Friday, 31 July 2009

Alonso move becomes less clear the more papers you read

There appears to be mass speculation, contradiction, confusion, claim and counter claim in the media regarding the ‘summer saga’ that is Xabi Alonso. Today’s papers hold more plot twists then a Hitchcock movie and cold war spy thriller novel combined.

“For a club that has spent €160m on just two players, one would have imagined that splashing a further few million on a midfielder “fundamental” to their plans wouldn’t be a problem for ‘deep-pockets’ Florentino Perez,” says The Telegraph, however the “Madrid president is rather more frugal when the value of the player in question rests almost exclusively in football terms,” adds the story. The article claims “Madrid have made an offer of €24m (£20.5m)”, for Alonso. Which is way below “Liverpool’s initial asking price of €40m,” says the story. But manager Rafa Benítez “is now holding out for €30m (£26m) which would most likely rise to €33m with incentives.” However, Perez is unwilling to raise “his offer of €25m.”

Meanwhile the Guardian appears to suggest the move to be less problematic claiming “Xabi Alonso will complete his £28m move to you-know-who on Monday.”However elsewhere, the paper says: “Real Madrid have made an offer of €24m (£20.5m) for Alonso,” and “Benítez is holding out for €30m (£26m) plus incentives which would see the total exceed €33m.” The story also adds: “Pérez, though, has resisted increasing his offer above €25m.”

The Times isn’t so confident. They say: “Liverpool were continuing to play hardball over Xabi Alonso last night as Real Madrid braced themselves for more disappointment despite making an improved £28 million bid for the Spain midfield player.” The story claims Reds boss Rafa Benitez is refusing to budge from his £30m asking price and the 48-hour deadline set for a Real has passed, leaving negotiations at an impasse. “Florentino Pérez, the Real president, is thought to have been irritated at being given an ultimatum by Liverpool,” says the story, as he recently suggested Alonso was overpriced, however “having described the player as “fundamental” to his summer spending plans, it is expected that Pérez will match Benítez's valuation,” claims the article.

The Independent says: “Sources in Spain suggest that Real president Florentino Perez has actually lowered his original offer of £24million because of Alonso's demand to move.” However the paper thinks a deal may be done as early as the end of the weekend, by sayng: “Benitez and Alonso now want a quick solution to the situation, ahead of Liverpool's trip to play Espanyol in their new stadium in Barcelona on Sunday.”

Tonights Echo says: “Liverpool are braced for an improved bid for Xabi Alonso as Real Madrid step up their pursuit of the midfielder.” “Real Madrid must now improve their initial £24million offer” as the Reds are “holding out for a fee of around £30million.”

Sky Sports says: “It is reported that a deal could be struck in the next couple of days for Alonso to join Real for a price in the region of £25million.”

The Express states Benitez will “reluctantly cut the asking price and negotiate in the hope of reaching a compromise at £28m.”

The Mail is running the transfer saga but has added a new twist into the mix with the screaming headline:

“Xabi Alonso twist: Chelsea and Manchester City ready to pounce if Real Madrid stall on meeting Liverpool’s asking price.”

The story says: “both clubs are just £2.5million apart” in their evaluation of the player as they head into the “final stretch of negotiations over Xabi Alonso's move to the Bernabeu.”

The article adds that “talks will take place over the weekend with Monday set as the deadline for a deal to be struck,” however Liverpool are “reluctant to go much under £30m,” suggesting “a compromise figure around £28m could be reached.”

However the story warns that if the deal stalls, he could move to Chelsea or Manchester City, who “both enquired about the Spain midfielder in May, but were told he is not for sale.” The article adds: “Stamford Bridge boss Carlo Ancelotti remains keen if the price is right.”

This implausible added plot line would suggest Alonso simply wants to move away from Liverpool at all costs, but may not care where his destination will be.

The Mirror says Benitez has lowered his asking price from £35m to £30m, but Madrid ar not prepared to pay more then £27m. The article adds that: “the star's agent, Inaki Ibanezis, is in Madrid, ready to begin official talks with Real once he gets the green light.”

The Star says: “Benitez stood firm, maintaining that Real would have to fork up £35m. Real refused to go above £22m. Now a compromise is near at £28m.”

Add into the mix that Tuesday’s Telegraph stated “Madrid are yet to lodge a formal offer.” Presumably if this is true, all these offers, rejections and counter offers have taken place in the past four days.

Most papers appear to agree on one thing however ‘money bags’ Madrid need to offload players before they can spend any more money. Papers are suggesting the Bernabeu club will offload Alvaro Negredo, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Rafael Van der Vaart, Gabriel Heinze and Arjen Robben. A few story’s are speculating some of the above players may be offered to Liverpool in a player plus cash deal.

Even the claim that Alonso handed a transfer request in the first place appears to have sparked claim and counter claim. The Times thickens the plot somewhat by saying:

“Sources at Liverpool said that Alonso submitted a transfer request on Wednesday evening in an effort to hasten a move to Real, but the suggestions were dismissed by Alonso's representatives, who insisted that the player had taken no such action.”

So there you have it. Alonso did or didn’t hand in a transfer request. Real Madrid refuse to bid above £20m or £24m. With Rafa ‘holding out’ for a fee anywhere between £26m-£30m. A comprimise may be struck at £28m. The deadline for the deal has passed and Real Madrid have not made an offer yet!!

One thing is certain, if a deal is struck it will boost Benitez’s transfer budget considerably. The Reds boss has already raised around £8million from the sales of Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastian Leto, Jack Hobbs and Paul Anderson this summer. The impending sale of Alonso and Andrea Dossena’s expected switch to Napoli could push his transfer kitty beyond the £40million mark.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Transfer Speculation: Dossena, Aquilani, Cattermole, Turner

Andrea Dossena
The Italian left-back’s move to Napoli is being held up by his wage demands claim a number of papers. Liverpool have agreed a fee of around £4m - £4.5m depending which story you read, however personal terms are proving to be a stumbling block for the 27-year-old Italian international say the story’s. Napoli sporting director Pierpaolo Marino is planning further talks with Dossena in a bid to find a resolution.

He said: “We have taken a break in order to reflect on this. The move is on hold. There are no immediate prospects.
“The president has spoken to Rafael Benitez and there is some distance between us and the player. But I wouldn’t worry too much.”

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who has been linked with practically every Liverpool target this summer is ready to ‘move for the Liverpool outcast’ should the Napoli deal stall, claims the laughable speculative story from the Mail.

Alberto Aquilani
“Liverpool have stepped up their pursuit of Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani following Xabi Alonso stunning the club by handing in a transfer request,” claims the Mail. The midfielder is said to favour staying with his current team Roma, but the club will listen to offers.

Lee Cattermole
Today’s Mail appears to resemble the funny pages with its speculative football transfer stories. The paper claims a Liverpool bid of “£12m” bid the Wigan midfielder “will test the resolve” of the club, humorously adding “not to mention the patience of Liverpool fans.”

Michael Turner
The Mail also claims Liverpool are chasing Hull City defender Michael Turner “because he is English and young.”

The paper also says Tottenham (surprise, surprise) are also interested, “but Liverpool want him to boost their English Champions League contingent and that will be difficult to reject,” says the story. Liverpool will make a £5.5m bid for the player or ‘player plus cash deal,’ depending on which speculative story you read.

Mascherano’s brother adds to the players speculation

Javier Mascherano's brother has renewed the speculation surrounding the Argentina captain by stating the midfield enforcer may leave Anfield if Barcelona come in with a good cash offer.
Mascherano's agent Walter Tamer has already claimed that the 25-year-old is 'tired of life' in England, but Reds Manager Rafa Benitez is determined the midfielder is going no where. Today’s Mail speculates The Reds “are prepared to triple his wages to make him see things differently.”

The players brother, Sebastian Mascherano told Spain's COM Radio: “If Barcelona really come with a very good cash offer, I believe Javier may leave Liverpool as it would be the best for him and his family.”

“But I think that if there is no good offer, they will not let him go."

“I am sure Messi and Javier have spoken,” he said. “Leo is one of the people who have been pushing the most for Javier to play at Barca.”

Arbeloa praises Liverpool as he departs for Real

Alvaro Arbeloa has praised Liverpool as he departs the club for Real Madrid who he signed for yesterday. He said of his time at Anfield: "Liverpool are a club with an impressive history, with lots of success,” reports the Independent.

"In England they are the team with the most titles, so I've already experienced that pressure and I hope that will help me now with this challenge, which is clearly the biggest in my career.”

"I think I have become a better footballer and also matured. When you play at a club like Liverpool you have the chance to play with great players.”

Alonso hands in transfer request

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso has today put in a formal written transfer request to leave the club reports the Echo and Spanish newspaper Marca. The Spanish playmaker has been the centre of intense speculation all summer with Real Madrid players, manager and director repeatedly discussing the midfielder openly to the press. The news is a bitter blow to the club and fans but hardly comes as a surprise. The player has himself has been non-committal when asked if he intended to stay with The Reds, and boss Rafa Benitez has always insisted he did not want to sell him.

Benitez held talks in a bid to convince him to stay during the Far East tour with Alonso explaining his desire to leave the club. The player returned to Liverpool today following a brief holiday in his native San Sebastian.

Benitez will reluctantly agree to Alonso’s request who has three years remaining on his current contract. Liverpool and Real have however not agreed on the valuation of the player in the past weeks, but it is believed Madrid will increase their initial offer of £24million closer to Liverpool’s £30million. The Anfield club will reluctantly make a considerable profit on Alonso, who cost £10.7m when he arrived from Real Sociedad in 2004.

Speculation will now turn to replacements for a player that Madrid have admitted has few equals. Alberto Aquilani the Roma playmaker, Esteban Cambiasso the Inter Milan midfielder and Udinese player Gaetano D'Agostino have all been linked with the Reds over the summer, but Alonso departure and the impending start to the Premiership season in just over two weeks, may hurry any potential deal through. One name that has been consistently linked with Liverpool is Valencia’s David Silva and although not a direct replacement for Alonso, would be a welcome arrival to the squad. Benitez has been a clear admirer of the player’s skills for some time and the fee recovered from Alonso’s sale may finally be enough to prize the coveted winger from the cash strapped Estadio Mestalla club. Alonso’s sale may yet have a Silva lining.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Torres says it would be a serious loss if Alonso left

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres believes it would be a serious loss for Liverpool if Xabi Alonso leaves the club for Real Madrid. Speaking about the Madrid’s pursuit of the influential midfielder, Torres says he is unsure how the saga will be resolved.

“It would be a bad piece of work if Xabi left,” said Torres to the Telegraph.

“He plays his cards close to his chest so I don’t know what is going to happen."

“I’d put Xabi’s own wishes ahead of everything else, of course, but he’s got three years left on his contract with us and I’d love it if he stays."

“It would be a serious loss for Liverpool if he left this summer.”

Reds boss Rafael Benitez wants the ongoing saga surrounding Xabi Alonso's future to be resolved and will hold talks with the player when he returns to Merseyside tomorrow following a brief holiday in his native San Sebastian.

Alvaro Arbeloa who has just completed a switch to the Bernabeu, said: “Xabi and I shared a room on tour and explained our situations to Benitez and he made us clear on the club’s standpoint,” reports the Telegraph.

Meanwhile ex Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek has not helped the situation by urging his old teammate to join him at Real Madrid.

"I think all of the Spanish players dream about coming and playing for Real Madrid. It would be good for Alonso to play for the best team in the world with the best players. The project we have got here with the new president looks very promising," he told the Telegraph.

"There are something like 30 players, very good players, in the dressing room," Dudek said.

"It is very competitive, because we need to have something like 25 players. We have some good players already, but we need more. I hope that Alonso will come here. I know him very well, we are good friends, but in this world of football you never know what is going to happen. He is a great football player and a very good person also, and my personal point of view is that it would be good if he comes."

“He is Spanish and all the Spanish guys want to play for Real Madrid. This is a dream come true for them and Xabi knows that he's not the only one,” Said Dudek in the Mail.

"I spoke to him (Alonso) just before the holidays. He is a very nice lad and he knows what is the best for him. But he cannot do anything without Benitez."

"So I don't know (what will happen), but he is a good player without question, one of the best midfielders in the world."

Arbeloa signs for Real Madrid in £3.5m deal

Real Madrid have signed defender Alvaro Arbeloa from Liverpool FC, following a statement confirming both clubs had reached an agreement on the fee. Press speculation suggests the deal to be worth around £3.5million and the player successfully completed a medical at Sanitas La Moraleja Hospital. Arbeola will sign a five-year contract at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The player arrived at the hospital at 11:15am. Several members of the media and a few supporters were present at the hospital entrance to greet him and wish him luck.

The Real Madrid web site confirms that the defender underwent tests for approximately 90 minutes. He had blood and urine tests; he was subjected to an electrocardiogram, an ecocardiogram and a megnetic resonance; he underwent a radiological study; and an exploration of his musculoskeletal system was performed.

Dr. Carlos Diez said: "The results of every test are very satisfactory. He is delighted about playing for Real Madrid. It's always been his dream. He can't wait to join his team-mates."

Arbeloa's departure leaves the door wide open for new signing Glen Johnson to establish himself within the first team. However there is very few options for cover in the position. Jamie Carragher was Arbeloa's replacement last season when the Spanish defender suffered an injury. One presumes highly rated youngster Stephen Darby could naturely fill the void if called upon.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Singapore 0 Liverpool 5

Pre-Season Match 2009

The Main (Stand) Man has finally returned from Singapore and his own Far East tour, so enjoy his educational report of Sunday's Pre-Season game:

Again humid conditions greeted the Liverpool players as they took the field for the second game of the ‘Kop Comes To Asia’ tour, meaning another good workout for the team before their return to England. A good sized and enthusiastic crowd was present, with the vast majority draped in red although this, it must be said, is also the colour of the Singapore side, leaving Liverpool to play in their black and gold away kit. Rafael Benitez went for a strong side with plenty of first team experience, including players such as Carragher, Mascherano, Agger, Lucas, Babel and Benayoun, whilst there was still some representation from the younger members of the squad in Ngog and San Jose.

The game began with Liverpool, as should be expected at this stage of the pre-season, dominating possession although again the first ten minutes saw them worryingly unable to provide too much penetration. As might be expected, the strong line-up was able to subdue the Singapore side relatively easily, but it took until the 10th minute for Liverpool to really threaten. The ball was sent out to Benayoun on the right flank, and a pinpoint cross found Babel in the area. The Dutchman, though, was too static and his header was too weak and directed straight into the arms of the Singapore goalkeeper. In the 21st minute, Liverpool again came forward and, thanks to some woeful control by the keeper, were able to gain a fortunate corner kick. The set-piece itself was headed clear but as the ball was pumped back into the box, Ngog fooled the defender with a deft bit of control, but could not steer the ball back across the goal for the waiting Voronin.

The reds began to make more of their possession pay following that, often working the ball well down either flank and looking for late runs into the penalty area from the midfield. A particularly pleasing aspect to the play was the running of Lucas, showing signs of continuing with the confident form he was able to display towards the end of last season. It was his run and pass after 25 minutes that almost set Ngog clean through on goal, but a questionable flag from the referee’s assistant made the keeper’s eventual save irrelevant. A worrying moment occurred shortly afterwards, with Agger falling heavily after being ‘tipped’ whilst in the air going for a header. With Martin Skrtel already out for three weeks, Benitez can ill afford injuries to either Carragher or Agger at this point, particularly with no Sami Hyypia to provide cover.

The game began to drift again, though, with no more chances created until the half was all but over. With the stubborn Singapore defence again providing a strong challenge, the ball fell to Voronin about ten yards outside the penalty area. Following a shimmy to get himself past two defenders, the Ukrainian forward took a speculative shot towards goal. It was deflected from its original course and the despairing dive of the Singapore keeper was not enough to prevent the effort from trickling into the bottom corner of the net to put Liverpool one up.

The goal masked another half of worrying lack of creativity, although to be fair the reds had dominated possession and just about deserved, on the balance of play, to go in ahead. Rafa made just three substitutions during the break, with most of the Spanish nationals were left on the bench for the restart given the shorter time they had been back in training. Gulacsi replaced Cavalieri in goal, Emiliano Insua replaced Mikel San Jose and Albert Riera was brought on for Ryan Babel on the left wing.

The first effort of the second half took seven minutes to materialise. Some good control from an impressive David Ngog allowed him to turn and pass to Benayoun. The Israeli’s mind, however, was not made up as to whether to shoot or cross and his effort drifted ineffectually over the bar. The reds soon began to press forward with more urgency than in the first half and shortly extended their advantage with an excellent move. Lucas played the ball back to Mascherano on the right hand side, and the little Argentinian was able to look up and float a pinpoint cross to Riera on the far side. He controlled brilliantly on his chest and flashed a left foot shot underneath the oncoming goalkeeper, leaving the net bulging.

Liverpool were now running the show, and the noise of the crowd was amplified by the sight of Fernando Torres warming up on the touchline. The absence of Steven Gerrard has been noted by some, given his involvement on the advertising for the tour, but the Spaniard has earned himself his own level of worship from the Asian crowds. Again Lucas turned provider as the threaded a ball through for Benayoun, but his delicate chip to the far post found no-one their to convert.

On the hour mark, Benitez decided to shuffle the pack. On came Spearing, Torres, Kuyt, Plessis, Nemeth, Pacheco and Kelly, with the likes of Benayoun, Carragher, Ngog and Voronin making way. Torres was soon causing concern for the Singapore defence, although he was just unable to get a pass from Pacheco out of his feet quickly enough to get a decent shot on target. A cross from Spearing then almost let Torres in for an easy goal, but an excellent touch from the defender just took the ball away from the Spaniard.

The third goal, though, was not long in coming. Dirk Kuyt pounced on a wayward defensive header to advance on the Singapore goal. His simple ball across to the penalty spot found Nemeth piling forward, and the youngster put a side-footed shot wide of the keeper’s dive for his first of pre-season. This brought about the final changes of the match from Benitez, and one of the most notable. Xabi Alonso was introduced onto the pitch for what any sane Liverpool fan will hope is not one of his last appearances, and the fans in the stadium wasted no time in letting him know how much they want him to stay at the club. He was joined by Dossena and Pepe Reina on the field.

With ten minutes remaining, Kuyt again turned provider for the goal that the crowd really wanted to see. Nemeth’s quick thinking found the Dutchman clear of the full back’s attentions, and his slotted ball across the edge of the six yard box was side footed home by Fernando Torres with the keeper stranded at the near post. The fifth for Liverpool arrived with eight minutes left of the 90, and Kuyt again played a major part. Pacheco found himself with the ball on the edge of the area as Singapore struggled to clear. He found Kuyt just inside the box, whose cross was headed home by Nemeth for his second of the night.

Kuyt could have had one of his own shortly afterwards. Some more woeful defending left him ten yards out, but his well struck effort was straight at the goalkeeper. As the clock passed the 90 minute mark, Torres again threatened but his shot was deflected into the ground off the leg of a defender and ended up going over the crossbar. With the reds bypassing the Singapore back line at will, the referee decided that enough injury time had been played and blew the final whistle for a well-deserved 5-0 triumph.

Three highlights stand out from the game for me. Firstly, and possibly most importantly for our prospects of silverware during the upcoming season, was the appearance of Alonso in a Liverpool shirt again. A post match press conference from Rafa indicated that Xabi will have to request a transfer if he truly wants to go to Madrid. We should all hope this does not happen.

Secondly, the performance of Lucas Leiva gave real hints at his improvement. The more collected manner of his performances towards the end of last season was mirrored during this encounter, and it is my belief that he is finally starting to play the game in the same way that he does when captaining the Brazil Under-21 side. His composure and willingness to play the easy ball, whilst being able to find space during a difficult first half, showed what he is capable of in the centre of midfield. I’m still not a fully paid up member of his fan club, but credit where its due and let’s hope he can continue to improve from this point on.

Finally, the domination of the game from Dirk Kuyt, having pulled on the captain’s armband when entering the game, was outstanding. His positional sense, passing acumen and ability to bring other players into the game should be a real asset to the side as we attempt to bring the league back to Anfield.

Overall, then, a good night for the reds before they returned to home shores following the game. They then fly out to Spain to face Espanyol on Sunday, before fixtures against FC Lyn and Atletico Madrid to take us into the new campaign.

Madrid president Perez says Liverpool’s fee for Alonso doesn’t “correspond to reality”

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has stated that fees some clubs are asking for Spanish players “don't correspond to reality,” in a thinly veiled swipe at Liverpool football club and their summer long attempt to unsettle Xabi Alonso. Despite Madrid’s astronomical deals worth £170m for just three players, Perez claims their extravagant spending spree has “confused some people.” Speaking yesterday, he said:

"We made huge attempts at the start to sign players who had won the Balon d'Or or the World Footballer of the Year award," said Perez. "But the arrivals of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo have confused some people who obviously thought that, because we said we wanted more Spanish players, they could ask for fees which don't correspond to reality,” reports the Telegraph.

"A year ago, certain players we have asked about would have cost less than half the price we are being quoted now. There is nothing that justifies these prices. If necessary, we will find the Spanish players we would like for the squad in our youth system."

Despite two months of the Bernabéu clubs president, manager and players publically shooting their mouths off about the Liverpool player, Real Madrid have amazingly still not made a formal offer for Alonso. However press speculation declares they have informed Liverpool that they are unwilling to pay any more than £24 million for the Spanish play maker.

The Liverpool squad upon finishing their tour of the Far East has been given three days off and sections of the press have claimed this as some sort deadline for the deadlock to be resolved. Alonso is due back in Liverpool on Thursday, so it appears the clock is ticking. With Benitez refusing to lower the asking price for Alonso, which press speculates between £30-£35 million and the player himself refusing to prompt the move with a public transfer request, the deal appears to be at a standstill.

Arbeloa says move to Real Madrid may be finalised this week

Liverpool full-back Alvaro Arbeloa claims he is close to finalising his move to Real Madrid reports Sky Sports.

Arbeloa has been linked with a move to Real throughout the summer but the Spain international believes talks over a move to Real are making positive progress with speculation suggesting a £4.5million deal. Arbeloa has made almost 100 appearances for Liverpool since joining the club from Deportivo La Coruna in January 2007. He signed for Deportivo from Real, after playing in the youth team for current Reds manager Rafa Benitez.

"At the moment I am focused on Liverpool, but it is true that the deal is close to being completed," he told Spanish sports newspaper Marca.

"We'll see what happens in the next few days, if we can all make an effort so the negotiations come to a good end, and we all come out having benefited, which is what everyone wants."

"I insist that everything is going forwards and everyone is in agreement - I am the one who has the most desire to sign for Madrid."

"I don't know what the likelihood is in percentages, it's a question more for the clubs. But, as I understand, it seems everything is going well and there is little left to resolve."

"It could all be sealed this week."

Liverpool accept Napoli bid for Dossena

Andrea Dossena's agent Roberto La Florio claims that Liverpool have accepted an offer from Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis reports Sky Sports. Reports suggest the offer is in the region of 5million euros (£4.3m). Dossena has struggled to make an impact in the Premier League following his move from Udinese, but will be remembered for his goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United.

"Liverpool have accepted (Napoli chairman) Aurelio De Laurentiis' offer," La Florio told Radio Kiss Kiss.

"It's now just a matter of days. The two clubs are in agreement, Liverpool accepted Napoli's offer but I can't say any more.”

"With regards to Andrea there are no problems, it's only a matter of days. As soon as Napoli call us, we will finalise it."

Monday, 27 July 2009

Alonso's future up to him now says Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has left the ball in Xabi Alonso’s court. The Spanish midfielder’s future has been the subject of much press speculation and the Reds manager, when asked about him, said yesterday: “you have to ask him.”

It was also revealed Benitez had held talks with the 27-year-old, before the game and urged him to spurn Real’s advances and commit his future to the Reds.

Benitez when asked if yesterday’s game was Alonso’s last for the club, the Reds boss said:

“You never know, you have to ask him,” reports the Echo.

“Everyone has been asking me about the same question for two months. I think it’s a question for him, not us.”

“We signed him five years ago and we renewed his contract two years ago.”

“We know that he’s a great player and that’s the reason we signed him and renewed his contract.”

“We were not talking with Real Madrid and he knows our position.”

"I was very clear the other day. He is our player and has three more years on his contract.”

“At the end of the day it all depends on him.”

This interview has been partially quoted by most of the press under headlines like: ‘Benitez casts doubt over Alonso’s future

Liverpool agree new refinance deal with RBS and Wachovia Bank

Liverpool football clubs joint owners have agreed a new refinance loan with Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia. The details of the new deal which is believed to be for another year, means Tom Hicks and George Gillett repay £60 million of the outstanding loans that will “reduce the debt to £230 million,” reports the Telegraph. £40 million is expected to be repaid this week, with the remaining £20 million due later in the year.

The original loan taken out by the owners in January of last year was for £350 million, however “Sources with knowledge of the deal” say that “figure has already been reduced to £290 million since last summer, and will come down by a further £60 million as a condition of the new deal.”

Club managing director Christian Purslow is understood to have negotiated the loan with the banks, who insisted on the £60 million repayment “as a condition of extending a loan facility.” By paying off £120 million of the outstanding debt, the Americans will reduce their annual interest payments, but it is possible the banks may have demanded a higher rate to extend their line of credit.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Alex Ferguson slams Reds calling Rafa's hand gestures "absolute bollocks"!

Alex Ferguson has re-opened his war of words with Liverpool football club. Clearly unable to put aside the hand gesture that Rafael Benitez gave in April following the four nil demolition of Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, the Manchester United manager has again spoken about the incident. In the aftermath of the innocuous hand gesture, Ferguson claimed Benitez was “arrogant” lacked “humility” showed “contempt” and that he was “beyond the pale”. The Scottish manager who refused to accept The Reds clarification of the hand crossing has now caused outrage by stating Liverpool Football Club’s explanation was “absolute bollocks.”

Ferguson who maintains he does not have an unhealthy obsession with the Anfield club, also claims that Liverpool winning the European Cup five times doesn't concern him. Speaking in the Observer, the United manager did however admit he wanted to overtake The Reds in league titles, saying:

"There is a record there to be achieved, just as we have won the FA Cup more times than anyone else. But Liverpool winning the European Cup five times doesn't concern me. We have won it three times and had a chance of a fourth, but we will have another, you can be sure of that."

Perhapse revealing wishful thinking from the United manager, he said:

"You don't expect Liverpool or Chelsea to die"

Speaking about Benitez, he claims his innocents:

"I have never said a word about him.”

“The only time I responded was when he made that gesture with Sam Allardyce”

Possibly sensing an Anfield conspiracy he added:

"There was no doubt he was doing that. Liverpool were too quick to come out and respond that he was signalling they should take a free-kick a different way. That was bollocks. Absolute bollocks."

The Scottish manager also recently attacked Liverpool over their treatment of Michael Owen claiming the Anfield club had “unfairly” put the then 18-year-old Owen under unnecessary “strain and intensity” by playing him in high profile matches at too early an age. The story which was reported by LFC Alert can be read here.

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Barcelona confirm they have not bid for Mascherano

Barcalona's vice-president of sport Rafael Yuste has confirmed that the reigning European champions have not approached or made a bid for Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano.
Press speculation and Masherano’s agent have caused unwelcome gossip all summer, but Yuste insists no agreement is in place to take the Anfield enforcer to Spain.

"I can confirm that Javier Mascherano is a fantastic player, that personally I like a lot, but we have not bid," he said to Sky Sports.

"We have a lot of players that want to come to Barcelona and that is all. Mascherano is a fantastic player, but he is with Liverpool.”

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Skrtel out for three weeks

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel faces a race to be fit for the start of the new season after being ruled out for three weeks, reports Sky Sports.

Skrtel picked up a hamstring strain during Wednesday's friendly with Thailand and he has flown back to England for treatment on the injury. Scans have shown Skrtel has suffered a strain which will keep him on the sidelines for three weeks.

Skrtel now races to be ready for the Liverpool’s first game of the new Premiership season at Tottenham on 16th August.

Team mate Nabil El Zhar is also set to miss the start of the new campaign after he suffered a knee injury against Thailand. The winger has suffered medial ligament damage to his knee and is expected to be out for a month.

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Arbeloa move to Real Madrid may conclude next week

Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa could make a £4.5million return to Real Madrid in the next few days, reports Sky Sports.

The Liverpool right back has been linked with a move to the Bernabeu. Arbeloa's agent Manuel Garcia Quilon, expects a conclusion by the start of next week.

"Discussions with Real are not over and I expect a solution early next week."

Real sporting director Jorge Valdano however is not convinced that the Spanish international will play a big part in Madrid’s future.

"Arbeloa is a basic part of our plans," Valdano admitted.

With such enthusiasm coming from Madrid, it’s easy to understand Arbeloa’s desire to join the Spanish club.

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Dossena wants Napoli move

Andrea Dossena's agent Roberto La Florio has revealed his client's desire to join Napoli, reports Sky Sports.

The left-back who was a £7m signing from Udinese, has struggled to make an impact as the speed and physical nature of the Premier League appeared to overwhelm the Italian international.

The defender is thought to be seeking a move back to Italy in order to re-establish himself as Marcelo Lippi's first choice left back in the national side.

The players agent Roberto La Florio insists a move to Napoli would suit all parties is and is eager to finalise a deal.

"There is the will to join Napoli. Napoli want Dossena, and should they follow him, it means they are ready to satisfy the player's exigencies," La Florio told Italian radio station Kiss Kiss.

"Now they must decide, because they may need Andrea due to Fabio Aurelio's injury. The two parts must meet to find an agreement."

As reported in LFC Alert on Friday Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis admitted he has held discussions with Rafael Benitez. "I've personally spoken with Rafa Benitez. The negotiation is ongoing," he said.

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Torres vows its Liverpool’s year

Kop hero Fernando Torres wants to surpass Cristiano Ronaldo’s achievements. The Reds star striker who has scored 50 goals in 84 games for the Reds since signing from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2007, is certain that Liverpool will win the Premiership, however he knows it won’t be easy.

Torres said: "Of course, my ambition is to be seen in that same way as Cristiano Ronaldo was seen at Manchester United,” reports The Mirror.

"Of course, it is my ambition to be seen in that same way that Cristiano Ronaldo was seen at Manchester United."

"But to do that Liverpool must win trophies. I know only then will people be able to speak the same way about Liverpool and me as they have done Ronaldo and United."

"First we have to win trophies as a team and to do that we have to have a fantastic season."

"We're excited because we think this can be the year for Liverpool. But we know how difficult it's going to be."

"Chelsea are there also because they have the same side as last season and Arsenal are a strong side."

"We are strong, and will be even stronger with a great signing like Glen Johnson."

"We are moving forward and it's true we have one of our best chances to win the trophy for a long time."

"But it's still time to be careful. It's still pre-season and everything is possible."

"People are saying United will be a lot weaker without Ronaldo, but I don't think so."

"They are still a fantastic team with a lot of fantastic players but, of course, we have a big chance."

"Maybe with Ronaldo leaving United it's not so easy for people to see one big favourite this time, when maybe there was a favourite before."

"The League is more open and that's why the Premier League is such a great league. I still believe it's the best in the world."

"It's my aim to be fit for every game this season."

"I feel fresher now because I've only just started training again."

"But I am certain that by the start of the season I am going to be 100 per cent, and the break I've had will have helped me."

"I had a good rest after the Confederations Cup - 20 days - and I don't feel I need to do anything special to protect my hamstrings."

"I'll go step by step, and do my best to forget about those problems."

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Liverpool’s owners unable to meet Friday’s loan deadline

Liverpool Football Club’s American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. were unable to secure an extension to their £350 million loan before Friday night’s deadline.

The co-owners, had reached an agreement in principle two months ago with the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Wachovia about refinancing their existing loans. However Friday night’s deadline passed with Hicks failing to provide the guarantee, “a sum believed to be in the region of £70 million, that Wachovia had requested,” claims The Times.

“That deadline has been described by sources as “fluid”, with negotiations set to continue into next week,” adds the story.

Gillett has raised capital through the sale of his ice hockey franchise the Montreal Canadiens, However the story suggests Hicks who’s “sporting and business empire has been hit hard by the global credit crunch, has been forced to request extra time in his attempt to satisfy Wachovia.” However the American businessman “is said to be optimistic that a solution will be found.”

Uncertainty over the ownership of the club is bound to continue, even if Hicks and Gillett succeed in securing another short-term loan.

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Alonso indicates he will stay

Fans waved banners and chanted for Alonso to remain with Liverpool at a training session ahead of Liverpool's friendly against Singapore. A group of 21 fans lined up in the stands wearing shirts that spelled out, 'Xabi, please don't leave' in Spanish.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is determined no big names will be leaving Anfield this summer and the Kop boss reaffirmed this again on Friday night.

"I told him that he could hear the fans yesterday," Benitez said. "I said to him, 'Maybe you have to stay."'

"Clearly, my idea is he's a very good player and we'll be really pleased if he stays. All the players and his team-mates want him to stay. If we keep Xabi I will be very pleased," reports the Telegraph.

Alonso himself who’s answers to questions about his future have been non committal, gave the strongest indication yet that he is ready to reject Madrid's advances and remain a Liverpool player. Speaking alongside Kenny Dalglish at an Adidas coaching clinic held at Victoria Junior College in Singapore Alonso admitted he and his team mates will have to reach the 90 point mark next season if they are to have any chance of winning the Premier League.

Liverpool picked up 86 points last campaign - a club record – but the Reds still finished four points adrift of Manchester United.

Alonso believes the club has the belief to win the Premiership and his answer suggested he wants to play a part in making history on Merseyside.

“It is very difficult to win the Premier League but if we do things better than last season then we will have a good chance,” reports the Post.

“We did really well against the top four teams last season but we drew too many games at home against other clubs which meant we weren’t in a strong position going into the last few matches."
“At the start of last season we wanted to progress and we did that."

“We were not able to win it but we went a lot closer than in previous seasons."

“This season we have to be looking to get up to 90 points."

“If we’re able to continue to progress then we will have a good chance. We certainly have the belief.”

Speaking about the Far East tour for the club the Spanish midfielder admitted he’s amazed by the passion of the supporters.

“It’s brilliant to see they are developing football in this country,” Alonso said.

“It’s been amazing for us to come to a place like this which is so far away from Liverpool and feel the support they have for the club."

“The supporters here are just as passionate as they are in Liverpool.”

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Friday, 24 July 2009

No deal for Xabi and Mascherano stays says Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has rejected fresh claims that Javier Mascherano is unhappy at Anfield and says Xabi Alonso who was struggling with an ankle injury is fit to face the Singapore national team on Sunday.

“Like I said before, Alonso will enjoy the weather, the fans and the journalists,” Benitez said. “He is ready and can play,” reports the Echo

“As for Mascherano, you have a big problem now in the press."

“There are too many websites, too many newspapers, too many radio and TV stations who have to compete every day."

“It seems sometimes you repeat something and people read news that is 15 days out of date."

“Mascherano knows our ideas. He is working hard and is an important player for us.”

“For us to be here is a great experience,” Benitez added.

“For the club it’s a great opportunity and we have to approach it in a positive way."

“Hopefully we won’t have any more injuries and we will be able to train properly.”

Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar will undergo scans at Melwood today after injury cut short their stay in the Far East, says the story.

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Reds fan buy out plan proposed by 'Share Liverpool' and 'Spirit of Shankly'

Supporter groups ‘Share Liverpool’ and ‘Spirit Of Shankly’ have announced a an ‘buy out’ proposal today. The current American owners bank refinancing deal deadline runs out today, but it is expected RBS & Wachovia Banks will extend the credit line for Gillett and Hicks. The proposal which was released via the Share Liverpool web site aims to Initially raise £500m from 100,000 LFC fans who would pay £5,000 for a single share. Feedback received from SLFC registrants and SoS has convinced SLFC that reducing the ‘entry fee’ from £5,000 to £500 is the best way forward, as it ensures a much broader base of fans can get involved. Subsequently, they have put together a revised proposal.

The revised proposal is designed to achieve:
Fan ownership of Liverpool FC
A much broader base of that ownership by reducing the entry price for a single share from £5,000 to £500
One member: one vote
A way in which fans who can afford to put in more than £500 can receive a return of 2%
A way commercial investors can participate

The fan groups are looking to raise £150 million from LFC fans to initially acquire a 60% interest in the Club:
Approximately £10 million to come from the sale of £500 shares in ShareLiverpoolFC on a one person one share basis

Approximately £140 million to come from shareholding fans acquiring SLFC Loan Stock which gives them a return of 2% a year

In addition to this, they are seeking a commercial partner to invest £100 million in return for a 40% interest in the Club, through a combination of loan stock and equity shares. This raises in total £250 million which can be used to pay down £250 million of the current £350 million of bank debt.

The £100 million balance of current bank debt would be exchanged for convertible loan stock in LFC, which SLFC would have rights to acquire from the banks in equal annual instalments over a 20 year term. Acquisition and conversion of the LFC loan stock would eventually raise SLFC’s equity interest in the Club to 71%.

The SLFC Board issued the following statement: “This is a realistic plan that squares the circle: How to get broadly based fan ownership of the Club, and relieve the level of debt, by offering Liverpool fans an affordable entry fee and a chance to get a modest return for their additional financial support. Now we need all those Liverpool fans to carefully consider the proposals in detail on our website – and let us know what they think”.

A Spirit of Shankly spokesperson added: “This new proposal is a sound, sensible and workable plan which offers the only real solution for the Club: long term financing that isn’t supported by short term – and expensive - bank debt. The new proposal can do precisely that.”

Supporters Direct Chief Executive, Dave Boyle, said:
“This proposal is the only sensible, sustainable offer that’s been put forward that also meets the crucial community requirements. Community ownership is something both the Government and UEFA are strongly supportive of, and this proposal is very much in line with that. The Club seems to be at a crossroads. It will either continue to be owned by a group of distant people with an eye on the bottom line, driven by the need to pay off colossal debts, or owned by the community, like Barcelona or Bayern Munich.”

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Gerrard glad to put case behind him and concentrate on his football

Liverpool captain gave a short statement outside Liverpool Crown Court after being found not guilty of affray. He said:

"Can I just say how pleased I am with today’s verdict. I’m glad to put this case behind me and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on my football now. I’d like to say a big thank you to my legal team, to my friends and family and everyone at Liverpool football club for supporting me."

Judge Henry Globe QC told Gerrard:

"The verdict is a credible verdict on the full facts of this case, and you walk away from this court with your reputation intact."

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said that he was delighted with the verdict, who was told of Gerrard's acquittal during a training session in the national stadium of Singapore.

"We are really pleased. He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football,” he told the official web site.

"We are all pleased at the club and over here at the training camp.”

"We have been supporting him all the time and were just waiting for the decision. Now he can concentrate just on football and hopefully play at the same level as last year."

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Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard found not guilty of affray

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been found not guilty of affray. The Reds midfielder had been accused of attacking Marcus McGee, 34, after a row over music in the Lounge Inn in Southport, in the early hours of December 29. Gerrard denied affray and says he was acting in self-defence, believing Mr McGee was about to attack him.

The jury was sent out shortly after 11.25am today to consider their verdict. Judge Henry Globe QC, the Recorder of Liverpool said to the jury before they were left to deliberate "It is of considerable importance to all parties - Marcus McGee, Steven Gerrard and everyone who became involved in the explosion of violence at the Lounge Inn bar in Southport last December. Put aside any football loyalty for impartiality and try the case on the evidence."

The jury needed less then 90 minutes to decide that father of two, Gerrard was not guilty of the charge.

The Reds captain is due to play in a Liverpool XI against Tranmere Rovers tonight.

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Dossena transfer moves closer

Napoli have confirmed they are in talks with Liverpool as they look to secure the services of defender Andrea Dossena reports Sky Sports.

Dossena who cost £7million when he arrived from Udinese last summer, made just 12 Premier League starts for The Reds last season

Juventus have been linked with the Italy international, but Napoli now appear to have moved to the head of the queue.

Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis admitted he had held discussions with Reds boss Benitez and that the dialogue between the two clubs would continue.

He told Corriere dello Sport: "I've personally spoken with Rafa Benitez. The negotiation is ongoing."

Reports in Italy suggest that the deal is being delayed as the two clubs haggle over a fee, with the Reds keen to recoup around £6million.

Benitez steps up chase for Silva

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez is ready to intensify his interest in Valencia's David Silva, claims the Independent. The story says that Rafa’s negotiating position will be enhanced by the Spanish club being unable to agree a price for their other prime asset, David Villa.

“Valencia, a club in severe financial crisis, may be forced to reduce their initial £25m demand for Silva,” and The Reds manager “will be able to offer the entire amount up front if Real Madrid adhere to his own demands that their £30m-plus outlay on Xabi Alonso comes in one upfront payment”, claims the story.

“Valencia have been on the brink of bankruptcy all summer and will accept nothing less than a straight cash deal for him.”

“Silva is reluctant to switch to England but will make an exception for Liverpool where he would be joining Spain team-mates Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres,” claims the article.

Torres declares Liverpool will win the Premiership

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres thinks that Liverpool will win a trophy this coming season and believes The Reds can finally win the Premiership:

“Two years without a trophy is a long time for a club like Liverpool,” reports the Times.

“But we believe we can do it this year. It won’t be easy because there are big challenges ahead, but we think we can win."

“Maybe this season will be more important because we have a fantastic squad and we can play better than last season. I came to Liverpool to win trophies and I am sure that this time we can win the Premier League or the Champions League.”

Benitez says Gerrard has the support of the club and the fans

Rafael Benítez the Liverpool manager has offered his support to Reds captain Steven Gerrard, who is currently on trial at Liverpool Crown Court on a charge of affray. Speaking at a press conference during their Far East tour the Reds boss said:

"He has the support of the club and, for sure, the fans," reports Sky Sports.

"I think that it will be okay so we are confident that everything will be good and at the end he will be playing for us and scoring a lot of goals."

Real admit lack of progress in Arbeloa deal

Madrid's sporting director, Miguel Pardeza, has recently been spending more time shooting his mouth off about Liverpool players then his own team has spoken about Liverpool full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, admitting a lack of progress in their chase for the player. Speaking to Spanish newspaper Publico he said:

"On Arbeloa, that is an option which - for the time being - has come to nothing," reports Sky Sports.

"Liverpool do not really have the desire to let him go, even though he has just a year left on his contract."

"But there is a month to go in the market and anything can change, and I would not deny that we would very much like to have Arbeloa."

Pardeza also dismissed claims that Rafa Benitez was being difficult when it came to negotiations with Real, reports the story.

"I do not see that at all, at least with me and Jorge [Valdano, Real director general] he is open and discusses things, I don't see that as a problem at all," he concluded.

Liverpool deny Alonso deal is done

Liverpool have moved quickly to end speculation in Spanish newspapers claiming that Liverpool and Real Madrid have agreed a fee of around £31 million for Xabi Alonso by insisting the Spanish international remains a Liverpool player.

"Xabi is with us in Singapore, and will train with the rest of the squad," said a Liverpool spokesman. "He was injured ahead of the Thailand game, people can say what they like about that. There has been no deal agreed with anyone for his transfer," reports the Guardian.

Earlier this week the Liverpool manager refused to contemplate losing one of his leading players, saying "next week he will be here".

Madrid's sporting director, Miguel Pardeza speaking to Spanish newspaper ‘Publico’ has admitted that talks with Liverpool stalled from day one:

"We do not see him as an alternative to Xabi Alonso as he has other characteristics," reports Sky Sports.

"The problem with Alonso is there are no alternatives, with the way football is evolving, the creative central midfielder is becoming fewer and fewer."

"Alonso is not a fad, there are just not may alternatives - not in the Americas or in Europe are their players who can perform his task."

Pardeza who appears to think the Reds should lower their asking price merely because Real want the player has admitted talks have been difficult.

"They stalled, from day one - the demands of Liverpool were beyond what Madrid was willing to pay and that is very difficult to understand."

"That is not the way to get things done, but I have not given up hope we can solve this."

Pardeza also seems to spend more time speaking about players from teams other then Real Madrid added his thoughts on the speculation linking Javier Mascherano, with a move to Barcelona.

"As I said I do not believe this [Alonso] will be an easy situation to solve, and I don't for one minute think that Mascherano will be easier to move than Alonso," he added.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Carragher call for an end to Alonso’s uncertainty as Real up their bid to £30m

Liverpool’s stand in Captain for the clubs Far East tour Jamie Carragher has called for an end to the speculation surrounding midfielder Xabi Alonso. Speaking following the Reds 1-1 draw against Thailand in Bangkok yesterday, the defender said:

"The feeling within the squad, he is a top player and you do not want to lose your top players and hopefully it can be sorted out as quickly as possible," reports Sky Sports.

"If the club thinks it is in the best interests of the club sometimes you have to do what is in the best interests of the club.”

"But that's a personal matter for the manager and the club. We all go through these situations - well hopefully not me - and as I said, I just hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later."

Meanwhile the Mail claims Real Madrid have raised their offer to £30million for the Liverpool midfielder.

“Sources in Spain say Liverpool have relented following the significantly improved bid,” says the story.

“The Reds will hold out for a little bit more, but are said to be willing to negotiate.”

“Alonso has made his feelings to known to Benitez and, meanwhile, Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow has been in talks with Madrid.”

“The Spain star sat out Liverpool's friendly against Thailand on Wednesday but his representatives said there was nothing suspicious about his absence and that Alonso was suffering with a sprained ankle,” states the article.

Alonso himself was non-committal at a public appearance in Bangkok, when asked if he would remain at Liverpool, Alonso replied: "It's difficult to give any guarantees. For now, I'm just enjoying myself in Thailand."

Hicks and Gillett bank deadline may be extended

Negotiations between Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and RBS over refinancing a £350 million loan may extend beyond Friday's deadline claims the Telegraph.

“The two parties have been in talks for several months and both sides have expressed confidence that a deal will be done.” But the story suggests that any deal may not be concluded by Friday despite that being the date of the loans expiry.

“The owners have thus far committed £185 million of personal guarantees and other collateral for the loan,” of which the football club are liable for £105 million. The remaining £245 million lies with the holding company, Kop Football Ltd, and secured by Hicks and Gillett.

Skrtel and El Zhar latest injury news

Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar who both limped off in last night's friendly with Thailand, will find out the extent of their injuries “at the end of the week,” reports the official web site. Both players ere withdrawn from the game just minutes after their introduction.

Skrtel has a hamstring injury and El Zhar has damaged medial ligaments in his knee. Both players will return to the UK before the rest of the squad to undergo scans on their respective injuries.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Thailand 1 Liverpool 1

Pre-Season Match 2009

The Main (Stand) Man Match Report:

A 70,000 crowd awaited the Liverpool starting line-up upon their emergence from the tunnel to face Peter Reid’s Thailand national side. Rafael Benitez chose probably the strongest initial XI of the pre-season so far, none more so than in defense where Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher teamed up for the first time. Insua and Degen were again chosen to continue in the full back positions, Lucas Leiva and Damien Plessis began at the heart of the midfield flanked by Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt with David Ngog and Kristian Nemeth completing the outfield line-up. A strong bench included many of the Liverpool’s international contingent after joining the rest of the squad just three days earlier,

The game began with a worrying moment for Diego Cavalieri, his first clearance of the match going straight to one of the Thai midfield. The resultant shot, however, was poorly hit and the Liverpool keeper breathed a sigh of relief as it drifted aimlessly wide of the mark.

However, after just 6 minutes, the reds finally got their first goal of the pre-season. Picking the ball up in his own half, Carragher lifted his head and saw a run inside the Thai right full back from Babel. The chipped through ball was not immediately controlled by the Dutchman, but he got enough on it so that he could simply run onto the bouncing ball and slot home past the onrushing keeper. It was a goal that seemed to expose a little naivety in the home side’s defensive strategy, with the central defenders having pushed out in search of an offside decision, leaving room at the back for Babel to run into.

There were shortly to be chances at either end. First, Thailand fashioned a clever move which, had the linesman’s flag not gone up immediately, would have required the good save that Cavalieri produced. Momentarily, Babel was clean through on goal, although the ball ran slightly too far ahead of him and the goalkeeper was able to smother his effort relatively easily. A jinking run from Nemeth then almost left him with a simple tap in, but again his final touch was a little too heavy and the danger passed. Insua then won the ball by his own corner flag, and following a swift interchange of passes down the left, Lucas floated across an excellent ball, finding Babel again in space at the far post. Babel’s effort on the volley, though, was weak and went well wide of the post.

After this promising initial period, the game began to get more scrappy as the half progressed. In truly difficult circumstances thanks to the downpour that beset the game halfway through the first period, the quick passing and attempted through balls were replaced with poor control and mistimed challenges. It took until the 42nd minute for Liverpool to threaten again, largely thanks to some tenacious work from Dirk Kuyt. As a Thai defender looked to let the ball run out of play for a goal kick, Kuyt caught him napping and was able to hook the ball free with his right foot. A delicate chipped ball almost found Ngog at the back post, but he was blocked by one of the home defenders.

After a mystifying three minutes of injury time at the end of the first half, the referee called a halt and some tired legs trudged off, the combination of the humid conditions and wet playing surface serving to provide probably the best workout for the Liverpool players so far during the pre-season.

Ten substitutions again took place, the team for the second half including Glen Johnson, Jay Spearing and Javier Mascherano playing his first full half since returning after international exertions in the close season. The Pacheco/Voronin pairing was again given the responsibility up front to try and extend the Liverpool lead from the first half.

A setback shortly into the half saw El Zhar injure himself in a bizaare attempt at an overhead kick on the edge of the Thailand box. He could only kick the defender who had gone up for a header to clear the ball, and the impact left the young midfielder on the floor. Martin Skrtel was forced out of the game moments later, with a suspected hamstring injury, and he was soon followed by El Zhar who looked in genuine pain. Martin Kelly came on for Skrtel and a welcome return for Alvaro Arbeloa was the result of El Zhar’s enforced withdrawal.

Overall, however, the second half proved to be a dour affair, punctuated only briefly by some promising passing movements and half-chances. The sight of Fernando Torres warming up on the touchline was greeted by a massive cheer from the Thai crowd (some of whom were in protective masks, presumably to guard against swine flu), who had little else to shout about for much of the half. The home side defence was not put under anything like enough pressure, with long range efforts providing the only real threat to the opposition net. Perhaps the best of these came from Javier Mascherano just after the hour mark, a fierce effort met with two fists from the Thai goalkeeper.

The setback in losing Martin Skrtel was then compounded when the Thai’s were able to fashion an equaliser. With 72 minutes on the clock, a superb move sliced through the makeshift Liverpool backline, a one-two leaving Sutee racing clear and he provided a neat finish down to Gulacsi’s left which rolled into the net off the post. As the rain became even heavier and was joined by some gusty winds, the umbrellas went up in the crowd and Liverpool at last began to venture forward with more consistency and Benitez decided that Reina, Torres and Riera should be introduced. The substitutes, in particular Albert Riera, though, had to wait longer than expected as the fourth official struggled to get the numbers correct on a Velcro board to indicate who was coming off. Torres immediately went running through the Thailand defence, but unfortunately his shot was a weak one that proved easy for the keeper to save. Torres again then became involved and threaded a superb throughball on to Voronin who held his head in his hands after putting the ball wide with only the keeper to beat.

The second half ended as it has begun, though, and petered out with some of the reds players tiring visibly. Johnson found time for one more effort, however, cutting in from the left hand side to get the ball on his right foot, he curled a dangerous looking shot just wide of the upright. The whistle went with another disappointing result, but the most strenuous workout for the Liverpool players thus far on their travels. The injuries to Skrtel and El Zhar will be worrying for the reds camp, as will the large periods of ineffective play which peppered the match. Coming so soon after a 10 hour flight as it did, perhaps this result should not be viewed with too much scepticism, though, and we can all hope that the reds can gain their first victory of the pre-season when they play the national side from Singapore on Sunday.

Match time and date: KO 14:00. 22 July 2009

Ground: Rajamangala Stadium

Goals: Babel, 6 (Liverpool). Suksomkit, 72 (Thailand)

Transfer Speculation: Aquilani, Sama, Sissoko, Negredo, Ayala

Alberto Aquilani
“Roma claim that Liverpool want to snap up midfielder Alberto Aquilani,” says the Mirror, but then offers no quote from Roma that would re-affirm the claim. The story goes on to say that “Italy star Aquilani, who is recovering from ankle surgery, would not come cheap.” The club which is experiencing financial problems “are expected to demand more than £18m after tying down the 25-year-old with a four-year contract just two months ago,” says the story.

Stephen Sama
Liverpool have signed Borussia Dortmund’s Stephen Sama on a two-year deal says the Mirror. The Reds moved to land Sama before the German club could secure the 16-year-old on a professional deal. The highly-rated defender is a regular in Germany’s Under-17 side.

Moussa Sissoko
Toulouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko has drawn interest from Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. The 19-year-old Ligue 1 midfielder is highly rated but insists remains in the dark about any transfer talk.

He said: "I am flattered by those links, but, to be honest, president (Olivier) Sadran never said anything to me yet about any bid.
"For me, I will play for Toulouse until something is said to me. I am happy here and going abroad is not in my mind yet," report Sky Sports.

Alvaro Negredo
“Negredo's agent, Alejandro Camano, claims Premier League clubs have moved for the striker, but that no deal has been concluded with the Santiago Bernabeu outfit,” reports Sky Sports.
Negredo ihas been linked with Liverpool and Spurs
"We have had several offers from the Premier League, but no deal has been finalised and we are still studying which is the best option for the player," said Camano
"But also there are clubs in Spain who are interested," reorts Sky Sports.

Daniel Sanchez Ayala
Liverpool are ready to reward young defender Daniel Sanchez Ayala with a new deal, reports Sky Sports. Sanchez Ayala joined Liverpool at the start of 2007/08 from Sevilla.
18-year-old Sanchez Ayala is highly rated by the coaching staff, but has yet to make his first-team debut. However the reserves regular has featured in Liverpool's first two pre-season friendlies this summer. Reds boss Rafa Benitez is understood to be a “big admirer of the central defender and is keen to tie him to a new long-term contract,” says the story.

Alonso unwilling to end speculation at Thailand fan event

Xabi Alonso’s future has been clouded by speculation all summer and the player himself has been unwilling to stop any rumours with a series of un-committal answers. Appearing at an Adidas promotion in the CentralWorld shopping complex in Bangkok, Alonso greeted the crowd with “SAWATDEE THAILAND,” a term which ironically means ‘hello’, as well as ‘goodbye’. Thousands of fans waited to greet the Liverpool midfielder who was also joined by team-mates Albert Riera, Jay Spearing and David Ngog, but there was no doubt about who they fans had come to see as deafening chants “Xabi” filled the shopping complex.

Inevitably the first question was regarding his future and came from the Thai master of ceremonies.

Xabi everyone loves you so much, would you please stay?”

“Alonso shuffled nervously and his reply was hardly reassuring,” claims the Echo.

“It is difficult to give any guarantees,” he said.

“For now I am just enjoying myself in Thailand and it is great to see so much support,” offered Alonso, hardly nullifying the speculation.

The MC then told Alonso he was “the most influential midfielder in the whole of Liverpool.”

“But still there was no cast iron guarantees about his future,” says the story.

“Alonso wouldn’t elaborate further on the ongoing summer transfer saga but there appears to be little doubt that he has his heart set on a move to Madrid,” states the article.

Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini has again spoken about Alonso, speaking to Sky Sports following Madrid’s win over Shamrock Rovers on Monday, he said

"All we know is that he is a very good player. We don't know what is happening with him."

"He is now a player with Liverpool, so we will see what will happen in the future."

Clearly not realising that he had already shot his mouth off about the Liverpool midfielder, he added:

"He is a very good player. But I cannot speak about players who are not at Real Madrid now."

Hot on heals of his quotes, comes the story from one British tabloid that claims Chelsea and Manchester City are both attempting to “hijack” any deal with Real. Both clubs “have made contact with Alonso’s agent to sound out if he would be interested in joining them,” claims the Star. The story speculates an offer of “£28m” will surpass Real’s “second bid of £25m which Liverpool turned down a month ago.” The story does not quote from either club or the usual ‘insider’ that is normally attributed to such stories.

Mascherano’s agent claims the player has grown tired of life in England

Javier Mascherano agent Walter Tamer claims the Liverpool midfielder is keen to move to Spain as he has grown 'tired of life in England'.

The Argentina International has been the subject of much press speculation in Argentinean, British and Spanish press with clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona reportedly interested in securing the Red enforcer. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has made it clear that he is no intention of letting the player leave the club, saying £50 million would not be enough to part with the fan favourite.

However, Mascherano’s representative, Walter Tamer, has claimed the 25-year-old has grown unsettled in the Premier League and is eager to move abroad, reports Sky Sports.

Tamer quoted at Argentinean website stated:

"Barcelona is the easiest deal to set up as Javier wants to go to Spain. He is tired of life in England.”

"His wife has not been given a permanent visa. She has to go through an odyssey each time she wants to go.

"Liverpool refuse to sell, this can be overcome with an extraordinary offer."

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Hull chairman Duffen dismisses reports he is to become Reds new chief executive

Hull City chairman Paul Duffen has dismissed reports that he is a contender to become Liverpool's new chief executive reports Sky Sports.

Liverpool football club have been seeking a replacement for Rick Parry who left at the end of last season.

Duffen however has branded the speculation 'ridiculous'.

"It's a great example of the silly season at work, it's ridiculous," Duffen told the Hull Daily Mail.

"I am completely focused on working with the manager and strengthening the squad for next season."

Gerrard nightclub clash video released

Footage of Steve Gerrard apparently involved in a brawl in a Southport bar last December has been released. The Liverpool captain who was attending his second day at Liverpool Crown is alleged to have been involved in a nightclub clash in the early hours of 29 December in which businessman Marcus McGee, 34, was injured.

Gerrard, the father-of-two is accused of affray - which he denies.

Presecuting QC David Turner said Gerrard asked McGee for a card controlling the CD player, by saying: "Here y'are lad. Give me that lad." But McGee objected to his attitude and the expression 'lad', reports the Guardian.

Turner said: "Not many people on Merseyside, or indeed anywhere else would refuse a request from Steven Gerrard, but Mr McGee did.”

"There can be no doubt that this refusal astounded Steven Gerrard. He walked away back to his party, but the CCTV evidence shows how much his mood had changed. He was no longer the centre of that high-spirited party.”

"He was clearly walking round, pondering, musing over what had happened, about the man who said no to Steven Gerrard."

The prosecution state that six minutes later, Gerrard returned to the bar, approached McGee who was sitting alone and confronted him with the words: "Who the fuck do you think you are?"

"Steven Gerrard had clearly lost his cool – he was very angry with Marcus McGee."

One of Gerrard's friends. John Doran, pushed McGee away and elbowed him in the face. The prosecution claims Gerrard then "totally lost it".

"Almost immediately after the blow from John Doran, in fact within seconds, Steven Gerrard joined in the attack with a succession of well-aimed uppercut punches, delivered with the style and speed of a professional boxer, rather than professional footballer."

In police interview Gerrard said he punched Mr McGee because he believed he was going to be attacked.

Proceedings will resume tomorrow morning when it is expected Mr McGee will give evidence.

The footage can be seen here: