Monday, 29 June 2009

Alonso talks Real Madrid, Rafa and Liverpool

Xabi Alonso has given an interview in this week’s edition of Spanish magazine ‘Don Balon', which appears to be emerging as a mouth piece for Spanish clubs in pursuit of Liverpool players. It also printed last weeks Javier Mascherano interview. Quotes from the article have been plastered all over the British press today which have reported the interview as: 'Alonso refuses to close door on Real Madrid move.’

Asked if he will soon return to Spain to play, Alonso said:
“I don't close any door in that area, so we'll see what happens.”

The player speaks about last summers troubles in which he was almost sold to Juventus and the current supposed interest from Real:

“Last year I was close to joining Juventus. I do not have a defined career plan. It's always good that several clubs want you, it's better than nobody wanting you, but I can't do too much about it. I know that I have to do my work well and, in the future, I'll decide what I have to decide.”

He is then asked about being linked with other teams and he says:
“The truth is that it is not a situation”

Asked if his would be an 'impossible marriage' to Real Madrid, Alonso says: “No, it does not have to be so impossible.”

The Spanish midfielder also reveals his relationship with the manager:
“My relationship with Benitez is professional, like he has with any other player,

'In my opinion, the team has progressed, but in the end we did not win any titles, so we cannot be happy or satisfied,' he said. No doubt that in the Premier League, we were closer than in other seasons, and in the Champions League we got to the quarter-finals. But what everyone wants is to win titles.'

'I've already been in England five years and the truth is that I have adapted well,' he said. 'I'm happy there, though from the beginning I have longed for certain things, and I continue to do so.'
He is then asked again about all the rumours of transfers and would it a disappointment to remain in Liverpool? “No, not at all it wouldn’t be a disappointment. I carry on as normal.” There is also the suggestion the player would rather remain quite as his words may be misconstrued by the press, stating: “in the end, you know what is really happening, regardless of what you are commenting.” And that he prefers to “keep pretty quiet.”

Following on from this interview, tonight’s Echo reports that “Rafa Benitez will stage clear the air talks with Xabi Alonso this week.”

Following on from international duty, the story says: "Alonso did not give assurances about his future after the Confederations Cup third/fourth place play-off. Asked whether his immediate future lay with Liverpool or Madrid, he said: “That I cannot answer.”

“Benitez does not want to lose either Alonso or Javier Mascherano” says the article, “but if Alonso is keen for a Bernabeu switch – as the Spanish press are reporting – he wants the player to publicly come out and state his intentions.”

The story also states Rafa “has reluctantly accepted there is little he can do to keep hold of a player who is adamant he wants a move,” however speaking about Alonso and Mascherano, the report says: “he will not let both leave Anfield.”

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Torres urges Benitez to buy Villa, Silva and Mata

Fernando Torres has urged Reds boss Rafa Benitez to sign Spanish team mates David Villa, Juan Manuel Mata and David Silva. Speaking ahead of Spain’s third place play off against South Africa Liverpool’s number nine also spoke about how The Reds need to improve next season.

"The big thing is we must improve at home in the Premier League if we want to win the trophy next season,” said Torres in an interview published in today's Mirror.

"We lost a lot of points at home against teams mid-table and have to improve that because if we can get 10 more points at Anfield I think at the end of the season we can win the Premier League. It was frustrating at times last time but football is difficult against these kind of teams. We need players with quality to try to win these kind of games and I hope Liverpool will bring players like this."

He said: "Listen, English football is very difficult because it's very physical and played at a high tempo. At the minute we have a fantastic team to play against the big teams, we are competitive. But maybe against those kind of teams we are not good enough. We have good players, but maybe we need other players.”

Speaking about what new arrivals Torres would like to see at Anfield next season, the Spanish striker suggested three of his international team mates.

"I hope Liverpool will bring players like Silva, Mata or Villa. Small players with quality - like Manchester United had Tevez or Scholes, players like this.”

"Maybe they can make the difference. It could be a big help for us. These are clever players. Yossi Benayoun plays like these kind of players and I hope we can bring more people like that, so we have different options to play against this kind of team."

He added: "I will recommend those players to Rafa Benitez.”

"It's not my job to bring players in, but I hope Liverpool can get players like this because it would strengthen the squad. If we can get 20 fantastic players instead of 12 it's better. Of course I don't know if we have the money to buy them but I think we are on the way.”

Torres suggested that Liverpool may not have the financial might as the Premierships other big hitters but they have something else: "We don't have the same money as Chelsea or Manchester United but we are ambitious."

He added: "I've one last game with Spain, but then I've almost a month's holiday. After that I'll be back fresh at Liverpool. I'll be ready. I won't be tired. I had injuries last season and we learned about that and we must do more work in the preseason now. I think I'll have 20 to 25 days resting and after that we have 25 more days until the start of the season. So we have time enough to prepare the season and I'm looking forward to it."

Arbeloa’s agent says: "let him go"

Alvaro Arbeloa’s agent has added to the speculation surrounding the player by stating Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez must let the defender leave Anfield. Reported in today’s Mirror, Manuel Garcia Quilon, the Spaniard's agent, said:

"Alvaro has a year left on his current deal and Rafa Benitez knows that it's best to let him go now. The career of a football player has many stages and he is qualified to play anywhere."

The Reds boss has stated that he wants Arbeloa to stay at Liverpool “If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition." Arbeloa who is sill on international duty with Spain said earlier this week “I'll be able to think about all this by next Monday." Spain play their final game in the confederations cup for the third-place play-off against hosts South Africa today.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Transfer Speculation: Alonso, Aurelio, Dossena

Xabi Alonso
Today's Times claims that Liverpool have placed a £35 million valuation on Xabi Alonso, “after the Spain midfield player said his goodbyes to some members of the club's staff.” The story goes on to say: “Real Madrid, with whom the player has been linked, have not yet made an official offer,” and “there is a growing acceptance at Anfield that the player is likely to move to Real.” The story also says “Alonso's relationship with Rafael Benítez has been troubled since the Liverpool manager began his pursuit of Gareth Barry last year.” This claim by the Times ignores the interview he gave to Spanish newspaper ‘El Pais’ last weekend in which the player said” I am happy at Liverpool” called Liverpool, “a special club” and talking about Rafa, he said "We have a good professional relationship. We speak normally.” No English newspaper has published the interview.

Fabio Aurelio
looks set to miss the start of the season for Liverpool after damaging his knee playing football with his children, says today’s Express. The article claims The Brazilian left-back is “facing the prospect of surgery and several months on the sidelines”. Aurelio is understood to have twisted a knee playing with son, Fabio jnr, and daughter Victoria. Aurelio has one year left on his current contract and his time at Anfield has been scarred by a succession of injury problems. The injury could impact the proposed move of Andrea Dossena, who may now be required stay at Liverpool.

Andrea Dossena
The defenders agent Roberto La Florio told Italian newspaper ‘Corriere dello Sport’: "For the time being, I have not met (Juventus sporting director) Alessio Secco and I don't have an appointment set up with him in the near future. At this time I don't know if Dossena will join Juventus. We can only wait, we are not in a hurry. In any case the lad (Dossena) is also happy at Liverpool."

Friday, 26 June 2009

RBS Bank write letter to LFC supporters

"The Royal Bank of Scotland has taken the unprecedented step of writing to Liverpool Football Club’s supporters to justify its continuing financial support of the club’s American co-owners" reports the Post.

The bank has been inundated with emails from Liverpool fans requesting the bank to withdraw its financial assistance to Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

“The sending of the email is virtual confirmation the loan will be refinanced.” Says the article.

The message from RBS says:
Thank you for your email expressing concern about RBS' banking arrangements with Liverpool FC and its current owners. We are aware of the strength of feeling of a number of fans on this matter and have corresponded with many during the course of the past year or so.

Perhaps I can start by putting RBS' relationship with Liverpool FC in context. RBS is the main banker to the Club including all of its operating accounts, cash management, online banking, automated payments, and credit card processing to facilitate ticket sales and retail merchandising. We also provide a credit facility to support the Club's working capital requirements and a letter of credit facility to facilitate the purchase of players from non-Premiership Clubs, along with a loan facility for design, planning and other preparatory work for the proposed new stadium at Stanley Park. We have set out to establish a long term relationship with the Club, and we look forward to this continuing for many years to come.

We also lent money to the Club's parent, Kop Football Limited, so that it could repay debt which was on the balance sheet of the Club at the time of its acquisition by George Gillett and Tom Hicks. This is the only portion of Kop Football's bank debt for which the Club is legally responsible. We took great care when making our original loan in early 2007 and when refinancing it last January to distinguish between obligations of the Club, primarily those outlined above, and obligations of its parent company, the latter being secured by personal guarantees and collateral from the owners and a pledge of the shares they own in the Club.

As a result the Club does not suffer the burden of debt implied by a lot of the recent press reports and, in our view and that of the executive management of the Club, it is financially healthy and able to service comfortably its debt obligations from cash flow generated by its playing and commercial activities. It is in our commercial interest to support the Club in the manner described above so that it can continue to perform successfully on and off the pitch.

As far as the Government is concerned, they have been very clear that they do not wish to exercise day to day control over RBS or make commercial decisions for us. Indeed they set up an independent body, UKFI, to oversee the Government's shareholding in RBS, so matters such as strategy and governance can be agreed, while they leave commercially related matters to us.
RBS attaches a great deal of value to being associated with Liverpool FC. I hope my comments reassure you as to the strength and depth of our relationship with the Club and that we will endeavour to contribute to its long term health and success.

Kind Regards,
Roger Lowry, Head of Group Public Affairs, Royal Bank of Scotland Group

Spokesman for fans’ group ‘Spirit of Shankly’, James McKenna said he was “surprised and disappointed.” Speaking to the paper last night, he said: “The fans’ relationship with RBS is not great because of their support for Hicks and Gillett. I’m disappointed that the bank doesn’t feel we should have any input or say on this, even though it is tax-payers’ money that has bailed them out. The main value for RBS must be financial, in terms of the interest payments they receive.”

Johnson completes his move to The Reds with four year deal

England defender Glen Johnson has today finally completed his move to Liverpool Football Club. The defender has signed a four-year deal reveals the official Liverpool FC site. The 24-year-old arrives from Portsmouth and becomes Rafa Benitez's first major acquisition of the summer ahead of the 2009-10 season. His squad number has yet to be decided.

Benitez speaking about the player to the official site, said Johnson “is a winner. I was impressed with the conversations I had with him.”

Rafa also explained the difficulty’s of operating in the current transfer market: “We knew the market was going to be difficult this summer and some of it has been crazy. Manchester City and Chelsea were there - they were making offers. We had to be quick and the club acted quickly. It was down to the player whether he chose us or City or Chelsea and he chose us. It was very clear from talking to him that he wanted to play for Liverpool.”

With the press speculating about Alvaro Arbeloa’s future at the club, Benitez hopes he will sign a new deal: “Arbeloa was a good player for us last year. The thing is, he has one year left on his contract. We have offered him an extension and we're talking. He is our player but if there is a good offer we have to consider it. We have two or three clubs asking about him. He would like to stay but he knows the competition will be hard.”

Rafa also spoke about the prospect of more new signings this summer: “We are working and trying to bring new players in but we are happy with the squad we have at the moment. We were thinking about improving and with Johnson we have improved. Like I have already said, we could buy one more player without selling anyone. We now have to wait.”

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Reds pre season friendly with Tranmere announced

Liverpool have announced a pre season friendly with Tranmere Rovers. Newly installed Rovers manager John Barnes said: "This will be a great chance for my squad to show what they can do and hopefully both sets of fans will enjoy the game. I look forward to welcoming my old club to Prenton Park ahead of the new season." The match at Prenton Park will take place on Friday, July 24, at 7.45pm, with Liverpool receiving an initial allocation of 500 tickets. The prices are:

Adults - £12. Seniors (60 and over) - £6. Young persons (aged 17 to 22) - £6. Juniors (under-16) - £4.

Liverpool XI pre-season friendlies:
Saturday, July 18. Aberystwyth Town (A). 3pm.
Tuesday, July 21. Chester City (A). 7.45pm.
Friday, July 24. Tranmere Rovers (A) 7.45pm.
Tuesday, July 28. Cambridge United (A). 7.45pm.
Friday, July 31. Notts County (A). 7.45pm.
Monday, August 3. Bristol Rovers (A). 7.30pm.
Thursday, August 6. Dunmanway Town (A). 2pm.

Panathinaikos £3m bid for Leto 'accepted'

Rafael Benitez has accepting a £3m bid from Panathinaikos for Sebastian Leto reports today's Echo. The Argentinean says he is “90 percent” certain he will play his football at Panathinaikos next season. The winger spent last season on loan at Greek champions Olympiakos, “but fell out with coach Erneste Valverde” says the article. “There are negotiations between Panathinaikos and Liverpool and as far as I know the two sides are very close to a deal. I think that the possibilities of playing at Panathinaikos next season are more than 90 per cent.”

Reds hold out for 'massive' shirt sponsorship deal

“Carlsberg is running out of time to negotiate a new shirt sponsorship deal with Liverpool” reports today’s Times. The article says the Reds are holding out for “a bumper contract amid interest from a host of leading international companies.”

With Manchester United securing an £80m four year deal earlier this month, Liverpool are looking to strike a similar deal, “but Carlsberg is offering only about half that sum,” claims the article. The owners believe that Liverpool has frequently been under old commercially and “want a deal that reflects their position as one of the most recognisable brands in world football.” The Danish brewer has been Liverpool's shirt sponsor since 1992. The current deal signed in February 2007 is worth £7.2 million a year, however it expires next summer. The article claims “Carlesberg has until the end of July to negotiate a new contract exclusively with Liverpool but thereafter the club will be able to explore other options.”

Liverpool believe that it is only right that they strike a deal comparable with United’s, as they are the most successful club in English football with an enormous worldwide fanbase. “Although Liverpool would like to conclude a deal sooner rather than later, they do not want to “get into bed” with the wrong partner and are prepared to take their time.”

In the meantime talks with Carlesberg are ongoing and “both parties would like their long association to continue.”

The story also lists the top shirt sponsors as they stand:
£80 million The four-year deal Manchester United signed with Aon
£75 million Juventus have a five-year contract with Tamoil, the international oil company
£68 million Bayern Munich's four-year deal with T-Home
£50 million Chelsea signed a five-year contract with Samsung in 2005
£38 million Real Madrid's three-year deal with Bwin.com, the online gaming company

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Why does Rafa always have to defend his decisions?

Yesterdays press was full of the headline “Benitez defends Johnson move”. But why does Rafa have to justify whom he spends his transfer money on? Would Chelsea need to have defended the purchase of Johnson, had they beaten Liverpool to his signature? The Stamford Bridge club had after all matched Rafa’s bid to sign the player. Would the press have given Carlo Ancelotti or Peter Kenyon a grilling over the defender? How about other managers? Would they dare to question Ferguson’s reasons for any purchase and ask him to justify why? The press appears to hold double standards on the matter. In one extreme they report with delight the transfer of players like Kaka and Ronaldo for a combined total of £140m, while turning the whole saga into a bizarre circus. In the other extreme they question Rafa’s purchases, suggesting the player to be a waist of money.

But this is the latest in a long line of ‘justifications’ for the Liverpool manager: rotation, zonal marking, where to play Gerrard? These are just a small handful of a long line of issues the press feel they should put upon the Liverpool manager.

Transfer Speculation: Arbeloa, Itandje, Fernandez

Alvaro Arbeloa
Real Madrid have made a five million Euros bid for Alvaro Arbeloa claims today's Echo. Rafa Benitez yesterday claimed he would like for the player to stay at Anfield stating the player had "a very good season but he has one year left on his contract,” said the Reds boss. “If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition," however Rafa admitted that "if we get a good offer we will have to consider it.”

The deal is worth £4.2m at current exchange rates and the article claims "Benitez is holding out for £5m pounds, and with Arbeloa's agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, at the Bernabeu yesterday to facilitate the move, a deal looks imminent."

Real Madrid director, Jorge Valdano speaking to Spanish newspaper 'AS' said:

"The lad only has a year left on his contract with Liverpool, and this gives us more possibilities. He can play in two or three positions, and this versatility is good. He is another option to evaluate."

Reported by Sky Sports, Arbeloa has spoken about Real Madrid to Spanish newspaper 'Marca':

"I am especially proud of what the club is doing," said the Spain defender, who is in South Africa for the Confederations Cup. It is a big project with the return of Florentino (Perez) - and obviously if Madrid is fixed on you it makes you proud. I would be lying if I said I was sure to start the season with Liverpool. I'll be able to think about all this by next Monday."

Charles Itandje
Malaga are reported to be interested in signing reserve keeper Charles Itandje. Scouts have reported positive feedback and an official move is now expected to be made, claim Sky Sports.

Leandro Fernandez
Liverpool are interested in Dynamo Moscow defender Leandro Fernandez reports website football. The article says the "Reds and Lazio have both held preliminary talks with Dynamo." But the club is "reluctant to let the Argentine leave for less than £8.5million."

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Reds close to re-financing bank deal

New Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow will open talks with the Royal Bank of Scotland over refinancing the owners’ £350 million loan in the coming days, with a view to securing a new deal before the July 24 deadline reports the Telegraph.

The story goes on to say that “contrary to reports on Tuesday, owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have not finalised the terms of the refinancing yet, though there is an expectation that an agreement will be reached.”

New managing director Purslow, who was appointed on Monday, has a finance and private equity background and “the RBS deal is among his priorities,” reports the story.

The article also says that “RBS will ask Gillett and Hicks to provide additional security on top of the £185 million in personal guarantees and cash they provided in January 2008. The owners are working hard to try to provide it, with Gillett selling the Montreal Canadiens and Hicks seeking a buyer for the Texas Rangers. Their willingness to cash in on US sports assets underlines their belief that Liverpool remains their most profitable sporting asset."

Rafa speaks on Johnson

Rafa Benitez has spoken for the first time of his first signing of the summer Glen Johnson. The interview has been reported by most of the press as “Benitez defends his decision”. Rafa always appears to be defending one decision or other to the media. Interestingly this type of terminology has not been attached to any of Mark Hughes’ purchases at City. Speaking about Johnson in tonight's Echo, Rafa said:

“You can’t compete in the top four of the Premier League unless you spend some money. We were looking for a player of quality and also somebody who is British because of the new Champions League rules.

“Glen Johnson fits both categories.”
The new rule specifies that clubs can have a maximum of 25 players and that eight of them must be home-grown – defined as someone who was trained for over three years by a club from the relevant national association between the ages of 15 and 21.

The player has agreed a deal with the Reds and is expected to finalise the agreement in the next 48 hours.

Benitez also suggested that Johnson won’t be the last signing.

“We have a plan,” added Benitez. “We can sign one more player if necessary, but that’s without any players leaving.”

Alvaro Arbeloa has been the subject of speculation linking him to Real Madrid and Benitez admitted they may take a look at an offer if it was presented to the club:

“Alvaro Arbeloa has had a very good season but he has one year left on his contract,” said the Reds boss. “If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition, but if we get a good offer we will have to consider it.”

Mascherano's image of unrest is being created by the tabloid press

An interview given by Javier Mascherano to Spanish magazine Don Balón has been quoted by the British press as proof that the player wants to leave Liverpool. Speaking of being linked to Barcelona and Real Madrid the Argentinean Midfielder said:

"It's really flattering. For me it means great recognition because we are talking about big clubs."

This is the headline that a majority of the papers are running, however most of the interview has not been published by the English tabloid press intent on creating an image of unrest. The player goes on to say “it's always good to know that teams like Barça and Madrid are interested in you”. However the player revealed his happiness in playing for the Reds by stating: "I feel comfortable at Liverpool.”

Mascherano also gave praise to his Liverpool coach, Rafael Benítez: "[He is] excellent. He's a perfectionist, working down to the smallest detail that you can imagine. Fortunately he has renewed his contract, meaning his ties to the club continue and this will give more calm to everybody."

Mascherano also speaks of the Reds victory over Real Madrid by saying the Spanish club is in “upheaval” and “the organizational capacity of the British” ensures the Dominance of English clubs in the Champions League. He goes on to say “I also believe that the pace of the Premier is superior to the (Spanish) League.” Mascherano also heaps praise on Liverpool’s “devastating” attacking ability. When asked if Torres is among the best forwards in the world, the midfielder says: “It is very fair. Fernando is a great striker and defenses almost cannot win against him.” Maschrano also talks of his partnership with Xabi Alonso proclaiming the “understanding” between the two players has almost reached “perfection”.

Hardly an image of unrest.

However the view that Mascherano being fed-up at Liverpool is being perpetuated on a daily basis. David Maddock reporting in today's Mirror says “the root of the Argentine's unhappiness at Anfield is the fact that he is paid considerably less than the majority of his team – mates,” and the new arrival of Glen Johnson may also be a contributing factor by proclaiming the defender is on a “massive deal – which will earn the England full-back around £4m a year” and it “could force Liverpool to TREBLE Javier Mascherano’s wages to keep him.” The story says Mascherano “is only on around £25,000 a week - a fraction of the cash Liverpool's top stars Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres command.”

Johnson according to the journalist will be on £4m a year, which approximately works out at £77,000 per week. But Maddock’s numbers for Mascherano do not add up. The Argentinean, who last February signed a four year deal with Liverpool for approximately £18m, according to Maddock is on “around £25,000 a week.” However a quick calculation reveals Mascherano will be on approximately £86,500 a week. Maddock has displayed time and again that his writing ability is not much kop, now he reveals his maths are worse. I’m glad he didn’t choose to be a nuclear physicist.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Leto linked with Panathinaikos

Transfer Speculation

Liverpool winger Sebastian Leto has revealed he is almost certain to move to Greek club Panathinaikos reports Sky News. The 22-year-old spell at Anfield looks to be at an end “after it was discovered he would have little or no chance of gaining a work permit due to his lack of appearances on Merseyside,” says the story. The Argentine joined the Reds in the summer of 2007 but did not to make a Premier League debut due to problems with his passport, forcing him to play in the reserve team instead. Leto was granted an Italian passport in mid-2007 but this was later revoked, making the Argentine need to apply for a work permit; a request which was later refused. Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez criticised the decision given the player's track record in the Champions League and national selection for the Olympics. Leto spent the entire of last season on loan at Greek side Olympiakos.

"I am very close to Panathinaikos," he said. "There are negotiations between Panathinaikos and Liverpool and as far as I know the two sides are very close to a deal. I think that the possibilities to play at Panathinaikos next season right now are more than 90 per cent. I have been waiting for something from Olympiakos all these weeks but they didn't make a move to buy me so far. It's not a matter of money. I wanted to stay at Olympiakos but since they don't want to sign me I have to think about my future."

Reds sign King from Diamonds

Rushden & Diamonds Under 16 player Aaron King has completed a move to Liverpool for an undisclosed fee.

The youngster won a move to Anfield after impressing during a trial period at the Premier League titans. The young striker has agreed a two-year scholarship deal at Anfield and will continue his education at the club.

Rushden's head of youth development Paul Driver admitted the deal was a big achievement for the club.

"We are all absolutely thrilled for Aaron - this is a brilliant achievement for everyone involved in his development throughout the five years that he has been with us," Driver told the club's official website.

"His progress with us to get to the level where one of the 'Big 4 Clubs' is prepared to offer him a scholarship also serves as further evidence of how well we have maintained our system despite the withdrawal of financial support from the football authorities in the past two seasons".

Reds appoint friend of Dalglsh as new managing director

Liverpool have appointed Christian Purslow, a financier with strong links to Merseyside, as their new managing director reports the Telegraph. “Purslow, an Anfield season-ticket holder, will join the board and take over many of the responsibilities of outgoing chief executive Rick Parry, but will step aside when a full-time replacement for Parry is appointed.” Says the article.

The report goes on to say: “Purslow's priorities will be to renegotiate the £350m loan with RBS due to be repaid at the end of July and to work with manager Rafa Benitez on summer transfer targets. Purslow, whose background is in private equity, speaks fluent Spanish and has already struck a relationship with Benitez. He is understood to have played a role in the negotiations surrounding Fernando Torres's new contract. A friend of club legend Kenny Dalglish, Purslow was recommended to owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett as a potential new board member and has the support of both of them. Crucially this should allow him to bridge the divide that occasionally appears before the American owners.The new managing director is also said to have decent relations with senior staff at RBS including chief executive Stephen Hester, and club sources said the bank welcomed his appointment. Talks with RBS will take place imminently, with the owners prospects of satisfying the bank's demands enhanced by Gillett's impending sale of the Montreal Canadiens. With Hicks yet to raise finance from his for sale US assets, it remains to be seen if this affects the delicate equilibrium between the owners."

Speaking to the official site George Gillett said: "Tom and I felt that it was important to put a highly experienced and respected executive in place to run the Club and support the senior team and the Manager. There's a lot to get done over the summer to build on the great season we just had and Christian will be a valuable addition to the team."

Tom Hicks added: "Christian has been a great supporter of the Club for many years and he's already built up good relationships at Anfield. His strategic and commercial acumen will be a real asset and we're delighted that he has made a long term commitment to the Club."

The official statement from the club reads: "Christian Purslow will assume overall management of the club until the appointment of a new chief executive, and will then continue as a board director.As managing director, Purslow will represent the owners and oversee all financial and operational aspects of the club, working with Rafa Benitez on player transfers and with the club's group chief financial officer, Philip Nash and commercial director, Ian Ayre on club and commercial management."

Liverpool sign Glen Johnson

The official Liverpool FC site has announced that the club that have agreed a deal with Portsmouth to sign Glen Johnson. The Reds have beaten Chelsea to the signature of the England international after both clubs agreed fees with Portsmouth earlier this month. Johnson has decided to make the switch to Anfield rather than return to Stamford Bridge for a second spell.

The short statement reads:
“Liverpool FC confirmed this evening that they had reached an agreement with Portsmouth Football Club and with Glen Johnson for the transfer of the player to Anfield.”

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Trophies are coming says Torres

Fernando Torres says no amount of spending by Manchester United and Chelsea during the summer will stop Liverpool's relentless quest for the Premier League title reports the Mail.

“We don't have the same money as United or Chelsea but that is not a problem for us,” he said.
“We will try to win trophies with money or without it, it doesn't matter to us. In the past two years, United have been the strongest team in Europe and we had to fight against them. This year they have lost an important player, so maybe it is our time.”

“When I was a kid I was always looking up to Atletico Madrid strikers but when I came to Liverpool I saw DVDs of Robbie Fowler and Kenny Dalglish. They are legends of Liverpool. One day I would like to be close to them.”

Keeping the current squad together at Anfield remains a critical priority. “If we can play together for a lot of years it would be fantastic,” said Torres. “It makes us more complete as players. We have to keep all our good players.” His one major disappointment has been lack of silverware.

“When I signed for Liverpool the main thing was to win trophies for them. It has been frustrating for me because for a club like Liverpool to go two years without a trophy is too long. But I think it's coming.”

Speaking of teammate David Villa said: “I think he will play in Spain. It's his decision but I think Barcelona and Real Madrid are trying to sign him and he will join one of them. I think for his abilities and qualities he is better for the Spanish league - he scores over 25 goals every season. I'd obviously prefer it if he played in Spain if he doesn't come to Liverpool.”

Liverpool sign Jesus!

Transfer Speculation

It seems only fitting that a club that have had a ‘King’ and ‘God’ play for them, now appear to have signed Jesus. According to Spanish newspaper ‘Diario de Cadiz’, Liverpool have completed the signing of 15-year-old Jesus Joaquin Fernandez from Cadiz, reports Sky News.

The Reds are said to have beaten off competition from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal for the attacking midfielder in the Cesc Fabregas mould. “After a significant amount of time negotiating the deal the player's family have finally accepted Liverpool's offer. Cadiz, currently in Spain's second division, are also said to be happy with the transfer after they were handsomely rewarded in terms of compensation,” says the article. The player nicknamed Suso is thought to have signed a five-year contract on Merseyside. The story also adds: “The teenage sensation is a left-footed player and is thought to possess an innate footballing brain.”

Reds receive Financial boost as Gillett sells NHL team

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has moved to strengthen his financial position by agreeing a £330 million deal to sell Montreal Canadiens, his National Hockey League franchise to brewing giants Molson reports the Telegraph.

The 60-year-old, who took control of the Canadiens in 2001, has agreed to sell his 80.1% stake in the ice hockey team, together with the Bell Centre Arena where they play and the Gillett Entertainment Group, which promotes sport and music. The Canadiens buy out has yet to be approved by the NHL’s board of governors, could take up to six weeks to be approved, but it is not expected to be blocked.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said: “I think to the extent that they [Gillett] have been able to find people who are obviously passionate about the game and structure a transaction that makes sense for everybody, that’s a real plus for the franchise.”

Both Gillett and Hicks have been actively seeking buyers for their American sports franchises in recent months in order to raise funds to consolidate their position at Liverpool. Gillett has struck a deal with brewing giants Molson for the Canadiens, Hicks continues to search for a buyer for his Texas Rangers baseball franchise.

The Molson deal will no doubt strengthen the pairs position in refinance their £350 million loan with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia on July 24, but could also give Rafa Benitz the extra spending power to strengthen his squad this summer. It may also stave off the pack of clubs intent on picking off players because of the clubs so called financial hardship.

Alonso says he is 'happy at Liverpool'

Xabi Alonso intends to stay at Liverpool reports Sky News. Earlier this week Alonso sent the media into speculation overdrive when he refused to answer a question put to him by Spanish radio station ‘Cadena Ser,’ if he “would be disappointed having to stay at Liverpool next season.”

Now Alonso has tried to put the speculation to bed in an interview with Spanish newspaper ‘El Pais, he said: "I am happy at Liverpool but in football you cannot close the doors on anything because you don't know what will happen. I do not plan to go. With Sami Hyypia already gone, I am one of the senior players alongside Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard. There was strong interest in me from Madrid (in 2004) but Liverpool came and that is where I went. It was not a wrong decision, not for me anyway. I have played at Liverpool, a special club, and grown as a player and won titles."

The Spanish midfielder has also moved to end speculation that his relationship with Benitez was strained: "Each one has his own point of view. He is the manager and I try to do the best with what he tells me," Alonso added. "We have a good professional relationship. We speak normally, saying what he wants from me and what I can give. He makes the decisions and we try to execute them. Last summer there was certain indecision and I did not know what was going to happen. I finished up playing well, though. I have had two quite complete seasons."

This interview has been ignored by most of the press who are still intent on reporting the player will leave Liverpool. Today's Mirror states Chelsea "will go head-to-head with Real Madrid in an £18million battle for the Liverpool star." Contradicting Alonso's own words, the article claims his "relationship with the manager became increasingly frosty last season and it now looks likely that he will be on his way out of Liverpool this summer," and "Chelsea have also been alerted to Alonso’s unrest."

Alonso fears new tax law will force players away from Premiership

Xabi Alonso has warned that impending tax laws may discourage foreign players from joining the Premiership and also see a mass exodus of Premier League stars to Europe. He joins Reds team mate Alvaro Arbeloa who verbalised the same fears earlier in the week.

Reported in the Telegraph, Alonso said: "Of course we footballers think about it; we are not stupid, we keep an eye on it," Alonso said. "When you see your contract down by 30 per cent you cannot be happy. I cannot do anything – it must be Gordon Brown or David Cameron. I think the weakness of the sterling is not helping the Premiership because for those competing and fighting against the European teams it is a big weak point. Hopefully over the next few months and years it will get back to what it was not so long ago."

Fernando Torres speaking about potentially loosing team mates said "I worry about losing my team-mates, of course," Torres said. "But when you play for a team like Liverpool you don't have to worry about that. You are a top player and you will get a good contract. You don't have to be scared to lose a little bit of money."

The article says: “Alonso signed a five-year contract with Liverpool in 2007 worth an estimated £65,000 a week. At the time there were €1.48 to the pound so he was on €96,200 per week but due to the weakness of the pound that has fallen to €76,700 a week. When the 50p tax rate comes in next April that will drop to €69,000 a week, so he could be losing €27,200 every week compared to what he was earning back in 2007. Overall, Alonso fears he could end up losing nearly £1.2 million per year.”

Accountants working with footballers and clubs will have to become more creative so players can avoid paying the top tax rate. The article says: “one option being explored is paying players in interest-free loans which would attract a much lower tax rate. But ultimately, it seems the power base has shifted to the Continent.” Agent Sam Rush, whose clients include Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard, “believes English clubs will have to bear the brunt of the cost as foreign players will increasingly demand to have contracts net of tax.” Says the report.

Clubs in Spain set up foreign players as 'company executives' with a preferential 23 per cent tax rate for the first six years. David Beckham was on this kind of deal and Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka will be on a similar system when they arrive at the Bernabeu. The article claims this will obviously give “clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona a real competitive advantage in the market.”

Saturday, 20 June 2009

4,000 supporters 'March4Justice' in London

The Hillsborough 'March4Justice' took place in London today. Five families who lost their loved ones in the Hillsborough disaster handed in a 40,000-signature petition to 10 Downing Street. More than 4,000 supporters marched through the streets of London to demand further investigation into the events of 15 April 1989. The petition was handed in just after 1430 BST.

Barry Thompson, chair of March4Justice which organised the event, speaking to the BBC said: "There were some very emotional scenes, especially when the families gave the boxes of petitions in to 10 Downing Street. We have had so much support from people in Liverpool, the UK and we have also have 480 letters of support from 67 different countries worldwide. Those who lost their loved ones said it was a positive thing handing in papers showing so much support for their plight. We gathered 40,000 signatures in just seven weeks, it has been a mad time. Let's just hope this encourages the government to realise its obligation to the families of the 96, the fans, the club and the city as a whole."

Jenny Hicks, who lost her two daughters in the tragedy, said it was time that "someone took responsibility". The campaign is also insisting over 300 boxes of information about the tragedy be released. Ms Hicks added: "This march helped increase the pressure on the government to take some action. We were shocked and delighted when it was agreed that the documents should be released but we don't want to be waiting for years, we have already had to wait two decades. At the moment it's a waiting game, we just hope this march will have helped make a difference."

The marchers also want any new investigation to recognise that not all the victims had died by 1515 BST on the day of the disaster. It was the cut-off time imposed during the original inquest into the deaths.

The Echo reports that new “Home Secretary Alan Johnson has agreed to meet Merseyside MPs to discuss how and when the Hillsborough files can be released." Earlier this year Jacqui Smith asked South Yorkshire Police to release the 300 boxes of information it holds on the disaster. Alan Johnson said: "it is 'high time' the uncertainties suffered by the families of the victims are brought to an end,” says the story. Cabinet minister Andy Burnham had encouraged the previous Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, to release the documents. She had already “agreed in principle to dropping the 30-year secrecy rule on Home Office and police documents relevant to the Sheffield disaster 20 years ago. Mr Johnson's decision to meet the MPs has allayed fears that the recent ministerial reshuffle would delay or threaten that release,” says the story. “The invitation has been sent to MPs by Halton's Derek Twigg, who has acted as go-between.”

Transfer Speculation: Mascherano, Alonso, Reina, Tevez, Silva, Albiol, Distin, Owen, Dossena

Javier Mascherano
The Mail claims the Argentinian midfielder is set to leave Liverpool, with Barcelona preparing a £35million bid. The Argentine, 25, has told boss Rafael Benitez he needs to leave because his wife, Fernanda, is reluctant to return to England. The article says Masherano’s wife is pregnant and “has returned to South America with their daughter Iola and does not want to fly back. Benitez is understanding but still wants at least £35m for his midfield enforcer. Mascherano's agent, Walter Tamer, held talks on Wednesday with Barca general manager Raul Sanlehy and sporting director Txiki Begiristain, who will offer around £20m plus possibly striker Bojan Krkic.”

Xabi Alonso
A number of papers are reporting that Xabi Alonso has cast further doubt on is Liverpool future because of the answer he gave to a Spanish Radio station. The Guardian reports: “Asked by the Cadena Ser radio station if he would be disappointed having to stay at Liverpool next season, he responded: "I can't answer that question." To which the interviewer replied: "And with that you have said it all." The Telegraph is also running the same interview, but reveals more of Alonso’s answer: “But each player thinks about their own future. It's clear that on the outside there are reports about your future, but you cannot do much and the only thing you can do is train normally."

Jamie Carragher speaking in an interview on Sky Sports has this to say on the subject: "This summer there has been a bit of speculation about players moving on, so at the moment I'm hoping that doesn't happen rather than people come in. We have got a great side at the moment, and I'm sure the manager will make a couple of additions, but we don't want to lose anyone." Speaking of Alonso, Carragher said: "He and Stevie Gerrard were probably our best two players last season. I think Stevie won Footballer of the Year, but if you asked the fans I think they would maybe say that Alonso was our best player last season so he is certainly someone we don't want to lose."

Pepe Reina
The Reds keeper has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona, because current keeper Victor Valdes had not signed a new contract with the club. However the Mail says: “Victor Valdes has ended speculation linking him to Manchester United by signing a new contract at European champions Barcelona. The extention to 2014 is also likely to be met with relief at Liverpool, whose Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina had been lined up as a replacement for the Nou Camp No 1.”

Carlos Tevez
The Argentinian has today ruled himself out of a move to Liverpool Football Club. Sky Sports News sources have been informed that a move to Anfield is not an option for Tevez. Interestingly, the player has not ruled himself out of a move to arch rivals and ‘swimming -in-loot’ club Manchester City. However this is probably more of an over site by the considerate young player who clearly wouldn’t upset any United fans with a move to Eastlands.

David Silva and Raul Albiol
Today’s Mirror says of the upcoming move of Glen Jonson will be the first edition to his summer transfer activity, but it wont be his last. Speaking of Benitez the story says: “He wants a wide player and has been chasing Valencia winger David Silva for some time, while he is also in talks over the Spanish club's centrehalf Raul Albiol, with the pair valued at a combined £30m.”

Sylvain Distin
The Mail declares that Liverpool have launched a bid for Sylvain Distin: “The 31-year-old French defender is in demand. Liverpool have already placed a £2million bid and Aston Villa have also expressed an interest. Sunderland, keen to bolster their leaky defence, want him too but Steve Bruce is likely to be disappointed. Distin is keen on Liverpool but he may only be a squad player there and will be keen to hear Martin O'Neill's plans.”

Michael Owen
Fernando Torres has spoken about Michael Owen, who is available on a free transfer and has recently sent out a brochure to Premiership, Italian and Spanish clubs promoting his services. Torres said: "I know that he is a big part of the history of this football club and that the fans at Anfield loved him," said Torres in the Daily Mail. "I have no idea where he will be playing next season, but I am convinced that he still has a lot to offer. He has been unlucky with injuries in recent years and I know how frustrating that can be, but he has a natural instinct in front of goal and you don't lose that just because you have been injured."

Andrea Dossena
The Telegraph reports that Juventus are considering both Dossena and international team-mate Fabio Grosso, 31, to fill the left-back spot. "I don't know if you can call it an ultimatum, but I think that Juve will decide what to do within the next week," agent Roberto La Florio told Calciomercato.it. "The left-back position is a necessity for the Bianconeri and the directors are not willing to drag this on. However, I still think it's a two-horse race between Andrea and Grosso. Dossena's age and wages are on his side. Is he worth around 6-7million euros? The last time I met with Liverpool we did not talk about numbers, I can only say they paid more for him last summer. Andrea has subtly expressed his desire to join Juve in recent days, but he also said that he loves it in Liverpool. We'll definitely know more about it next week and Juve remain the most likely destination for him."

Friday, 19 June 2009

Transfer Speculation: Glen Johnson

The press have surrounded the transfer of Glen Johnson with speculation, contradictions, rumour, gossip and probably a heap if fibs. The problem is how to sort the wheat from the chaff. If we were to believe today's news, Johnson has signed for a transfer fee of anything between £17-£19m, he's joined 'either' Liverpool or Chelsea, and he's had a medical last night or maybe this weekend. Here’s a breakdown of what the press are saying regarding the transfer today:

The Times
Peter Storrie, Portsmouth’s chief executive, said today: "The matter will come to a conclusion at the beginning of next week. I do not have a preference over the move, it is up to Glen,” Storrie said. “The deals are almost identical so it really is down to him and what club he prefers, which one is going to pay him more money." The article added: "Chelsea have matched Liverpool's £18.5 million bid for Glen Johnson, increasing the possibility that Jose Bosingwa will leave the Londoners for Bayern Munich.”

Then elsewhere in the same paper it says:
“Glen Johnson was having a medical at Liverpool last night after a fee of up to £18.5 million was agreed with Portsmouth. Liverpool will pay about £5 million this summer, with the rest over the length of his contract, because they are owed about £7 million by Portsmouth from the sale of Peter Crouch last summer.”

The Express:
"Benitez is set to announce the £18million capture of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth after the player passed a medical yesterday."

"England right-back Glen Johnson will today complete an £18million move to Liverpool. The Portsmouth defender has gone through a secret medical after agreeing terms on a contract."

The Daily Star
“Chelsea last night hijacked Glen Johnson’s proposed £18.5m move to Liverpool.”

The Liverpool Echo
"Liverpool, however, remain confident that the £17m defender has made up his mind on a move to Anfield. He is expected to cut short a holiday to have a medical this weekend."

"Reports Chelsea matched Liverpool's bid are slightly awry. Chelsea were first to agree terms with Portsmouth a fortnight ago at £17m and Liverpool followed but the player still seems destined for Anfield. Chelsea are not totally out of the equation but the player is excited more by Liverpool's project and the chance to link up with Gerrard, Torres and Co."

Speaking of Torres, here's what he has to say on Johnson:

"We have total trust in the boss and we will trust whoever he brings in, but yes, Glen Johnson has had an excellent season," reports Sky Sports. Torres added: "He has established himself as the first-choice right back in what is now an England team playing very good football. He is used to playing top-four football, so there would be no issue about him making the step up."

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Transfer Speculation: Lodeiro, Mascherano, Arbeloa, Dossena, Pennant

Nicolas Lodeiro
Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro is said to have caught the eye of Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez reports Sky News. The story goes on to reveal “The 20-year-old Lodeiro is currently contracted to Primera Division Uruguaya side Nacional. Lodeiro is highly-raterd and shone when representing the Uruguay Under 20s in the South American championship played this year in Venezuela. The playmaker is currently owned by the company BBC Sport, who bought him in February among other young players of the Uruguayan U20 national side.”

Andrea Dossena
The Italian defender appears to be back tracking from his link to Juventus. Reported in the Telegraph the player said: "I learned what the boss wants from me and I hope next season is better than last season. I never said I wanted to go away from Liverpool. I'm happy in Liverpool and I want to stay." Dossena, added: "There's not a lot of difference between us and them [United]. Now Manchester United have lost Cristiano Ronaldo maybe that's better for us." His agent however has a different opinion. The Times has a quote from him stating: “that a proposed move from Liverpool to Juventus is dependent on the Italian club dropping their interest in Fabio Grosso, the Italy left back. Roberto Florio said: “That is what is slowing Dossena’s transfer from Liverpool to the Bianconeri.”

Javier Mascherano
Mascherano's agent, Walter Tamer, met Barcelona representatives in the city's Rey Juan Carlos I hotel for two hours last night claims the Guardian. The article claims “It is believed Tamer, was seeking assurances about the personal terms on offer should his client attempt to force through a deeply unpopular exit from Anfield. Liverpool have not yet received an inquiry from Barcelona for Mascherano, who has been earmarked to replace Yaya Touré as their holding midfielder by the coach, Pep Guardiola.”

Alvaro Arbeloa
The Guardian also claims the threat of a 50p tax rate for those earning £150,000 and over would encourage a talent drain out of the Premier League. Speaking on the plan Arbeloa said: "In the last few years the Premier League has been much better than the Spanish league, but now that may even out thanks to factors that could give the Premier League more problems than in previous years, like the fall of the pound and the raise in taxes. They will make a lot of players move to Spain. Mind you, Adidas told me that the Liverpool shirt is their best seller, more so even than Madrid, so that shows that the Premier League has reached every corner of the world."

Jermaine Pennant
He’s not really a Liverpool player anymore as his contract runs out this summer, but thought I’d include the story just for amusement. Jermaine Pennant has been linked with every Tom, Dick and Harry has apparently emerged as a possible target for Manchester City claims The Gaurdian. Pennant, it reports will “provide competition for the winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.”

Former Reds chairman Moores resigns from the board of directors

The Echo is also reporting that former Liverpool chairman David Moores has resigned from the club’s board of directors.

The article goeson to say: “Moores , whose family became one of the richest in Britain with the creation of the Littlewoods empire, took the role of chairman in 1991. However, with the club in need of increasing investment he sold his majority shareholding to current American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks two years ago. The move proved to be an unpopular one among fans after the pair borrowed £350million to finance the takeover and then grand plans for a new stadium were continually delayed. Moores himself admitted last year he felt “heartbroken and let down” by the owners, and his disappearance from the board follows the decision by chief executive Rick Parry - who helped negotiate the takeover with Gillett and Hicks - to step down this summer after 12 years at the club. Despite quitting the board Moores will retain his position as honorary life president.”

Liverpool MPs launch bid to topple LFC’s owners

Liverpool City MPs have launched a fresh bid to topple Liverpool FC’s American owners reports the Echo.

The article goes on to say MPs “want the government to pull the plug on a crucial £350m loan to Tom Hicks and George Gillett – by taking advantage of the part-nationalisation of the Royal Bank of Scotland. MPs said the move, prompted by fury over the apparent collapse of plans for a new stadium, would force the Americans to sell. A parliamentary motion was tabled by Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle calling on the government to “ensure the Royal Bank of Scotland does not renew that credit facility at the end of its current term”. Backed by West Derby MP Bob Wareing the motion was first tabled last autumn. The new attempted “coup” comes at a crucial time – because the Liverpool loan expires on July 24. Mr Kilfoyle said: “My concern is for the regeneration that is planned for the area around the new stadium which will not go ahead unless it is built. “At the current time there are a lot of conflicting demands for that money. “That means it could be lost altogether because the stadium seems to be as far away as ever.” Mr Kilfoyle accepted RBS was still an “autonomous” organisation. But he added: “The government has a great deal of influence, because it is the majority shareholder.” Hicks and Gillett announced a one-year delay to the Stanley Park scheme last October. Since then, the Anfield crisis has worsened with the revelation of a £42.6m loss, mainly because of interest payments on debts taken on to buy the club.”

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Are Johnson kits on sale at the 'Official Store'?

A brilliant piece of investigative work by Kings of the Kop reveals just how close the Johnson deal is to completion. The LFC Official Store has Johnson listed on the replica kits page. The 'personalise' drop down menu reveals all the current squad players and their numbers. It also lists Glen Johnson. No squad number is given, but the simple message 'TBC' is stated next to his name.

UPDATE:
The official LFC store has removed the option of adding Glen Johnson's name from it's replica kit page.

20 June '09 UPDATE:
Journalist James Pearce reports this story in today’s Echo. Entitled ‘Don’t put your shirt on it mate!’, the article says: “Liverpool were a bit quick off the mark earlier this week with their online shop including Johnson’s name in the list of players for shirt printing. ‘Johnson TBC’ was one of the options greeting fans looking to buy a new replica top but a few hours later it was removed. Chelsea suffered embarrassment last summer when fans started parading shirts with Robinho on the back before the Brazilian opted to sign for Manchester City instead. What’s that old saying about not counting your chickens?”

Transfer Speculation

Glen Johnson
Speaking of the deal, the Telegraph says: “two Liverpool bids, in the region of £12 million, were turned down by Portsmouth last summer and in January but Benitez is confident a £10 million fee paid over two years, plus an agreement to write off the £7 million the south coast club still owe for Peter Crouch, will be enough to land the former Chelsea player.” The Independent also says the deal will make Johnson “one of the club's highest earners” with his “substantial wage, thought to be £80,000-a-week net of tax.” Today’s Echo says “the deal is likely to be held up because the player is on holiday.” And “Johnson only recently started his summer break following his exertions for England in the World Cup qualifiers and Pompey chief executive Peter Storrie is currently in Israel for talks with club owner Sacha Gaydamak.”

David Villa
The Guardian’s ‘Rumour Mill’ section says: “David Villa has told 'close friends' that he only wants to play for Rafael Benítez in the Premier League.” Sky Sports is also running an interview the player gave to the press following the game in Bloemfontein. He was unwilling to divulge the name of the club, but said the following: “I have made my decision. My agent knows my wishes, and he is now working on that - so I am relaxed. There is no deadline on the subject, and I really do not have any more details as this whole thing is not totally dependent on me."

Ryan Babel
Also in the Guardian: Frank Rijkaard, the new coach of the Turkish side Galatasaray, “has approached Liverpool about signing Ryan Babel. The Dutch international was a peripheral figure at Anfield last season and is likely to be sold should Liverpool receive a significant bid for a player bought for £11m from Ajax in 2007.”

Pepe Reina
The Independent claims: “Barcelona are set to launch a bid for Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina according to various reports.” Contract talks with current number one Victor Valdes have apparently broken down according to the article and Valdes “has a year left on his contract, has been pushing for parity with Xavi, who is paid £150,000 a week.” Barcelona are refusing to go that high and have been considering their options, and believe a bid of £17m for Reina “would test Liverpool's resolve, especially considering the financial difficulties the Anfield club are currently in.”

The article also suggests Liverpool may also face a battle to keep midfielder Javier Mascherano. This is of course old news, so I’m not sure how much weight the Reina story carries, considering the papers source is: “various reports”. I could speak to ‘The Main (Stand) Man’ and next doors cat about a transfer then claim the same thing.

Andrea Dossena
The Telegraph says “Benitez may sacrifice two full-backs to ensure he has the funds to bolster his attack, with Andrea Dossena edging closer to a £6 million move to Juventus.” However, the Mail is running an interview with Dossena's agent Roberto La Florio, who said: “At the moment, there are no updates. The Bianconeri club (Juventus) have yet to decide whether to consider my client or (Lyon's) Fabio Grosso. If they decide to target my client then we would evaluate the offer. He (Dossena) is happy at Liverpool but Juventus is Juventus, and he's a little nostalgic for Italy.”

Alvaro Arbeloa
The Telegraph also states Arbeloa “could also be sold, with the Liverpool manager braced for an £8 million approach from Real Madrid once Spain's involvement in the Confederations Cup ends. Arbeloa has just 12 months left on his contract and, while Benitez had suggested he would be offered a new deal, his failure to sign one indicates his time on Merseyside is drawing to a close.”
The story is also reported by Sky Sports, which has an interview the player made to Spanish newspaper ‘Elmundo’: "I am happy at Liverpool, but I have something to prove in Spain as I did not show my best form in La Liga. One day, I'm sure I will return. It is always nice to be linked to big teams - even to this Madrid side in a time of transition. They are working hard to build a great team. I have one more year remaining on my Liverpool deal, but anything can happen. A contract renewal is in the air. I am contracted for one more year, but if Liverpool get an offer they will consider it. It is all in the hands of my agent."

Red’s ’09-10 fixture list produces a gift on Torres’ birthday

Liverpool’s 2009-10 Barclays Premier League fixtures were announced today and the Reds season kicks off with an away game at Spurs on Saturday August 15. The first Merseyside derby takes place at Goodison on Saturday 28 November, with the Anfield leg on February 6. The other main fixture to look out for is of course when the Reds take on Manchester United? They play at home on October 24, with the second fixture at Old Trafford on March 20th. This date is of note because it is Fernando Torres’ birthday. Let’s hope El Niño will be having double celebrations that day.

Liverpool 2009-10 Barclays Premier League fixtures:

August
15 Tottenham Hotspur (a)
19 Stoke City (h)
22 Aston Villa (h)
29 Bolton Wanderers (a)
September
12 Burnley (h)
19 West Ham United (a)
26 Hull City (h)
October
3 Chelsea (a)
17 Sunderland (a)
24 Manchester United (h)
31 Fulham (a)
November
7 Birmingham City (h)
21 Manchester City (h)
28 Everton (a)
December
5 Blackburn Rovers (a)
12 Arsenal (h)
16 Wigan Athletic (h)
19 Portsmouth (a)
26 Wolverhampton Wanderers (h)
28 Aston Villa (a)
January
9 Tottenham Hotspur (h)
16 Stoke City (a)
26 Wolverhampton Wanderers (a)
30 Bolton Wanderers (h)
February
6 Everton (h)
9 Arsenal (a)
20 Manchester City (a)
27 Blackburn Rovers (h)
March
6 Wigan Athletic (a)
13 Portsmouth (h)
20 Manchester United (a)
27 Sunderland (h)
April
3 Birmingham City (a)
10 Fulham (h)
17 West Ham United (h)
24 Burnley (a)
May
1 Chelsea (h)
9 Hull City (a)

All of these fixtures are subject to change for television purposes and/or police requests.

The full 2009-10 Barclays Premier League fixture list for every team can be viewed at The Premier League's web site.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

5 years of Rafa

Rafa Benitez today celebrates 5 years in charge of Liverpool Football Club. I think many Reds fans will their own favourite moments during his time at the club. The incredible night in Istanbul, the FA cup win, or this seasons mauling of Real Madrid and Manchester United. All conjure a special image and I would just like to praise Rafa on reaching the anniversary and hope the best years are yet to come.

The official site has a great article on his time in charge and the Times has a full list of Rafa’s transfers during the past five years. Both are well worth a read.

Gerrard says he may retire at 33

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has admitted he may retire when his current contract with the Reds runs out in 2013. Speaking to the official site, the player also declared that Liverpool are close to winning the Premier League:

"I believe the experience of defeat that we felt last season will be useful to us next term. The team has greatly improved over the last year or so. Today we are much closer to winning the title than we have been in the past."

Gerrard who was named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year, agreed a two-year extension to his contract in April. "I will be 33 at the end of my contract in 2013 and I don't know if I will go any further. If I do retire, then I will know that from the start to the end of my career I only had one club. And I don't want to think about wearing any other shirt in the future."

The former Juventus and Real Madrid marvel Zinedine Zidane hailed the Liverpool midfielder as the 'best player the world' earlier this year and Gerrard confessed he was honoured to receive such high praise: "Zidane is special to me, I was very flattered to hear his compliments about me. He is one of my heroes. When I met him I was like a fan. I did everything I could to shake his hand."

Torres urges Liverpool to sign David Villa

Fenando Torres has today urged Liverpool to sign David Villa, reports today’s Star. The striker is currently playing in Confederations Cup and combined brilliantly with Villa in Spain’s 5-0 thrashing of New Zealand. Torres, who scored a hat trick, with Villa setting one up said: “Rafa Benitez makes the signings and I’m sure those who come will improve us,” said Torres. “If it was me I would bring David Villa. But that may not be possible. We play well together and link up so well,” said Torres. “It’s a pleasure to play with him. I don’t know if we are the best partnership in the world but we are the European champions and that is almost the same.”

This is the deal every Liverpool fan wants and the news that Villa's move to Real collapsed today, is bound to spark fresh rumours. Sadly however, with the press speculating the price ranging anywhere between £35m-£50m, the chances of the transfer happening are incredibly slim.

Johnson bid 'accepted' claims media

"Liverpool had an offer of about £18.5 million for Glen Johnson accepted last night" claims the Times.

The article also says Chelsea were “unwilling to match the fee for a player they sold for £4 million two years ago. Manchester City expressed an interest, but have not matched the price, which will include add-ons.” Presumably Johnson will begin negotiating terms with the Reds before the deal can be finalised. Todays Echo says "The Reds are wary about making any official statement after their experience with Gareth Barry last month." It also claims the "fee handed over, however, will be significantly less than £17m, with money still owed for last summer's transfer of Peter Crouch." and "Liverpool would seek to make up the remainder by offloading Alvaro Arbeloa to Real Madrid for £8m and returning Andrea Dossena to Italy."

I’m not sure Liverpool will sell their current right back Arbeloa, as the Spanish defender enjoyed his best season yet with the Reds. The team did not have a natural replacement when he was injured and had to resort to playing Jamie Carragher. My assumption was that Johnson would be competing with Arbeloa for the position, as the team fight in four competitions. Dossena on the other hand appears to be a more viable option to sell. The position has plenty of cover in Aurelio and Degen and the Dossena has expressed a desire to move to Italy with Juventus potential buyers.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Transfer Speculation: Tevez, Richards and Saviola

Here's a round up of all the Transfer Speculation from around the web.

Carlos Tevez
“Representatives of the Argentina striker Carlos Tevez will hold discussions with four clubs in the Premier League this week: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea” reports Sky Sports.It is also claimed that “one club in Italy and one in Spain are interested in the player”. The article says “that Tevez himself will announce that he would prefer to stay in the Premier League.”

Micah Richards
The Post speculates that Liverpool and Arsenal are both interested in taking the 20 year-old Manchester City defender Micah Richards. The article says: “Rafael Benitez and Arsene Wenger both recognise that they could get a potentially brilliant prospect at a great price and think that a price of around £5m could persuade Mark Hughes to let him go, especially if he manages to outbid Chelsea and Liverpool for Glen Johnson.”

Javier Saviola
The Post also says: "Liverpool hope to be able to wrap up a deal that will see them rescue Javier Saviola from Real Madrid, after the two clubs agreed a fee for the Argentinian striker, according to reports. Rafa Benitez believes that the 27-year-old could resurrect his career at Anfield by pairing up with Fernando Torres and the Merseyside outfit have held negotiations with Los Merengues. A deal worth around £5 million (€6m) is believed to have been settled upon, media in Spain and England claim, and an official announcement could be made later this week."

Rafa's £17m bid for Johnson accepted by Portsmouth

Transfer Speculation

Rafael Benitez's £17 million bid for Glen Johnson has been accepted by Portsmouth reports today’s Telegraph. He story says part of the fee will involve “writing off £7 million owed for Peter Crouch.”

The article goes on to speculate: “Benitez has a kitty of £15 million, though he may find that augmented once co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have refinanced their £350 million loan with RBS and Wachovia. Sources at the club insist he does not have to sell to buy, though a mooted £6 million bid from Real Madrid for right-back Alvaro Arbeloa may be too good to turn down.”

Rafa declares 'This is the beginning of something important'

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has praised the quality of the team, declaring they are closing in on United and ‘can beat anyone’. The Reds made vast improvements last season and accumulated their best ever points tally in the Premiership. "If you analyse the number of points, 86, you see it's a record for the club in the Premier League," Benitez told the official web site.

"We are going forward, we are progressing. For the future this is good news and hopefully this is the beginning of something important.

"In terms of the consistency of the team we've been really good. The squad is better, the mentality is very good and the players are competing for their positions."

Speaking about twice beating United last season, including the devastating 1-4 thrashing at Old Trafford, Benitez said: "We won against them twice this year. We've shown we can beat anyone. Clearly we have enough quality in the team. The squad is good but against us United had Giggs, Scholes and Berbatov on the bench.”

"Each year is different but we are closer, we have more confidence, and the experience of this year will be good for next season. You never know but it seems like we are reducing the gap."

Rafa’s backroom staff played an imperative role last season and Benitez thinks their winning spirit will benefit the team: "Mauricio has shown he is a great coach," added Benitez. "He is someone with passion who knows the game. But he has the same problem as Sammy Lee - he has to improve his English!

"It's very good for us to have people like Sammy and Mauricio because they've both won trophies. They both know what it means to fight in the top leagues. They know what it means to make finals.

"The experience they have is really good for the players."