Saturday, August 03, 2013

Gerrard Says Champions League Is A Must For Liverpool

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has said the club must qualify for the Champions League if they are to be able to attract top quality players to the club.

Gerrard prepares to play in his testimonial match against Olympiakos on Saturday, the club he scored one of his more famous strikes against in the Champions League winning year of 2005.

With Suarez keen to play Champions League football and Henrikh Mkhitaryan turning down the club for Borussia Dortmund, Gerrard says the club needs to get back to the level it was at earlier in his career.

He also spoke about Suarez’ future at the club, revealing the midfielder would give his teammate space to make a decision.

"I think the only person who knows what's happening is Luis himself," said Gerrard.

"He has a huge decision to make and, as his team-mate, I have to show him respect and give him space to make whatever decision he wants to make."

Gerrard reiterated his admiration for Suarez’ ability, putting Liverpool’s season expectations on hold until his future is decided.

"I think everyone knows how highly I rate him and how much I want him to stay, and what we can achieve this season basically depends on whether he stays or goes, I believe."

Liverpool has not been in the Champions League since the 2009/10 season and Gerrard is hoping the club can return to the competition and win medals.

"While I've still got a couple of years left - and maybe a few more who knows - I have to make the most of it. And that is about adding more medals to what I already have and to leave this club in the Champions League. That is the challenge for me personally.

"It is not the same club I joined because we are not in the Champions League, so it becomes an awful lot more difficult to attract the top players."

Despite the lack of Champions League football, Gerrard believes Liverpool are still one of the biggest and most watched teams in the world.

"But I think the club's history and size - we've just been on a tour which has seen us play in front of nearly a quarter of a million people in 10 days - means the pull is still here," he continued.

"We need to break back into the top four to get back the pull we had four or five years ago when we were comfortably in the Champions League year in, year out and challenging to win it.

"Players who come and get the club back into the Champions League will experience some of the biggest nights of their career, because playing European football in front of this crowd is different to any other."

Suarez Contemplating Legal Action Over Liverpool Exit

Luis Suarez is considering handing in a formal transfer request and taking legal action against Liverpool, should the club continue to deny him a move to Arsenal, according to sources close to the player.

The Uruguayan is desperate to leave Anfield this summer in pursuit of Champions League football, but the Reds have rejected two offers from Premier League rivals Arsenal, including one of £40 plus £1.

This bid, which would be the Gunners’ record transfer deal, was believed to have triggered a clause in Suarez’s contract, but Liverpool still refused to consider the offer.

And, according to the BBC, sources close to the striker have suggested he will take matters into his own hands by submitting a transfer request, should the Anfield club maintain their hard-sell stance.

There are also reports Suarez is contemplating legal action against Liverpool, as he feels the club have backtracked on an agreement which stated he could leave should a Champions League club offer in excess of £40m for his services.

While the arrangement is not formally written in his current contract, Suarez believes Liverpool have reneged on a verbal agreement.

Wenger Still Working On Suarez Signing

Arsene Wenger says that Arsenal is still keen to land Liverpool striker Luis Suarez this summer.

The Gunners are yet to add to their squad from last season, with the exception of Yaya Sanogo, and although he would not be drawn of the details of the potential transfer the Frenchman said he wanted to keep negotiations with Liverpool amicable.

Arsenal was linked with Gonzalo Higuain but he opted to join Napoli Arsenal's Emirates Cup opponents on Saturday from Real Madrid. Wenger has made two bids for Suarez - the second being £40m plus £1, which was intended to trigger a clause that would allow them to discuss terms with the Uruguayan.

Liverpool insists that they intend to keep hold of the striker, who joined up with Brendan Rodgers' squad on the tour of Australia.

Wenger said at press conference ahead of the Emirates Cup, "I don't want to speak about Suarez, because that is between Liverpool and Arsenal. We will completely respect what Liverpool wants to do. We want to (sign the player) if it is feasible in an amicable way.

"I am a great believer you have to keep as much confidentiality as possible, which is quite difficult in the modern world.

"But we work very hard, not only on the case you name, but on other different cases."

If Arsenal do manage to land Suarez this summer they will be without him for the opening six games of the Premier League as he is suspended for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

Liverpool Handed Eriksen Boost

Liverpool has been handed a potential boost in their pursuit of Ajax star Christian Eriksen.

The Danish starlet has been heavily linked with a move away from the Amsterdam Arena, with both the Reds and AC Milan linked with a move for the 21-year-old. Indeed, The Daily Star reported a fortnight ago that the Italian giants were set to make the first move with a £18million bid for the player.

A switch to the San Siro is yet to materialize, meaning Liverpool still have a chance to land the player if they wish to pursue the signature.

And, Ajax boss Frank De Boer has now revealed that the club has plans in place to replace the player if he does leave this summer.

"It is not possible for us to replace Eriksen by buying a player of similar quality,” he told De Telegraaf.

"So it is better for us to look to replace him from within and I am thinking about people like Lasse Schone, Davy Klaassen, Thulani Serero and [Riechedly] Bazoer."

Eriksen made 33 appearances for the Godenzonen last season, scoring 10 goals in 33 appearances, as well as impressing both domestically and in Europe.

Liverpool has already added attacking options this summer, with Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas moving to Merseyside in the transfer window.

And, whilst Eriksen would be working from a deeper role, his creativity would be a major asset for the likes of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at Anfield.

Ajax Ace Suggests He Will Snub Liverpool Interest

Toby Alderweireld appears to have ruled out a move to Liverpool by claiming he is after Champions League football.

The Ajax defender, who turned down a move to Norwich this summer, has been linked with a switch to Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers is a fan of the Belgium international, who can play as a central defender or at full-back.

A move for the 24-year-old was in the pipeline but Alderweireld says he wants to play in Europe's premier competition - something Liverpool cannot offer.

"Ajax is a club with a worldwide reputation," he said. "I play football for 50,000 fans every week and I'm assured of Champions League football.

"I've said if before - a really nice club has to come to take me away from here. Only if I can make a step forward I'll leave."

Atletico Madrid Deny Liverpool Bid For Diego Costa

Atletico Madrid has denied receiving a bid from Liverpool for striker Diego Costa, according to reports in Spain.

The Reds were believed to have tabled a £22m offer last night for the Brazilian, with boss Brendan Rodgers looking to beef up his strike force.

However, the AS newspaper in the Spanish capital claim Atletico have rubbished the reports emerging from England, which suggested Liverpool’s bid had triggered the 24-year-old’s release clause.

The news is likely to cause confusion among Liverpool supporters, who have been assured by Rogers the club are still in the pursuit of transfer targets, especially with the future of centre-forward Luis Suarez shrouded in uncertainly.

However, the Northern Irishman yesterday also insisted he wouldn’t be spending his transfer funds simply for the sake of it, saying each of his summer deals would be well considered.

The Reds have already made four signings in the current transfer window, with Simon Mignolet, Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure and Luis Alberto all moving to Merseyside.

Lucas Aiming For Brazil Return Ahead Of World Cup

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva hopes that he can still force his way back into the national team ahead of the World Cup in Brazil next year.

The Reds star has not featured for the Selecao for two years due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury and then last season's thigh problem, missing out on from Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad for the Confederations Cup this summer.

But the 26-year-old is not giving up, telling Trivela: "What I can add to Brazil is what I've been doing in Liverpool, providing security for the defensive players and to pass the ball to attack.

"This is my job and that could make me to go to the national team - and it's what I did when I worked with Mano [Menezes, former coach], with whom I had a greater role.

"Obviously, every match that passes, the chances are smaller, because there is not much time until the World Cup, so the group will be closing but I still believe I have a chance to go to the World Cup."

The midfielder, who completed 31 games in all competitions for Liverpool last season, also heaped praise on captain Steven Gerrard ahead of the England skipper's testimonial match against Olympiacos on Saturday, labelling him "a complete player".

"When you talk about Steven Gerrard, you immediately associate him with Liverpool," Lucas remarked.

"The symbol of the team is him as he has spent more than 15 years representing the club. I've never played with a player of this level, a complete player."

Rafa Reveals Reina Surprise

Napoli manager Rafa Benitez has revealed his own surprise at his club’s ability to land goalkeeper Pepe Reina on loan, with the former Chelsea manager admitting that he was eyeing a deal for QPR’s Julio Cesar.

Benitez managed Pepe Reina during his time as Liverpool manager, and after taking the Napoli reins this summer he made signing a new goalkeeper his first priority.

Relegated side Queens Park Rangers have been trying to offload Brazilian international Julio Cesar, but as Napoli failed to sign the Confederations Cup winner they turned their attention to Reina, who has since finalized his move.

“Obviously I know the situation and I was surprised,” Benitez admitted to reporters, according to Sky Sports. “We were trying to sign Julio Cesar and it was a surprise for us when Pepe Reina was available.

“For us it is a big boost and it is really important because he is a great player so we are really pleased.”

Reina’s arrival in Italy sparks a revival for Napoli after the departure of Edinson Cavani in a £50 million move to Paris Saint Germain.

Benitez has also won the race for former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain, who joins the club alongside two other former Real players in Raul Albiol and Jose Mario Callejon.

The four new signings will link up with Napoli star Marek Hamsik, and under Rafa Benitez will be hoping to challenge for this year’s Serie A title, which has been won by Juventus for the past two seasons.

Bony Nearly Signed For Liverpool As Youngster

Swansea City’s record signing Wilfried Bony could have signed for Liverpool at the age of 19-years-old, former Leeds United player Brian Deane has revealed.

Bony moved to the Welsh club for £12million earlier this summer and on Thursday night scored two debut goals against Swedish side Malmo as Swansea came out 4-0 winners in the Europa League Third Qualifying Round.

Deane claimed on twitter after Bony’s performance that Liverpool had the chance to sign him five years ago, the Express reports.

"Wilfred Bony with 2 goals for Swansea? I took him to Liverpool from the Ivory Coast for a trial 5 years ago, it's turned out well for him," said Deane, a Liverpool fan.

Deane, the current manager of Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08, revealed they could have bought him for less than £100,000 but an agreement couldn’t be made.

"He wasn't an international at the time he was 19 and his club Issia Wazi would have accepted 5 figures but it's up to [the] clubs," he added.

Bony subsequently moved to Sparta Prague and three seasons later Dutch side Vitesse.

In Holland he bagged himself 58 goals from all competitions, including 37 from 36 appearances last season.

He has also had success at international level, scoring eight goals in 14 appearances, the Ivory Coast never losing when he’s scored.

Dominant Reds Lift Milk Cup Globe

Liverpool U17s won the premier Milk Cup Globe on Friday afternoon after Ryan Kent's double helped them to a 2-0 win over Newcastle at the Showgrounds in Coleraine.

The Reds controlled the final from start to finish - and they made their constant pressure count early on when Kent sprung clear of the Magpies' defence in the 10th minute to curl home the opener.

Mike Garrity made wholesale changes to the side that beat Corinthians on penalties in the semi-final on Thursday. Out went Harry Wilson and Sergi Canos, and in came Will Marsh and Louis Robles.

Corey Whelan and Daniel Cleary were the centre-back pairing and the duo were nothing short of superb throughout. Whelan, in particular, stroked the ball about brilliantly.

He unlocked the Newcastle back-line five times in the first half by floating a precise pass over the top for the powerful Dharius Waldron to chase. Their combination handed Alex O'Hanlon a fine chance shortly after Kent's opener, but he fired over the bar.

Before the interval, diligent work from the effervescent Kent opened up a golden opportunity for Robles, but the Scouser was caught unawares as he attempted to dig the ball out from under his feet, and he scooped his shot over the bar.

Garrity's side completely controlled the game - of that there could be no doubt. Newcastle registered few chances and they were forced to chase the ball throughout.

The Reds flew out of the blocks in the second half - Dave Roberts charged from the halfway line to the edge of the box and curled a shot at goal, which the 'keeper got a hand to and Robles was unlucky not to net on the rebound.

Newcastle were gifted one fine chance to equalize late on, when a lapse in concentration allowed the Toon to work the ball out to Dan Barlaser, who was presented with an open goal, yet skied his effort over the bar.

Then, in stoppage time, the Reds put the game to bed and grabbed the second goal their efforts had earned.

Substitute Canos broke down the field and waited while a swarm of red shirts caught him up. Composed, the talented Spaniard intentionally missed the first man, Adam Phillips, with his weighted cross, and the ball landed perfectly for Ryan Kent to tap home at the far post.

Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Liverpool U15s as they finished fourth in the junior Milk Cup after losing out to Watford in the third-place play-off.