Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rafa happy with Gerrard fitness

Rafa Benitez is confident inspirational skipper Steven Gerrard will be fit for the start of the new Premier League season.Gerrard has been struggling with a stomach strain and played just the dying minutes of Friday's Barclays Asia Trophy Final against Portsmouth.After seeing Gerrard find the target in the penalty shoot-out which went Portsmouth's way, Benitez confirmed the midfielder is on track to feature in the season opener with Aston Villa on August 11 - a game which can be seen live on Setanta Sports."Gerrard is at 80 percent, so we didn't want to take too many risks," said Benitez."We used him at the end and he scored his penalty and in two or three days he will be okay for sure."There is no problem for the start of the season."


RAFAEL BENITEZ could not disguise concerns over £30million new boys Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel and admitted Liverpool must improve if they are to hit the ground running when the new season starts.
The Anfield boss was forced to acknowledge that his two main summer signings are struggling for sharpness after seeing his side slip to a disappointing penalty shoot-out defeat to Portsmouth in the Barclays Asia Trophy Final.Torres saw his penalty kick saved by David James after making a belated appearance and Babel faded quickly to leave Benitez with plenty to ponder with the new campaign just two weeks away.Liverpool’s title prospects have been hindered by a series of slow starts in recent campaigns and the Spaniard acknowledged that both players need to come up to speed. “They are both a little bit behind the others,” said Benitez. “It is difficult to really analyse the physical condition of the players because it is so warm, but I hope that they will be ready for the start of the season.“I think two weeks will be enough to work with them.“Torres can improve. The understanding with his team-mates was OK, but I am sure he will improve.“He needs time to work on that and so does Babel. It’s clear that he has played longer than anyone else due to the European Under-21 Championships.“He’s 20 and he’ll need time to settle down. We all need to improve still, but if you told me we were fantastic now then I really would be worried.”Torres has been restricted to just 110 minutes so far in a Liverpool shirt and the delays by the Spanish FA in providing international clearance for him here in Hong Kong have deprived him of much-needed time on the pitch.
The striker had been forced to sit out Tuesday’s win over South China and received the go-ahead to take part in the tournament only five minutes before kick-off, restricting him to a 39-minute second-half cameo.Babel appeared no more prepared for action and has yet to showcase glimpses of the talent that persuaded Liverpool to pay Ajax £12m. To add to the malaise afflicting Liverpool’s new faces, Yossi Benayoun also missed with his spot-kick as Harry Redknapp’s side claimed the silverware, much to the disappointment of a packed home crowd.That sense of anti-climax would have been shared by Benitez, however, with Liverpool flying to the other side of the globe only to discover that bad old habits die hard.Portsmouth are the sort of obdurate, organised opponents Benitez has seen his expensively-assembled squad come unstuck against in the past, with just one point gleaned from the two meetings last season. There were chances to settle a low-key final long before the need for spot-kicks – although not as many opportunities as Liverpool’s dominance should have brought – but the Merseysiders were left to rue their profligacy yet again.Dirk Kuyt was guilty of the most glaring miss when heading straight at James from six yards after Jermaine Pennant had bamboozled Matt Taylor, and even the introduction of Torres after 51 minutes could not smooth away the flaws.He should have done better when hoodwinking Sylvain Distin, but could not keep a flashing shot down and it brushed the fingertips of James as it flew over the bar. Kuyt arrived on the eve of last term to much fanfare and insisted the new recruits just need time.“I know what it’s like coming into a big club like Liverpool, where everyone is watching you,” said Kuyt. “But we’ve only had two weeks or so together on the pitch. We’ve got a really strong team and we are all close. “I still think we showed some good teamwork and that will only get better. It’s only the second match with Fernando and Ryan, but you can already see the quality. “The only thing I would say is that we need to finish the chances but I am sure it’ll come. Maybe in two weeks.”

Penalty defeat for Reds in Asia

Liverpool took on South Coast Premier League opposition Portsmouth in the humid heat in Hong Kong on Friday infront of a feisty and loud sell-out crowd.
The big debate that lasted until literally seconds before kick off was if Liverpool’s new record signing Fernado Torres would play any part, and thanks to some last minute work from the Premier League’s chief executive and the thumbs off approval of Pompey boss Harry Redknapp ensured he would.
Portsmouth kicked off the game, and straight away Liverpool were on top, having most of the posession but not doing much with it. The first real chance of the game fell to Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt, who was starting alongside fellow Dutchman Ryan Babel upfront. Aussie Harry Kewell crossed from the left flank for Dirk, who really had time to control the ball but decided to flick the ball in mid air without taking a touch, to see the ball fly over ex-Liverpool goalkeeper David James’ bar.
Kuyt had most of Liverpool’s best chances during the first half, including a fine save from James from a Jermanie Pennant cross, which he did really well to get in as he was under pressure and pushed to the byline by the Pompey defence only to have Kuyt’s well timed header saved by the long legs of James.
Liverpool’s Malian workhorse Momo Sissoko was excellent throughout the match and showed a lot of attacking intent with Pompey letting him roam. He nearly took advantage of this several times throughout the match. The first time he seemed like a man out of his comfort zone as he charged through the Pompey backline only to be pushed off the ball by Sol Campbell.
New signing Ryan Babel disappointingly didn’t see a lot of the ball and only got one real chance when a mistake from David James where he took a horrible first touch and a slip to the ground, unfortunately Babel couldn’t capatalise quick enough to get the ball round James.
Pompey’s best chance of the first half fell to Gary O’Neil, when a brilliant defense splitting past set him one on one with Pepe Reina who stood up tall to save well with his feet.
Half time: 0-0
Liverpool again like in the semi-final made no half-time substitutions and were hoping to make posession count and try and breach the Pompey goal for the first time. Liverpool got off to a sharp start with Sissoko making another blistering run into the box, and going down under pressure. I cried out for a penalty, but on a replay looked like Momo went down cheaply to Sol’s dismay. But Momo was everywhere, hopefully he’ll put performances in like this regularly. (Take note Rafa)
The thoughts of the game turned to Fernado Torres, with the crowd going crazy, just waiting for El Nino to grace the field. When it finally came after 5 minutes of the second half on for for Kewell, the crowd went wild. Torres for his 40 minutes on the pitch showed glimpses off the £20 million Liverpool spent on him. With a few quick fire passes, and an excellent give and go with the outstanding Sissoko. Hearts were in the mouths of all that were in the stadium, when an extremely well taken first touch that had Pompey centre back Sylvain Distin in pieces for El Nino to fire just over. His next ‘near’ moment of glory was when an excellently timed kick from Reina set Torres on his way heading for James’ goal for the Pompey defender to cover well, but when all looked lost a flick out at the ball made James have to come out with an extremely good save down to his right.
Dirk Kuyt nearly scored the winner for Liverpool in the dieing seconds when Torres put a ball that just had too much on it through to him, but James dived on the ball quickly to stop the Dutchman.
Liverpool faced another penalty shoot-out.
Portsmouth’s new signing Utaka took the first penalty and got off to an awful start by putting it wide of the left hand post. Liverpool went 2-1 up with two very well taken penalty’s by Captain Steven Gerrard who was given a ‘God like’ welcome from the fans when he came on for the last 5 minutes (which maybe wasn’t the best thing to do due to his injury, but it pleased the fans, and was probably a bit to do with endorsement and marketing in Asia for the club.) And also Dirk Kuyt took his well. But at 2-2 it all went down hill when new boy Fernado Torres stepped up and hit a very poorly taken penalty at the right height for James to make a fairly comfortable save. Then another new boy Yossi Benayon stepped up and had the same fate, but this time forced James to make an excellent low dive to his left hand corner to tip the ball past the post. Portsmouth’s Niko Kranjcar won it for Portsmouth with a very well taken penalty beating Pepe Reina easily in the Liverpool goal.
Same old story as last campaign cost us again. We just couldn’t take our chances, and turn games we dominated into a win. Hopefully this will change by the start of the new campaign.
Congratulations to Harry Redknapp and his boys for the win, and a nice touch from Harry in his post match comments saying we played some excellent football at times, and we will be up there challenging for the title next season.
We should have won it, but it wasn’t to be in a game we dominated.
Better look in Holland boys.
Portsmouth win the 2007 Asia Trophy, 4-2 on penalties.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Crouch assured of key role

Liverpool striker Peter Crouch on Thursday said he was confident of playing a key role this season despite intense new competition for places.
The lofty England man said he has been assured he is in the thoughts of coach Rafael Benitez, who has strengthened his front line with record signing Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin.
"It was the same last year. When new strikers come in people automatically think where does this leave the strikers already at the club," Crouch said ahead of the Asia Trophy final here.
"But the manager's spoken to me and said I'm in his plans. We've got four strikers but hopefully I will play some part. It's going to be difficult to get in the team but when you play you have to do your best to impress."
Benitez said he hoped to see more goals this season from Liverpool, who have been criticised for being too defensive.
"We will have more options up front," he said. "Depending on the game we can play more crosses with Crouch or down the line with Voronin.

Levia impresses Gerrard

Steven Gerrard has been impressed by new signing Lucas Levia.
Levia joined up with the Reds in Hong Kong and his performances in training so far have impressed the Liverpool captain.

"From what I've seen of him so far on the training pitch he's got everything you need in a Liverpool player; good touch, good passing and he's also a good lad off the field," said Gerrard. "He's only young but I've no doubt that he's got a bright future at the club and it's good to have him onboard. He's captain of the Brazil under-20s team and so obviously has ability. "I expect him to be knocking on the door of the first team before too long and hopefully, in time, he can help us win many trophies."

Liverpool sign Brazillian U-20 wonderkid

Brazil U20 captain Lucas Leiva has revealed he rejected an offer from Manchester United to sign with Liverpool.Lucas claims he turned down moves to Manchester United and Everton before joining Liverpool from Gremio in a £5million deal.
“We knew Lucas could be a good signing because he played at a high level for Brazil Under-21s. A lot of other top clubs were after him, so we had to move quickly,” revealed manager Rafa Benitez.
“One of those other clubs plays in red, and Lucas told me the other wears blue, but I won’t say which.”
Leiva told the manager Everton and United were those clubs, while Atletico Madrid were also hoping to secure a deal.
The 20-year old midfielder will join the Reds at the start of next season after Benitez beat a host of European clubs for his signature."The deal with the player and his club is almost done and I am really pleased he is coming to us," said Benitez.Leiva, Lucas"He is the captain of the Brazil under-20 side and won the Golden Boot in his country last year so we know he has quality and we also believe he has the mentality and the character you need to do well in England."He can play as a holding midfielder but he can also get from box to box and so I am looking forward to seeing him score goals for Liverpool in the future."A lot of clubs in England and Spain were asking about him but our scouting department has again been working really hard and it's good that he's coming to us."He will arrive in the summer and then will start adapting to football in this country. We know it can take time but I think he has the quality to be putting pressure on Gerrard, Mascherano, Xabi and Sissoko next season."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Carragher impressed by Andriy Voronin

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has been won over by new arrival Andriy Voronin.Carragher told “He has looked very good. He’s a big international player alongside Shevchenko and he’s doing very well.
“The big thing at the moment is to get fit and ready for the season but doing well gives you confidence and hopefully he can take that into the season.
“He took his goals very well in Switzerland and also looked very sharp against Crewe. It’s great news for us if he carries this kind of form into the season.”

Reds to make Real move

Liverpool are looking at making a move for Real Madrid's 20-year-old defensive midfielder Javi Garcia.
Reds boss Rafa Benitez is a big advocate of bringing young talent to Anfield as he bids to build a squad of quality players for the future, while also aiming to ensure Liverpool can fight it out for the top honours at the present time.
And Garcia, who helped Spain win the Under-19 European Championship in 2006, looks to fit the bill perfectly.
After five years with Real Madrid, Garcia is reportedly becoming disillusioned at the Bernabeu, given that he was backed to become a first-team regular last term, but only managed a handful of UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey games.
Emerson and Mahamadou Diarra continue to block his path to the starting XI, while a change of management this summer could see Garcia condemned to another season in the Madrid B team.
As a result it looks like he will jump ship and the likes of Mallorca, Getafe and Deportivo, have been alerted, while Liverpool and Atletico Madrid seem to be in the box seat for his signature.
Benitez shares the same agent as Garcia, Manuel Garcia Quilon, but Atletico now have the player's cousin and former Reds ace Luis Garcia at the Vicente Calderon so both will feel they hold the upper hand in trying to tempt the youngster in a £2million deal.

We'll challenge United and Chelsea - Gerrard

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard says he will use the bitter memories of the club's Champions League final defeat against AC Milan to inspire him to lead the Reds to success this season.
It's 62 days since Gerrard and his teammates were beaten in European club football's showpiece in Athens and the England international is determined the Anfield outfit will bounce back better than ever.
He said: "Defeat in a game that big is always going to come back into your system from time to time and haunt you. There have been times in the summer when something jogs your memory back to what happened and it's then that you have to take a look at yourself. You have to use it as a spur and that's certainly what I'm going to try to do this season."
With manager Rafa Benitez having been given the financial clout to sign the likes of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, Reds' supporters will be hoping their expensive summer acquisitions can help the club challenge Manchester United and Chelsea for the Premiership crown.
Speaking from Hong Kong, where Liverpool are competing in the Asia Trophy alongside Portsmouth and Fulham, Gerrard outlined his steely determination to ensure the Reds produce a sustained title challenge this time round.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chiellini Angling For Liverpool Move

Giorgio Chiellini’s relationship with the Juventus management has deteriorated to such an extent that he has issued a come-and-get-me-plea to Liverpool.

The 22-year-old Azzurri sideback and his new coach Claudio Ranieri have taken snipes at each other through the press, and it is now looking more and more likely that Chiellini –who is peeved at the club’s refusal to grant him an improved deal and his coaches reluctance to stand in his corner- will be wearing different colours come next season.
"It is obvious that if he (Chiellini) receives limited time in the side next term then other options will have to be looked at," said his agent Davide Lippi.
"I am sure that if an official offer came from Liverpool, it would be a tempting solution."
After Sir Alex Ferguson ruled out the sale of Gabriel Heinze to United’s bitter rivals, Liverpool chief Rafa Benitez could be ready to intensifly his interest in Chiellini.


Steven Gerrard today insisted the Reds are in great shape for a Barclays Premier League challenge this season.
The Liverpool skipper admits he is delighted with Rafael Benitez's summer recruits and believes the arrivals of Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun, Andriy Voronin and Ryan Babel will aid the club's quest to finally end their long wait for English football's biggest prize, "I've watched what the other teams are doing in the transfer market and they're all strengthening," said the skipper. "But all those teams will be looking at us and thinking we are going to be all over them this season. "I'm not going to start making any unnecessary predictions about what's going to happen this season, and the last thing any of us needs to do is build up hopes too much. "But without doubt, if we all perform to our level each week then we have the players to push United and Chelsea all the way. "We are looking in great shape, not only going into this season but for the next few years. I thought going away for the summer that we were three or four players away from where we need to be. "We are in a great place to challenge United and Chelsea and I hope if we get things right from the beginning we can beat them to the big prizes this year." The Reds are currently preparing for the new season at their Swiss training camp and Gerrard believes the fact the manager already has his new signings on board will only boost their chances of a successful campaign. "Previous years have shown how important it is to sort everything out early, because it's not easy for new players if they're arriving just before the deadline," he said. "It makes it harder to settle. It's important we get off to a good start and that's going to be easier if we have everyone here as soon as possible. "I've liked the way we've done business this summer. We've got the likes of Voronin, Torres, Babel and Benayoun coming in to do the business and then players like Leiva who add depth and put pressure on the other players. Record signing Torres is expected to make his full debut for the Reds against Auxerre tomorrow afternoon and Gerrard admits he is looking forward to seeing the Spanish striker wreak havoc on opposing defences this year. "When we sign a striker I look at the defensive pairings of United and Chelsea and ask if we've signed a player who is going to cause them all sorts of problems," he said. "I did it with Torres and ended up with a smile on my face because I don't think anyone will enjoy playing against him."


New signing Ryan Babel isn't anticipating any problems adapting to life in English football and is confident he can be an instant hit in the Barclays Premier League this season.
Babel - who is likely to get another first team run-out against Auxerre this afternoon - is hoping to prove himself as a regular first teamer over the course of the campaign but he acknowledges the fierce competition he faces to force his way into Rafael Benitez's plans. "I've said that my favourite position is as a striker and you could see from the game on Tuesday that there is a lot of competition for places up front here at Liverpool," said the Dutchman. "But there is always competition at each top club for any position, it was the same at Ajax, and it's not something that worries me. "My target for this season is mainly to keep learning, know about England, know about the Premier League and know about the game here. "The fact that there are other players coming in at the same time will probably help me too. "I know it's going to be difficult and it takes time for players to settle in, but I believe I have the quality to do that, pick things up quickly and show what I can do in England. "I'm still only 20 years of age and hopefully can get better, and with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres here, it's impossible not to learn from such great players. That's one of the reasons I chose to come to Liverpool, many of the guys have a lot of experience and I want to pick up on that and improve my game. "I am settling in well and the boys in the squad have helped me a lot in the few days I've been here, especially Dirk. I know him from the Dutch national team and that is going to be important for me."

Photos of the Reds in Switzerland

Rafael Benitez and his first team squad are warming up for the new season at a training camp in Switzerland this week and the official website is there to take some snaps.
The players are being put through their paces under the watchful eyes of Benitez and his coaching staff who are working intensively to ensure the Reds will be in the best condition possible for the big kick-off next month. Here is a selection of some of the players - including record signing Fernando Torres - in action at the Bad Ragaz complex.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Benitez Rules Out Mancini Swoop

Rafael Benitez has dismissed reports that he is interested in signing Roma midfielder Alessandro Mancini.
The Brazilian's agent talked up the possibility of the move despite Liverpool having splashed out almost £50m on Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun in the last two weeks.
However, while Benitez's involvement in the transfer market does not appear to be over at this stage it does not appear that the winger is one of the names on his shopping list.
The Liverpool boss said: "I was reading stories about Mancini. I can say that Liverpool will not be offering any money for this player."
Mancini is currently seeking a more lucrative contract at the Stadio Olimpico, which may account for his agents comments on the possible switch to the Premiership.

Crouch Disappointed With Lack Of Praise

Peter Crouch has spoken of his disappointment at failing to get recognition for his achievements on the pitch last season, while admits questioning manager Rafael Benitez about his plans for him during this campaign.
The England forward netted 18 goals last season to be the clubs top goalscorer, yet he was not a fixture in the first team and for this reason he believes he should get similar credit to that of Chelsea forward Didier Drogba, who was the Premiership's top marksman last season.
Liverpool have sold Craig Bellamy and Djibril Cisse this summer, but have added strikers Andriy Voronin and Fernando Torres, which leaves Crouch competing with those as well as Dirk Kuyt for a place in Benitez's first team.
Crouch, who reportedly has a £20m price tag on his head, explained: "A lot of players went to see the manager after the season just to wrap things up and to see what the future held. I was no different. I wanted to go and see him.
"I felt I had had a good season at Liverpool and played well, but I just needed to know that I was still in his plans for next year.
"Drogba was fantastic last year and got the credit he deserved because he scored 33 goals, but you look at the goals I scored for the time I was on the pitch and I think perhaps my record goes unnoticed and isn't given the scrutiny Drogba's is.
"At times I do find it frustrating but all I can do, rather than shout and scream and say 'Look how good I am', is do it on the pitch and hopefully convince people with my performances."

Liverpool target Chiellini unsettled at Juventus

Liverpool target Giorgio Chiellini admits he's unsure of his future at Juventus.
"No one has called me or tried to contact me," he revealed. "They have focused on renewing the contracts of the important players and this is logical.
"However, they haven't considered the players who gave their all to bring the team back to the First Division. I believe I might risk playing only 30 per cent of next year's matches and I cannot agree to this.
"I have plenty of opportunities, but I only hope someone will call me to explain what the plan is. Unfortunately no one has done this so far."
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez sees Chiellini as an alternative target to Manchester United defender Gaby Heinze.
The agent of Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini admits a move to Liverpool would appeal to the Italy U21 captain.
Davide Lippi said: "It is obvious that if there's limited first team opportunities next season, then other options will have to be investigated.
"I am sure if something official came from Liverpool, it would be a tempting solution."

Monday, July 16, 2007


DIRK KUYT has warned that Rafa Benitez’s summer spending spree will go to waste unless Liverpool make a strong start to the season.
Kuyt has been impressed by the fact Benitez has spent £40million, which has brought Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun and Andriy Voronin to Anfield. But the Dutch striker fears it will all be in vain if Liverpool make the same mistakes as last season.Despite another impressive European campaign, Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Premiership were effectively over by the end of October. By then they had won just four of their first 10 league matches while Manchester United recorded eight wins from the same number of games en route to the title. Kuyt, speaking after helping his side warm up with a comfortable 3-0 win at Crewe, said: “You can’t win the title in the first few weeks of the season but you can certainly lose it.

You can lose the title in the first few weeks.

Dirk Kuyt
“We had a slow start last season but this time it’s important we show we can do it from the start.“It was a good thing to bring a few new players in. We certainly have to play much better than last year. “I’m not worried about my place. It’s important to get players to make the team better and the competition at Liverpool is now stronger than ever.” Kuyt was one of 22 players used by Benitez at Gresty Road, with the manager introducing a full change at half-time.England striker Peter Crouch marked his first pre-season appearance with a goal while Lee Peltier and Ray Putterill, a member of last season’s triumphant FA Youth Cup-winning side, also scored before Liverpool headed off to Switzerland for a training camp.
Voronin, a free signing from Bayer Leverkusen, looked useful going forward.Torres, the club record signing from Atletico Madrid, was not risked as he is recovering from a minor ankle knock.Babel and Benayoun are expected to make their first appearances against either Werder Bremen tomorrow or Auxerre on Friday. Benitez hopes to be joined in Switzerland by Lucas Leiva, the 20-year-old Brazilian midfielder who agreed to move to Anfield in May from Gremio in a £5m deal. But the transfer is dependent on Leiva acquiring the necessary documents and Liverpool reserve the right to cancel the move if they cannot secure the player’s eligibility. Benitez said: “He is the captain of the Brazil Under-20 side and won the Golden Boot in his country last year so we know he has quality.“We also believe he has the mentality and the character you need to do well in England.”Fabio Aurelio is unlikely to be fit in time for the start of the season. The 27-year-old Brazilian left-back ruptured his Achilles tendon during Liverpool’s Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven in April. Benitez said: “Fabio isn’t fit. It could be another month before he recovers. We knew it would be a long time when he got injured.“He is improving, but it is not easy when you have this kind of injury.”

Torres set for Bremen bow

Fernando Torres is in line to make his Liverpool debut on Tuesday against Werder Bremen.
Liverpool face Bremen in their third pre-season friendly of the summer at the Swiss training camp.
Torres missed Saturday's win at Crewe with a slight ankle injury, but Reds boss Rafa Benitez is ready to give the club's record signing his much anticipated bow against Bremen.
"We had to wait for Fernando because he started training after the other players," said Benitez.
"We also needed to check his ankle but I think he'll be okay for our next game."
Benitez, meanwhile, praised Andrei Voronin following his first appearance for the club in the 3-0 victory at Crewe.
"We know that Voronin is going to be another option for us," added Benitez.
"He has good game intelligence, he plays well between the lines and he has a lot of quality."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Voronin praised after Reds win

Rafael Benitez was full of praise for new boy Andriy Voronin after the striker's impressive debut in the 3-0 friendly win at Crewe.
Voronin carved out game's opening goal for youngster Lee Peltier (21)during an impressive 45 minutes on the field.
Peter Crouch (24) added a second three minutes later when he turned in John Arne Riise's cross.
And Youth Cup hero Ray Putterill added the Reds' third after 58 minutes with a shot from the edge of the box.
"We know that Voronin is going to be another option for us," Benitez told the club's website. "He has good game intelligence, he plays well between the lines and he has a lot of quality.
"He played well today in what was a good game for us. We used 22 players and I saw a lot of good things on the field.
"Two of the young lads scored as well which is good for them. They need to be involved in these kind of games to show what they can do."

Mancini's Liverpool threat

Amantino Mancini is using Liverpool’s interest in him to break through Roma’s salary cap and earn £2m per season.“There has been interest from Liverpool for Mancini,” said agent Gilmar Veloz. “I have spoken with Rafa Benitez, but I answered they must deal with Roma.“If the Giallorossi reach an agreement with the English club, we would need to meet to discuss the player’s future, but I have yet to receive an offer from Roma.”The Brazilian’s contract expires on June 30, 2009 and he is eager to bump up his wages to at least £3m per season.The club is unwilling to break through its £1.7m salary cap, but Veloz is using the interest from Liverpool as leverage to at least approach his target.Roma will meet with Mancini’s agent next week to discuss an extension, as he currently earns just under £1m per season.Newspaper ‘Il Romanista’ reports that the key to keeping him in the capital could be a romantic one, as he has settled down with a local girl and she is not convinced that a switch to Liverpool would suit the couple.The Brazilian’s price-tag rose considerably after his performances in the Champions League last term, including a sensational individual goal against Olympique Lyonnais.

Dudek Confirms Madrid Deal

Jerzy Dudek has confirmed a deal has been agreed between him and the Spanish champions, leaving just a medical to pass for the Polish International.
The highly-experienced goalkeeper was available on a free transfer after being released by Liverpool FC at the end of last season.
He was expected to join one of his many suitors in England, with Manchester City and Bolton being strong favourites, however it seems a move to Real Madrid was to difficult to turn down at this late stage of his career,
"On Sunday or Monday I will fly to Spain to pass medicals," Dudek told Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
"On the same day I will sign a contract and will be presented as a new Real player. I hope so and I am really happy with this."
"The offer from Real overshadowed all the others”, continued Dudek, revealing interest arrived from across Europe.
"I was considering a return to Feyenoord, Jacek Krzynowek was encouraging me to join him at Wolfsburg, an interesting offer from a respected newly promoted Premiership club appeared and I was also thinking of moving to Portugal."
"However, when Real showed interest I was very proud and did not think long.”
Although Dudek will surely pass his medical in the next couple of days, he was adamant that he did not see his move as translating to being Iker Casillas’ backup, a role that most journalists have already relegated him to,
"Real is the best. I know that Iker Casillas plays there. He is a great goalkeeper and, moreover, he is a club trainee. Fans love and respect such players. However, you can always find a place for yourself."
"No player who has ambitions will tell you that he will be satisfied with sitting on the bench. I have gone through something like this at Liverpool and I know what kind of feeling it is. Why do you already give me such a role?"
"I am 34 years old, feel good and live a sporting way of life. I intend to play a few more years as it is possible being a goalkeeper."
Dudek will become the third arrival at Los Merengues this summer, following the signings of defenders Pepe and Christoph Metzelder.

Liverpool: Hands off Crouch

The trio are all showing an interest in the gangly goalgetter and were under the impression he may be surplus to requirements at Anfield following the arrivals of Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin.
However, Reds boss Rafael Benitez plans to rotate his five strikersthis season and is under no pressure to sell after already allowing Craig Bellamy to join West Ham for £7.5million.
Crouch has two years left on his current deal and Benitez believes the 26-year-old is worth in excess of the £16million Tottenham spent on Darren Bent, according to the News of the World.
Benitez rates has previously told the England international he must stay and fight for his place this season.
"The only thing I can say is that Peter Crouch will be staying with us. I have said to Crouch that he must fight for his position and he will stay with us," he said.

Ferguson blocks Heinze move to Anfield

Alex Ferguson has blocked Gabriel Heinze from moving to Manchester United's bitter rivals Liverpool. The only way the Argentine defender can join the Anfield giants is to buy out his contract, which would cost him €10m. Reds boss Rafael Benitez has been given a green light by the club's American owners to swoop for Heinze, who plays in tonight's Copa America final.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reds close in on Babel and Benayoun

Liverpool are closing in on Yossi Benayoun after agreeing a fee with West Ham for the Israel midfielder.
The Anfield club have also been given permission to talk to Ajax winger Ryan Babel.
Benayoun rejected a new contract at Upton Park while Dutchman Babel was one of the stars of the recent European Under-21 Championship.
Liverpool have already stated their ambition this summer by signing strikers Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin.
Benayoun and Babel will increase manager Rafael Benitez's creative options in midfield.
Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry said: 'We've agreed the fee with West Ham for Yossi Benayoun.
'We're not quite there with Ryan Babel yet but we've now been given permission by Ajax to talk to the player.
'We hope to reach an agreement with Ajax very shortly.'
Benayoun is rated at £5million and about to bring the curtain down on a two-year spell at the Hammers.
He moved to England from Spanish side Racing Santander for £2.5million and scored eight goals in 72 games for the club.
Benayoun is seen as an ideal replacement for Luis Garcia, who recently moved to Atletico Madrid.
Babel could cost Liverpool as much as £10million. He is reportedly heading to Merseyside for a medical.

Man City, Liverpool watching PSV's Kone

Manchester City and Liverpool are keeping tabs on Arouna Kone's situation at PSV Eindhoven.
The exciting winger is a target for both Premiership clubs and both will be encouraged after a blow-up between Kone and PSV coach Ronald Koeman after going AWOL from training this week.


Liverpool have swooped to recruit another talented youngster after agreeing a deal with Millwall to sign striker David Amoo.
The highly promising 17-year old has joined for an undisclosed fee and will start training with his new team-mates at the Academy today. Amoo was a prolific goalscorer for the Lions youth side last season and his signature was courted by a host of leading clubs. The Academy's Head of Recruitment Malcolm Elias told "We are delighted to have completed the capture of David. "He's an exciting young talent with fantastic physical prowess. He's a natural athlete who possesses great pace and has represented London as a sprinter at the English Schools National Track and Field Championships. "Along with Marvin Pourie and Nathan Ecclestone he'll provide excellent competition for places among the first year boys in this season's under-18 set-up."

Torres signing "a statement of intent", says Gerrard

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard claims the record transfer fee paid for Spanish international Fernando Torres is a "statement of intent" to the club's main rivals.The England midfielder says the arrival of Torres, who joined from Atletico Madrid for a fee in excess of £20 million, should send a message to teams like Chelsea and Manchester United that the Reds will be in the hunt for the Premiership next season.Recent years have seen the Merseysiders' league campaigns derailed within the first few weeks of the season after falling too far behind the leaders.But Gerrard says the club's increasing transfer activity this summer will bolster the squad from the first game onwards to enable them to challenge the expensive sides assembled by Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson."Since I've been in the first team I can't remember us making such a major statement of intent in the transfer market as this," he said of the Torres deal."In recent years it's only really been Manchester United and Chelsea buying players around the £20-million mark, so it's great to see us able to compete for players of that kind of value."Gerrard hailed the influence of the club's new American co-owners – Tom Hicks and George Gillett – who he said had continued the Anfield tradition of investing in the team."The Liverpool board has always backed the manager and we've invested heavily over the years," he continued."Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier spent a lot of money, but we've all been looking for that extra step to close the gap and attract the kind of players United and Chelsea are able to afford."This is the first summer in a long time we've been able to do that."We're looking in great shape, not only going into this season, but for the next few years."

Monday, July 9, 2007


Rafa Benitez insists Jermaine Pennant remains an integral part of his first-team plans despite the possible arrival of new wingers at the club.
Benitez revealed at a press conference following the capture of Fernando Torres that he would like to add more width to his squad. However, Pennant is still very much part of the Liverpool manager's plans, particularly if he continues the form shown on Saturday, when he claimed three assists during the 3-2 victory over Wrexham. Benitez said: "Jermaine is the type of player I like, a winger who goes forward and puts crosses in. He can do this job perfectly but we do need other players in wide areas. "He played really well in the Champions League final and he has also done really well in pre-season. "But we don't need a lot of new players, maybe two new faces." Pennant played 52 times in his first season at Anfield, scoring one goal.

Portuguese winger Simao Sabrosa is Benitez's first choice

Benfica's Simao Sabrosa remains Rafael Benitez's first choice despite rumoured interest in £14million-rated Porto ace Ricardo Quaresma.
The Anfield boss is believed to prefer Simao over his international colleague Quaresma, but has been forced to play a waiting game by the player's Lisbon club.
Benitez is desperate to add a top class wide man to his squad but has grown so frustrated with Benfica's stance that he has made it known to them he is actively persuing the Porto man.
This could spark the serious negotiations over 27-year-old Simao that Liverpool want, although the situation has also been complicated by continued interest from Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish club, flushed with over £20million in cash from the sale of Fernando Torres are emerging as serious candidates for Simao - having previously courted Quaresma.
Although viewed as a more skilful player, Quaresma has been criticised for a lack of application in defence and when the going gets tough, having failed at Barcelona when he left Portugal in his younger years.
Simao needs no introduction to the Anfield faithful after scoring one of the goals that put Liverool out of the Champions League in 2006, while he bagged 11 league goals in 24 appearances last term.

Liverpool in bid for Ajax ace

Liverpool have made an offer for Ryan Babel, according to the Ajax forward's agent.
The youngster impressed for Holland at the recent European Under 21 Championship and has been strongly linked with Arsenal.
Babel has admitted he envisages playing for the Gunners at some stage in his career, but cast doubt on a summer move to Emirates Stadium.
However, he could now have the option of a transfer to Liverpool after Babel's agent Winnie Haatrecht revealed the UEFA Champions League finalists' interest.
"I won't say anything about the amounts currently mentioned, however I can confirm Ajax have received an official bid from Liverpool," Haatrecht told Dutch magazine Sportweek.
"Ryan has not spoken with the club.
"Only if Ajax tell us they have an agreement, and state we can talk, will phase two begin.
"In that phase you will look at what Liverpool want, what their plans are with Babel.
"After that, the financial part will come, but it's not that far.
"First, we have to wait for both clubs to get a deal."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Carragher To Quit England

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is reportedly ready to announce his retirement from international football.
According to a report in the Mail on Sunday the 29-year-old was unhappy with England boss Steve McClaren for leaving him out of the side that faced Estonia in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Tottenham's Ledley King was chosen ahead of Carragher, who has always been on the fringes of the national team's first eleven despite his awesome displays for his club.
A 'source close to Carragher' is quoted as saying: "Jamie does not want to sound like a big-time Charlie.
"He just feels that at this stage in his career it would be better if he concentrated his efforts on helping Liverpool become the No 1 team in England again.
"He has always regarded it as a tremendous honour to represent his country...but things have to end some time and he thinks this might be a good time to bow out."
Benitez delighted with hat-trick hero Idrizaj

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was delighted with the hat-trick performance of Besian Idrizaj in yesterday's friendly victory over Wrexham.
Austrian striker Besian Idrizaj scored a 22-minute first half hat-trick as Liverpool won their first pre-season friendly 3-2 at Wrexham, and we invite you to watch the highlights online.
Besides watching the highlights and goals you can also view the entire 90 minutes from an entertaining afternoon at the Racecourse Ground. Rafael Benitez fielded two teams in the match with a selection of senior and young players. Jermaine Pennant had a superb match for Liverpool and the winger set up all of Idrizaj's hat-trick.
"It was a good work out for the boys and they will feel the benefit of playing 45 minutes of competitive football," he told
"We wanted to use some of the younger players with some of the senior players and I thought it was a good game for the supporters.
"Of course we are pleased with Besian. We know he is a talent and that he has ability but he needs to mature now as a striker. Can he fight for a first team place this season? It depends on him and how he improves over the year. We have a lot of competition for places in attack but you never know."

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Benitez laughs off West Ham's bid
West Ham's reported offer of Yossi Benayoun in a straight swap for Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy has been snubbed by Rafa Benitez.
The Hammers have been heavily linked with a swoop for 27-year-old Wales international Bellamy, whose spell at Anfield is on borrowed time following the recent arrival of £20million Spanish starlet Fernando Torres at Liverpool.
However, while West Ham are thought to have offered £7million for Bellamy, who cost the Reds £6.5million from Blackburn last summer, the Champions League finalists are looking for around £8-9million.
Fresh reports are claiming that West Ham are now willing to hand over Israeli international midfielder Benayoun, who has already been linked with a move to Liverpool this summer, in a straight swap for Bellamy. But Liverpool boss Benitez has laughed off the bid as he only values Benayoun at £3.5million, so would want around £5million in cash as well as the player before a deal could be concluded
Bolo Zenden set to join Marseille
BOLO Zenden was today set to sign for Marseille after being released by Liverpool at the end of last season.
The former Holland midfielder was expected to sign a two-year contract at OM after completing a medical today.
A Marseille statement read: “Boudewijn Zenden is at Marseille.
“He is currently taking medical exams as a pre-condition to him signing, and should then sign for two years at OM, before being presented to the press.”
Zenden, 30, has played for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Chelsea, Middlesbrough before joining Liverpool in summer 2005.
His last competitive appearance came in the Reds’ 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in the final of last season’s Champions League.
He has played 54 times for Holland but not since September 2004.
Marseille qualified for this season’s Champions League after finishing second in Ligue 1 last term.
Cardiff City are still in the market for Fowler
DAVE Jones has talked about Cardiff City target Robbie Fowler for the first time, saying: “If a player of that calibre is available and we can afford him, everybody would want him.”
Bluebirds manager Jones did not directly confirm Cardiff’s interest, but he made it plain he is a fan of the former England, Liverpool, Leeds United and Manchester City goals ace.
“I was playing golf in a charity event at Celtic Manor on Monday and Robbie, too, was playing,” said Jones.
“Yes, I spoke to him and everybody assumes what they want to.
“But we didn’t talk about his playing future at all. We’re on the lookout for quality players.
“We’ve brought in three – Gavin Rae, Steve MacLean and Tony Capaldi – and we want three more before the start of the Coca-Cola Championship season.”
A source close to Fowler, though, has revealed his agent, George Scott, will hold contract talks with Cardiff City chairman Peter Ridsdale this weekend. Fowler is still without a club after being released by Liverpool, but it remains a long shot that he will commit to Cardiff.
The Bluebirds would not break their wage structure and it would take a major sponsorship package from outside the football club to open the way.
There is, though, a lot of support for Cardiff City from South Wales businessmen and they could raise the money if Fowler is keen.
City are unlikely to bring in a new player before they leave for Portugal on Monday, but Jones said: “That’s not a problem and we can always fly a player out to meet us in Portugal if it works out that way.
“We are still five weeks away from the first league match – and that’s the big date.”
City badly need a senior goalkeeper. They currently only have one, David Forde, on the books and Jones said: “We may yet bring in two more goalkeepers.”
Peter Whittingham will link up with City’s first-team squad for the first time on Monday. Former Aston Villa midfielder Whittingham spent most of the summer with the England squad for the European Under-21 Championships and Jones said: “Peter will join us at the airport on Monday before we fly out for our pre-season tour to Portugal.”
Liverpool to pocket £15m for strike duo
RAFA BENITEZ received a £15m windfall last night – after unloading unwanted strikers Craig Bellamy and Djibril Cisse.
Liverpool finally agreed a £7.5m fee with West Ham for the transfer of Bellamy, and banked a fee in the region of £8m from Marseille after Djibril Cisse's loan deal was made permanent.
But the Reds’ hopes of landing The Hammers' Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun were thwarted when West Ham refused to budge on their staggering £8m valuation.
On a frantic day of transfer activity at Anfield, Bellamy was forced to accept he was leaving his boyhood heroes after a solitary season.
But Benitez denied that the decision to sell had anything to do with disciplinary problems.
"It was nothing to do with discipline," he said. "We only had the one problem with Craig and that was not a big thing. I just wanted different types of strikers."
That incident, when Bellamy chased team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club on a team bonding trip to the Algarve, was quickly forgotten when both players scored in the Champions League tie which followed in Barcelona.
Liverpool tried to include Bellamy in a player plus-cash exchange for Benayoun, but Alan Curbishley dug in his heels and insisted he wanted a straight swop.
Benitez rejected that proposal and it was decided the two transfers would have to be negotiated separately.
Liverpool have had a third offer of £5m rejected but are unlikely to go much higher.
Marseille, meanwhile, agreed to the permanent transfer of Cisse, with the striker delighted to make his loan deal there permanent.
The French club also snapped up midfielder Boudewijn Zenden, released by Liverpool this summer, on a free transfer.
The Dutchman penned a two-year deal after completing a medical.
Meanwhile, Xabi Alonso will try to help Liverpool’s record signing Fernando Torres settle in at Anfield – on and off the pitch.
The midfield playmaker is a huge fan of his Spanish international team-mate – and believes his signing will help Liverpool close the gap on Manchester United next season.
Although Liverpool reached the Champions League final last season, they had a disappointing Premiership campaign and finished 21 points behind the champions.
But Alonso is convinced that the acquisition of Torres can see that gap closed significantly.
He explained: “I am optimistic before the season gets underway that we can go out and fight for the title.
“With Fernando, Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt we are going to have one of the best attacks in Europe. It will be our task to help set them up for as many goals as possible.
“Fernando is one of the best forwards in Europe and it will be great for us to have him in the team. I believe that he is going to be a big reinforcement for Liverpool.
“It is necessary for us to have the spirit needed to be champions from the first game.”
Alonso reveals that he scoured the newspapers all summer to see how Liverpool’s pursuit of Torres was progressing.
The 23-year-old finally completed a £20million move this week, and Alonso believes the Spanish contingent already at Anfield will be key to Torres adjusting to his new surroundings in England.
Alonso added: “It is great news that Fernando Torres has now become one of my team-mates at Liverpool.
“There were so many rumours that he was going to come into the Premier League and I was constantly checking the news to see if we had signed him.
“He has shown over the last few years at Atletico Madrid how much quality he has got as a player. It will be a major challenge for him in England but I am convinced he will be a big success over here.
“We will help him to settle in from day one and help him adapt to the club, the city and living in England.”
Reds boss Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, is also thrilled at Torres’ capture.
But he stopped short of declaring that his squad is now ready to mount a title challenge.
“They (Manchester United and Chelsea) have been spending big money for years,” Benitez said.
“Now we are spending some money, but I don’t know if it will be enough to be contenders in one year’s time. I’m sure that it will help, but you at least need to do it. We needed to sign players of this level if we’re going to be contenders.”
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes the club is heading in a new direction and the finances made available by American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks can make the Reds "a great team".
Manager Rafael Benitez completed a club record £20million transfer for striker Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid this week and is targeting further signings as he seeks to break the Premier League stranglehold of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Gerrard praised Gillett and Hicks for backing Benitez financially, believing they have set the club on the way to restoring former glories.
The England midfielder described the American duo as "classy guys with sharp business minds".
“[By handing Benitez] the finance to strengthen, we can go from a good team to a great team," Gerrard writes in the paperback update of his autobiography out next week, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The 27-year-old also hailed Benitez as an "outstanding" manager, although he admitted he was surprised by some of his tactical decisions in the 2-1 Champions League final defeat to AC Milan in Athens - not least leaving it late to bring on striker Peter Crouch.
"Rafa came up with the right game-plan in Athens," said Gerrard, referring to the manager's decision to swamp Milan's midfield with a 4-5-1 formation.
"In the second half (with Liverpool losing 1-0), I expected some subs sharpish.
“I trust Rafa. The manager clearly had belief in the players who were on, but I was surprised Crouchy did not come on earlier. Not just Crouchy, any sub. We needed something different."
Liverpool's Sissoko: I rejected Barcelona, Juventus
Mali international Mohamed Sissoko has claimed he turned down offers from Barcelona and Juventus in order to remain with Liverpool.
The midfielder struggled with injuries last term and the arrival of Javier Mascherano halfway through the season forced him further down Rafa Benitez's pecking order.
Sissoko is determined to prove his worth next term, after revealing he snubbed offers from Barca and Juve in order to remain at Anfield.

"It is true that I received nice offers this summer," Sissoko told
"Those offers were interesting on both financial and sporting levels. But I made up my mind and decided to stay here because there is a nice project.
"Liverpool are an ambitious club hungry for titles and this attracts me. Besides, staying can help me to progress.
"The offers came from Juventus and Barcelona. It has been very difficult to take my decision as I was in direct contact with both clubs. I analysed the pros and the cons and made a choice that I don't regret."
Sissoko says he came close to leaving, but was reassured he had a future at the club by Benitez and chief executive Rick Parry.
He added: "They both wished to keep me and put my name on the non-transferable players list."
Although admitting he endured a mixed season, Sissoko feels the fact Barca and Juve came calling proves he has the talent to succeed at the highest level.
"If Juventus and Barcelona have been interested in me and wanted me to sign, that is not for nothing. I have proved my worth. It is always a pleasure to receive such offers from big teams like that.
"I progressed last season, but the injuries slowed me down. Those injuries happened at the worst moments for me, but the page has been turned.
"A new season is about to start and I want it to be a great year."
Liverpool Football Club has today officially announced the signing of Ukrainian international striker Andriy Voronin.
The 27-year-old, who was out of contract at Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, will be unveiled to the media after 1pm today. Rafa Benitez said: "He is a player with pace and with good movement. He plays between the lines, between defenders. He is a good worker also, and he scores goals. "He's not the kind of player you can talk about strengths because he has many things he can give to us." Voronin is a versatile forward who has played in the hole, on the wing and as an out-and-out striker. He began his professional career aged 15 after Borussia Moenchengladbach spotted him playing for Ukraine Under-16s. Next up for the player nicknamed The Raven was a move to FSV Mainz, where he scored 20 league goals during the 2002/03 season. Voronin signed for FC Cologne in 2003 but was snapped up by Leverkusen a year later. In 2004-05 he featured in the German side's 6-2 aggregate defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League. The striker leaves the BayArena with a record of 21 goals in 71 league games. Voronin made his international debut in a friendly against Romania in March 2002. He's so far earned 44 caps, including four in the 2006 World Cup, and scored five goals for his country.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rafa quip ends Bellamy's Liverpool's career

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has admitted Craig Bellamy could be leaving the club.
Bellamy's future has been the subject of speculation for some time with a number of clubs believed to keen on signing the Welsh international.
The former Newcastle striker struggled to hold down a place in Benitez's side last season and the arrival of Fernando Torres has pushed Bellamy further down the pecking order at Anfield.
Benitez admitted a number of clubs have expressed an interest in Bellamy but he insists Peter Crouch will be going nowhere.
Asked if Bellamy will be leaving, Benitez said: "Possibly. We have some clubs asking about him and it's a possibility."
When asked if he had a future, Benitez jokingly asked: "I take it you mean Torres?" and when corrected with Bellamy's name, Benitez raised his eyebrows and added: "I'm very happy with Torres."
He went on: "Bellamy is our player at the moment but there is a new player here now. The only thing I can say is that Crouch will be staying with us. I have said to Crouch that he must fight for his position and he will stay with us."
Benitez also played down rumours linking him with a move for Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze.
The Spaniard says he is looking at bringing in wide players rather than defenders.
"Really we are working with wingers," added Benitez. "People can talk about a lot of things and a lot of names but we're working on wingers."

Benitez Targets Porto winger Quaresma Next

Hot on the heels of Fernando Torres' arrival at Anfield, Rafa Benitez is looking to strengthen his squad further. Facing stiff competition from Atletico Madrid, the coach has turned his attention towards Porto winger Quaresma.
Rafa Benitez is seeking to avoid a second consecutive third-placed finish in the Premiership and in doing so is building a squad from the front.Fernando Torres is now settled in as the new star striker at Anfield, and now Benitez will look for wingers and attacking midfielders. Apparently, Quaresma is his number-one target.The Portuguese winger has been heavily linked with Atletico Madrid, but Liverpool are an outside bet to gain his signature. They've already allegedly had a £13.5m bid rejected, but are confident that an improved offer could change Porto's minds.Atletico, too, have apparently considered an offer in that region, but also included additional payout clauses based on results and performances.Quaresma spent a fiery season with Barcelona before sparking a feud with coach Frank Rijkaard over being asked to play on the left flank instead of in his more usual right-wing role.
Since departing the Nou Camp in 2004, he's impressed at the Estadio do Dragao, and often swapped positions to play on the left.

Liverpool’s new Spanish superstar no Spice Boy

LIVERPOOL FC’s latest Spanish import may have olive skin, blond highlights and a horde of adoring female fans but he is not likely to herald a new “Spice Boys” era for the club.
A quiet man who shuns the limelight, striker Fernando Torres is said to favour a night in over partying at city nightspots.
The 23-year-old Madrid-born striker has been known to criticise footballers who consider themselves “part-time athletes and full-time stars”.
Nicknamed “El Niño” (the kid) because of his fresh-faced looks, Torres yesterday completed a £20m transfer deal from Atlético Madrid to Liverpool.
He will wear the number nine shirt, also worn by Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler, himself once tagged with the Spice Boy image.
He was born in Madrid’s Fuenlabrada neighbourhood, traditional Real Madrid territory, but grew up to wear the red and white stripes of Atlético Madrid, known as the “cloth cap team” with a working class fan-base.
Since 1999, Torres has been dating childhood sweetheart Olalla, who he met at the age of eight when his parents moved to the same street as her family in Galicia. The pair are rumoured to be marrying this September.
Madrid-based journalist Tim Brown said he hoped Torres’s team mates would help him settle in . He said: “He is a quiet lad. His goal celebrations are even conservative. He has a steady girlfriend so that could disappoint the ladies in Liverpool. He doesn’t speak English and is very used to life in Madrid.
“Hopefully, he’ll spend a lot of time with his Spanish co-players. That should help him settle in..”
But Madrid-based football writer Javier Conzuelas thinks Torres’s clean-living nature may change once he gets a taste of life in Merseyside.
She said: “El Niño is famous for being the football geek.
“He likes his nights in with his childhood sweetheart Olalla.
“But there is a lot of concern about whether he will change once he is away from the watchful eyes of his family. Liverpool may be much smaller than Madrid, but there are still a lot of distractions for a young lad working away from home for the first time.”
Sky TV’s La Liga expert Guillem Balague believes Liverpool are on to a winner.
“The fans of Liverpool can relate to him and he can be a big success,” he said.
Earlier this year, friends gave Torres an unusual birthday present, a captain’s armband bearing the logo: “We’ll never walk alone”.
It was meant simply as a symbol of their friendship, but led to inevitable speculation.
He has been so dedicated to playing for the Spanish side that around 1,500 Atlético supporters, shocked at his departure, yesterday gathered at the club’s ground yelling about their feelings of disquiet.
As well as “El Niño”, Torres has amassed other nicknames during his six-year stint with Atlético. These include “El Niño de Oro” (goldenboy), “el Dios” (God) and “La Flecha” (the arrow).
Lord of the Rings fan Torres also has a collection of tattoos. One says “Fernando” in Tengwar, the “elvish” language created by JRR Tolkien.
The number nine, his shirt number for Atlético Madrid and the Spanish team, is tattooed on the inside of his right wrist.
And the Roman numerals VII VII MMI (07/07/2001), thought to be the day of his first date with Olalla, are tattooed on his right shin.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fowler hails Torres coup

Robbie Fowler has tipped Fernando Torres to be 'a great player' for Liverpool as the Atletico Madrid striker reportedly closes on a move to Anfield.
Reports in Spain claim that the Atletico captain has cut short his holiday to finalise a club record switch to the UEFA Champions League finalists.
And Kop idol Fowler is hoping that Torres could be a key figure in Liverpool ending a 17-year wait for the title.
"His record is 82 goals in 200 games for Atletico, I think," Fowler told Sky Sports News. "His record has been fantastic in Spain.
"He has scored goals for his country as well. I think he'll be a great player for Liverpool.
"To be honest I'm a Liverpool fan and I hope he brings the championship to Liverpool.
"Since I've been playing, we've never won that, and as I said before I'm a fan, so I want Liverpool to win everything.
"Players signing of this calibre will only help the club to get in a position where they can challenge for titles."
Fowler also feels that Rafa Benitez's side require a dose of luck to end the drought in the Premier League.
He added: "I'm not a manager, so I don't know how it works, but you've obviously got to sign the right players.
"At the end of the day you need a bit of luck and Liverpool have not really had that.
"We've been notoriously slow starters. If you look, it took a while to get going, but we probably finished the season as well as anyone, so you need a bit of luck to be honest."

Alonso excited by Torres move

Xabi Alonso is excited at the prospect of Fernando Torres linking up with him at Liverpool.
Liverpool are widely believed to be on the verge of clinching a club record deal for the Atletico Madrid hit-man.
Atletico are thought to have accepted an offer for Torres with Luis Garcia going in the opposite direction as a sweetener.
Reports have suggested Torres has cut short his holiday to travel to Merseyside to undergo a medical and discuss personal terms with Liverpool on Tuesday.
Alonso has welcomed Liverpool's move for his fellow Spaniard and he believes he will be a major success in England if he does complete his switch to Anfield.
"It would be fantastic if Torres is bought by Liverpool because he is a brilliant player," Alonso told Marca.
"We are going to see what happens in the end, but it is clear that it would be good for us to have him.
"He (Torres) has already demonstrated his enormous quality and to have him in the team would be brilliant."

Monday, July 2, 2007

No offers for Fowler

Robbie Fowler has revealed he has had no offers since being released by Liverpool.The 32-year-old former England striker has been linked with moves to MLS side New England Revolution and Australian outfit Sydney FC.But Fowler insists he has yet to hear from any club, adding on Sky Sports News: “Obviously, not everyone can get a club and I’m in that boat.“My record speaks for itself. If I get offers, I get offers.”Asked whether he expected to be playing Premier League football next season, Fowler – the division’s fourth highest scorer – said: “We’ll have to wait and see.”Fowler admitted he did not play as many games as he would have liked after his dramatic return to Anfield 18 months ago but added: “I was just made up to be back at Liverpool. It’s a club close to my heart. It was great being back and I wouldn’t have swapped that for the world.”He tipped champions Manchester United and Chelsea to be the teams to beat next season but backed Liverpool to put up a strong challenge for the title.“It’s going to be a hard job to catch those two again,” Fowler said. “But Liverpool have got the right man in charge and with the right players and a little bit of luck, hopefully we’ll be talking at the end of the season about Liverpool being champions.”

Torres demands £100k-a-week from Liverpool

Fernando Torres is demanding a six-year deal worth £31.2million to join Liverpool.
The Atletico Madrid star, 23, is yet to hold talks with Kop boss Rafael Benitez as his advisors hold out for £100,000-a-week.
The package for the striker will amount to £57.9m, including the £24m transfer fee.
Atletico want Liverpool to pick up a £2.7m tab for a pay-off Torres is due under the terms of his contract.
Reports in The Sun suggest the deal will stretch Liverpool's purse strings to the limit and would put Torres' wage behind only skipper Steven Gerrard's £120,000-a-week.
But Benitez risks losing his No.1 summer target to Inter Milan if his board refuse his demands.
The Italian giants have already had a £27m bid accepted.
And although Torres favours Liverpool, the Inter offer is being used as a bargaining tool by his agents Bahia International.
A Bahia source said: "He'll only leave Atletico if the club, and the offer, is absolutely right for him."
The deal was given a boost at the weekend when midfielder Luis Garcia sealed a £3.36m move in the other direction.
Officially the switch has nothing to do with Torres' deal but the fee has been taken off his price-tag.
Torres will keep Benitez waiting until he returns from holiday on July 7 before any deal is signed.
Atletico chiefs are now desperate to finalise the move after signing Diego Forlan as a £14m replacement from Villarreal.

Dudek tempted by Bolton bid

Former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek has acknowledged that a last-minute offer from Bolton has stalled his proposed move to Real Madrid.The Polish goalkeeper is a free agent after Reds boss Rafael Benitez released him at the end of last season. Dudek was offered a deal by Real Madrid that would see him understudy Iker Casillas at the Bernabeu, but the late intervention by Trotters boss Sammy Lee has caused him to ponder.Dudek told The Sun: "I made a decision to leave England, but Bolton's offer has made me have a rethink."I still haven't signed anything with Real Madrid and I have other offers to consider very carefully."Bolton number one Jussi Jaaskelainen is yet to sign a new deal as he enters the final year of his current contract at the Reebok. Aston Villa, Manchester United and Sunderland have all been linked with the Finn, and Dudek would be in prime position for first-team football if Jaaskelainen went on to leave the club.Bolton have money to spend, anyway, after agreeing a new multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Reebok that extends both kit sponsorship and the naming rights of the stadium until 2016.The club's chief executive Allan Duckworth said: "Bolton have enjoyed an outstanding and mutually beneficial partnership with Reebok for a great many years."We pride ourselves on establishing long-term strategic partnerships and are delighted to be able to extend our stadium naming rights partnership for a further nine-year term."

Liverpool Complete Double Hungarian Swoop

Liverpool have confirmed that the signing of two Hungarian youngsters has been completed.
It had been announced earlier this year that the teenage duo were to sign for the Champions League runners up and the moves have now been finalised.
Krisztian Nemeth and Andras Simon arrive from MTK Hungaria having starred in last year's UEFA under-17 Championships.
They also impressed the Anfield management during a trial spell at Melwood and have both agreed a three-year contract.
Nemeth, 18, an attacking midfielder and Simon, 17, a forward will join Gary Ablett's reserve team squad next season.