Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kolo Toure Wants Champions League Qualification

Defender Kolo Toure believes Liverpool can secure qualification for the Champions League next season as he looks to be part of Anfield "history".

The 32-year-old Ivory Coast international moved to Liverpool on a two-year deal after his contract at Manchester City expired.

"We want to win trophies, but we want to play in the Champions League as well," he said.
"This club is a winning club. I want to be part of history here."

Toure made 102 appearances for City after joining from Arsenal for £14m in July 2009 and was part of the team that won the Premier League in 2011-12, but he played only 18 games in 2012-13.

Liverpool last played in the Champions League in 2009 but, despite only finishing seventh last season, Toure insists a return to the top four is the aim.

When asked if Champions League qualification was realistic next season, he said: "Of course we believe we can achieve that.

"I think with the squad we have got we can do very well this season. Liverpool has the history, quality, players and mentality.

"We just want to take the team as far as we can, to the top four or to win a trophy.

"To bring the club back to the Champions League would be amazing and that is what I am looking for."

Toure, who missed out on City's 2011 FA Cup success after being suspended for six months in March of that year for failing a drugs test, joins the Merseyside club following the retirement of fellow central defender Jamie Carragher.

"This is massive for me," he said. "it is an honour to play for Liverpool. This club is unbelievable. I've been here for two weeks and I've seen a lot of fantastic things.

"My experience will of course be important. I know Jamie Carragher was a really important player for this club and he has retired now. I think Liverpool look for somebody who can replace him. He was a big player for us.

"To replace Jamie Carragher is unbelievable. He was a fantastic player for England and this football club, a great leader. I will do my best."

Alonso Lauds Rodgers Influence

Xabi Alonso believes Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is steering his former club in the right direction and will soon lead the Reds back into the Champions League.

A top four finish proved elusive last season as Liverpool ended a mediocre campaign in seventh spot, 12 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and 28 behind champions Manchester United.

But Alonso, who was part of Liverpool's Champions League winning campaign in 2005, insists the Anfield club is not far away from returning to the heights of Europe.

"Well I think, especially at the end of the season, we could see the fruits of his work," he told "When Brendan arrived we knew it was a project for a few years, and step by step he started the season trying to establish his methods.

"Maybe he found it a bit harder than he expected, but at the end of the season with the new signings the team played quite well. So we trust that in the next years, the team will come together, become more competitive and reach the Champions League. That is where we want to see it."

Despite Alonso denying rumours that he could return to Anfield earlier this week, the Spain international revealed his fondness of Reds fans when quizzed about their affection for him since he left England.

"Well, it is the same affection I have for them," he added. "I enjoyed five wonderful years, we had great nights and great games. We achieved a Champions League, and I think that will remain in the history forever, so I was a little part of history."

Liverpool Prepare Bid For Brazil Star

Liverpool is preparing a bid for Atletico Mineiro midfielder Bernard, according to SportsDirect News.

Liverpool have been tracking Bernard with manager Brendan Rodgers wanting to bring in a new attacking midfielder this summer.

Liverpool had originally targeted Henrikh Mkhitaryan but the Armenian midfielder has joined Borussia Dortmund instead. The Anfield club also remains interested in Christian Eriksen of Ajax.

Bernard currently plays for Atletico Mineiro in Brazil and has made over 90 appearances for the club scoring 20 goals.

Bernard is only 20 years old and has a lot of potential. He recently shone in Brazil's Confederations Cup triumph and has five caps in total for Brazil.

Bernard has a lot of flair and is a versatile player. He has the ability to play on the left side of midfield and in the hole behind the striker.

He is fast and has a good range of passing. Despite his small size Bernard rarely gets muscled off the ball.

The Brazilian can add a different dimension to Liverpool. The Merseyside club have lacked a deep-lying playmaker ever since the exit of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

Bernard's style of play is similar to that of former Spurs star Luka Modric who excelled in the Premier League.

The Brazilian could inject some much-needed energy and creativity which was lacking in Liverpool's side last season.

Liverpool would have faced competition for Bernard from Tottenham Hotspur. However Spurs have cooled their interest after the signing of Paulinho.

Bernard would be an astute signing at around £15million and he fits Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' policy of buying and then developing youth.

Moses Odjer Flattered By Liverpool Link

Moses Odjer is flattered to learn that Liverpool is the latest side being linked with an approach for his services.

Having starred for Ghana at the U20 World Cup, the talented midfielder is generating plenty of transfer gossip.

Leading clubs from across Europe have sent scouts to Turkey in an effort to unearth hidden gems.

Odjer is among those to have caught the eye, with Manchester United, Benfica and Porto said to have posted glowing reports.

Reports suggest that Liverpool have now joined the list of admirers, with it looking increasingly likely that Tema Youth - Odjer's current club - are to be flooded with enquiries when the youngster heads home.

On the mounting speculation, Odjer said: "To be honest, I am not aware of the interest from Liverpool. I know that clubs such as Porto and Benfica are here and I have good reports from them.

"Liverpool is a mighty club so to be linked with them is a fantastic feeling. It is like a dream.

"But the reality for me at the moment is to play against France and to try and qualify my country for the final."

Real Madrid Could Bid Big For Luis Suarez

Real Madrid could be readying a massive bid to bring Liverpool star Luis Suarez to the Bernabéu.

New reports in Spain believe the La Liga outfit's president Florentino Pérez is ready to revive his interest in the Uruguayan star after missing out on key goal-scoring signing Edinson Cavani.

Suarez rocked the Reds earlier this summer by declaring he wants out of Anfield after becoming disillusioned with life in England.

Starsport understands the 26-year-old is still open to the idea of joining an English club, as long as they can offer him Champions League football.

And with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all interested, Suarez looks to have his pick of potential destinations, while Madrid are prepared to trump the Gunner's earlier offer with a bid worth over £35m.

Former Brighton boss Guy Poyet has also backed his countryman to move abroad, telling Uruguayan radio station Sport890: "If I was Suarez, I would either stay at Liverpool or leave England for good.

"Him going to Arsenal won't change a thing. If he wants to move, it's probably because of the way the media treats him as a Liverpool player, but that won't change if he moves to another club in England.

But Madrid could face a hard task convincing the forward to move as it's still understood that the English Premier League is where Suarez wants to continue his career.

Arsenal Prepare £35m Suarez Offer

Arsenal is preparing a £35 million offer for Luis Suarez, Goal understands.

The Gunners will make a concerted push to sign the Liverpool forward after contacting the Merseyside club last week about his availability.

There were reports on Monday that Arsenal had made a £30m bid for Suarez, and sources have told Goal that the club will pay up to £35m for the Uruguayan.

It is understood that Arsene Wenger has switched his main focus to capturing Suarez as Arsenal struggle to agree a fee with Real Madrid for Gonzalo Higuain.

The north Londoners do not anticipate making any signings before they depart for their pre-season tour of Asia on Thursday but they are actively trying recruit a marquee striker.

Suarez is regarded by Wenger as an upgrade on Higuain, who came close to joining Arsenal at the end of last week after they made an improved offer of £23.1m.

However, Madrid is holding out for £25.5m for the Argentine, and, although Arsenal's interest in Higuain is still alive and a deal remains highly possible, Wenger has decided to explore other elite options.

With the biggest transfer kitty in Arsenal's history available to him this summer, the Frenchman sanctioned the shock move for Suarez last week.

The Gunners' enquiry was met with a 'hands-off' warning by Liverpool, who are fighting to hold on to a player who has spoken frequently this summer of his interest in a move, most specifically to Real Madrid.

Arsenal will now make a concerted push for Suarez after learning from the Uruguayan's camp that he is interested in a move to north London as he pursues his ambition of playing Champions League football next season.

In an interview given to the Uruguayan radio station Sport 890 on Tuesday, Suarez claimed that "two or three clubs" want to sign him and that he values interest from Arsenal.

He laughed off reported interest from Chelsea but admitted he is prepared to interrupt a holiday in his native Uruguay should a potential transfer develop.

"Are there any concrete options? No, so far there hasn't been any. There are two or three clubs who I think are willing and the club knows that.

"I have to present myself on the July 21 with Liverpool for their tour of Australia but no one knows what could happen. I've already said what I have to say, and initially I have to be there on July 21 but maybe a phone call one day can change all your plans.

"For now everything is going well. I am very calm but initially I am meant to present myself on July 21 but, like I said, no one knows what can happen."

There is understood to be a clause in Suarez’s contract that allows him to ask for permission to speak to other clubs if they make a £40m offer. However, Liverpool is believed to want £50m for their prize asset.

Intriguingly, Suarez’s stance on wishing to leave England has appeared to have softened in the wake of the interest from Arsenal and the absence of an official move from Madrid. "I have to value that – despite everything that's happened, [English] clubs still value players for what they can do on the field," he said. "That makes me think that I can come back and do well over there. It's good that the English clubs still want me."

Suarez Ready To Explore The Possibility Of Joining Arsenal

Liverpool star Luis Suarez is interested in a move to Arsenal and wants his agent to investigate the depth of their interest after they had a £30million bid rejected.

According to The Times, Suarez has asked Pere Guardiola to find out if the Gunners are willing to make their interest concrete and would be open to an Emirates Stadium switch.

It also claims Liverpool are as determined as ever to hang on to the Uruguay international, despite him giving another interview hinting at a desire to leave Anfield.

Recent reports claimed his original motivation that he wanted to leave the Premier League altogether because of perceived mistreatment by the British media, had now shifted to a desire for Champions League football.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reportedly has a significant amount of transfer funds at his disposal this summer and signing Suarez will smash the north Londoners’ transfer fee record.

However, The Times report goes on to say that Suarez’s preferred option would be a switch to Real Madrid, though this has failed to materialize and he is now keeping his options open.

The former Ajax striker admitted in a recent interview that he was flattered by the interest from Arsenal and Chelsea, though he laughed off the prospect of joining the latter.

Barcelona To Prioritise Agger As Top Transfer Target

Liverpool’s Daniel Agger is being lined up for a summer move by Barcelona.

The Catalan giants had been after PSG's Thiago Silva for a while however appear set to miss out on him as the Brazilian looks like to stay with the affluent Ligue 1 side.

Agger's future has been the subject of much speculation, with the 28-year-old also catching the attention of free-spending Monaco.

And it seems Tito Vilanova will push ahead with a move for Agger this summer.

Spanish paper Mundo Deportivo has it that he is viewed as an ideal player to join the Camp Nou set-up.

Agger is currently contracted with the Reds until 2016.

Liverpool Misses Out On Madrid Striker

Liverpool are reportedly set to miss out on the signing of Real Madrid striker Jose Callejon, as Napoli close in on a deal for the highly-rated former Spain under-21 international.

According to talkSPORT, Napoli have agreed a fee of £7 million for the transfer of 26-year-old and the player is now set to pen a four-year contract ahead of officially finalizing a move.

Callejon's seemingly imminent move to the Stadio San Paolo means Liverpool will be beaten to his signature by former Anfield manager Rafael Benitez, who was appointed by Napoli at the end of last season.

Liverpool's failure to land Callejon follows their inability to clinch the signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who joined Borussia Dortmund earlier this week after the Reds had indicated they were ready to activate his release clause.

Dortmund, however, pipped Liverpool to a deal for the Armenia international, with the Champions League club paying £23.6 million to bring the player to the Westfalenstadion.

More importantly for Liverpool, meanwhile, is retaining the services of striker Luis Suarez beyond the transfer deadline, after the Uruguay international outlined his desire to leave the club.

Suarez has been linked with Arsenal and Chelsea, but says no club has made a formal approach for his services.

Aly Cissokho Flatly Denies Liverpool Interest

Valencia defender Aly Cissokho has moved to quash speculation that he could be inching closer to a move to Liverpool.

The 25-year-old Frenchman had piqued the interest of a number of Premier League clubs including Everton and Spurs too.

With Daniel Agger's future the subject of conjecture, Liverpool is looking to bolster their defensive ranks.

However, Cissokho has unequivocally stated there is 'nothing concrete' from the Reds.

"I will not believe that I am going anywhere until I am in Liverpool and having a medical," the former Lyon man told Sky Sports.

"Liverpool is such a great club, so to be linked with them is fantastic. But there is nothing concrete from anyone at the moment.

“If there is an opportunity to join such a club, I will take it. Valencia is a great club, in a great city, but Liverpool is a legendary club.”

Cissokho made 32 appearances for Valencia last season.

West Ham Play Down Interest In Downing

West Ham assistant boss Neil McDonald says he rates Stewart Downing highly, but has played down talk of a transfer bid.

Reports earlier this week suggested that the Hammers were preparing an offer to Liverpool for their England winger.

Since moving to Anfield from Aston Villa for a fee in the region of £20million two summers ago, Downing has struggled to hold down a place in the Reds side.

The 28-year-old made 25 starts and four substitute appearances for the Merseysiders in the Premier League in 2012/13, scoring three goals and claiming five assists.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is in the market for wide players as he seeks to improve the service to record signing Andy Carroll, now recruited on a permanent basis from Liverpool.

But although Allardyce's right-hand man McDonald is a fan of Downing and would like to see him at Upton Park, he insists the claims about an impending bid are premature.

"He's a very good player," the Hammers coach told talkSPORT. "A player of that calibre and West Ham being involved would be great, but it's all paper talk at the moment."

Michael Ngoo Set For Loan At Yeovil

Despite the influx of younger squad members coming through in the first half of last season, a handful of Liverpool's youngsters found themselves set for minutes elsewhere--Jack Robinson had a successful spell at Wolves, Adam Morgan was briefly at Rotherham United, Jon Flanagan was widely reported to be headed out before injuring his knee in mid-January, and Michael Ngoo, a player who'd simultaneously confounded and impressed in the youth ranks, headed north to join Danny Wilson at Hearts. What followed was a successful spring in which Ngoo scored five goals in seventeen appearances, including the equalizer in his debut to draw level in the Scottish League Cup semi-final.

So today's news that Ngoo will be set for another loan spell can only be seen as positive, as he'll be joining up with recently-promoted Yeovil Town for the entirety of the 2013-2014 Championship campaign. Yeovil powered through the League One playoffs last season after a loss in the first leg of their semi-final tie with Sheffield, winning 2-0 in the return leg and kicking on to defeat Brentford in the Wembley playoff final.

This seems like a great move for all involved; Ngoo will have a chance at regular first-team football again, Yeovil will have a determined and talented young player, and Liverpool will have another chance to watch how he adapts to more regular first-team football. Hopefully he again makes the most of his time away, and that whether or not his long-term future is at Liverpool, his time at Yeovil helps him along the way to a successful career.

Liverpool Fitness Levels Improving

Liverpool's first-team squad is already in better physical shape than they were this time last year, according to their Head of Performance Glen Driscoll.

The Reds are currently in their first week of pre-season, and manager Brendan Rodgers is looking for significant improvement, while aiming to ease through changes to his squad.

Despite the recent furore surrounding the potential sale of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, Driscoll thinks the team is in good shape, citing a longer break and adapting to new conditioning as the reasons.

He said to the Liverpool Echo: “These days players do look after themselves when they’re away from the club and we’ve probably come back better than we did last season for a number of reasons.

"Last season had its difficulties for a couple of reasons. We had the European Championships, so a lot of the players were coming back a lot later than they have this season.

"We were also in a transition with the medical and science department and there was a process of change with the fitness and conditioning teams – that may have had an effect. This pre-season we have no excuses and we will make sure we are up and running and ready to go for the first game."

The Reds kick off their campaign at home to Stoke City on August 17, and will be aiming to achieve better than their seventh place finish in the Premier League last season.