real Madrid have added Liverpool striker Luis Suarez to their lengthy summer shopping list, reports the Daily Mail.

The La Liga giants are interested in recruiting the controversial Uruguay as they plan a significant summer of rebuilding following Jose Mourinho’s departure.

But Los Blancos will face competition for Suarez from city neighbours Atletico Madrid and Champions League finalists Bayern Munich, both of whom are keen on 26-year-old.

Suarez has enjoyed a stunning season for Liverpool, bagging 23 Premier League goals, but he was again the centre of controversy last months after biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during a 2-2 league draw at Stamford Bridge.

His consequent ten-game ban will see the forward miss the start of next season and there have been suggestions that Suarez will seek an Anfield exit this summer.

But teammate Jose Enrique believes the former Ajax star is settled on Merseyside and wants his to stay.

“Of course we want to keep him. He is our key player,” Enrique said.

“We’ve not had a great season in terms of our league position but Luis is there as our top scorer.

“For me he can play in any team in the world. If I was a manager I would have him anywhere. Not only for his goals but for how his character is.

“He is the type of player like if you play with Messi: he does impossible things. He does something out of nothing.

“I think if we keep him we will have a good season next season, for sure.

“We don’t want to lose Luis because he is a top player but you never know. But if he goes, someone else has to come.

“Hopefully if that happens it will be a good player.”

Skrtel Open To Offers At Anfield

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel would seriously consider his future at Anfield if he received an offer from elsewhere.

The Slovakia centre-back made just four Premier League starts in 2013 having fallen behind the now-retired Jamie Carragher in the plans of Brendan Rodgers.

Carragher's exit might have offered Skrtel, who arrived at Anfield in the reign of Rafa Benitez in 2008, the chance to regain a first-team place.

But Liverpool look set to sign Manchester City's Kolo Toure ahead of the conclusion of his contract and they are also being linked with Schalke star Kyriakos Papadopoulos.

That leaves Skrtel's position uncertain, despite only signing a new deal last August, and he told Slovakian newspaper Dennik Sport: "I have not had any specific offers. But if some should come and they interest me, I would probably ponder it seriously."

But Skrtel is not in a rush to leave and respects his contract with Liverpool, who he joined in a £6million deal from Zenit St Petersburg.

Asked what percentage chance there was he would stay at Liverpool, the 28-year-old said: "I do not want to be that specific.

"The club has the biggest say in this in any case, because they have the right for it with me being contracted.

"Besides, I am not saying that I want to leave at any cost. I feel sorry for what happened in this season. But I have been here for five-and-a-half years and I have built a position here."

Enrique Determined To Stay At Anfield

Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is determined to stay at Anfield and play his part in helping the club back to their glory days.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is likely to reshape his squad this summer, but Enrique is hopeful he is part of the manager's plans.

The 27-year-old left-back is under contract until 2016 and believes he is developing well at the club.

"I haven't spoken with the manager about next season but I want to stay," Enrique said.

"I still have to improve some things but I think I'm getting better every season. As you get older you know more.

"This type of football the manager wants has really helped me as it's the type of football I love to play.

"I am happy at this incredible club and in this city. The support we get from the fans is amazing and also from people inside the club who do so much for us.

"I still have three years on my contract and hopefully I can stay at this club for many years."

Fans Back Agger For Vice-Captaincy

Liverpool fans have backed Danish defender Daniel Agger to become the club's next vice-captain following the retirement of Jamie Carragher last weekend.

Brendan Rodgers has yet to nominate a member of his squad to replace Carragher as Steven Gerrard's deputy, but Agger edged the vote when we canvassed supporters' opinion.

The centre-back, who passed 200 appearances for the Reds during the recently completed season, picked up 44 per cent in our online poll - ahead of Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina on 31 per cent.

Lucas Leiva and Luis Suarez each tallied seven per cent of the votes, while Jordan Henderson rounded out the top five on three per cent.

Agger already wears the skipper's armband for his national team, Denmark, and the 28-year-old has established himself as first-choice under Rodgers; the defender featured on 39 occasions during 2012-13.

For his part, Reina has previously captained the Reds 20 times in the Barclays Premier League in the absence of Carragher and Gerrard, while Suarez was skipper against Oldham last season.

Stevie And Carra Pip Giggs And Scholes

New Opta stats reveal how Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard have featured in the same Barclays Premier League game a hefty 383 times - more than any duo in the division's history.

The pairing is more prolific in terms of appearances than Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who played in the same game 356 times.

Here is Opta's table in full:

Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard: 383 times
Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes: 356 times
Frank Lampard and John Terry: 327 times
Paul Scholes and Gary Neville: 302 times
Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville: 297 times
Kevin Davies and Jussi Jaaskelainen: 288 times
Kevin Nolan and Jussi Jaaskalainen: 282 times
Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia: 280 times
Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia: 268 times
Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane: 258 times

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rodgers To Recruit Winners

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists attitude will be as important as aptitude as he looks to strengthen the Reds' squad this summer.

Jamie Carragher has already left the club while Manchester City's Kolo Toure has been linked with a switch to Anfield.

Rodgers is adamant that unless any potential target can show themselves to be a winner he will look elsewhere.

"A lot of great learning has taken place throughout the year both on and off the field," he told the club website. "Now we want to build on the positive impact of the second half of the season.

"It's our job as a club to look to bring in the types of players who will allow us to kick on again.

"There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes in order to reinforce the group.

"In order to breed the consistency needed to give us success, we need to bring in winners - those with the winning mentality.

"Everyone has to play a part in leadership.

"You get different types of leadership - some are purely by action and inspiration, others by organization and more verbal.

"Taking on that responsibility is something that has to come from within the group here, but we're also looking to bring in that type of player."

Liverpool Set To Snap Up La Liga Striker

Liverpool is closing in on the signing of Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas and could snap him up for just €7m this summer, according to the Mirror.

The 25-year-old forward has enjoyed a productive campaign in Spain – scoring 11 goals and providing 6 assists – but his efforts have been unable to prevent Celta Vigo from sinking to the foot of the La Liga table. Defeat this weekend away at Valladolid could see Celta’s relegation confirmed, which will be good news for Liverpool.

The Mirror claim Aspas – who has been linked with Chelsea, Swansea and Reading in recent months – has a €10m release clause written into his contract but that figure will fall to €7 if Celta drop out of the top flight.

The newspaper suggests Liverpool are set to take advantage of his decreased buy out clause with Brendan Rodgers understood to be in talks with the player over a move to the Premier League and has offered him £45,000-a-week to move to Anfield.

Aspas is a pacey attacker who’s capable of playing anywhere across the front-line so his versatility would be a useful asset to Rodgers as the Northern Irishman looks to add to his attacking options ahead of next season.

Liverpool Close In On Ron-Robert Zieler

Liverpool has stepped up their interest in Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler despite being warned off by the German club.

Former Manchester United shot-stopper Zieler is rated as a rising star in the Bundesliga, and the Reds are believed to be willing to offer up to £8million to land him.

The news comes as Brendan Rodgers steps up his attempts to bring in another goalkeeper to rival first-choice Pepe Reina.

Little headway has been made so far, with Stoke’s Asmir Begovic being priced out of a switch to Anfield, but Zieler is seen as a likely option.

However, Hannover has since told Liverpool to forget about trying to do business, with the club desperate to hold onto one of their star names.

‘Zieler will stay,’ said general manager Dirk Dufner.

‘He is a super goalkeeper. It’s rather normal he is in the focus, and I was actually wondering why, until now, he had not been approached by another club.’

The 24-year-old has a contract with Hannover until 2014.

Begovic Hopes To Sign For Liverpool

The Potters shot-stopper, who has impressed at the Britannia Stadium this season, informed Bosnian reporters that he expects to move to Anfield in the summer window

Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has revealed that he hopes to move to Liverpool this summer, as speculation continues to surround the future of current Anfield shot-stopper Pepe Reina.

Begovic has performed excellently this season, and was an integral part of a Potters defence that only conceded five goals in 12 games during November and December - though trailed off in the second half of the year.

Stoke are already prepared for the exit of the Bosnian shot-stopper, having signed Jack Butland from Birmingham in January, and Begovic seems sure that a switch to Liverpool will materialise.

He told the Bosnian media: “I want to start preparing on July 10, with all the players of Liverpool”, as quoted by The Telegraph.

The 25-year-old was signed by Tony Pulis from Portsmouth for £3 million in 2010, and won Stoke's Player of the Year award this season.

His consistent performances have won him admirers at the Premier League's biggest clubs, and there has been reported interest from the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal throughout the course of the season.

With Begovic angling for a move to Anfield, he could be set to replace Reina; the Spanish goalkeeper admits he would not be against a move back to Barcelona, though remains coy on the links.

"Rumours are difficult to control but it's flattering when a club like Barca is interested in you," he told Cadena Ser.

"I don't know if there has been contact between the clubs or with my agent. At the moment I don't think there's anything serious."