Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rodgers Keen To Expand Thin Liverpool Squad

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is looking forward to bulking out the number of players in his squad in order to have "a proper go" at the FA Cup and Capital One Cup.

The Reds are close to signing Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas, in addition to securing Kolo Toure as a free agent, as they begin a busy summer, the boss's goal to expand on the "paper-thin" playing staff of 2012-13.

The Northern Irishman pointed to the impact of January signings Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge as proof of the revitalizing effect of additional players.

Rodgers told reporters: "This time, we'll certainly give the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup a proper go - we have a much better squad to do that.

"We had a paper-thin squad last year, we had kids all the way through. Obviously those players who have come in [in January] have added quality and it's no coincidence that we have kicked on when we've had quality in the group.

"We need to improve the group and the depth but that's what gives me great hope for the summer. If we can add that, we can make a real start and then we're ready to challenge.

"You can flip it about but it's the depth, really. We just need to build up the depth of the squad. I want to have people who might be disappointed because they're not even on the bench. At the minute we probably don't have that so it's competition we want to get.

"I don't want a massive group; we want a tight group with a real core of 17 or 18 players who feel they should always be playing and then supported by a few of our top young talents."

Sevilla Keen To Negotiate With Liverpool On Rakitic's Move

La Liga outfit Sevilla are reportedly willing to negotiate with Liverpool over the transfer of Ivan Rakitic, it has emerged.

The Spanish side had a poor season this year, finishing 9th in La Liga, and are expecting to face the departures of some key players, having already sold winger Jesus Navas to Manchester City for £14.9million. They could also receive a number of offers for top scorer Alvaro Negredo, who is a target for Atletico Madrid.

Rakitic is another of Sevilla’s more impressive players, and has found himself on Liverpool’s radar after scoring 8 goals and providing 10 assists this season. Only big names from the top two, such as Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Mesut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, have created more goals for their team-mates in Spain this year.

Brendan Rodgers was reportedly ready to open with a £12million bid for the Croatian, who has been compared with Luka Modric, and although Sevilla are willing to sell, they may hold out for closer to £16million.

Liverpool will be determined to strengthen their squad this summer after only managing to finish 7th in the Premier League this season. Rodgers has been quoted as saying he believes his team can break into the top four, but he sees his midfield as an area that is in particular need of strengthening before he can do that.

The Reds have arguably lacked a high quality playmaker since Xabi Alonso left the club for Real Madrid in 2009. The Spaniard was one of the best midfielders in England during his time at Anfield, and has proven hard to replace. The likes of Alberto Aquilani, Charlie Adam and Joe Allen have since been brought in to fulfill this role, but all have flopped at the club.

It is thought that Allen will be sold this summer, possibly to newly-promoted Cardiff City, and Rakitic is seen as the ideal player to give Rodgers’ side more creativity from the middle of the park.

Alonso has also been linked with a return from Real Madrid, though he now seems likely to stay at the Bernabeu after committing his future to the club. Chelsea have also shown an interest in the 31-year-old.

Rakitic himself has said he is flattered by Liverpool’s interest, and has suggested he is unhappy with the direction Sevilla are taking after their apparent willingness to offload key players. Although the club will hold out for the right offer, they do not wish to keep an unhappy player.

Liverpool will now consider whether or not to meet Sevilla’s asking price.

Arsenal And Liverpool Fight For Portugal International.

Diario De Noticias have reported that Liverpool and Arsenal are both interested in signing Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper Rui Patricio, but they will need to increase their bids to land the Portugal international.

Both clubs would want to bring the 25 year old to England in the summer transfer window.

However it is claimed by DN that Liverpool and Arsenal are only prepared to pay €5m for the player whilst Sporting Lisbon is holding out for double this.

It has been well documented by the Portuguese media in recent weeks that Sporting Lisbon has massive debts after another poor financial year and is looking to off load their highest earners in the next transfer window.

The Lisbon club will want to get as much as possible for their star goalkeeper but they may have to sell the player on the cheap to either of the Premier League sides.

It has been reported the club need to raise €32m to ease their financial situation which therefore leaves Liverpool and Arsenal in a strong position.

Speculation has surrounded Liverpool and Arsenal in recent months with regards to their goalkeeping situation, meaning the two clubs looking at Patricio with interest makes sense.

Pepe Renia is being linked heavily with a move back to his former team Barcelona and Arsenal don't seem to be sure who their number one goalkeeper is.

If Liverpool and Arsenal plan to makes changes in the summer then Patricio comes with plenty of international experience with the Portuguese national team.

He has made 23 appearances for Portugal since he made his debut in November 2010 and was the first choice keeper at the 2012 European Championship.

He also comes with a lot of European football experience including the Champions League.

Due to Sporting Lisbon’s debt issues this isn’t the first player Liverpool have been linked with in the past month from the Portuguese side.

Only last week there was speculation they could be going back in for long term target Jeffren and recently the club were told they would need to increase their bid to land young defender Tiago Ilori.

Patricio for a knock-down fee could turn out to be one of the bargains of the summer.

Liverpool Make Mignolet Their Top Target

Liverpool hope to sign Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for £8million in the next week.

The Merseyside club have bid £7m but the Wearsiders are holding out for nearer £10m, with the clubs likely to reach a compromise.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has taken the initiative as speculation continues to link his current No 1 Pepe Reina with a switch to Barcelona, where Victor Valdes is refusing to sign a new deal.

Valdes has just a year left on his contract and is tipped for a move to Monaco, who are making a push to acquire Europe’s top talent under the ownership of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

On a day when Liverpool were moved to brand an email reputedly sent by managing director Ian Ayre — suggesting Luis Suarez would soon sign for Real Madrid — a ‘complete fake’, Rodgers set out plans to improve his squad.

He said: ‘We need to build up the depth. I want to have people who might be disappointed because they’re not even on the bench. At the minute we don’t have that so it’s competition we want to get.

‘I don’t want a massive group. We want a tight group with a real core of 17 or 18 players who feel they should always be playing and then supported by a few of our top young talents. We haven’t got that. We have one or two on the sidelines but we need more than that.’

Belgium goalkeeper Mignolet is anxious to raise his profile ahead of next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Mignolet is under pressure for his place in the national side from Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois, who has been allowed to go on loan again to Atletico Madrid.

The greater exposure he will receive at Anfield is a big factor in Mignolet’s desire to quit the North East. He has proved himself one of the best performers in the Premier League since joining from St-Truiden for £800,000 three years ago.

Aston Villa insist they are not concerned that another Belgium star, Christian Benteke, is yet to sign the new contract he was offered at the end of the season.

Talks have taken place with the striker and his agents but Villa are relaxed about the impasse after receiving word from Arsenal and Tottenham — two reported suitors — that Benteke is not on their summer shopping lists.

Everton And Liverpool Suffer Setback In Bid For Striker

Everton and Liverpool have both been dealt a huge blow in their efforts to sign Wigan Athletic front man Arouna Kone after the Ivorian committed his future to the Championship outfit, reports the Metro.

The Ivory Coast international has been the subject of intense speculation of late linking the 29-year-old with a move to either Goodison Park or Anfield when the summer transfer window finally reopens once again for business on July 1.

The striker enjoyed an excellent debut campaign at the DW stadium in the previous season, having joined the Latics from Liga outfit Levante for just 3.5 million Euros on a three-year contract in Aug 2012.

Kone netted 13 goals in his 38 appearances in all competitions for the struggling Premier League club, including 11 strikes in his 34 top-flight contests, although his goals were still not enough to keep Wigan from being relegated to the Championship.

And now the player has insisted that he is happy at Wigan: “I have a contract until 2015 with Wigan and I settled very well there. It is a brilliant community football club. The chairman is fantastic.

“Yes, I want to be playing in the Premier League but it also depends on Wigan because I have a contract with them.

“Everton? Just because the gaffer is in charge makes the link stronger but, to be honest, I don’t know what will happen. After the international games I will know more.”

Real Madrid Waiting To Deal Suarez Deal

Real Madrid are wavering in their confidence of signing Liverpool ace Luis Suarez - and are already making back-up plans so they aren't left short of strikers.

The Spanish giants are poised to sell Gonzalo Higuain, who also attracted interest from Arsenal and Tottenham, to Juventus for £18.7m.

But that seal won't go through until an agreement is made with Liverpool for Suarez, according to Spanish newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Carlo Ancelotti, who is due to be named as Madrid boss shortly, is adamant that he wants to sign another centre forward to compete with Karim Benzema.

Suarez is their No.1 target and he's expressed a desire to move to the Bernabeu.

But Liverpool are playing hard-ball and say they won't sell their prized asset.

It means Higuain's future is hanging in the balance too, as that deal won't be made official until Madrid's signing of Suarez is set in stone.

Liverpool Handed Transfer Boost Amid Interest In Youngster

Liverpool have been handed a boost in their hopes of keeping midfielder Suso after the Spaniard declared his intention to remain on Merseyside.

Suso enjoyed his breakthrough season for the Reds in the 2012-13 campaign, graduating from the club's youth set up into the senior team as Brendan Rodgers experimented with his midfield options.

The Spain Under 21 international will no doubt be the subject of exit rumours this summer after he produced a series of impressive performances beyond his tender age of 19, but Suso insists he's happy to stay at Liverpool no matter who comes knocking for his signature.

"This year for me has been beyond fantastic," he told Marca. "At Liverpool this season has been great and I'm very happy.

"Next year I'll probably stay at Liverpool. I know there are quite a few offers but I will not go. I'm happy at Liverpool."

Brendan Rodgers will certainly be pleased that one of the youngsters he had faith in last season is committed to the club for the long-term.

While the manager having to deal with continued comments from striker Luis Suarez saying he wants to leave the club, to hear from a younger player that there is potential to stay will give his plans for the future an extra boost.

Rodgers insisted this week that the club would be capable of qualifying for the 2014-15 Champions League if they have a successful summer, both in terms of keeping their best talent and bringing in players who can improve the cause.

"I'm not here to be comfortable and sit and earn the money and just enjoy being the Liverpool manager," he told reporters. "I think we can do but it will be a tough ask because as we improve other clubs will have masses more money to improve also.

"But I believe we have built a real good base this year. It's not my job to look for excuses, I have to find the solutions to try and push us in there and I believe we won't be too far away."

With youngsters such as Jordon Ibe, Adam Morgan and Conor Coady all looking to step up into the first team on a regular basis too, a good summer transfer window will give Rodgers a lot of choice as he tinkers with his starting line-up next season.

Barcelona Plot Move For Liverpool Star

Barcelona is being linked with a move for Liverpool defender Daniel Agger.

The Daily Star cite sources in Spain when claiming that the 28-year-old Danish international centre back is on the Blaugrana radar, and could leave Anfield for £12.7million.

Tito Vilanova still has money to spend this summer, according to the paper, despite the addition of Brazilian sensation Neymar for a fee in the region of £50million.

Agger would certainly add strength to the backline at the Nou Camp, and also fits the passing style Barcelona like to play in Catalonia.

Brendan Rodgers will be desperate to keep hold of the former Brondby star mind you, with the Reds already stretched in defence following veteran Jamie Carragher’s retirement.

The Liverpool boss currently has Agger, Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates as the only senior options available, and the Dane’s exit would leave the Merseysiders in serious trouble at the back.

However, Barca has Champions League football to offer the player, and an offer to join the La Liga champions would be difficult for any player to turn down if it came.

Zenit Offer Suarez Quick Exit

Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg are set to offer Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez a quick escape from his Liverpool hell.

The mega-wealthy club, managed by Luciano Spalletti, secured a Champions League qualifying spot last season after they finished second in the Russian championship behind CSKA Moscow.

Suarez, who is desperate to leave Liverpool after a controversial season in which he was banned for 10 matches for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, is keen to play Champions League football and Zenit would offer him that.

The club also sees Suarez as the ideal replacement for Brazilian Hulk, who looks set to leave the club after a disappointing season where he notched just seven goals in 16 league games.

A source close to Liverpool said Suarez's reputation makes him a bigger risk for some of Europe's elite, but a club with limitless wealth is more likely to take the risk.

"Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are the two front-runners but will they fork out £40 million+ on a player who gets banned for at least six games a season? Money doesn't matter to Zenit."

Ukraine captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk recently confirmed he is returning to Zenit this summer after a four-year spell with Bayern Munich.

Coady Confident Of Squad Focus

England Under-20s captain Conor Coady has emphasized the squad are heading into their World Cup campaign "focused" and eager to do their best.

The group of 21 players, overseen by Peter Taylor, travel to Turkey on Wednesday for the tournament, in which they will play Group E fixtures against Iraq on June 23, Chile on June 26 and Egypt on June 29.

Their flight comes a day after Stuart Pearce saw his England Under-21s round off a miserable European Championship campaign in Israel with a 1-0 defeat to the hosts.

The Under-21s lost all three of their matches in the competition and Pearce has suggested his players did not work hard enough.

The Under-20s will be hoping their own efforts over the coming weeks can help lift the mood currently surrounding England's youth set-up, and midfielder Coady told FATV: "We're focused going into the tournament and the team can't wait for it, to go and do the best we can.

"The training camps have been fantastic for getting all the boys together and working on how we want to play when we go out there.

"We just want to get out there now and start the tournament."

The Under-21s' poor showing in Israel has prompted plenty of talk about the make-up of Pearce's squad, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck all absent from it after being called up to the seniors for friendlies.

Squad composition was also a hot topic in 2011 when a host of players picked by England for that year's Under-20s World Cup - which took place later in the summer than this one - were subsequently withdrawn by their clubs.

Regarding the group for this year's tournament, though, Taylor has stressed he is taking a "good squad" that he is "really happy" with.

The 60-year-old, who has had two spells in charge of England Under-21s, managed the seniors as a caretaker for one game and was confirmed as Under-20s head coach for the World Cup in March, said: "I've been really pleased with everybody and we're going to take a good squad out to Turkey.

"Overall, I'm really happy with the players that are getting on that plane.

"We've got different types of player and the type who can ask a question of an opponent so I'm looking forward to it."

Liverpool's Coady skippers a party which features the likes of fellow midfielders Ross Barkley of Everton and Gael Bigirimana of Newcastle, and Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

Coady, 20, previously captained England's Under-17s to the European Championship title in 2010 and has also played for the Under-16s, Under-18s and Under-19s.

Leeds defender Sam Byram yesterday withdrew from Taylor's squad due to injury, with Everton full-back Luke Garbutt being named as his replacement.