Sunday, 31 May 2009

Gerrard thinks 2-3 new signings will close the gap at the top

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has revealed Liverpool need 2 or 3 new signings over the summer to launch a Premiership winning campaign next season. Speaking to Sky Sports News after receiving the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award, the midfielder said: "We are very close. I'm sure the manager will want to strengthen the team and the squad a little bit over the summer. I don't think there are many changes that are needed. But we need to freshen up, like all the teams do. I feel as if we can fight for all the big trophies next season. I'm sure he (Benitez) is already working on what part of the team needs strengthening. I think, if you look at Manchester United's squad and Chelsea's squad, you look how strong their benches are and how strong players are that are not even making their eighteens. I think we are just a little bit off that at the moment. Maybe two or three players from having a squad on a level with those two. I feel that is how close we are." He also made a pointed out his belief that Liverpool have not been getting the plaudits they deserve this season "You look at the points tally, we finished the season with 86 points. Usually that is enough to be crowned worthy champions."

Hicks and Gillett refinancing deal may give Rafa extra transfer money

Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are on the verge of announcing a £350million refinancing deal says today’s Sunday Mirror. It claims: “accountants from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wells Fargo are currently examining Liverpool's financial figures with a view to agreeing a loan package that will ease the pressure on the two Americans. The move could also bring an improved summer transfer budget for manager Rafa Benitez, who has made Carlos Tevez his No.1 target, but is unable to meet the £25.5m price being asked by the Argentine's owners. The deal will hinge on Hicks and Gillett pouring more of their own personal finance into Anfield - and the pair are looking to raise funds by selling off some of their other sporting interests in the United States,” says the article. “Hicks is ready to sell his majority stake in baseball club Texas Rangers while Gillett is searching for a buyer for the ice hockey outfit Montreal Canadiens to gen-eratcash. But with Liverpool set to announce record turnover and increased profits of almost £40m this week, there is increased confidence that the club can easily service a new loan agreement. An insider said: "Despite claims to the contrary, both owners have spent about £80m of their own money on Liverpool over the past two years.”

This news will come as no surprise to regular readers of LFC Alert as a refinancing deal was reported on this site weeks ago. This story however speculates the re-financing deal ‘could’ bring in extra money for Rafa this summer.

Liverpool track Brazilian teenager

Liverpool are reported to be tracking 17 year old Juventude player Zezinho, who has impressed in Brazil’s Serie B, reports Sky Sports News. “Some rumours have suggested that money has changed hands,” says the article: “But while Juventude president Sergio Florian has played down rumours of a transfer, he has implied that Rafa Benitez's Premier League runners-up have been in contact regarding the midfielder. "They (Liverpool) have already put money in the bank? I don't know anything about this," Florian told South American media. "In truth, nothing has happened, no type of business. I can't say anything more about this because they're nothing but enquiries."

Alonso agreement rubbished by Benitez

Alonso update:

The Official LFC web site is declaring Rafa Benitez has rubbished reports in the Spanish media that an agreement has been reached with Real Madrid for the transfer of Xabi Alonso. "The situation is clear, we do not want to sell our best players and that includes Xabi,” stated Benitez. “He had a very good season for us and can be an important player in the future. There is no agreement with Real and we want him to be part of our plans going forward. Xabi himself told our club magazine only two weeks ago that he was looking forward to his sixth season as a Liverpool player. Why should he want to leave now?" Benitez added: "Xabi's agent came to see me recently to talk about the future. It was a surprise for me and I pointed out to him there were three years left on Xabi's contract. I asked him if the player was happy in Liverpool and he said yes. It was a short meeting."

Spanish paper claims Alonso move has been agreed

Transfer Speculation

Today’s Daily Mail is running a rather worrying news story. It declares: “Xabi Alonso has agreed a £22million move to Real Madrid according to reports in Spain” Spanish newspaper ‘Sport’ is claiming Alonso will be the first ‘Galactico’ of Florentino Perez’s second stint as Bernabeu president. Perez who could take control as early as tomorrow has reportedly already reached an agreement for the Spain midfielder. The paper says the Anfield star has agreed to a deal in principle weeks ago and that Liverpool accepted an offer on Friday.

The article claims that “there remains a few variables to sort out. Former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze could go the other way in part-exchange” It also says: “Benitez is also said to be keen on striker Alvaro Negredo. Madrid sold the 23-year-old to Ameria but have a buy-back option and Liverpool are said to have wanted him as part of the Alonso deal. However the £13m price-tag quoted is too much for Liverpool as they would prefer the cash to target Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

Let’s hope this is just another example of Perez and the Spanish media trying to cause mischief. I truly believe Liverpool will miss Alonso should he depart, as the influential midfielder has been one of the main reasons for Liverpool’s great season. He has been the main avenue of attack, routing balls from the middle of the park into dangerous areas via his incredible passing skill.

I can’t see Heinze at 29 being more then a back up defender, despite Rafa’s previous interest in him. Negrado has had a decent season, scoring 19 times and Real Madrid apparently have first option on him until the end of June. As previously reported on LFC Alert here a few weeks back, Negrado who is nicknamed ‘the wild animal’, played for Real Madrid’s second team, before he joined Almeria. However they have reportedly inserted a buy-back clause of £4.4million.

Meanwhile the Daily Star is reporting fellow countryman Cesc Fabregas wants Alonso at Arsenal: “We need someone in the middle to make competition and make a difference, plus give us a new dimension. Xabi would be great. He’s experienced and can score goals. I’m sure the boss is aware of that fact.”

Gerrard declares the best is yet to come

Steven Gerrard officially received ‘the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year’ award at a gala dinner in London on Friday and declared that his best is still to come. Gerrard, who turns 29 today, talked to the Guardian about his desire to return Liverpool to the summit of English and European football: “The coaches are always driving me on, trying to improve me as a player. I am 29 tomorrow and I still feel I can get better. I am still learning every single day in training, working on parts of my game, am still very hungry and ambitious. There is still a lot to achieve for me personally, for Liverpool and England, so hopefully next year is going to be a lot bigger for me trophy wise."

Gerrard who scored 24 goals this season, 16 of which where in the Premiership was also hailed by the England manager. Paying tribute to the midfielder Fabio Capello said: "Steve, you have played a fantastic season, and scored a lot of goals. Now, please, just two more to help us towards South Africa."

Search for Parry’s replacement steps up


Liverpool have intensified their search for departing chief executive Rick Parry’s replacement.

Recruitment specialists Odgers Berndtson have been appointed to head hunt Parry’s successor and they have now placed an advertisement on their official website as they look for the right person to fill the role. According to the advert, a "significant package" is available to the successful candidate.

The role also asks for someone with: “outstanding leadership” who can give the club “clear direction to the club through its next phase of development, ensuring it performs exceptionally both on and off the field.” And “Create a culture of excellence and ambition”. The candidate must “Ensure the Manager and his support group has the necessary resources and support to enable the team to win European and Domestic Championships.” And “Empathy with the values and heritage of the most successful football club in the history of English football and a deep-rooted love of the game.” Notably there is no mention of direct involvement in footballing matters, but the candidate “will drive the commercial side of the club, leveraging the monetary value of the brand and world-wide fan base.”

The applications for the role need to be received by 8th June, which indicates interviews could possibly take place in the coming weeks and the role filled before the end of June.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Liverpool accounts reveal increased profit, but debt doubles

Liverpool Football Club’s debts have almost doubled to £86m according to its latest financial results, despite returning to profit following losses the previous year reveals today’s Daily Post.

The article goes on to disclose:

“The club’s annual accounts will reveal a pre-tax profit of £10.2m for the year to July 31, 2008, an improvement on the previous year’s loss of £21.7m. However, the accounts will also show that net debt soared from £44m to £86m during the same period, despite an increase in revenue across the board. The results are due to be posted with Companies House by today in keeping with UK company law and though both revenue and profits show clear growth the increasing level of debt will be a concern to Liverpool’s fans.”

“Turnover has shot up from £133.9m in the previous year to £159.1m mainly as a result of the lucrative TV deal which the Premier League secured with leading broadcasters Sky and the BBC. But with matchday and commercial income both also having gone up it is clear that Liverpool’s revenue streams are on an upward curve.”

“The club’s net spending on players went up from £22m to £28m due to the recruitment of Javier Mascherano, Diego Cavalieri, Andrea Dossena, David Ngog and Robbie Keane. The net spend does not reflect the full transfer fees agreed with other clubs in transfer deals, it merely shows the initial outlay and downpayments made to secure the transfers.”

“The sales of Peter Crouch, John Arne Riise and Momo Sissoko brought in £24m and the net value of Liverpool’s squad soared from £100m in the previous year to £130m.”

Interestingly, the article also reveals "that owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett injected £58m into the club. £12m of this was used towards player acquisitions while the bulk of it was provided according to the refinancing agreement secured with the Royal Bank of Scotland in February 2007. Hicks and Gillett are due to refinance again next month but sources indicate they are likely to be given a six-month extension to their current loan arrangement."

Friday, 29 May 2009

Juventus and Liverpool remember on the 24th anniversary of Heysel disaster

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the Heysel disaster. Juventus and Liverpool have joined together to remember the 39 victims who sadly perished during the Heysel tragedy on May 29, 1985. Both clubs have released official statements to mark the tragedy.

The Juventus statement reads: “We must remember in order to build the future”

“The thirty-nine victims are remembered by all Juventus supporters and all sports enthusiasts. Nobody can or should forget – declared president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, on behalf of the club and its supporters – and on these anniversaries we stand by the families that lost their loved ones on that tragic night. Even on their behalf, we try to interpret football in a more serene manner, educating the youngsters to respect the sport values and fair play. In these years much improvement has been done but we still have along way to go to defeat violence once and for all”.

A Memorial ceremony took place on Saturday 23rd May in fReggio Emilia in front of the monument by sculptor Gido Vanlessen, the only monument in Italy against stadium violence.

Liverpool have also paid tribute to the victims and a statement on their official website reads:
On the 24th anniversary of the Heysel Stadium tragedy, Liverpool Football Club remembers the 39 football supporters who went to watch a European Cup final and sadly never returned. On 29 May, 1985, the deaths of 32 Italians, four Belgians, two Frenchmen and one man from Northern Ireland totally overshadowed our European Cup final defeat to Juventus. What should have been a joyous occasion turned into a nightmare. No one will ever forget the horror that unfolded before our eyes that night and, 24 years on, let's all pause for a moment to pay our respects to those unfortunate victims.”

I remember viewing the terrible events unfold on live television with my dad and brother, expecting to see a great spectacle of football. I instead watched in horror and great shame as the tragedy took place. LFC Alert would like to extend its sincerest sympathy to all the families of the victims. You will never walk alone

Cohen's Hillsborough lies prompts boycott from US based Liverpool fans

The Official Liverpool Website has published a letter by Conor Brennan (Vice President of LFCNY Supporters' Club) and Alastair Cairns (creator of the boycott Steven Cohen web site)called “A special letter from America”. It goes on to reveal the horrible depths to which London-born Chelsea supporter: Steve Cohen, will sink in order to have his hatred of Liverpool FC heard. Cohen, based in the USA appears on two shows: 'Fox Football Fone-In' on Fox Soccer Channel and 'World Soccer Daily', a podcast also broadcast on Sirius/XM satellite radio. The letter goes on to catalogue the numerous incidents in which Cohen has taken the opportunity to peddle his lies to an unknowing American public. He has constantly blamed Liverpool fans for the deaths at Hillsborough for which he has been forced to apologise numerous times, however he has never once retracted his statements. The letter should be read in full by every Liverpool supporter, but here is a small excerpt:

“There was widespread shock as to the depths Cohen had plumbed in his show on February 22, 2009 where, incensed by fans' desire to change the Champions League game that coincided with the 20th Hillsborough Memorial, he mocked Liverpool 'milking' the Hillsborough tragedy. Cohen went on to say: "They are not the victims [of Hillsborough], they are the perpetrators... they are the most despicable people." Cohen told his audience that the Hillsborough Justice Campaign 'couldn't be more corrupt or blatantly ridiculous' and finally remarked that these Liverpool fans were 'the scum of the earth'. Cohen was forced to issue yet another one of his infamous apologies, or as he put it 'putting this crap to bed'. Much like the apology three years ago, there was no mention of the 96 dead, their families, or Hillsborough, nor was there any retraction of his unsubstantiated lies about the cause of the disaster. In fact, within the week he reiterated a somewhat more muted: "I still think there's shared responsibility." Immediately following his 'apology', Cohen spoke about the campaign against him. Liverpool fans were denounced as 'thugs', 'terrorists' and 'worse than the Taliban'.”

The “Boycott Steven Cohen web site” contains a list ways to help get Cohen off the air, and can be fund here:

http://boycottstevencohen.webs.com/

It urges people to “remain respectful and dignified” in any correspondence to the shows sponsors and associates because “Cohen has already demonstrated his willingness to quote the ugly minority in his attempts to discredit this campaign, and he'd like nothing better than to hear word of any inappropriate correspondence to his sponsors.”

The full letter can be read here:


Gareth Barry speculation of the day

The Daily Star is running the story: “Barry: I want to be a Gunner”, however the article appears to be nothing more then speculation from journalist Duncan Wright. It goes on to say "Gareth Barry is holding out for a summer move to Arsenal", but the story fails to attribute quotes from either the player or Arsenal and seems nothing more then a page filler with an attention grabbing headline.

The article goes on to say: “Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is still an admirer, but is not keen on splashing out most of his transfer budget taking him to Anfield. That has left Manchester City and Tottenham hopeful of securing a deal – but it is Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger who is considering a £12m bid for the 28-year-old. Wenger is searching for a dominant midfield player to add to a squad which has plenty of talent but lacks genuine bite, and he has watched Barry several times in the past few months.”

Torres: Why I signed new deal

Fernando Torres has revealed why it was easy to sign a new Liverpool deal. Speaking to the official web site he said: "I want to remain here," said Torres. "Since arriving at Liverpool I feel that there's a bond and commitment. We listened to the club's offer, which came on the back of two seasons of positive work.” Speaking about his desire to win things next season, Torres sad: "My objective now is to win a trophy with Liverpool next year."

Reds not bid for Martinez

“Athletic Bilbao insist they have received no approach from Liverpool for Javi Martinez” reports Sky Sports News. There has been plently of speculation surrounding the 20-year-old midfielder recently, with varying reports valuing him between £10–£18 million. "We know there is interest from some clubs in Javi Martinez, and that Liverpool have sent scouts to matches, but the club has received no bids," said a spokesman for the Basque club. "We have no intention of selling him, but it is normal that we will study any offers that are made."

Martinez, has admitted that he would welcome the prospect of a switch to Anfield reports the article: "The rumours are not affecting me. I am very calm," he said.
"If an offer is received, then I will speak with the club. Liverpool are a great club with a great history and any player would like to be in their squad."

Pranjic keen on Liverpool move

Transfer Speculation

Hereenveen winger Danijel Pranjic has admitted he would not be able to turn down a move to Liverpool reports Sky Sports News. Rafa Benitez has been linked with the Croatian international and this story was doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago. Pranjic has enjoyed a fine season with Heerenveen, scoring 16 goals and helping them win the Dutch Cup for the first time in their history.

“For me it is really, really incredible if I imagine I can play for Liverpool. It is a dream for every player, it is the biggest club in England.” Clearly the player knows how to sweet talk. "I am very fast, I can run a lot and I think that is what you need in England.” But in an indication that he may not enjoy playing in the English weather he said: "If I can choose between England or maybe Spain, I would choose Spain because I like that kind of football, that kind of life. I like good weather and in England it is always raining and that is what I don't like about England.” But he added: "But if Liverpool come for me of course I cannot say no."

The Mirror two weeks back claimed that the player had “Sent agent Soren Lerby to Anfield to discuss terms”, with Heerenveen club director Yme Kuiper admitting: "We understand Liverpool is the club where Pranjic wants to go." This could suggest the player is more interested in the move then Liverpool is. However Pranjic is a left-sided midfielder and could possibly be a back up option should the Gareth Barry transfer not take place.

We’ll see how this story develops.

Reds meet valuation for Tevez

Transfer Speculation

Liverpool are among five leading clubs who have agreed to pay the £25 million needed to sign Carlos Tévez this summer claims today’s Times. The list is said to include: Manchester City, another English club and two foreign clubs, one of which is understood to be Real Madrid. The fee is said to be in the region of £25m has been set by Kia Joorabchian, who fronts the companies that own Tévez’s economic rights.

The article goes on to say:
“Tévez’s two-year “lease” deal at Old Trafford expires at the end of next month, but while David Gill, the United chief executive, appeared to hint this week that they would finally meet the “fixed fee” agreed with Joorabchian when the striker moved to Manchester in August 2007, the forward seems to have decided that he has played his last game for the club. Although United supporters would be horrified by the thought of Tévez moving to Liverpool or City, the player is open to the idea. Tévez’s pride has been hurt in recent weeks by United’s refusal to confirm that they will keep him at the price stipulated, with the player making what could be considered a number of farewell gestures to United’s fans. Despite United’s attempts to drive down the price, having already paid £10 million to loan the player for two years, Joorabchian is refusing to lower the £25 million price originally agreed with the club, knowing that there are other clubs willing to pay it. Either way, Tévez’s future with United is expected to be resolved in days. The prospect of Tévez joining Liverpool would be particularly galling for United supporters. Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, wants to sign a forward who will not only give his team an added goal threat, but also the energy to complement Fernando Torres and believes that Tévez fits the bill, a coup that Javier Mascherano, Tévez’s Argentina team-mate, is hoping will come off. “I hope we can count on him,” Mascherano said. “He would be great for us. However, it will be a tough fight because so many clubs are interested in him.”

Mascherano’s comments whilst speaking to ‘Radio La Red’ in Argentina appear to suggest the player has spoken with Tevez, possibly in an effort to try and convince him to choose Liverpool over any other interested clubs. Notice he said: “I hope we can count on him.” When this story first began in April, I didn’t hold much faith in its validity. However as the weeks have progressed, their definitely appears to be weight to it. I think United are trying to stall any deal so that they await the outcome of Ronaldo staying or going. Tevez is still only seen as a fringe player for United, but if Ronaldo does decide to leave it would probably force United into purchasing Tevez. However one thing that needs to be considered, is the way Tevez has been treated by United. He was absent at United’s end of season party and he was not onboard the United coach when it departed the hotel following their 2 nil defeat in the Champion League final. The player himself has stated that he has “not been treated as a member of the family," and "I do not feel wanted”. Either way the Times article suggests Tevez’s future could be resolved in days, which also ties in with Rafa’s insistence to complete any new deals as quickly as possible.

Torres agrees new LFC deal

Fernando Torres has agreed a new and improved deal with Liverpool Football Club. The striker was already tied to the club till 2013, having signed a six year deal in 2007 when he moved from Atletico Madrid. However the new contract will give Torres increased wages, and it also includes an option for a further year's extension to 2014.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez speaking with the official site said: "Fernando is one of the best strikers in the game today and, at his age, can only get better. "Every major side would want him in their team, but he has shown how much he wants to achieve success at Liverpool by committing his future to the club. He's a special talent, but still has the hunger to improve his game."

Benitez added: "We've made huge progress this season and now we need to take the next step. We are building something special here and securing such important players on long-term deals means we can move forward with confidence. This sends out a very positive message to everyone connected with the club."

Notably the press have vastly conflicting numbers as they speculate the players new pay deal. “Torres’s move entailed a significant pay cut from the contract he had been offered to remain at the Vicente Calderon” speculates The Telegraph. “That has now been rectified and his new contract is likely to bring his wages, thought to be around £90,000-a-week, into line with Steven Gerrard, the club’s top earner on around £120,000-a-week”. The Guardian says: the “new contract that will increase the Spain striker's wages to £110,000 a week.” Having previously been on “£70,000-a-week” but, under the terms of the original transfer, was entitled to review his salary with the club this summer.” His new contract will also “vastly improve his personal terms until 2013 as scheduled.” The story also claims “It will make him the second-highest-paid player at the club behind the captain, Steven Gerrard.”

One thing is certain; the new Torres deal, which follows Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt Daniel Agger and Benitez himself in agreeing new contracts over the past couple of months, indicates a positive start to the summer dealings. It also shows a unity within the team, as players sign extensions without any fuss or pre Madonna posturing. This is something other teams are having difficulty in controlling, notably the discontent currently at United with the Tevez saga and the attention seeking Ronaldo insisting he dominates press headlines. But whilst other teams bicker Liverpool appear to be quietly going about their business, undoubtedly sending out a positive message to players considering a move to the club.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Babel’s agent insists player won't leave Liverpool

Transfer Speculation

Today’s Independent is running the story that “Ryan Babel will not leave Liverpool this summer”. Babel’s agent Winnie Haatrecht, insists "He is not done here yet," Haatrecht told AD Sportwereld. "I will sit down soon with Mr Benitez to evaluate the season. We haven't found time to do that yet. "Ryan went from Ajax to Liverpool to win trophies. So far that hasn't happened. Ryan wants to leave Liverpool as a regular starter with a trophy in his pocket." The 22-year-old made six starts all season and was a substitute 21 times.

Martinez transfer rumours resurface

Transfer Speculation

Today's Mirror is claiming: “Rafa Benitez has lined up Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez as a long-term replacement for Xabi Alonso.” Last week The Star reported the same story and can be read in my blog here. The speculative story goes on to say: “Martinez is regarded as one of the best prospects in Spain. And Bilbao, who have the 20-year-old under contract until 2012, want around £10m. But Liverpool boss Benitez wants to thrash out a cut-price deal.”

The £10m price tag is vastly different from last weeks Daily Star article in which it stated that the player had an “£18 million buy-out clause in his contract.” which Benitez was unwilling to mach.

However the Mirror article says in a '10 things you need to know' profile about the player, that when "Liverpool were linked with Martinez in 2007, it was reported he had a £17.1million release clause in his contract – with the way sterling has weakened against the euro, the Reds’ owners will be hoping that price tag has come down."

Liverpool join hunt for youngster Castaigones

Transfer Speculation

Arsenal and Liverpool have joined the hunt for Luc Castaigones - rated as one of the finest young prospects in Europe claims Sky Sports News. The article states “The 16-year-old starred in the recent Uefa Under-17 Championship when he finished as top scorer. A clutch of sides are showing a big interest in the Dutch youngster, but he is already tied down to a long-term deal at his club Feyenoord. But his agent has confirmed that interest is mounting and a deal could be set-up whereby he would be loaned back to Feyenoord. "The interest is known and clubs are willing to go really far," Arie Treffers told De Telegraaf. "We have sent everyone to Feyenoord. Luc and his parents prefer to stay at Feyenoord for now. "A construction where a big team would sign him and directly loan him out to Feyenoord could be an option."

More coaching shake-up's brings Dalglish return closer

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is continuing his summer shake up of the academy with the departure of four of his coaches reports the Mail. “Gary Ablett is being replaced as reserve team manager after three years, another former player, Hugh McAuley, who guided the under 18s to the FA Youth Cup Final is also departing. Youth coaches Dave Lever and Dave Shannon are also leaving. Frank McParland will return to oversee the backroom set-up and former Barcelona and Olympiakos coach Jose Segura is taking over as Academy Director.” The wholesale changes appear to pave the way for Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish to return to the club as an “advisor or ambassador” claims the article. The story also states that “popular former midfielder Gary McAllister is also being linked with a coaching role.”

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Ryan Babel is told he can leave Anfield

Today’s Daily Post is stating that “Ryan Babel could become the first high-profile casualty of Rafael Benitez’s summer shake-up after being told he can leave Liverpool.”

The article goes on to say: “Babel’s agent Winnie Haatrecht met with the Anfield manager to discuss the player having a more prominent first-team role next season. Benitez, though, was unable to offer such guarantees and has informed the Holland international he may now speak to other clubs during the transfer window. That is likely to spark a chase for Babel, who became the third-most expensive player in Liverpool’s history when arriving for £11.5million from Ajax in July 2007. Liverpool will want to recoup of much as that fee as possible, with Babel likely to command a price tag of around £8m.”

The article adds: “Ajax, who yesterday appointed Martin Jol as new coach to succeed Marco van Basten, are thought eager to re-sign Babel but could be put off by the asking price and the player’s wages. Babel is also certain to attract interest from Italy and Spain, with Benitez open to the possibility of using the 22-year-old as a makeweight to facilitate a possible big-money transfer. Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Arsenal have all been linked with a summer move for Babel and could make any interest formal.”

Clearly Benitez means business and wants his summer transfer activity completed as quickly as possible. The story states “Babel has scored 14 goals in 91 appearances for Liverpool. However, only 42 have been in a starting role – a mere six coming this calendar year – with the Dutchman having completed the full 90 minutes on just 15 occasions. With Benitez needing to generate funds to supplement his existing transfer budget, the Spaniard is keen to swiftly move on those players who no longer form part of his plans.”

Unfortunately Babel, who initially showed much promise in his first season, has been one of the most disappointing in this campaign. He has appeared lazy and uninterested. One could argue he needed more regular starts, but this hasn’t undeterred other players who where in the same position as him. Yossi Benayoun fought his way into the starting eleven after a disappointing start to the season and finished the campaign in sizzling form, terrorising defences and scoring valuable goals. It is clear that Babel has lost his confidence at Liverpool and a recuperation of his massive fee would probably be best for both parties. One fears however, Babel could recapture his potential at another team and turn into the player we all thought he could become with Liverpool.

Speaking about the ongoing dilemma with Sebastian Leto, the article says: “Benitez also wants to solve the work permit problem for Argentine winger Sebastian Leto, who has spent the last season on loan to Greek club Olympiacos. “We will try to work something out, I do not want him to go,” said the Liverpool manager. The reasons for refusing the permit were his lack of international and club experience. Benitez was critical of that decision, but is likely to sell Leto if the permit is refused once again.”

Rafa wants his transfers as soon as possible

Transfer Speculation

Rafa Benitez wants Liverpool’s summer transfer activity to be done and dusted by the time pre-season gets under way says the Echo. “The Reds boss is keen to conclude his business at the earliest possible opportunity in what is expected to be another busy summer at Anfield. Benitez will need to supplement his existing transfer budget with the proceeds from player sales and he is looking to start work on overhauling his squad immediately. But he concedes it won’t be easy to make improvements to what he regards as a high quality squad.”

The article quotes Rafa as saying: “Clearly we want to sign players but we know that it will be difficult to find players who are better than what we already have. It is not easy to find this kind of player in the current market and if we do then maybe they will be too expensive or not available. But we have to sign the right players and make the right decisions during the summer. We have some targets but right now it is too soon because some clubs do not know what the future holds for them but we will wait and see. But our idea is to have players signed before pre-season begins because this would be perfect. It means you can start working with them and training with them with the ideas that you want to get across to them so that they can start putting them into practice on the pitch.”

The article also goes on to say “Gareth Barry remains Benitez’s major target and with Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill admitting he will not stand in the England man’s way should a top four club make an acceptable offer for him Liverpool’s move for the 28-year-old is likely to come sooner rather than later. O’Neill is reported to be ready to offer Barry a lucrative new deal in a bid to keep his captain at Villa Park but with the midfielder keen to play Champions League football such overtures are likely to fall on deaf ears.”

Also mentioned in the piece is Madrid’s pursuit of Alonso. It may be a concern that the Echo is taking this rumour seriously, as they often report accurate information. The article states: “the likelihood of Real Madrid making an offer for Xabi Alonso has increased after one of Florentino Perez’s main rivals to become president of the Spanish giants pulled out of the race. Perez has made little secret of his desire to sign Alonso should he become president and Liverpool are now braced for a bid from Real.”

Middlesbrough’s relegation rekindles Wheater interest

Transfer Speculation

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is hoping to revive his interest in Middlesbrough defender and Ian Dowie look-a-like: David Wheater after the Riverside club were relegated from the Premier League claims today’s Telegraph.

The article goes on to say: “Benitez tried to sign the England under-21 international last summer and enquired about his availability in January but his Middlesbrough counterpart Gareth Southgate was unwilling to part with one of the key players in his side’s battle for survival. Now, though, Southgate knows he needs to trim his squad to cope with the financial impact of demotion and, with Stewart Downing injured, Wheater is one of his most saleable assets. The only sticking point for Liverpool would be the defender’s asking price. Birmingham were last week quoted £9 million for the player, a fee Benitez would be unwilling to pay for a back-up central defender with funds at Anfield at a premium.”

The article also goes on to say: “sources close to full-back Andrea Dossena have insisted the Italian international is happy at Anfield despite struggling to make impact following his £7 million move from Udinese last summer. Reports in Italy suggest Dossena is a target for Napoli and Sampdoria but he is believed to be willing to remain in England to fight for his place.”

Let’s hope this is pure speculation and a deal can be truck to sell the player. Dossena has not been a good buy, appearing overweight when he arrived at Anfield. The second half of the season was moderately better as he’d clearly shed a few pounds and was able to at least make fairly dangerous runs down the wing. However one suspects he will not improve enough and if an Italian club comes in for him, we would be best advised to sell. Although few Liverpool fans have few good things to say about him, he will always be remembered for his two remarkable goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Liverpool 3 - Tottenham Hotspur 1

Premiership Match report

Tottenham were playing for a European place, Liverpool for pride and possibly to give the home fans a good sending off before the summer. At times the football from the reds was wonderfully flowing and to be fair Spurs offered little resistance in the early part of the game, considering they were still vying for a place in the newly formed Europa League. However one of the first chances came from Spurs as Ekotto struck a fierce shot at Reina, which was comfortably saved, but it gave Harry Redknapp’s men a small period of possession albeit with little to show for it. Torres then gave a display of his magic, receiving the ball virtually at the half way line he ran at the spurs side turning Jenas and Corluka, with such explosive pace, that one may have suspected he had a secret turbo charger hidden in his boots. Leaving both Spurs players looking like statues he screamed forward, unfortunately Jenas determined not to be shown up, regained ground and did enough to put Torres off and his scuffed shot was easily saved. The breakthrough came after a poor clearance by Ekotto on the edge of the Spurs penalty area, which Gerrard received and passed to Kuyt who was making a blistering run down the right wing. His perfect cross into the danger zone was met by Fernando Torres who despite being surrounded by three Tottenham players easily headed the ball past goal keeper Gomes. It hit the underside of the cross bar and in. It was his fiftieth goal for the Reds, achieving the landmark quicker then Dalglish, Rush, Aldridge, Fowler or Owen. It’s difficult not to imagine how the season would have turned out had a fit Torres been terrorising defences in every game. The goal seemed to begin the festivities with the fans, and they sang through the greatest hits: Torres, Rafa, Alonso, even Dalglish. But the biggest reception was for their soon to be departing Anfield legend: Sami Hyypia, playing his final match for the Reds.

Just before the end of the half, Spurs had their first real chance as Defoe clear on goal, left the Red backline and hoping for a flag, but offside he wasn’t. Pepe Reina ran to meet the pacey striker and must have looked like the towering ape goliath: Kong to the diminutive forward, whose attempt at a chip/shot was easily saved. The ease of how he beat the offside trap, should have set off the alarm bells, but it didn’t. Robbie Keane would profit from this later. The first half almost over gave Benayoun one last chance, but his fizzing shot didn’t dip enough to hit the target.

Liverpool have not lost a game at Anfield when they have scored first, during Benitez entire reign as manager and the statistic bode well for an attacking Liverpool. The second goal almost came as Gerrard made a surging run down the left wing flicking the ball towards Torres, but it was deflected out for a corner. Then Alonso tried two of his long range specials in quick succession, the second almost catching Gomes unawares. Through all this Tottenham almost had a breakthrough after a series of sloppy tackles gave them a free kick on the edge of the D. Bales kick was decent enough to beat the wall and Reina saved after initially spilling the shot. Liverpool now surged forward determined to score a second goal and it came after clever interplay between Gerrard, who passed to Benayoun who laid off towards Kuyt, whose shot was deflected off Hutton into the open net. It was almost three when Gerrard receiving the ball from midfield shot at goal but the angle was too acute. His shot passed Gomes, but hit the post. As the crowd demanded ‘Justice for the 96’, Gerrard almost came close again as his shot seared over the top of the goal. Then it became like goal practice as Riera’s shot scorched the post.

As the crowd persisted for Sami Hyypia to be introduced with chants of “Sami on!”, Robbie Keane found himself in acres of space and the Anfield back line wanting. The defenders looked for a flag that would never come and Keane shot the ball past Reina into the net. Keane’s goal signaled the end of Pepe Reina’s pursuit of the Golden Gloves for the fourth year running. Much to his credit, the Irish Striker, once a boy hood Liverpool fan, did not celebrate his strike. It was a gesture that brought appreciative applause from the Anfield crowd. Tottenham’s hopes that this would spark a comeback were short lived, when a defencive mix up left Gerrard with the ball who stabbed it through to a surging Benayoun. The Israeli slotted the ball low past Gomes’s right. The keeper got a little touch, but it wasn’t enough and the ball rolled into the net. It was almost four as Gerrard took a stinging free kick from 30 yards out which fizzed past the post. It was to be his last touch of the game, for an Anfield legend was about to make his final appearance. It brought the biggest reception from the Anfield crowd as the towering Finn came onto the pitch. The Hollywood ending almost came as he met an Aurelio corner, but his goal bound header was cleared by Gomes who sprawled the shot out of danger. It was the final chance of the game and a fitting end to Liverpool’s campaign and Sami Hyypia’s ten years service. Although no trophy was won, this season has brought a number of positives. It was Liverpool’s first unbeaten home programme for 21 years, with the team loosing only two matches away from home. Their 86 points tally is their highest in the Premier League, likewise their total of away wins is their highest in the Premier League and in March 2009, Reina then went on to become the quickest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to keep 100 clean sheets in all competitions. One feels that we are only a few short steps away from the biggest prize of all.

Match time and date: KO 16:00. 25 May 2009

Goals: Liverpool: Torres 31, Hutton 64 og, Benayoun 81. Tottenham Hotspur: Keane 77

Yellow cards: Tottenham Corluka.Referee: P Walton

Attendance: 43,937

Liverpool: (4-2-3-1): Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio; Alonso, Mascherano; Kuyt (Riera, 65), Gerrard (Hyypia, 86), Benayoun; Torres (Ngog, 78). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Lucas, Insua, Degan.

Tottenham Hotspur: (4-1-3-2): Gomes; Hutton, Corluka, King, Assou-Ekotto; Zokora; Modric, Jenas (Bentley, 39), Bale (Bent, 78); Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 69), Keane. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Gunter, Campbell, Chimbonda.

Leto to be let go?

The Independent has today highlighted the on going saga with Argentina-born winger Sebastián Leto, who has spent the last season on loan to Greek club Olympiacos. The story says that “Leto has impressed in Greece and played over 30 games for Olympiacos, despite having disciplinary problems with coach Ernesto Valverde, who has now left the club. Benitez could now sell Leto, or send him out on loan again - although that is now unlikely with the 22-year-old wanting his future cleared up permanently. He signed for Liverpool in August 2007 and figured in pre-season friendlies and early qualifying rounds for the Champions League, but could not make his Premier League debut because of the passport and work permit problems. The reasons for refusing the permit were his lack of international and club experience. Benitez was critical of that decision, and hopes that a season in the Greek league and selection for the Olympics will change the situation. If not Leto will also be sold this summer, with a £3m fee now likely." says the article

Mascherano insists Reds must keep Alonso

Javier Mascherano is adamant that Liverpool do all they can to keep Xabi Alonso. The midfielder and my pick for ‘Player of the Season’ has been the subject of much press gossip over the past few weeks. Speaking in the Independent Mascherano said: "Xabi is so influential. Hopefully the great players at Liverpool can stay and we can bring another player in to improve the team. It is important when you have the team in good form you keep the key players, and Xabi is one of them. For sure Rafa will work really hard to improve the squad and maybe next season we will be stronger. If we can keep this squad and improve it, things will be really good for the future. We will be fighting in all the competitions, not just league."

Lerner tries to stay optimistic about Barry

Transfer Speculation

Randy Lerner is optimistic Gareth Barry will remain at Aston Villa say’s today’s Guardian. “We have discussed a new contract with Gareth" said Lerner. "I would give Barry the highest ranking possible. He is the best. He is a gentleman, a great player, a pleasure to be around, a leader, a great captain.”

However the next comment appears to reveal a more realistic evaluation of the situation:

“Am I optimistic Gareth will stay? Yes, I am optimistic. It is my nature.”

Whilst today’s Daily Star says “Manchester City and Spurs are in a £12m head-to-head battle for he player”. Whilst using no actual comments from either club or manager, the article goes on to speculate that “Barry is set to quit Aston Villa after the club failed to qualify for Champions League football next season, and he is wanted by both Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp. The 28-year-old would prefer a move to either Liverpool or Arsenal – but at the moment neither club are showing interest in the England midfielder. City would easily splash the cash for Barry and double the £45,000-a-week-deal he is currently on. Hughes wants to rebuild his side and knows that he needs characters and players he can rely on. Redknapp has always been an admirer of Barry and nearly bought him for Portsmouth a couple of seasons ago for £5m. He would not be able to match the wages that City can offer, but Spurs’ bright finish to the campaign could entice Barry. But Villa manager Martin O’Neill will still do everything he can to keep his senior star if a Champions League team does not make a bid. He has repeatedly said he could understand Barry leaving if one of the big four again made a move for him, but unless that happens he will try and persuade him to sign a new deal. Kop boss Rafa Benitez is still unsure as to whether to make another bid for Barry, but his hand might be forced if Xabi Alonso insists on quitting Merseyside. Real Madrid have shown interest in the Spanish midfielder and there was speculation over the weekend that the former Real Sociedad star will put in a written transfer request.”

Benitez in for Gourcuff and Spider-Man!!

Transfer Speculation

Today’s Guardian, in their round up of transfer story’s say Rafael Benítez, will join Arsene Wenger in aiming to "convince Bordeaux to complete the signing of the magical Yoann Gourcuff from Milan and then sell him straight on to their Champions League rivals.”

Guurcuff is on a season long loan at Bordeaux from AC Milan and has scored 12 goals for the French club. He was voted the goal of the season by fans after a spectacular goal against Paris Saint-Germain in a 4–0 victory in January He was also named Ligue 1’s Player of the Year and was in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year.

The Guardian article also states that any purchase of Guurcuff may “leave enough money for Benítez to mount a rescue operation for Jonas Gutierrez.”

Gutierrez is currently playing for recently relegated Newcastle United and has the nickname "Spiderman" which he acquired during his time at Real Mallorca where he celebrated a goal by putting on a Spiderman mask.

Mascherano eager to see close friend Tevez at Anfield

Transfer Speculation

Javier Mascherano has admitted that he would love to see his close friend Carlos Tevez at Anfield. Recent speculation in the media has suggested that Tevez is contemplating a move from Old Trafford when his loan deal expires this summer. The player himself has confirmed he could be playing for one of United’s rivals next year. Speaking in today’s Telegraph about his Argentinean team mate possibly joining him at Anfield, Mascherano said: "It would be great if Carlos can come here because I know how good he is, but I don't know what the situation with his transfer is. It's something for the manager to talk about. All I can say is that he is a great player and a great person."

Phil Chisnall was the last player to directly transfer between the clubs, but Rafael Benitez is hoping to take advantage of Ferguson's apparent unwillingness to pay the reported £22 million fee agreed with Kia Joorabchian, Tevez's representative, to secure the striker.

The article goes on to say that “Benitez would struggle to compete in a bidding war for Tevez, with just £20 million plus player sales thought to be at his disposal, though the potential departure of Xabi Alonso for Real Madrid would give him a degree of leeway.”

The story also explains other transfer issues that Rafa may be encountering by stating “His transfer plans have already been disrupted by the announcement that Hertha Berlin will not look to sign on-loan striker Andriy Voronin on a permanent basis" Which holds little surprise to any Liverpool fan, most of which have suggested he "has all the skill of a donkey". The German side's failure to reach the Champions League means they will not be taking up the option to buy him and he will be returning to Anfield. 'The Independent' states that Voronin "is now expected to be put up for sale with a £6m price tag" !!!??? Are they talking about the same player?

The report also suggest that Liverpool will be outbid by Madrid in the race to sign Valencia's David Silva. Again, there's very little shock in this revelation. Madrid will be willing to spend big money on dancing ponies if it would lever control away from Barcelona in the La Liga

Monday, 25 May 2009

'Legend' Hyypia bids an emotional farewell a Anfield

Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia bid an emotional farewell to the club yesterday after the Reds beat Spurs 3-1 at Anfield. For an entire decade Hyypia has made Liverpool’s back line one of the best in the Premier League. A quiet, colossus who never once publicly questioned the club, even when he was stripped of the captaincy, or later the vice captaincy. His cup tally with the reds was remarkable, winning the FA Cup, League Cup, Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup twice each. The UEFA Cup once and of course, who could forget the Champions League. Sadly the one cup that has eluded him, is the one cup that has eluded the club for twenty years, but one suspects that will be put right next term, unfortunately without the dignified Finn. Yesterday marked his 464 club appearances since arriving in a £2.5million deal from Dutch club Willem II in the summer of 1999, and the Kop displayed a special mosaic before kick off in honour of the man, simply saying ‘Sami’.

The defender was on the bench for the clash and for almost the entire game heard the crowd sing his name. With five minutes left on the clock, Benitez finally relented to the pressure and allowed the 35-year-old to come on to replace Steven Gerrard who gave Hyypia his captains arm band. During his career, he scored 35 goals, his most memorable being the sweet volley against Juventus in the Champions League quarter final in April 2005. The Hollywood ending was denied yesterday, as Hyypia almost scored his 36 goal, but his goal bound header was cleared off the line.

Once the final whistle came, the emotions ran high and as Sami bid his farewells to the crowd he had to wipe the tears from his eyes with his shirt. Then He was hoisted aloft by the team and carried on their shoulders like a hero. It was a fitting farewell to a true Anfield legend and a player that will surely be viewed as one of the Premier League's finest foreign imports.

"It was fantastic and I would like to thank the fans for that and for their wonderful support to me during the 10 years I have been at the club," Hyypia told Liverpoolfc.tv. "There were a few tears at the end and I was surprised I managed to keep them inside until then. That was a sad moment for me. I've always had a really good relationship with the fans. They have treated me as their own from day one and that will never change. I will miss them. Goodbyes are never easy but life goes on. Now I'm looking forward to a new challenge in Germany but I'm leaving Liverpool behind with great memories but sad feelings."

Benitez speaking to Sky Sports after the game said: "It was good. We wanted to win, we wanted to score more goals and to guarantee another three points so 86 points and a lot of goals was very positive and also because it was the last day of Sami it was very emotional."

"He has been a fantastic professional," The veteran Finn who will now join German side Bayern Leverkusen on a two-year-deal before almost certainly returning to Anfield in a coaching capacity.

"The last five years he has been really, really good but before was the same - so 10 years you are talking about a legend. You are talking about someone who is so good as a person and as a professional for us if he comes back quickly we will be really satisfied."

There are a great set of photo's of Sami's farewell at the official site, and can be viewed here:
http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/drilldown/N164511090524-2032.htm

there is also a video here:
http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/drilldown/N164512090524-2013.htm

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Rafa makes peace with Fergie

Today’s Mirror is claiming that Rafael Benitez has penned a private letter to Alex Ferguson to make peace after the Manchester United grandson was injured in a car crash. The comments are ambiguously taken from “An Anfield Insider” and the article goes on to say: “Benitez, a father of two girls, wrote offering his help while 10-year-old Charlie Ferguson is at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.” An Anfield insider said: "There is an intense football rivalry between them, but that’s all it is - a football rivalry. Everything that has been said has been designed to gain an edge on the pitch. But when it comes to matters like this, Rafa is a family man who understands exactly what Sir Alex is going through.

"He wants to help any way he can. Rafa knows how difficult it must be, and he feels for a fellow manager who he respects as a person and a family man himself."

But the letter will help build bridges and another source said: "Rafa wanted Sir Alex to know that if he or his family needed anything while the youngster was in Liverpool, they only had to ask."

This is another article to file under "Bullshit or not"

Rafa bids for Napoli forward Lavezzi

Transfer Speculation

The Telegraph is reporting that Liverpool have made a bid or Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi. The Italian media have been quick to call him the “new Maradona”, however Lavezzi himself plays this down, instead comparing himself to Carlos Tevez. The article goes on to say: “Reports in Italy that Napoli have rejected an £18 million offer from Liverpool for the Argentinean international Ezequiel Lavezzi suggest he can be added to a list of potential Benitez targets. The forward, who is thought to be keen to leave the club, wants to play in the Champions League and would be a viable alternative to either Tevez or Silva.

His agent, Alejandro Mazzoni, said: "The offer from Liverpool was genuine, and came with a £2.5 million yearly salary." Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Napoli president, insists Lavezzi "is not for sale, unless an offer too good to refuse arrives."

Setanta Sports News claim that Eduardo Rossetto is the players agent and speaking with La Gazzetta Dello Sport he said: “Napoli own the player, and they have the last word," He goes on to say "I can confirm that an important offer exceeding 20million euros was made, but [chairman Aurelio] De Laurentiis did not consider it sufficient. Will he stay? That depends on Napoli. It's like owning a car. If it's just an average motor then you don't have to spend much on maintenance. But, if it's a high spec type, then it will cost you more. Without going into too much detail, Lavezzi's wages would be tripled."

The Telegraph article also speculates about other targets that Rafa has in his sights with a list of the usual suspects heading top of the list. It goes on to say that “Benitez has already drawn up a list of transfer targets, with Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Glen Johnson his four priorities. Financing those moves will be an issue, though. He is likely to be granted just £20 million for one major signing by owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, although he may add to this through sales. Andrea Dossena, Andriy Voronin, Sebastian Leto and Ryan Babel will all be sold if appropriate offers are received."

The Guardian has Martin O’Neil asking Gareth Barry to think twice about a move to Anfield. "People have said before that we 'beat' Liverpool but that wasn't the case," said O'Neill, reflecting on Villa's resistance to Liverpool's attempts to sign Barry 12 months ago. "If they had come up with the deal and met our price then I assume it would have gone through. One of the disappointing aspects for Gareth was that Liverpool were claiming they could only afford this certain [amount] of money and then spent £20m on Robbie Keane almost overnight." Asked if that course of events upset Barry, O'Neill replied: "I'm sure if I was a player I would have been [hurt]. If someone had told me they were coming for me and the next thing they're saying they don't have it and then they go and buy someone else for £20m within a day or two, that would be a different issue."

The piece goes on to say that Barry will need to choose between his desire to play Champions League football or having to cope with the possibility of not playing every game for the Reds. The player certainly has decisions to make in the coming weeks, with the possibility he may let his contract run out and leave Villa on a free transfer next summer. "There is no rush," said O'Neill. "Gareth has got things to ponder and consider. Obviously his own thoughts, not mine, could be more concerned about his England position and obviously that's something that he is considering. He wants Champions League football. The thing to consider is that we would rotate less than other teams and Gareth is one who thrives on playing most weeks."

The Mirror says any potential deal will not be cheap and speculates that "Liverpool will still have to pay at least £10million for Gareth Barry". Barry has been priced between £8-£12 million in the past few weeks by various papers. O’Neil goes on to say: "The price obviously with a year left to run is a different issue," said O’Neill, who has offered Barry a lucrative new deal to stay. But by the same token he is an England international player, he has captained his country and he is still only 28 years old. He wouldn’t come cheaply even in this day and age."

Sky Sports News has Rafa playing down the press speculation regarding summer transfers, saying: "When you know your targets then you read things you can say, 'they have no idea'. I don't waste too much time on this. We have already had about 90 Spanish players linked with us. Today there were three names we do not even know. We have some money, not big money. But for me now it is not about how much, but how good they are for us."

Sammy Lee took Benitez’s place in yesterday’s pre Spurs press conference and confirmed that Xabi Alonso was definitely in Liverpool’s plans for the future, by saying: "The talk about Alonso (going to Real Madrid) is pure speculation. You cannot prevent talk. But we always want to keep the spine of the team, our very best players. You can't stop speculation, but we want to keep the core of our squad, the best players, here. New players will be brought in. You always want to keep improving on the field compared to what we have done this season. There is a platform now to go forward and hopefully win the title, but we have to get the best out of this squad to do it." This confirmed an interview that Rafa gave to Liverpool TV: "It's very clear - Xabi has three years left and we do not want to sell him."

Friday, 22 May 2009

Statistics reveal Reds will win the Premier League next season

Statistics always conjure interesting reading. Today’s Telegraph has a set of stats that reveal the battle between Liverpool and United over League titles has been an ongoing race, which Liverpool will win next season. Here’s how the battle has played out so far:

Liverpool won two titles before United had drawn blood.
Then United won two without Liverpool interruption.
Then Liverpool won three, before United picked up three.
Then Liverpool took one, United one, Liverpool one and United one.
Then Liverpool won 11 without Mancunian intervention, before United this season completed the same number.

So there you have it, Rafael Benitez need not concern himself with his summer purchases because history insists it is his turn next!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Hyypia relishes a return as coach

Sami Hyypia has been described as a "Liverpool legend" by his manager Rafa Benitez after 463 club appearances since arriving in a £2.5million deal from Dutch club Willem II in the summer of 1999. Hyypia is also eager to take up the offer of becoming a coach at Anfield once his playing days are over.

“I'd like to come back to Liverpool one day as a coach, and it was great to hear the manager would like me to return,"

"Coaching has always been in my mind, but I have to take my badges first. I haven't done that yet because I want to keep playing, and I thought at this stage it would be a burden.”

"But at the end of my playing career I'll look to take the badges and then see. I've so many memories of Liverpool, and really would love to return one day.”

"I think it will only be after I've finally left that I'll be able to sit back and realise what we've done in my 10 years. It's hard to take in now. It is nice to be remembered here."

Alonso not for sale warn Reds

Transfer Speculation

With more Alonso transfer gossip emerging in today’s tabloids, it looks like its going to be a long summer having to deal with the same story over and over again. The only thing that’s changing is the price. Real Madrid are said to be on the verge of offering £23 million for the midfielder according to today’s Telegraph. So that means his price has upped £6 million in the past seven days. Maybe come the end of the summer a deal may be worth striking!

Real attempted to sign Alonso five years ago, with Alonso's agent - Inaki Ibanez - meeting then president Florentino Perez to hammer out a deal. Alonso is back on Perez’s radar should he win the presidential election on June 17. However Liverpool have moved to dismiss the gossip by stating Alonso is not up for grabs, with a spokesman saying: "There has been no contact, the player is not for sale"

Agger admits it would have been a mistake to leave Reds

Daniel Agger has acknowledged that it would have been a serious error to leave Liverpool, had he rejected the clubs offer of a new contract says today’s Guardian. “The Denmark international ended months of uncertainty over his future recently when he agreed terms on a new five-year contract with Liverpool, one that will replace the final 12 months of his existing deal and keep him at Anfield until 2014 on an improved salary of around £55,000 a week.”

The article goes on to say that “Agger had been reluctant to commit his future to Liverpool due in part to a lack of first-team starts under Rafael Benítez since returning from a series of metatarsal fractures, with Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel the manager's preferred partnership in central defence this season, and his agent held talks with the likes of Milan over the possibility of a cut-price move under the "Webster ruling" this summer. Now, however, with his deal agreed although unsigned, and Liverpool emerging as genuine rivals to Manchester United in the Premier League, the 24-year-old admits it would have been unwise to leave a club on an upward curve.”

"I've agreed a contract, the manager has agreed a new contract, Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt and some other players are all agreeing contracts so I think this shows you that within the club there is a real sense that we are building towards something special," said Agger

Liverpool FC condemn Cohen’s radio lies

Liverpool Football Club have released a statement responding to comments made by the London-born, US-based Radio presenter Steve Cohen. The DJ has continuously claimed Liverpool fans were partly responsible for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, and last month reiterated the claim on his radio show. Speaking two days before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster he said: “showing up without tickets, hellbent on getting into somewhere they shouldn’t be going because they don’t have tickets” was the “root cause” of the tragedy. Cohen has since offered a half hearted apology for his comments, but he still did not retract his claim.

Liverpool FC’s official statement reads: "Liverpool Football Club totally condemns the comments regarding the Hillsborough disaster made by the radio and TV broadcaster Steve Cohen.

"Mr Cohen has obviously never taken the time to read the Taylor Report which stated clearly that ticketless fans were not a contributory factor or responsible for the events of that day.

"To use the 20th anniversary of the disaster to repeat false claims about Liverpool fans (which Mr Cohen first broadcast and then apologised for in 2006) is even more unacceptable."

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Rafa’s summer shopping list

Transfer Speculation

The Mirror has given a detailed description of how they see Rafa spending his summer transfer money. The article says:

The Liverpool manager will again be given sizeable funds this summer to make new signings, with more than £25million earmarked by the club's American owners. But Benitez knows he needs to take the final step to title glory, especially given the buys United will inevitably make this summer. So the additional funds will have to come from selling some of his current squad, with the likes of Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena and possibly even Xabi Alonso sacrificed. That will give him almost £50million to spend, but he believes that will still mean him having to be perfect in his dealings. This time he would love to sign Valencia's tricky winger David Silva along with his colleague and Spanish centre half Raul Albiol, who between them would cost the best part of £30m.

The article additionally states "Benitez is also committed to the purchase of Gareth Barry, who he is hoping to land for £10m, and is keen on bringing Portsmouth's Glen Johnson to Anfield for a similar fee. That would be his kitty completely gone, yet Benitez would love the chance to take a swipe at Ferguson by also bidding to make Carlos Tevez the first player to move between Anfield and Old Trafford in more than 40 years."

Another Mirror article speculates that a devastated “Stewart Downing could miss out on his dream £12million switch to Liverpool or Spurs after suffering a broken foot. The England winger will have an operation on Friday to repair the break, sustained against Aston Villa last Saturday, that will keep him out until August at least and with little time to get fit ahead of a big-money transfer.”

Also in the Mirror is a piece claiming “Aston Villa are offering Gareth Barry a huge new deal in a final attempt to keep him out of Liverpool's clutches. Villa boss Martin O'Neill is willing to sanction England midfielder Barry, 28, getting a whopping £65,000-a-week to stay. The star has one year left on his contract at Villa Park and had been widely expected to move to Liverpool this summer. But O'Neill hopes the proposed new deal, plus the lure of regular first team football, the captaincy and offer of a testimonial, will tempt Barry to stay.”

Steven Cohen apologises for Hillsborough comments but doesn't retract his claims

American shock jock DJ Steven Cohen has apologised for comments he made last month after he suggested fans were partly responsible for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, say’s today’s Echo. Boy hood Chelsea supporter Cohen, made the comments two days before the 20th anniversary on his radio show, World Soccer Daily, which is broadcast on satellite radio and on the internet. The article goes on to say:

His claims provoked outrage amongst Liverpool supporters both in the UK and USA and advertisers. Four high-profile sponsors have already pulled out and it is understood satellite station Setanta are considering not renewing their contract when it expires.

Cohen finally made that apology this week, more than a month after his comment that people “showing up without tickets, hellbent on getting into somewhere they shouldn’t be going because they don’t have tickets” was the “root cause” of the tragedy.

He said: “My apology is directed at any and all people whose feelings have been hurt and people who have had awful memories and scars re-opened.
“The apology is heartfelt, genuine and sincere.”

He added: “I believe in the freedom of speech, opinion and expression and hold these values and freedoms as being among the most treasured of all freedoms. I recognise that with my position as one of the hosts of a popular radio show, I have a responsibility to my audience and perhaps the radio is not the ideal place to express every opinion and every belief I have if the net result is many people being hurt and upset.”

The full "apology" can be read here:


Clearly this statement is no more then a token gesture intended to preserving his job and gratifying the sponsor’s and advertisers that essentially pay his wage. He has frequently made irresponsible and ill informed remarks regarding the Hillsborough disaster. At no point in his so called apology does this un-educated DJ actually retract his claims. An apology means nothing unless you actually believe in the words you say.

If you would like to complain further, his contact details can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1120031@N22/

Is Rafa preparing to break club's transfer record?

Rafa Benitez has revealed that he is prepared to break the club's transfer record again this summer. The story on Sky Sports News is attaching Rafa’s quote to the latest round of Carlos Tevez speculation.

"We may well break our transfer record, but certainly not Manchester United's. But it does not matter about the prices, it is doing the right thing and finding the right players. The next step is to overcome Manchester United, and that is the hardest. It does all come down to the money they have been able to spend, that is the difference. If we want to reduce this gap we have to be really good in the transfer market this summer. That can be the difference between winning the two or three extra points that we would need to win the title. We do not have that sort of money, so we have to be cute and clever in the market. Then it does not matter if you have money or not. When you have a lot of money it is easier because nobody notices your mistakes. For us it is important to find good targets to buy and make ourselves successful. We have learned a lot about our squad this season, we know each player that little bit better and it means we can improve for next season. The fact that we have won nine of our last 10 games and not won the title just shows the high level of the Premier League .This season we have managed very good performances against the top sides, something we had not been doing before and now we have to improve a little bit more. We have 83 points and that would have been enough to win the title on six other occasions since the Premier League started. I can only underline that I am pleased and proud of my team to have gone this close."

Liverpool - Atletico Madrid friendly announced

Liverpool have announced a pre season friendly with Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Saturday 8th August, with Fernando Torres certainly relishing the challenge of playing against his former club. Torres was injured when the Reds met the La Liga outfit in this season’s group stage Champions League matches. Both games ended in draws.

The clash will round off Liverpool’s pre-season preparations which also include a tour of the Far East and fixtures against Rapid Vienna, FC Lyn and St Gallen. Another match featuring Spanish opposition has also been pencilled in with the Reds due to travel to Barcelona to face Espanyol on Sunday August 2 but that clash is still to be confirmed.

New Stadium World Cup deadline

Today’s Independent is claiming that Liverpool proposed new stadium plans have a December deadline in order to be submitted for England’s 2018 World Cup bid. The article states that: “Liverpool's council leader Warren Bradley, whose organisation will decide which stadiums to put forward as part of Liverpool's host city bid, yesterday warned Liverpool they have until December to resolve their stadium issues or risk missing out on hosting the World Cup. Though Anfield could be put forward, Everton could conceivably be awarded 2018 status at Liverpool's expense if their proposed new 55,000-seat stadium in Kirkby gets the go-ahead. A planning inspector is currently considering the outcome of a public inquiry into Everton's plans and communities secretary Hazel Blears is expected to rule by the autumn on whether that stadium will get the go-ahead.”

Bradley has been behind a Liverpool - Everton ground-share

Latest Tevez Rumours

Transfer Speculation

A number of media outlets are bursting with the latest ‘Tevez speculation of the day’. Today’s rumour announces that Liverpool are poised to beat Tottenham Hotspur in the race to sign Carlos Tevez, with The Reds on the verge of offering owner Kia Joorabchian £26 million and pay the striker £160,000 a week. The quotes have simply come from “a source” and say:

"It seems amazing that Liverpool have the money to do this when you consider their owners are looking for funds. But Spurs were told that Liverpool were going to get the deal done and that Tevez was very happy about it."

Manchester United Chief Executive Officer David Gill said earlier this week that the club wants to keep Tevez, and that a transfer fee of about £25 million is being discussed. Tevez’s economic rights are owned by businessman Kia Joorabchian, and the player has technically been on loan from his company for two seasons.
Today's Echo has played down the story by stating "Contrary to reports, Liverpool have made no offer for unsettled Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez."

Alonso out – Martinez in

Transfer Speculation
Once again tabloid rumours about Xabi Alonso rear their ugly head and I get the impression that they won’t die down despite numerous quotes from Benitez, Alonso & his agent to the contrary. Yesterdays Star is running the story that Alonso could go to Real Madrid in a deal worth £21 million if Florentino Perez returns as club president. The article goes on to state that “Sources in Spain claim Alonso’s agent has been sounded out over a summer switch to the Bernabeu. Champions League finalists Barcelona have also shown an interest in him, along with Arsenal. But Perez’s camp claim they will make Liverpool an offer they cannot refuse to bring Alonso, 27, home, if he wins the election in mid June. Alonso still has three years left on his contract but his agent Inaki Ibanez said: “Many things could happen in the summer. The first is to finish the season and after that to attend to other matters. Xabi has signed for three more years and his future depends on Liverpool.”

Reds boss Rafa Benitez has already sounded out a potential replacement in 20 year old Athletic Bilbao whizzkid Javi Martinez. Although, the article states that Benitez is unwilling to mach the £18 million buy-out clause in his contract.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Gerrard certain Reds will win title next season

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard is already energized for next season and is certain a few core signings will catapult them to league glory. Giving an interview to Teamtalk the captain stated "The couple of signings the manager will make this summer are really key to us getting over that final hurdle, because we know that maybe with a couple of per cent more we could have won it this time. This is the first time I've been involved in a title race that has lasted the distance and the buzz of running United really close has been so enjoyable that I want more of it.”

"I'll have certain regrets when the season ends but I don't normally like looking back, to be honest. This time I'm going to use the experience to drive me on and try to win the title over the next few years. We certainly have the ability, as we've shown this year.”

"It's a hard league to win and it's taught me that you do need the experience of being in title races to win them. I think because Chelsea and United both have that experience, maybe that's where we've come unstuck. Sometimes you just have to go for it and take big risks to win the kind of games that we have drawn. But we've learned a lot and I think next year could be our year - I'm really confident about that."

The Liverpool captain agreed a two-year extension to his current deal last month, which will keep him at the club until 2013, which will see him end his career for the club. He continued: "I am on the verge of signing it now, there are just a couple of minor details, so I am hoping I can sign it before I go off on my holidays. This is a big contract for me and it's likely to be my final one. It takes me to 33 but I feel I'm in the prime of my footballing career at the moment.”

"I feel confident and strong and I feel really good when I'm out on the pitch. The aim for me now is to stay fit for the next four years and try to play as many games as I can and win as many trophies as I can.”

"I'm getting greedy when it comes to winning trophies because I know I have to win as many as I can before it's too late."

This season has been far from smooth off the pitch with Gerrard facing a probable July court appearance after an incident in a Southport bar. He added: "I've had to deal with a situation this season that's been difficult and if that had happened to me four or five years ago, it would have affected my form, I've no doubts about that. But, with age, experience and maturity, I have learned to park my problems or things on my mind until after a game. I have learned to deal with it in my own way and get on with life."