Deadline day – Reds looking for last-minute deals

Liverpool’s quest for a new centre-back and right-winger – all along supposedly more important than a move for Michael Owen – has moved into it’s last half-day.

In fact for Liverpool to sign anyone now before the transfer window closes at midnight is looking increasingly unlikely. Some reports are saying Liverpool have made a bid of £10million for Benfica’s captain Simão Sabrosa.

Sabrosa has been a Benfica player since 2001 when the  Portugese club paid around £6.8million to sign him from Barcelona. The 25-year-old was originally on the books at Benfica’s rivals Sporting Lisbon – a product of their youth academy. He spent only a year at Barcelona. Previous graduates of Sporting’s youth set-up include Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sabrosa is a fast player, happy to play on either wing or even as a more central attacking midfielder. If the reports are true and Liverpool are successful, then he will bring a great deal of quality to the side. Liverpool had an earlier bid of under £7million rejected by Benfica, and will need to show more urgency than they seemed to over Michael Owen if they are to agree everything and get medicals performed today.

Continue reading Deadline day – Reds looking for last-minute deals

Another transfer snub for Liverpool

After the news that Liverpool’s attempt to sign Michael Owen has failed comes more disappointment for the Reds in their transfer dealings.

For over a month now Rafa Benitez has told anyone who would listen that one of his priorities was to sign a new centre-back. Now, according to BBC Sport, the man he had in mind will not be moving to Liverpool.

The BBC’s website claims that Liverpool were trying to sign French international centre-back Phillipe Mexes from Roma. In fact they claim that Liverpool made four attempts last week to sign him – either on loan or in a permanent deal.

Liverpool had been often linked with the player during Gerard Houllier’s reign as manager. Last summer though Liverpool missed the chance when Mexes joined Roma from Auxerre. The 23-year-old will be staying at Roma though, as coach Luciano Spalletti wants him to stay.

Liverpool have had mixed success this summer in their transfer dealings, and look set to start the new season without the depth and quality in key positions that they had hoped for. Two new players did join the Reds today, but both are considered as signings for the future rather than players to make an immediate first-team impact. 17-year-old Austrian winger Besian Idrizaj was signed along with 19-year-old Welsh Under-21 striker Ramon Calliste.

Idrizaj had been undergoing a trial at Melwood and has agreed a two-year deal, signing from Linzer ASK. He told Liverpool’s official website that he was delighted to be joining the club he’d supported since childhood: "I have always been a Liverpool fan and it is a dream come true to play for them. "You cannot ignore a trial with the reigning Champions League winners. I would even have swam across the channel just to take part." If his playing skills match his attitude then Liverpool have just signed a new star.

Calliste was actually on Manchester United’s books until the end of last season and has been given a 12-month deal.

Both new signings are in Liverpool’s reserve squad for tonight’s game against West Brom, which also includes £7million signing Peter Crouch returning from a hamstring injury with a place on the bench. Florent Sinama-Pongolle will start the game.

Reserve Team: Paul Willis,
David Raven,
James Smith,
Miki Roque,
Danny O’Donnell,
Lee Peltier,
Antonio Barragan,
Jack Hobbs,
Florent Sinama-Pongolle,
Ramon Calliste,
Danny Guthrie.


Peter Crouch,
David Roberts,
David Mannix,
Godwin Antwi,
Adam Hammill
Continue reading Another transfer snub for Liverpool

Time for one last twist in Owen saga?

After the earlier announcement from Newcastle that they have clinched the signature of Michael Owen, there was a deafening silence from Anfield. Newcastle had bid £17million, but Liverpool expected Owen to ignore their wishes until the last possible moment.

Why no response from Anfield? At first we thought it was down to embarrassment on the part of the board. After keeping on in the hunt for Owen for weeks – behind the scenes – Liverpool’s board seemed to have messed it up. Like a game of poker, Real and Liverpool were keeping their cards close to their chest, but trying to outbluff each other. A part of this was for Owen to keep onside for Liverpool by not agreeing a move anywhere else.

For Owen to move to Newcastle shows desperation on his part. He didn’t believe, ultimately, that Liverpool would make a sufficient offer to Real. He couldn’t stand the pressure any longer – better a deal to join struggling Newcastle and guaranteed football than a season in the reserves for Madrid.

In a late twist though Chris Bascombe of the Liverpool Echo is reporting a late move by Liverpool to yet sign the player. Owen is set to arrive in the city for a medical this afternoon, but Bascombe claims Liverpool are "making a last ditch attempt to persuade him to change his mind before committing himself to St James’ Park."

Bascombe goes on to say, "The Reds’ refusal to pay well beyond what they received a year ago forced Owen into a reluctant agreement with the St James’ Park club. The striker was initially set to reject Newcastle’s overtures, but he knows that would give Liverpool less than 48 hours to agree a deal with Madrid.

Real have given him no encouragement an Anfield agreement is a realistic prospect. If Owen puts his faith in Liverpool negotiating his transfer but the current stalemate continues, he knows he will be stuck in Madrid until January.

Liverpool will have their work cut out now to convince Owen that they’ll splash out a bit more cash for the player. The silence of the Liverpool board could be a good sign, and after the yo-yo contract business with Gerrard  in the summer it would be no surprise if Owen did change his mind. But we wouldn’t advise you to hold your breath.

** Update: The Liverpool Echo have pulled the story by Bascombe, making slight edits and now saying that the 11th hour move was unsuccessful.  Version 1 and Version 2 of the story only differ slightly.

Continue reading Time for one last twist in Owen saga?

Owen to sign for Geordies

Michael Owen has made the shock decision to sign for Newcastle United.

Although it’s still early in the season to predict where Newcastle will ultimately finish, the North East team are in the relegation places after getting just one point in four games. Owen’s decision to join the Toon Army must have been painful for him to make.

According to reports, Newcastle will pay £17million for the player. The same reports say Liverpool would not increase their offer of £8million.

Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd said today: "Bringing Michael to the club will rank alongside the signing of Alan Shearer as my proudest moment at Newcastle United. Newcastle fans love centre-forwards and Michael is a fantastic goalscorer. He’s someone we would love to build the team around and we hope he can help us bring success to the club."

Continue reading Owen to sign for Geordies

Real discuss Reds’ bid for Owen

Owen running out of time
The results of Liverpool and Newcastle’s attempts at signing Michael Owen before the transfer deadline will be known possibly as soon as this afternoon as Real Madrid announced their plans to meet to discuss Owen’s situation.

Newcastle made a bid reported to be around £17million last week, but Liverpool have left it late with theirs, for a much smaller amount. The amount Liverpool have bid is believed to be £10million, which is substantially lower than Newcastle’s bid. Prior to Newcastle making this bid Real were hoping for around £12million.

According to Real’s vice-president Emilio Butragueno the Liverpool bid will be the subject of a meeting of Real’s directors today: "We have received two bids from England one of which has been accepted already. The other will be discussed by the directors today."

Some reports claim that Madrid need to receive the full £17million from Newcastle because they need it to fund the purchase of new players. This isn’t what Real are saying however – they are prepared to receive nothing for Owen and wait until they get the amount they want for him. Butragueno explained: "If Owen doesn’t want to join a particular club after we have accepted a bid then he will stay and fight for Real. We can review the situation in January or at the end of the season if nothing happens this week."

The purchase of Owen is being linked to the sale of Djbril Cisse in many reports. This would be a very unpopular move amongst Liverpool supporters. Djibs has not only come back early from a serious leg injury, won the Super Cup for the club and shown real desire to win when on the pitch, but has shown in more ways than one that he’s a fan of Liverpool. He even got married in a Red suit. The rumours linking Cisse with a move away from Anfield have come at a very late stage, and despite statements from Marseille that they want the player, seem to be part of an agenda from elsewhere. Cisse is probably seen by the Anfield staff as a player that is available for the right price – but that would have to be somewhere around the £14million paid for the player. If Liverpool have recieved a bid at that level then there’s a possibility of him leaving, but if this had been a planned scenario then why cup-tie the player? In the case of Milan Baros, Liverpool ensured that he played no part in the Champions League qualifiers – even though ironically he joined Aston Villa who aren’t involved in Europe.

Newcastle seem to be playing a PR game with their fans. They won’t be the first Premiership club to bid for a player they know they’ll not get, but by making the offer their fans feel reassured that their club has good intentions. Newcastle’s fans need reassurance though – Graeme Souness took over from Bobby Robson a year ago and has put the club in a worse position than he found them in. Freddie Shepherd is running out of options for manager, and could be ready to give Alan Shearer his chance any time soon. Newcastle’s meeting with Owen wasn’t held in private – the press were tipped off about the location and given access to take photos. If, as expected, Owen turns down Newcastle then Shepherd will be able to say, "At least we tried".

Newcastle’s official website had the following to say: "England striker Michael Owen held talks with Newcastle about a move to St James’ Park. Owen and his representatives met up with a delegation from United at a Northumberland hotel. Real Madrid accepted a club record offer from Newcastle last week, and it is now up to the player to decide where his future lies."

In fact it is up to Real and Liverpool to decide where his future lies – Real will turn down Liverpool’s bid, but will suggest a new amount for Liverpool to bid, still lower than Newcastle’s amount. Real’s pride means they do not wish to be seen as having lost out.
Continue reading Real discuss Reds’ bid for Owen

Owen has spoken to Reds and Magpies

Michael Owen has been speaking today to the two clubs looking to sign him from Real Madrid. After talking earlier in the day with his former bosses at Anfield, the player travelled up to the North East to speak to Freddie Shepherd and co at Newcastle United.

With just two days left to tie up transfers before the deadline passes, Owen needs to have his decision made by the time he wakes up tomorrow morning. That then allows the club that he agrees to join to tie up the details of the deal with Real Madrid, the details of the contract with Owen, and of course the usual routines of medicals and so on. There’s no longer any time to dither over a decision.

Despite what is being said by the press, Liverpool will pay more than the £8million (plus Antonio Nunez) they received 12 months ago when Owen went to Spain. However they’ve got a maximum amount in mind for the overall deal and so the more Madrid get then the less Owen gets.

Newcastle’s reported bid of £17million for Owen is more than Liverpool would pay for the player – but if Owen doesn’t want to join them then they could bid £100million – nobody can make Owen move.

Owen’s already shown his hand by saying he needs to be playing this season – but he doesn’t want to move into another situation that he’ll be unhappy with. He’d rather sit in Madrid’s reserves until January than move to Newcastle if he feels their on-pitch problems will be of a hindrance to him.

Liverpool is the preferred choice for Owen over Newcastle for football reasons – Liverpool are in the Champions League, holders of that trophy and the Super Cup, and are hoping to make decent challenges in five more competitions this season. Newcastle are not in Europe, are second from bottom of the Premiership and after finishing 14th last season showing no signs of a turn-around.

Liverpool is the preferred choice for Owen over Newcastle for personal reasons. The distance from Owen’s family home in North Wales to Newcastle is not much better than the distance to Spain in real terms. A flight from Spain is only a couple of hours, a flight across country doesn’t take much less. Owen and his wife Louise – now expecting their second child – want to be near to their families, and so the obvious choice in that respect is again Liverpool.

Where Newcastle do win, assuming they are being honest about their intentions, is financially.  Liverpool will not be ripped off. Owen will be entitled to a pay-off from Real if he leaves before the end of his contract. Real will want this money to come from the player’s transfer fee. Real may accept a bid from Liverpool, but in return will expect Owen to accept a lower pay-off. Owen has to decide whether the offer from Liverpool leaves him where he wants to be financially.

This financial situation also means that Owen will almost certainly not be let go on loan by Real.

From the signals that are out there now, Owen wants to play for Liverpool and will accept a significant wage-drop to get his wish. It may be that a new contract at Anfield would include clauses to bring him increases based on success. Unfortunately the biggest threat to Liverpool getting Owen back on board again is our old friends at SFX – Owen’s representatives. The management at SFX were alleged to be leaking news to the press strategically during the Steven Gerrard saga in the summer. Although Gerrard’s personal agent was praised by Gerrard, his bosses were not praised. The same agency is responsible for Owen, and the bigger the deal they can negotiate the bigger a cut they will get.

Owen needs to make up his own mind on this one.

Continue reading Owen has spoken to Reds and Magpies

Shearer: Join us in relegation zone Mike

According to Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer, Michael Owen would be a hero if he became Shearer’s team-mate at the Geordie club.

Shearer says he’s been on the phone to Owen repeatedly over recent weeks, and is hopeful his persuasion has done the trick with the player. Speaking to BBC’s Five Live, Shearer said: "It doesn’t take a genius to work out who we want. We have three days left to try to convince him to come here. We’re still in there fighting for him. I know if he came here he would be loved. They love their goalscorers up here and he would be a hero."

Shearer himself turned down Manchester United twice, once to join Blackburn and once to join Newcastle, and says that Owen would enjoy his popularity at St James’s Park: "I know better than anyone what reception he would get here. I’ve had several phone conversations with him but I don’t have to tell him what passionate supporters we are. In the end he’ll make his own mind up and will do what is best for himself."

In fact there may be three days left to persuade the player, but the most off-putting aspect for Owen will be the way that four match-days have gone for Newcastle. Languishing in the relegation zone in the early table, the Toon have managed just one point in those four games. If Owen did sign for Newcastle, he could find himself a hero with a second-division team. Newcastle finished fourteenth last season and don’t seem to be making any improvements. Graeme Souness is notoriously bad at dealing with players, upsetting many during his years as a manager. What he did to Liverpool fans by selling his stories to the Sun after his heart problems as Liverpool boss means he’s the most disliked Liverpool fan in their history. Even if Liverpool fans decided to forgive him for that, they could never forgive him for starting the slide that Liverpool are only now starting to recover from.

Newcastle’s best hope of signing Owen might have been by letting Souness go – but with just 60 hours left until the deadline Owen will only be persuaded if Liverpool change their mind and give up on the player.

Owen is back in England today, and is said to be talking to both clubs. Despite what some reports are claiming, the Reds don’t need to sell to buy Owen. That’s because Liverpool know how much they want to pay for their former striker, and they won’t move much higher than that amount.
Continue reading Shearer: Join us in relegation zone Mike

Reports: Bouma talking to Reds today

A busy few days in store for Liverpool officials as the transfer window moves nearer to closing. It’s been made clear by Rafa Benitez that he’s looking to sign a new defender, and PSV Eindhoven’s Wilfred Bouma is reportedly going to be talking with Liverpool today. He’s also reported to be in talks with Aston Villa.

The player’s agent, Ger Lagendijk, says that his client is likely to be moving away from Holland before Wednesday’s deadline. He said: "It’s 90% certain Bouma will leave PSV. We hope to reach an agreement with a club on Monday."

Bouma is a Dutch international, who has played for PSV since he made his debut 11 years ago.

Expect more links from more agents as the deadline looms.

UPDATE: Reports now claim that Villa have agreed a fee with PSV and have also agreed terms with the player. He’s set to undergo a medical later today for the Midlands side.

Continue reading Reports: Bouma talking to Reds today

Warnock delighted at call-up

Stephen Warnock woke up this morning feeling shell-shocked at his call-up last night to the England squad for the forthcoming qualifying games. Warnock was informed by text message that the speculation in the press was true and he had been included by Sven Goran Ericsson. After the text message came the phone calls, as he recalls: "I can’t quite believe it. I’ve been reading the papers during the past week and they have been saying I could get a call-up, but I wasn’t so sure. And then I got a text message at around quarter past seven from the FA telling me I’m in the squad. Roy Evans rang me straightaway to wish me all the best, which was nice, and Chris Kirkland has also been on the phone."

Kirky is on loan at West Brom at the moment, a move designed to help him get some games in after a couple of years of injury misfortune. What happens at the end of the season-long loan remains to be seen, but Warnock was delighted to see the tall keeper recalled to England’s squad: "He’s one of my best mates and it’s great to see him back in the squad as well. For me personally it’s brilliant and certainly goes some way towards making up for the disappointment of last season."

Warnock was left out of the squad for the Champions League final at the 11th hour by Rafa Benitez, as players returned to full fitness for the first time all season. Djimi Traore and John Arne Riise were ahead of Warnock last season for the left-back role and with Kewell recalled to the starting line-up Rafa felt he had enough left-sided players in the 18-man squad without needing to include Warnock. Warnock may have felt happier had he at least received one of the 25 medals handed to Liverpool for winning the competition, as he had been important in the earlier rounds for the Reds. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, all 25 medals went elsewhere and Warnock missed out. Warnock recalls: "Istanbul was a great experience because I love the club so much but then it hurt me badly to miss out on it all. Of course I was made up that we won, but I was really upset to miss out on the final. I’ve thought long and hard this summer about where I need to improve and luckily the manager has put his faith in me." That faith includes a new contract and two starts out of two in the Premiership. Warnock knows where he stands now and feels much happier.

His priority remains to become a regular starter for the Reds, but finding himself in England’s squad was a great bonus: "I’ve just got to establish myself as the first choice left back before anything else, but this England call-up is certainly a massive boost for my confidence. I’m looking forward to showing what I can do. Ashley Cole is obviously the first choice left back, but apart from maybe Wayne Bridge and Paul Konchesky, there are perhaps not many other left backs around."

Warnock missed out on a medal in Istanbul partly because of the return to fitness of Josemi. With Josemi available Benitez had more options for the right-side of the pitch and so Warnock dropped out. Josemi’s injuries last season meant he played few games in his first season, and at times he seems to try the complicated option when playing it simple would be better. Jamie Carragher was making it clear to Josemi that he needs to do the simple things during the Super Cup victory last Friday, and many Liverpool fans cringe when they hear the Spaniard’s name in the starting line-up.

The man that makes the decisions over team selection though is Rafael Benitez, and he has spoken about how he feels that an injury-free Josemi could be a valuable member of Liverpool’s squad this season. Rafa said: ""Josemi can be an important player for us. He is a good player, an aggressive player, and he is getting more used to English football now. He played very well at centre back last week. I knew he could play there because he spent a year in that position with Malaga. Of course he can also play on the right of the defence as well so he gives us different possibilities."

Rafa has received criticism from many supporters that perhaps he picks Josemi because he was one of his own signings, and doesn’t see the shortcomings in the player’s game, but this is disrespectful to Rafa’s knowledge of the game. Remember that Jamie Carragher, possibly Liverpool’s most important player right now, was often criticised during the Houllier reign, and even looked set to be sold when Steve Finnan was signed. To sell Carragher now, just two years later, would be (rightly) unthinkable. The improvement of Djimi Traore under Rafael Benitez is another sign of how good the Spaniard is at getting the best out of players. Traore’s FA Cup howler was cancelled out repeatedly last season. Rafa wants Liverpool fans to give Josemi a chance: "He was unfortunate last season because he had so many injury problems, but if he can stay fit then he will be an important member of our squad this year."
Continue reading Warnock delighted at call-up

Owen snubbed by Real as move home gets nearer

Michael Owen’s return to Liverpool perhaps had a further move forward tonight when the striker was excluded from Real’s match squad for their opening league fixture.

Real travelled to Cadiz for the fixture, and Owen wasn’t even named amongst the seven subs. The player was however included in the England squad announced tonight.

As well as Liverpool working behind the scenes to sign the player, Newcastle United have been showing interest publicly in doing a deal to buy Owen. Today though saw Newcastle fall to yet another defeat in the Premiership leaving them second-bottom in the early table. With just one point taken from an available 12, manager Graeme Souness will be worried about his future. Owen’s time at Real Madrid was problematic for many reasons, not least of which was the turnover of coaches by the Spanish giants. Would Owen want to come home to face the same difficulties?

Liverpool’s work to bring Owen home has continued over the weekend. Owen would see a move to the struggling Toon army as a major step down for himself, and despite stories that he will move to the North East in today’s press the player will not entertain the idea of a permanent move.

Continue reading Owen snubbed by Real as move home gets nearer