29/12/2010 – Wednesday’s Paper Round-Up

29 12 2010
Picture of Gérard Houllier.

Image via Wikipedia

Celtic manager Neil Lennon is eager to bring out-of-favour Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne and midfielder Stephen Ireland to Parkhead on loan.

Sir Alex Ferguson is set to reinforce his Manchester United midfield with a £12m New Year move for Real Madrid’s Lassana Diarra.

United are also preparing a summer move for CSKA Moscow keeper Igor Akinfeev, who Ferguson sees as a long-term replacement for current number one Edwin van der Sar.

Fulham hope to make Chris Samba their first signing of the January transfer window but the Blackburn defender wants assurances over Mark Hughes’s future first.

However, the Cottagers may face competition from Arsenal, who are keen on the £8m-rated centre-back.

The Gunners are also reportedly back in the hunt for Werder Bremen centre-back Per Mertesacker.

Liverpool have rejected a loan offer from Birmingham City for 24-year-old winger Ryan Babel, who has also attracted interest from West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur.

Liverpool’s new Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli was at Southampton yesterday to run the rule over the Saints’ latest teen sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Juventus are preparing a £27m-offer for Arsenal striker Robin van Persie and the Italian side may also be willing to throw midfielder Felipe Melo into the deal.

Stoke are close to signing on-loan winger Jermaine Pennant, 27, on a permanent contract from Spanish side Real Zaragoza.

German side Werder Bremen are interested in Aston Villa’s 25-year-old defender Curtis Davies, who is currently on loan with Leicester City.

Villa manager Gerard Houllier has handed a trial to Colorado Rapids’ Jamaican striker Omar Cummings.

Villa are also keen to sign striker Nicklas Bendtner from Arsenal, who may also be joined out of the Emirates exit by fellow striker Carlos Vela, midfielder Denilson and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Real Madrid centre-back Pepe has received a lucrative offer from Manchester City, according to Spanish newspaper AS.

Mick McCarthy wants to bring Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane back to Wolves, the club the Republic of Ireland forward first joined in 1997.

West Ham look set to sign Dieumerci Mbokani on loan from Monaco if they can get a work visa for the Congolese striker.

The Hammers may also look to sign Manchester United’s Michael Owen on loan after the striker admitted he may have to leave Old Trafford to reignite his career.

Valon Behrami has given Roma until 10 January to reach a deal over his transfer from West Ham. The Swiss midfielder is desperate to return to Italian football after an injury-hit spell in the Premier League.

Everton, Newcastle and Blackburn are chasing Barcelona’s teenage midfielder Oriol Romeu.

Hull have been put off a bid for James Vaughan after his club Everton put a £2m price-tag on the striker.

However, the Tigers are close to sealing a £1.5m-deal for Leicester striker Matty Fryatt after Foxes boss Sven Goran Eriksson admitted the player is almost certain to leave in January.

England boss Fabio Capello has risked angering Europe’s top clubs by backing calls for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be held during the winter. Capello, who is due to leave his role with England in 2012, believes it would be too hot to play in Qatar during June and July.

Blackburn caretaker boss Steve Kean has refuted accusations that there were underhand tactics at play when he was asked to take over from Sam Allardyce. “It was an absolute shock when I received the phone call from the chairman which was half an hour before it hit the press that Sam was going to leave,” said Kean.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech believes the side are struggling to find “the right chemistry” this season. The Blues are on their worst run in 11 years after a 3-1 loss at Arsenal left them six league games without a win.

Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour believes that champions Chelsea are now out of the title race after the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez believes that the attacking, passing football played by sides like his own and Arsenal will benefit the next generation of English footballers. “When you play in that sort of style players are forced to make decisions and think on the pitch,” said Martinez.

Former Portsmouth manager Paul Hart is poised to become the new manager of Sheffield United.

Liverpool are to reward striker David Ngog with a new long-term contract. The 21-year-old has 18 months remaining on his current deal.

Birmingham City have upped their contract offer to winger Sebastian Larsson. The Swede, 25, who cost £1m from Arsenal, can leave at the end of the season.

Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier (pictured) has revealed why John Carew was late to report for his club’s Christmas programme – the striker was stuck in snow in his native Norway.

For full stories, head over to the BBC website.

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13/09/2010 – Monday’s Paper Round-Up

13 09 2010

Manchester United are reportedly stepping up their pursuit of Panathinaikos winger Sotiris Ninis.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=jesus+navas&iid=9176734″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9176734/spain-honduras/spain-honduras.jpg?size=500&imageId=9176734″ width=”234″ height=”357″ /] Chelsea are preparing a £16.5m January bid for Sevilla winger Jesus Navas (left) despite it being widely accepted that Navas suffers badly from homesickness.

Liverpool will launch an £18m double swoop for two West Ham players in the new year – striker Carlton Cole and midfielder Valon Behrami.

Liverpool are also planning a January move for 17-year-old Spanish midfielder Inigo Ruiz De Galarreta, who is being monitored by a host of Europe’s top clubs after making his debut for Athletic Bilbao in pre-season.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Italian side Juventus will battle it out for the signature of Real Madrid’s French striker Karim Benzema.

Marseille have entered the race to secure the signature of Wigan midfielder Charles N’Zogbia.

Tottenham want a £200,000 loan fee for England Under-21 defender Kyle Walker from Hull City before he moves this week.

Birmingham will bid to sign Crystal Palace’s 19-year-old right-back Nathaniel Clyne when the transfer window reopens.

Ipswich Town are targeting two West Bromwich Albion players for loan moves – left-back Joe Mattock and striker Luke Moore.

Coventry City boss Aidy Boothroyd expects to complete a deal to sign Marlon King this week after revealing the move is “inevitable”. Former Wigan striker King, 30, who has been looking for a new club since leaving prison in July, has been training with Coventry for the last two weeks.

Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp, now a pundit with Sky Sports, criticised Reds striker Fernando Torres for his “diabolical” performance in the 0-0 draw with Birmingham on Sunday.

Wolfsburg coach Steve McClaren admitted that the “pressure is mounting” after his third straight defeat in charge of the Bundesliga club.

Striker Wayne Rooney has pleaded with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to play him against Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Rooney’s England colleague and former Manchester United midfielder David Beckham – now with Los Angeles Galaxy – has backed his former Old Trafford boss Ferguson’s decision to drop the striker for the game at Goodison Park.

Beckham, who made his playing comeback for as a substitute in LA Galaxy’s 3-1 win over Columbus Crew on Saturday, says he will not try to con England boss Fabio Capello over his fitness. The 35-year-old hopes to return to the international fold under the Italian.

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti believes the Football Association should not rule out going foreign again when they choose a successor for England coach Fabio Capello and has called for respect of footballers’ private lives.

New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier is the highest-paid manager in the club’s history, with the Frenchman’s three-year contract worth nearly £8m.

Houllier has identified Middlesbrough assistant Gary McAllister – who when the Frenchman was Liverpool boss was part of the Reds squad – as the man he wants to be his number two at Aston Villa.

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce says goalkeeper Paul Robinson may come out of international retirement if England boss Capello was to make him his first-choice. Robinson quit the international scene after being selected in the squad to face Hungary in a friendly in August.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=jermaine+pennant&iid=3743475″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/3743475/sports-news-january-2009/sports-news-january-2009.jpg?size=500&imageId=3743475″ width=”234″ height=”304″ /] Stoke manager Tony Pulis accepts he has taken a gamble by giving Jermaine Pennant (right) another chance in the Premier League but says the former Birmingham winger is worth the risk.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle is ready to appeal against Gary Cahill’s red card at Arsenal – and risk an extra ban for his England defender.

Scotland manager Craig Levein is to seek permission to ditch the controversial Jabulani ball when his team take on Spain in a Euro 2012 qualifier in October. The ball was heavily criticised for its unpredictability during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

For full stories, head over to the BBC website.





The Transfer Market

15 01 2010

The ‘Rafalution’ has certainly gone under the microscope at the minute and the media seem ever so keen to highlight his poor signings. Now, I’m not going to defend some of his signings as I’m sure you would agree that Nunez, Josemi and Kromkamp sent most fans into a cold sweat every time they made an appearance. However, when considering some of his poor signings against the flops bought by other top 4 managers, you will realise the media are being a little unfair.

Yes I could give a mention to Fergie, Wenger and Abramovich/Kenyon’s flops too. Crespo, Shevchenko and Veron or Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba and Taibi are all far worse signings than some of Rafa’s and a lot costlier too. However, Rafa seems to bring a lot of criticism on himself. His stubborn persistence with players such as Lucas Leiva (whose birth certificate I would like to see) separates him from the rest. If Ferguson makes a mistake, they are almost always sold on, more often than not for profit I hasten to add. The same with Chelsea to a degree, if a player is just simply not good enough, he will be sold, or in the case of Hernan Crespo be loaned out for about 3 years! Chelsea don’t have to worry about flops as much however due to their unrivalled wealth, or at least it was unrivalled until Manchester City’s owners graced our shores. It is this where I feel Rafa is being a little harshly treated. His ‘eye for talent’ is something that is also often challenged. I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with his eye for talent, he just does not have the financial means to always sign who he wants. It is for that reason that he ends up signing second or third choice players who are often gambles. Inevitably, gambles do not always pay off. Rafa has identified David Villa, David Silva, Daniel Alves, Simao Sabrosa, Sergio Aguero (before he signed for Atletico) among others as potential signings so there is nothing wrong with his eye for talent. However, when Rick Parry was at the helm and our worrying financial situation these were unrealistic targets. Instead he ended up with Jermaine Pennant, who was deemed to not be good enough for Arsenal yet we signed anyway, as well as Mark González, Fernando Morientes and Andriy Voronin.

Benitez has more often than not got it right when he has been able to spend big although he has had to sell before he can buy in the summer gone by. Can people really argue with the signings of a certain striker named Fernando Torres? How about Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson? I’m sure regardless of who you support you would not be disappointed to see anyone of these on your club’s team sheet. Furthermore, he’s trying to restructure the youth academy which, in my opinion, was long overdue. Although I’m not sure whether he should be getting involved in this area of the club, things certainly seem to be improving. As Gerard Houllier once said about the academy, ‘I’m not expecting the next Steven Gerrard, but I wouldn’t mind a few Jamie Carraghers.’ I feel Rafa has echoed those sentiments, and although there will never be another Steven Gerrard, he is slowly introducing one or two young players who are most definitely prospects. Martin Kelly’s man of the match performance on his debut against Olympique Lyonnais shows this. Furthermore, Jay Spearing made his debut in a home tie against Real Madrid. Gone are the days of rolling out McManaman’s, Fowler’s and Owen’s year after year, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Although it may seem hard to believe, I’m not so pro-Rafa that I would defend him whatever happens. Six defeats in a season that is still only in October is by no way good enough. However, as I may just have mentioned once or twice, we are rather struggling somewhat in terms of finance. Would it really be wise to sack him at the cost of around £20m? That is the sort of figure he would get as he only signed his latest deal on the 18th March 2009. Then a new manager arrives with a whole array of new ideas that would probably take another 5 years to implement fully and by that time Gerrard and Carragher will either be gone or well past their best. I guess what I am trying to say is that it was only a few months ago that Rafa led us to four points from winning the title and although Alonso has gone, not much else has changed.

Mark Jepson





2009 So Far

14 01 2010

First Written – 18th March 2009

December 2008 ended full of promise, hope, optimism and even allowed us kopites to smile at the thought of winning our first league title since 1990, coincidentally the year I was born, rather than wondering how we were out of the title race by November once again. Whilst Sunday’s victory over Chelsea allowed us to move back to second place in the league, it is looking increasingly difficult to see how teams are going to be capable of taking points off Manchester United.

The victory over Chelsea is all the more frustrating as it has been our first in the league of the year after very disappointing draws against Everton and Wigan to name just two. Along with this, take into account draws at Anfield to Stoke, Hull, Fulham and West Ham, that is just four points from a possible twelve. Eight points dropped to must supporters. It is this inability to beat the so called ‘lesser teams’ that makes January seem an even more frustrating month for Liverpool.

Robbie Keane’s departure back to Tottenham seems strange to say the least and with Fernando Torres struggling with fitness this year, Dirk Kuyt and rookie David N’Gog are our only other recognised first team strikers. Robbie Keane never really seemed to get a fair crack of the whip under Rafa Benitez, scoring just 7 goals. We’ve only lost one league game all season, to Tottenham ironically, yet we have had the most 0-0 draws in the league this season with 5. We’ve got more draws than an IKEA warehouse! Signing Keane for £20m to rarely use him, even when we are in need of a goal, suggests there are other issues at Anfield that the fans do not know about.

The lengthy saga of Benitez signing a new contract to constant takeover reports which today co-owner George Gillett further fuelled by saying he is ‘open’ to offers. On and off the field, it seems like a very lengthy first month of the year. Benitez not signing a new contract again shows a frosty relationship still between himself, the owners and the more and more unreliable figure that is Rick Parry. As well as the Keane blunder, Parry’s inability to offer key players Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt new contracts, as well as allowing Jermaine Pennant to go on a six-month loan deal to Portsmouth with just six months remaining on his contract, further showing that Parry is no longer up to the job. The frosty relationship suggests a power struggle within the Liverpool hierarchy and rather unfortunately, it seems as if Robbie Keane has been used as a pawn in the games.

Robbie Keane’s deadline day departure ruled out realistic possibilities of signing a replacement, despite murmurs of Javier Saviola joining from Real Madrid, or Aaron Lennon joining from Tottenham. It seems that the last six months have seen Benitez struggle to land Gareth Barry, a player he wanted, and suggests Keane was bought in but not by Benitez’s say so. The same six months has now seen Liverpool spend £20m on a player only to sell him back to the same club for just £12m. Although neither sums were paid up front and were dependant on success, it has not left my beloved Liverpool FC covered in glory. The cliché goes that a lot can happen quickly in a football, and it seems Liverpool are going to have to learn this the hard way.

Mark Jepson








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