Sunday, July 07, 2013

Real Madrid To Make Suarez Their Marquee Signing

With all the strikers on the move across Europe this summer, the Uruguayan duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have been the most talked about. Permutations of their final destinations have been run and painfully dissected, and each player's fate seems to ride on where his compatriot doesn't end up on September 1.

Naturally, Real Madrid is one of many clubs in the mix, in part because Gal├ícticos and in part because of rumours surrounding the potential departure of their own strikers (Gonzalo Higuain to Arsenal, Cristiano Ronaldo back to Manchester United). Madrid are unlikely to want or need both Suarez and Cavani, and the Times are now reporting — behind their paywall, folks — that they've stopped their pursuit of Cavani and are instead looking to recruit Suarez as their "marquee" signing for the summer.

It's a bit of an abrupt 180° turn for Madrid, who up until this point has rebuffed Suarez's longing advances with a stony wall of silence and disinterest. It's been a month since Liverpool's chatty star striker provided some ill-advised answers to very pointed questions about a potential future with Real Madrid, and since Liverpool put a muzzle on the Uruguayan, his one-sided courtship of Los Blancos has cooled off as much as it possibly can during a drama-laden transfer window.

Through all of Suarez's poorly translated interviews with Uruguayan radio, Real Madrid never made an inquiry regarding the player's services. They were, of course, without a manager, but now that Carlo Ancelotti has arrived the club is expected to put together a formal offer for Suarez in the next few weeks. It's probably a bit optimistic to assume the offer will match Liverpool's £50 million valuation of the striker, but if they did it would be a hard offer to pass up.

With all the potential doom and gloom at the thought of Real Madrid finally taking a legitimate interest in Suarez, a small pick-me-up may be in order. If the Suarez-to-Arsenal rumour brought you a few moments of mirth, its sequel is even more ridiculous. In the future universe where Cavani ends up at Real Madrid instead of Suarez, Suarez is rumoured to be heading to one of Cavani's other potential destinations: Chelsea.

This future universe makes sense insofar as it probably would require a rift in the space-time continuum for Chelsea to make a legitimate move for a player who bit one of their own and who will miss the first six matches of the season from the resulting bite-based ban, and for Liverpool to accept the £34 million bid Chelsea are offering.

Liverpool Close In On Young Star After Missing Out On Top Target

Liverpool is ready to move for Ajax’s Christian Eriksen after losing out on top target Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Reds thought they were close to a deal for Mkhitaryan, but last night he agreed a £21.5million move to Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has now earmarked Danish international Eriksen, with a move for the 21-year-old expected next week.

Rodgers will be disappointed to miss out on Shakhtar Donetsk’s playmaker Mkhitaryan, with the Armenian identified as their number one summer priority.

Shakhtar Chief Gives Liverpool Glimmer Of Mkhitaryan Hope

Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Sergei Palkin has denied reports that Borussia Dortmund have agreed a deal to sign Henrikh Mkhitaryan, although he said a deal may be close.

It had been claimed that Mkhitaryan had agreed a €25 million move to Dortmund, with Liverpool thought to have given up hope of landing the Armenia international.

However, Palkin had said in recent days that Shakhtar would not accept anything less than €30 million, and it appears that, while talks are ongoing, their stance has not changed.

Asked about Mkhitaryan, football.ua quoted Palkin as saying: "I have not talked to him.

Borussia have offered us €25 million - to us, this is not enough, but we are talking to the German club. There is a real possibility that we will come to an agreement in the near future."

Palkin said he was unsure whether the 24-year-old had already agreed terms with the Champions League finalists.

"Such questions should be directed to the player and his representatives," he said.

Allen Wants Fresh Start At Liverpool

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen is hoping for a "fresh start" at the club after recovering from a shoulder injury that disrupted his debut season at Anfield.

The Wales international moved to Merseyside from Swansea City last season but missed the end of 2012-13 after undergoing surgery in March.

However, the 23-year-old has now returned to full fitness and says that he cannot wait for the start of the new season.

"It's brilliant to be back. Obviously we all enjoy our break and our holidays but, at the same time, we can't wait to get back in and get started," he told the club's official website.

"Having missed the end of last season, I personally couldn't wait to get back in. Hopefully I can put the injury behind me once and for all.

"I think, for anyone, your first year at a new club can be tough in some ways but I feel settled here now and I'm looking forward to a fresh start with the coming season. Hopefully I can put in some good performances.

"I think last season I may have put myself under too much pressure. So it's a case of just giving my best every day in training and in every match. That's all I can do, really."

The Reds have been busy in the transfer market this summer, bringing in Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure, Luis Alberto and Simon Mignolet and Allen reports that the news faces are looking good.

"They've settled in really well," he added. "With new signings you sometimes worry that it might take them a little time to adapt but they've settled straight in and they've got into the swing of things straight away, which is a really, really positive sign."

Mignolet Relishes Chance To Duel With Reina

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has told ESPN that he is relishing the prospect of fighting Pepe Reina for the No. 1 spot at Anfield.

Belgium international Mignolet, 25, joined the Reds late last month from Sunderland, signing a five-year deal.

His arrival has added to speculation that Reina could be on his way out of the club, with Barcelona regularly linked, but Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has insisted that he has no intention of selling the Spaniard.

Mignolet, who has to compete with Atletico Madrid loanee Thibaut Courtois at international level, says it would be a positive if Reina does stay as he believes having to compete can only bring out the best in both players.

"That's always what has happened when there's competition," he told ESPN FC. "I've had competition in Sunderland and in Belgium with the national team.

"It's not only Pepe - there's a lot of good goalies at Liverpool, like Brad Jones for example - and it's not only the position of the goalie where there is competition. It's every single position on the field.

"There are only 11 players who can play and it is something that is normal with being a football player. You have to deal with that. Competition can only make you as an individual better and let you perform better. It can only be a positive thing."

Mignolet has been impressed by the plans Rodgers and goalkeeper coach John Achterberg have in taking the club forwards.

"From the talks I had with him [Rodgers] and the goalie coach I felt they were very ambitious and the club wants to get forward," he said. "The signings they'd already done before July showed they really wanted to get going. They want to push on again in the Premier League. It was obvious that they are an ambitious club and a big club."

Even so, he is still adapting to life at Anfield and said he is finding it "hard to understand" Liverpool's magnitude.

"I know how big a club this is but I think I'm only going to feel it once the games get going," he added. "The first few training sessions went okay. I'm very happy to be here and train."

Sturridge Progressing Really Well

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is on course to recover from an ankle injury in time for the start of the season, the club has confirmed.

Sturridge is not yet ready to resume training, having limped off with the problem during England's 1-1 friendly draw against Republic of Ireland at Wembley on May 29.

Initial fears that the 23-year-old would be sidelined for around four months were eased after an assessment by the club's medical staff, and Glen Driscoll, the club's head of performance, is confident that the forward will be fit for the new campaign.

Driscoll told Liverpool's website: "Daniel Sturridge is the only player not training at the moment, but he's progressing really well and he's still on target to make the start of the season."

Captain Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, is about to resume full training, having missed the final two games of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Gerrard resumed light work in June, and is almost ready to step up his recovery.

Driscoll said: "Steven Gerrard is still being modified, but he's about to enter all-out training."

Defender Martin Kelly (cruciate knee ligament), winger Raheem Sterling (thigh) and midfielder Joe Allen (shoulder) are all back in training after injury absences.

Kelly Happy To Play Centre-Back For Liverpool

Liverpool defender Martin Kelly says he would be delighted to play centre-back if asked by manager Brendan Rodgers.

The 23-year-old has mostly featured at right-back for the Merseyside club since making his debut in a UEFA Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven in December 2008.

But, having noticeably bulked up during his time out with a cruciate knee ligament injury, the defender has underlined his desire to take on a central role.

"It’s always ideal being able to play in two positions," he told The Liverpool Echo. "I love playing right-back but if it came to it I could definitely be a centre-back.

"I feel like I’ve got all the attributes. All the positional sense was drummed into me when I played there when I was a kid.

"The last time I played in the middle was for England Under-21s but that’s not the same as playing there at club level where it’s much faster. Before that it was just with the academy.

"It would take time for me to become a Premier League centre-back but I can learn from the experienced defenders we’ve got here."

Kelly went on thank his team-mates for their support during his nine-month lay-off, which began when he ruptured the knee ligament during a clash with Manchester United at Anfield.

"Even when I was out, all the lads made sure I still felt part of the team," he continued.

"I came in to do my work at the same time as them so I was with them before they went out to train. I was still involved in all the meetings and that was good mentally for me.

"It was great to have Lucas around to talk to. When I’d say my tendon was aching he would reassure me that was normal.

"He was a big support but his rehab was different to mine. His cruciate was done by a tackle, mine was done by being off balance. He was back within six months but my rehab took longer because I’m a different type of player to Lucas.

"The surgeons made it clear that I could only go back into training when I felt like I not only had the strength but also the balance work to go with it otherwise I could go over on it again.

"I’m the type of person who takes that bit longer to heal. I did a lot of work in the gym on my strength, core and balance.

"Then I stepped things up gradually by doing a few sessions with the Under-18s and then the Under-21s before training with the lads at Melwood."

Kelly has made 54 appearances for Liverpool in total and has one senior England cap.

Liverpool Boss Integral For Shelvey’s Move To Swansea

Jonjo Shelvey has revealed that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers convinced him to join Swansea City.

Shelvey completed a £6 million move to Swansea recently after being told that he was not guaranteed first team football at the Reds by Rodgers.

The 21 year old has said that he is looking to use the move as a catalyst in his career and believes it is key that he has joined a club which plays in the same style that he does.

"Leaving Liverpool was a very hard decision," Shelvey was quoted on Sky Sports.

"But coming to Swansea, who play similar football which Brendan and managers before him installed, is an attraction.

"Brendan said he wouldn't let me go to a club that wasn't right for me. He said Swansea is perfect for the way I play.

"He couldn't guarantee me the first-team football at Liverpool, and he said if could get game time at Swansea then I should go.

"I need to come and play football and get myself to the status that I once had."

Shelvey struggled to hold down a position in Liverpool’s first team last season and often found himself on the bench, but did start the majority of their games in the Europa League, scoring on many occasions before a last 16 exit.

Krisztian Adorjan Set For Groningen Trial

Liverpool's academy has earned a solid reputation over the past few seasons, with Rodolfo Borrell and Frank McParland building on the foundations laid by Rafa Benitez.

Raheem Sterling, Suso, and Andre Wisdom all featured heavily in the first team last season after coming through as youngsters, as have Martin Kelly, Jon Flanagan, and Jack Robinson.

Another name that's been in the mix recently is Hungarian youngster Krisztian Adorjan, who's played in an attacking midfield and forward role during his time at the lower levels.

His named popped up again today, only now it's not a future at Liverpool that's been tabled for discussion, as he's linked with either a permanent or loan move to Dutch side FC Groningen.

Adorjan's spent much of last season on the cusp of breaking through; he was included in the Europa League squad but never made an appearance, and couldn't find a way into the early season squads for domestic cup competition.

I think there's promise and potential here, and I'd be slightly disappointed if this proves to be a permanent deal.

A loan to the Netherlands to get first-team action on a more consistent basis would be perfect, and might allow for him to start to separate himself from the glut of talented young midfielders and forwards throughout Liverpool's ranks.