Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Liverpool To Step Up Interest In Diego Costa

Liverpool is expected to increase their interest in Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa, with talks anticipated between the two parties this week.

The Reds were thought to have lodged a £22m bid for the striker last week, although reports in Spain denied any approach from Brendan Rodgers’ side.

However, according to the Liverpool Echo, Atletico are prepared to let the Merseyside club speak with their Brazilian international later this week, as they attempt to iron out a deal.

Should Rodgers seal the arrival of Costa, the 24-year-old would become the fifth new face at Anfield this summer, as they look to build a squad capable of challenging for the top four.

Meanwhile, the future of Luis Suarez remains uncertain, with the Uruguayan believed to be contemplating handing in an official transfer request.

Suarez appeared at an open training session at Anfield on Monday, but is still the subject of strong interest from Arsenal, despite Liverpool already rejecting two official bids from the Gunners.

Liverpool To Rival Torino For Ligue 1 Defender

Liverpool has made a last-ditch attempt to sign Saint Etienne defender Faouzi Ghoulam from under the noses of Torino, reports the Daily Star.

The 22-year-old full-back has been heavily linked with a move to Serie 'A' in recent weeks, with reports emanating earlier today that Ghoulam had agreed personal terms with the Italian club.

However, Brendan Rodgers could be about to hijack Torino's bid to sign the Algeria international, as Liverpool step up their search for defensive reinforcements at Anfield this summer.

With Jose Enrique the only recognized senior left-back at the Merseyside club at the moment, Glen Johnson was forced to play out of position on the left side of the Liverpool defence last season.

Rodgers wants to add competition for the former Newcastle United defender before the transfer window closes on September 1, and sees Ghoulam as a bright young prospect capable of pushing for a place in the first-team.

The Algerian made 26 Ligue 1 appearances for Saint Etienne last season, and has continued to impress in his full-back role since making his debut at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in 2010.

Liverpool Ready To Make Capel Their Fifth Signing

Liverpool is considering a £6million move for Sporting Lisbon winger Diego Capel as they step up their summer recruitment policy.

If Red boss Brendan Rodgers decides to go ahead with the swoop he will be confident of fending off opposition from Marseille for the 25-year-old player.

The French club have had offers of £2m and £3m rejected by Sporting, who are determined their valuation will be met.

Capel agreed a five-year contract when he was signed from Sevilla two years ago and reports in Portugal suggest he would leap at the chance to play in front of the Kop at Anfield.

Sporting Lisbon would be reluctant to sell if they were not suffering financial difficulties and Capel will definitely strengthen Liverpool’s attacking options.

If the Spain international does move to Merseyside he will be Rodgers’ fifth summer signing and would push the money spent by Liverpool since the end of last season to close to £30m.

Kolo Toure was first in from Manchester City on a free transfer, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet cost £9m from Sunderland while the Reds paid £7.2m to Celta Vigo for Iago Aspas and £6.8m to Sevilla for Luis Alberto.

Liverpool Dealt Blow In Chase For Defender

Saint Etienne defender Kurt Zouma has quashed speculation he's set for a summer move to Liverpool, after reiterating his commitment to the Ligue 1 outfit for the foreseeable future, reports talkSPORT.

The 18-year-old centre-back has attracted admiring glances from a host of top European clubs over the past 12 months, following a fantastic breakthrough campaign in the French top-flight in 2011/12.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has been credited with an interest in bringing Zouma to Anfield, as he seeks to strengthen his backline before the transfer window closes on September 1.

With the impending sales of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, Liverpool is at risk of starting the new Premier League campaign short on central defensive options.

Now, they must turn attention to alternative targets, after Zouma made clear his intention to remain at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and continue his development.

"There was a lot of noise this summer about a transfer for me," the France U20 international told Le Progres.

"I can only say one thing - I will be at Saint-Etienne this season, for sure."

Atletico Madrid and Anzhi Makhachkala have also been mooted as potential suitors of Zouma, but the Saint Etienne star looks set to continue plying his trade in his homeland in 2013/14.

QPR Launch Bid To Sign Oussama Assaidi

QPR boss Harry Redknapp is awaiting a response from Moroccan international Oussama Assaidi in relation to the Championship side’s request to bring in the Liverpool winger on a season long loan deal according to Sports Direct News.

Having spent a fortune last term the West London side is no doubt looking at cost effective avenues to strengthen the Loftus Road squad and a move to bring in the talented winger will help boost the Super Hoops attack.

The 24 year old Moroccan barely got an opportunity to impress but at the few times he put out an average performance.

Liverpool paid £2.4m to bring in the Heerenveen attacker to Anfield last summer but then preceded to hand the speedy wide-man a grand total of 77 minutes of Premier League action during the space of four substitute run-outs.

Prior to his move to Merseyside, Assaidi spent three seasons at Heerenveen, scoring 22 goals in 93 appearances for the Eredivisie side.

QPR began their quest for a return to the top tier with a comeback win over Sheffield Wednesday.

Liverpool Call Off Move for Benfica Starlet

Liverpool is ready to abandon their pursuit of Benfica full back Lorenzo Melgarejo and instead focus their attention on Valencia's Aly Cissokho as Brendan Rodgers aims to strengthen the left hand side of his defence.

Rodgers is still keen to add to his squad ahead of the new season and has identified left back as a position he needs additional cover in, with Spaniard Jose Enrique currently the club's only option in that area of the pitch.

Liverpool was thought to have tied up a deal for Benfica's 22-year-old defender Lorenzo Melgarejo which would have seen him join the club on an initial season long loan, with the option to buy the player on a permanent basis for €10m next summer.

But Portuguese reports suggest the Premier League club have had a change of heart and will now look to recruit France international Cissokho, who has reportedly agreed personal terms with the Reds who must now settle on a fee with Valencia for the full back's services.

Melgarejo, who joined Benfica from Independiente in 2011, arrived in Europe as a left winger, a position he took up during a loan spell with Pacos Ferreira during the 2011/12 season.

The 22-year-old excelled in his attacking berth, finishing the campaign as the club's top scorer before returning to his parent club.

Despite demonstrating his qualities as a winger, Benfica manager Jorge Jesus opted to drop Melarejo back to full back last season, becoming the club's first choice option on the left hand side of defence.

The Paraguayan international's inexperience in his defensive position may have played some factor in Liverpool's decision to turn their attention to Cissokho, who has operated as a marauding left back his entire career.

Cissokho, who only joined Valencia last summer after spells with Lyon and Porto, recently announced that he was happy to remain at the Mestalla, despite having to settle for just 17 league starts for the club last season.

Having already explored the Spanish league for summer signings Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas, Rodgers could be looking to raid La Liga once again as he seeks to add at least two more players to his squad.

"There are obviously certain areas of the squad where we're a bit thinner than others," Rodgers said at the end of July.

"We probably need a bit more support - that extra bit of quality - at the top end of the field and that's something we'll look out for.

"That'll be mixed with needing cover in the left back position - that's something we're looking at. It's not really about numbers, it's about quality.

"If we can do that over the next number of weeks we'll be happy."

Arsenal And Liverpool Battle For MK Dons Starlet

Liverpool and Arsenal are locked in a transfer battle to land 17 year old youngster Dele Alli, The Mirror has reported today.

The already 6ft 2in midfielder could be the subject of a buy-and-loan-back offer from the two Premier League clubs.

Alli currently plays for MK Dons, and is currently in manager Karl Robinson’s first team plans for this season despite his tender age.

He was watched by senior scouts from both sides during their game against Shrewsbury, reported The Mirror, and a bidding war could erupt at any second.

Alli has won seven youth caps already, and may become the best player that MK has ever produced, and a good offer for him will probably turn their heads.

Arsenal have a history of being a good club for youngsters to go to, as Aaron Ramsey, Carl Jenkinson and Theo Walcott can testify to – while Liverpool have recently started buying young English talent, with Raheem Sterling being possibly their most successful youth buy.

Meanwhile, the club’s management has yet to use their reported £70m transfer kitty to make serious investment in their playing squad. The Gunners have missed out on Gonzalo Higuain, who moved to Napoli – and could still miss out on Luis Suarez, the newspaper claims.

Liverpool however has been very busy this summer, which includes the signings of Iago Aspas and former Arsenal defender Kolo Toure.

Liverpool Target Alderweireld In Everton Sights

Everton’s interest in Ajax star Toby Alderweireld has been confirmed by his agent, Soren Lerby.

Speaking to Dutch paper Het Belang, the former manager revealed The Toffees were in the mix to try and snap up the young centre-back.

Alderweireld - who turned down a move to Norwich earlier this month - is entering the final twelve months of his contract with Ajax and has been heavily linked with a summer move to Liverpool.

But Lerby has confirmed they now face increasing competition from their Merseyside rivals.

He said: "It is true that Everton came forward for Alderweireld.

"Though there are other concrete directions, Toby must now look at which team he finds the most challenging."

The Premier League sides have received a big boost in their hunt for the 24-year-old, after his team-mate Siem de Jong revealed he and Christian Erkisen were still looking to leave the Dutch giants.

He said: "I talk to them about it. I hope they stay and I have spoken with them.

"They may have to wait a little longer and are slightly more concerned with a transfer than I am."

Blues Starlet In High Demand As Liverpool Plan Swoop

Liverpool is hoping to take Chelsea youngster Kenneth Omeruo on loan for the new season, reports the Daily Mail.

The Nigerian defender has moved back to the Premier League after his 18-month loan spell with ADO Den Haag expired.

The 19-year-old, who is also wanted by Swansea and West Brom, is likely to be loaned out again by Chelsea. Boss Jose Mourinho is keen for Omeruo to gain more experience, with his first team options seriously limited.

The former Real Madrid coach believes Omeruo will improve more playing first team football away from the club than with the Chelsea reserves. And after making 27 appearances for ADO Den Haag last year, Omeruo will be hoping to find a club with a similar amount of opportunities.

Liverpool has already added to their defence this season with the free transfer of Kolo Toure from Manchester City. The Ivorian comes in to replace Jamie Carragher, who retired from football at the end of last season.

Omeruo has made 14 international appearances for Nigeria, and was part of the side that won the African Cup of Nations in February.

West Brom will be hoping their relationship with Chelsea will give them an advantage over Liverpool and Swansea, after they took Blues forward Romelu Lukaku on a successful loan spell last season.

Bolton Keen To Sign Jay Spearing Permanently

Bolton boss Dougie Freedman has outlined his determination to sign Jay Spearing from Liverpool on a permanent basis.

The Reds midfielder spent most of last season on loan with the Championship side, making 39 appearances and establishing himself as a fans' favourite.

The 24-year-old has played only a limited role in Liverpool's pre-season, and Freedman would be delighted to bring him back to the Reebok Stadium if a suitable deal can be thrashed out.

"Jay is a fantastic player, our player of the season, and available," Freedman said. "We'll try our very best to make it happen.

"We've got Financial Fair Play and I've got a responsibility to this football club.

"We've done very well with free transfers. If somebody like Jay comes up and the deal is right for the football club, then yes, we will be looking at that."

Freedman has already signed Alex Baptiste and Marc Tierney on free transfers, while striker Jermaine Beckford has joined from Leicester for an undisclosed fee.

Napoli Agree Loan Deal For Skrtel

Napoli has reached an agreement with Liverpool to take Martin Skrtel on loan, according to reports in Italy.

The 28-year-old, who was Liverpool's player of the year for 2011/12, became a peripheral figure towards the end of last term, making just two Premier League starts between February and May.

It is unclear whether he has a long-term future at Anfield and he could now move to Napoli, where he will link up with former Reds boss Rafa Benitez.

Liverpool have already loaned Pepe Reina to the Serie A side this summer and Napoli will now look to agree terms with Skrtel, who joined the Merseyside club from Zenit St Petersburg in 2008.

Henderson Going Head-To-Head With Allen

The names of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva are etched in stone when it comes to Liverpool's midfield, but a fascinating battle is now raging to claim the final vacancy in the Reds' three-man engine room.

While the sublime Philippe Coutinho is the obvious selection any time Brendan Rodgers goes with a more adventurous lineup, things look a lot less clear cut any time the Reds' boss opts for his favoured 4-3-3 system as he faces a tough choice between in-form pair Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson.

Henderson had looked to be in pole position after the way he ended last season, but Allen's return to fitness has seen him restored to the side in preseason and he's been in fine fettle. So too, however, has Henderson, and with both of them finding the back of the net in Gerrard's testimonial at the weekend, the competition between them is really hotting up.

In terms of style, Allen and Henderson are vastly different players, but they do have some things in common. They're roughly the same age, play the same position, they cost considerably more money than they were probably worth at the time and they had difficult first seasons at the club, having often been used in roles that weren't necessarily their strongest. That's where the similarities end; Allen's main assets are his passing and close control, whereas Henderson relies more on his athleticism and strong running beyond defences.

Based on recent team selections, it looks as though Allen may have edged ahead of Henderson in the pecking order. As things stand, it's "advantage Allen," but Henderson still has time to force the manager into a rethink. Scoring with his first touch against Olympiakos on Saturday is as good a way to do that, but Allen also got himself on the scoresheet and with better finishing would have had at least one more goal to show from a fine individual first-half performance.

It's nice to see Allen back and playing well as I thought he took a lot of unfair stick last season. His form did drop off significantly and the criticism that came with that was mostly warranted. However, it seemed to be overlooked by many that in the early part of the season he was arguably Liverpool's best player, so that suggests the issue was related to form rather than ability.

The injury to Lucas meant Allen had to change roles very early on, but he still managed to impress. While not exactly physically equipped to play as a holding midfielder -- there were definite shades of 'Scrappy Do' about him as he attempted to stop a marauding Abou Diaby in a home defeat to Arsenal -- Allen generally held his own and earned plenty of plaudits early on.

Despite a string of man-of-the-match awards, Rodgers made the point that this was not Allen's true position and that he would be "50 percent better" when he returned to the role he was bought for. It never worked out that way though, as Allen's form took a bit of a nosedive from November/December onward and the criticism began to mount.

It didn't help that he had been described by Rodgers as "the Welsh Xavi" and was seen by many as being the manager's blue-eyed boy. For fans who weren't sold on Rodgers, Allen was an obvious target when his form fell off a cliff.

He'd just become a father and that was mentioned by Rodgers as a possible reason for the drop in quality of his play, but that seemed like straw-clutching. As we would later find out, there was a much more valid reason for Allen's struggles, but the club wanted to keep it quiet for as long as possible.

The £15 million (about $23 million) man had a shoulder injury that would eventually require surgery, but Rodgers was worried that opponents would target Allen if this became public knowledge, and the story was kept under wraps for a couple of months, before first-team coach Mike Marsh eventually let it slip in an interview with the club's website.

Strangely, Allen's role hadn't changed much even after Lucas returned. He didn't seem to have any real license to get forward, and what made it even more baffling was that when Henderson played as the third midfielder, he was pushed right up the pitch and was almost playing off the striker at times. Why not let Allen do that too? After all, he'd be "50 percent better" then.

Yet the only occasions Allen played in that role were a brief, impressive cameo against Sunderland and also the Europa League game against Zenit, when Liverpool won 3-1 at home; he scored and regularly got forward to good effect.

We don't know exactly how much the injury affected the player's form, or indeed the role he was asked to play, but as with Raheem Sterling, before he was injured Allen was playing very well, then afterward he simply wasn't.

A truly wretched 45 minutes against Southampton was the last we saw of the midfielder until this preseason, but now that he's injury-free hopefully he can recapture the form he showed a year ago. He's certainly looked sharp in preseason and his return to form is helping to provide the kind of competition for places that Rodgers has been striving for.

Henderson is certainly not afraid of competition, as he's shown already. This time last year he was way down the pecking order, with Lucas, Gerrard, Allen, Nuri Sahin, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey all ahead of him. He was even offered to Fulham as part of a proposed deal to sign Clint Dempsey, and his days at Anfield looked to be numbered.

He turned that move down, insisting that he wanted to stay and force his way into the side. Against the odds, that's exactly what he did and three of those who were ahead of him have since left the club, while a fourth (Spearing) will presumably soon follow.

You always hear stories about how hard Henderson works on his game and what a dedicated lad he is, and it's great credit to him for forcing his way into the manager's plans when many (myself included) doubted whether he had what it takes. His maniacal goal celebrations are fantastic to see, and even in a testimonial game he gave it the beans after scoring in front of the Kop. You've got to love that.

In the second half of last season he made a number of valuable contributions, mostly away from home, where his ability to run into the space left by opposing defenders who hold a much higher line at home than at Anfield can be utilized. Goals at Arsenal, Villa and Newcastle all came from his surging into the kind of space that Liverpool rarely get when opponents sit deep.

With that in mind, perhaps we'll see Henderson feature more away from home than at Anfield. Much will depend on what system Rodgers is using, and I suspect he may adopt a "horses for courses" approach this season in terms of his starting formation.

Sometimes we'll see the 4-3-3 he used for much of last term, but we'll also see some variations of it, possibly with Coutinho playing behind two strikers as he did last week in Melbourne, and I'm sure we'll also see plenty of the 4-2-3-1 that worked to good effect in the latter part of the season.

With Lucas and Gerrard the clear first-choice options, Allen and Henderson are unlikely to be in the side every week, and there will be times when both miss out. On those occasions when a third midfielder is required, though, it's certainly not going to be easy to choose between the two if they maintain the form they are currently showing.

Rodgers won't mind that, as having two young, ambitious players going head-to-head for a place in the side can only bring out the best in both of them, and that can only be good for the club. May the best man win.