Jerzy out for three months

Jerzy DudekFurther to our earlier story about Reds goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek being taken to hospital after a fall in training, Liverpool have confirmed the medical staff’s worse fears. Dudek has a "fracture-dislocation" of his elbow and will be out for three months, according to the official Liverpool FC website.

Spokesman Ian Cotton said: "Jerzy has a fracture-dislocation of his elbow. He saw a specialist on Monday afternoon and will see another specialist on Tuesday for further investigation. He will be out of action for three months."

Dudek’s future with the club was in question after Liverpool signed new keeper Pepe Reina during the summer. Rafa Benitez has chosen to keep Dudek off the pitch in Liverpool’s four Champions League games so far this season, and he wasn’t even in the squad for the last game.

Whatever happens with Jerzy in the future, he’ll always go down as a legend at Anfield after his performance in the final of the European Cup last May. His mistakes over the last couple of seasons perhaps contributed to Rafa Benitez going out and buying Pepe Reina, but the performance in Istanbul was outstanding. The injury may even help work in his favour – by the time he returns there will still be a little while to go before the transfer window re-opens and he may be able to get himself back into the plans of Rafa Benitez.

Continue reading Jerzy out for three months

Dudek sent for x-rays

Liverpool goalkeeper and hero of Istanbul Jerzy Dudek fell awkwardly during training today and had to be rushed to hospital. Liverpool’s official website reports that the Polish star was sent for x-rays at a hospital near to the Melwood training facility amid fears he had dislocated his elbow. The club’s medical staff treated him at the scene.

Dudek is currently considered Liverpool’s number two since the arrival of Pepe Reina from Spain, but has been kept off the pitch for Champions League games so far to avoid him becoming cup-tied in case of a transfer for him. If the injury is confirmed then he won’t be getting transferred before the end of this transfer window, which may bring about his long-term reprieve as a keeper for the European Champions. Scott Carson played all of the game in Liverpool’s last Champions League qualifier.

Also injured is new signing Bolo Zenden, who’s been ruled out of Liverpool’s trip to Bulgaria to face CSKA Sofia. The midfielder will be receiving treatment on a thigh injury. Rafa Benitez says Zenden’s absence should only be for the one game: "Zenden won’t travel to Sofia as he has a
problem with his thigh but I think he will be fine for the
Middlesbrough game."

Antonio Barragan is given a surprise call-up to the squad. Barragan was signed in the summer from Seville, but wasn’t expected to figure in first team action for some time as he’d been brought in for the future. He’s been given squad number 36 for the game. Another surprise call-up is Milan Baros. Baros has been set to leave Anfield all summer, and may yet still do so, but Benitez has sent a message out that he’s still waiting for the right offer. The Czech Republic star has been left out of all four of Liverpool’s Champions League games, although he has been an unused substitute earlier on. Rafa said: ""Baros is in the squad and at this moment he is our
player. There has been rumours about his future and we have had some
offers for him which have not been good enough in our opinion."

Continue reading Dudek sent for x-rays

Real start public auction for Owen

Michael Owen’s future is now being debated in public with Real Madrid starting their well-worn tactics of leaks to the press to stir up interest and pressure. If Real want a player you can guarantee the press will know all about it – a good way of getting a player to demand a transfer. With Owen they are trying to get rid of him for as much money as possible.

Real have had three different coaches since Owen signed, so it’s no surprise they have got bored with the England star. They bought him for £8million last August, but also gave the player a four-year contract believed to be worth around £20million. If Owen is to leave now they’ll need to pay him some of the remaining money left on his deal, so they will want a good fee for him. The latest figure leaked to the Spanish press by Real is around £14million, way over the amount that most English clubs will pay a player they know Real are desperate to offload.

Today Newcastle’s chairman Freddy Shepherd told his club’s official website that they have made contact with Real Madrid over Michael Owen. He said: "We’ve had a discussion with Madrid, but we won’t be commenting further on any speculation."

Real are acutely aware though that Owen does not fancy a move to St James’s Park. Newcastle finished 14th in the league last season, have just been knocked out of the Intertoto Cup and are managed by Graeme Sounness – by far from a popular figure with Liverpool fans. Real want to sell the player though, so today they released the following statement: "Newcastle are very interested in Owen. They are following him closely and are showing the most concrete interest. However there are other sides showing an interest, including Manchester United." This statement came from Real spokesman Antonio Garcia Ferreras.

The trouble was, it seems that Real’s spokesman was mistaken. Manchester United released their own statement almost immediately, refuting the claims. Short and to the point, the United communications director Phil Townsend said: "We have had no contact with Real Madrid over Michael Owen."

The main problem for Real is that they know Owen prefers a move home to Anfield above all other moves. Newcastle are out of Europe and out of touch of the league leaders. Moving to United would see him become a hate figure and Owen would not be comfortable with that. Arsenal is preferable to United, but means a move to the south for the player, something he’s not too keen on.  Liverpool need to raise funds to buy Owen, and then the player will dig his heels in at Madrid until they accept the offer. How much it will take for Real to give in remains to be seen, but by releasing the "news" about contact from Old Trafford, they hoped to up the price for the player.

Madrid still owe money to Liverpool for Owen, believed to be around three to four million. No club is likely to pay more than £12million for Owen this summer. Liverpool are hoping for £7million for Milan Baros, meaning a couple more million would bring them in touch distance of Owen’s fee. And if Owen refuses to move anywhere else, Real will have to decide whether to accept Liverpool’s bid, or pay high wages for the fifth-choice striker.

Milan Baros was linked again with a move to Lyon today, and the Liverpool Echo believes that the player will leave within the next 48 hours. Baros is also attracting interest from Monaco.

The biggest stumbling block for Baros over a move to Lyon is that it means him linking up with a manager he didn’t like previously. Gerard Houllier signed Baros for the Reds, but Baros felt under-used by the Frenchman and was looking for a move before Benitez took charge. Lyon do have the promise of Champions League football though, and Houllier feels that Baros would do well if paired with John Carew. Monaco have registered interest, but haven’t made a bid. The Echo says that Anfield officials have seen interest increase in the Czech star over the weekend, but that Aston Villa and Everton have dropped out of the chase.

Baros is out of the squad again for Liverpool’s next Champions League match. The Echo say that money from the sale of Baros is earmarked not for Owen, but for a new centre-half. Deportivo’s Jorge Andrade is the player most strongly linked, but the Spaniards say he isn’t for sale.

To prove that Liverpool perhaps have more money to spend than they are letting on, there is talk that the Reds will try and sign the Brazilian winger Daniel Alves from Seville – and he’s rated at £6million. This follows on from Luis Figo’s decision to make more money for himself at Inter Milan, turning down what would have been a free-transfer to Anfield.
Continue reading Real start public auction for Owen

Owen speaks about his possible move from Spain

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen says he has no regrets about his move to Spain last summer, and always intended to return to the Premiership at some point. Last week Owen released a statement confirming his agents had held brief talks with "three or four" Premiership clubs about a return to the English top-flight this summer. The striker would ideally like to return to Anfield and Liverpool are very interested in this possibility, as long as the deal is right for the club. Owen spoke about his situation in his column in The Times.

Owen says that the signing of Júlio Baptista triggered the permission from Real for talks with English clubs. He said: "The move for Robinho had been spoken about for several months, although the arrival of Júlio Baptista was unexpected. Indeed, it was his signing that put in motion the chain of events reported by the media last week."

Owen says Real have assured him he’s still wanted at the club. He says, "Real Madrid made the point that the arrival of Robinho and Baptista made no difference to me — they wanted me to stay." The number of strikers at the club means Owen’s appearances will be limited, and he is concerned about his position with England: "They do have five strikers at the club and it is obvious that not everyone can play in every game. Knowing the importance of World Cup finals year, they said that if there was a possible transfer that suited everyone, I had their permission to explore it, but there was no pressure to make any decision that did not suit me. This information was conveyed to a small group of clubs and we have until August 31 to see if anything happens."

The small minority of Liverpool fans that disliked Owen during his Liverpool days did so mainly because he was perceived to be more of an England player than a Liverpool player. This criticism was unfair, Owen was proud to be a Red and even prouder to be a Red representing his country. With the hype surrounding the English national team in the English national press, Owen was asked more questions about England than Liverpool. Every time Owen took a knock in a game, commentators would point out that Sven-Göran Eriksson would be worried. This was irritating, but OWen wasn’t asking the questions or making the comments. As Xabi Alonso develops into the world’s best midfielder, there’s no doubt that the Spanish press will be filled with stories about Xabi and the Spanish national team. Peter Crouch and Jamie Carragher could be in the same position this time next year if their season ends with big performances for England in trhe World Cup.

Owen is for now assuming he’ll be playing in Spain this season. He says: "Mentally, I am preparing for another season with Real and if I do find myself on the bench at the start of the season, I will do everything possible to force my way into the starting XI". The striker goes on: "I know I will be given a fair chance to do this. This is one challenge I am determined to win."

Owen says he has already benefitted from his time in Madrid: "Regardless of what happens this summer, I would like to return to the Premiership one day. Already I feel that my time abroad has matured me and I believe that when I do return, it will be as a better player."

Owen talks about England and the World Cup, and about the England boss. He says: "Sven-Göran Eriksson will prepare us superbly for the tournament — his attention to detail is meticulous. I read last week that he tried to buy me a few years ago when he was the coach at Lazio. I heard a rumour at the time that something was going on, but I never did hear anything official."

When Owen says, "official", of course he means directly from Liverpool. His agents will have made sure he was aware of the interest. The fact he chose to ignore the chance of the move shows he was happy at Anfield at the time. Owen knows his future will be decided by the end of the month. Last year his future was uncertain almost until the close of the transfer window, and it may be the case this year too. OWen says he has no regrets about making the choice he did, even though Real won nothing and Liverpool won the biggest prize available to them: "I was delighted for Liverpool — especially for the fans and my many friends there. But if I had to make the decision again, I would still have chosen Real. It is an experience that has developed me as a player and as a person. I have enjoyed learning from new training regimes and watching some of the world’s best players at close quarters."

The English press have enjoyed knocking Owen during his time with Real, but Owen liked to point out that he had actually done pretty well, considering the circumstances. He says, "I’ve had my challenges along the way — yet with three different coaches, I started on the bench and eventually ended up in the team, so I must have been doing something right. Statistically, last season was successful — 16 goals in 26 starts. I’m told that it worked out as a goal every 146 minutes with 35 per cent of my scoring chances ending in the net."  

Owen says he remained professional last season, despite disappointment and frustration at times: "I would like to have started more games, although I tried hard never to show my true feelings because, in the modern game, you have to understand the importance of a strong squad."

As a last note, Owen makes a point that he will fight to win, wherever he is: "I am in Austria enjoying a punishing pre-season fitness programme during which I will want to win every exercise, five-a-side or sprint."

Full article: The Times: I would make the same choice again
By Michael Owen

Continue reading Owen speaks about his possible move from Spain

Rafa promises Reds will be better

Liverpool’s Champions League success on May 25th is still being celebrated now by most Reds fans, but for the coach that brought us that trophy the celebrations were short-lived. Rafa Benitez enjoyed the victory, but was so disappointed with the league form that saw Liverpool finish fifth that he almost immediately went into planning mode for the new season.

Rafa spoke to the official Liverpool FC website about how he wants to ensure that the glory of Istanbul is just the start of a successful period for the Anfield club. He said: "I started thinking about the new season and what we must do to improve almost immediately after the Champions League final. I spent a day or so celebrating, visited my parents and then it was back to work and looking at how I could prepare the team better for the new season."

Rafa says he enjoyed the win, but the next task is to get the Reds back into contention fo the league title, to become English Champions for the nineteenth time. He said: "Winning the Champions League was fantastic for me, the club, the players and, most importantly, the supporters. I know the history of our club and I understand what winning the Champions League meant to our fans. But I also know we must do much better in the Premiership because this is also important to the fans. There will be more expectation on us to do better in the league and we must live up to that."

There’s no doubt that Liverpool played much better in Europe than domestically last season, as Rafa’s team seemed to struggle against teams like Southampton and Crystal Palace. He’s not promising a league title this season, but he is saying that Liverpool will move closer to one this season: "I still have things to prove to people in England. I came here to win trophies over five or even ten years, not just to win the Champions League. Part of my dream is one day to win the Premiership. I am not saying that we will win it this season because you can never say such things in football but I can promise the fans we will work even harder than we did last year and we will do better. I learned many things in my first season. The English league is very different to what I was used to and what a lot of the new players I brought in expected. As a result there were times when we did very well and times when we played poorly."

Rafa revealed that he is planning to work on how the team respond on days where things aren’t quite working out to ensure they still come away with the points: "My job is not only to make sure we play well more often than we did last season, but also to set the team up to get results when we aren’t playing so well. Last season if we played well there was a good chance we would win. The problem was that when we didn’t play well, we lost."

The expectations of Liverpool fans will be sky-high this coming season, and Rafa will be making some more signings before the transfer window closes in an attempt to ensure Liverpool have a depth of quality options in all positions.

* Some of the stories that might interest you from todays papers:

First up is Liverpool target Michael Owen. The News of the World says that Newcastle will bid £11m for the Real Madrid striker this week. Meanwhile the Sunday Express seems to think that Manchester United will be able to get hold of Owen by offering Ryan Giggs to Real as part of the deal.

The Mail on Sunday has our winger problem solved – they say that Bolton’s Greek midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos will join the Reds this week for £1million.

Liverpool are looking again at Helsingborg’s Swedish U21 defender Andreas Granquist, according to The People.
Continue reading Rafa promises Reds will be better

Times: Owen return to Anfield most likely

Owen in training for RealFurther to what we’ve been reporting this week about the chances of Liverpool’s former striker Michael Owen making a return to Anfield, the main press now seem to be realising what Rafa Benitez actually said about a move for the England star.

According to Matt Dickinson, Chief Football Correspondent of The Times, Liverpool are now ahead of Manchester United in the list of most likely destinations for Owen. United confirmed yesterday that their £12.8 million signing Louis Saha had been under the surgeon’s knife and the operation on the player’s knee will make it "all but impossible" for the striker to be sold before the transfer window closes.

Rafa Benitez did not rule out a move for Owen earlier in the week – despite what many reports were claiming – and The Times now believe that Owen could become a Liverpool player again – as long as the Reds sell Milan Baros.

Baros is getting nearer to a move away from Anfield, but there has still not been a firm offer for the player. Liverpool may have to drop their asking price of £7million before the player will leave.

The Times say , "Owen would jump at the chance to return to the North West," and that Liverpool have a verbal first option on the player.

We’ve already pointed out this week that Owen wants to come home, to Anfield, and that Liverpool are looking into how they can facilitate this move. Despite reports saying that Rafa Benitez was unwilling to sign the player this was never the case. For the right price, Benitez would be glad to sign the player. Liverpool were not paid the full £8million up-front for Owen by Madrid, so the actual costs to sign the player may be a little lower than would be expected. Twelve months ago Rafa Benitez let the player go after the temptation of the move to Real had been too difficult to resist. If Owen had stayed he would have been less motivated and would have probably left on a free transfer, leaving on a sour note. Owen’s transfer was amicable though and a year later he’ll be likely to return more motivated than he was when he left, with the possibility of being ready to accept less in wages than he would have got if he’d stayed at Anfield.

Jerzy Dudek is still earmarked for a move out of Anfield, adding to the funds for Benitez to spend on players. Rafa’s aim to bring a centre-back and a right-winger in by the end of the week just gone did not get fulfilled, but Liverpool are still closing in. The Reds hit a setback yesterday when left-winger Mark Gonzales was denied a work permit due to Chile being outside FIFA’s top 70 teams. Liverpool are reconsidering their options, although the player would not be expected to be in action until October anyway.
Continue reading Times: Owen return to Anfield most likely

Figo joins Inter, Rafa needs a striker

Just about three weeks ago the Portugese winger Luis Figo was claiming that he saw a move to Liverpool as a "dream". Liverpool had already agreed terms with him, his club were going to let him go on a free transfer and his dream was going to come true. Then Real changed their minds, and demanded a fee of £2million. Liverpool weren’t willing to pay the amount, and Figo was upset at Real’s change of mind. He said at the time: "If the club don’t see me as part of their plans, why won’t they let me go? It’s close but it’s still up in the air and nothing has been finalised. It’s my dream to play for Liverpool but dreams don’t always come true."

Real dropped their demands for a transfer fee, but Figo was then demanding they pay him the difference between his potential new wages and the remaining money owing on his contract. Real weren’t willing, and Liverpool gradually started to lose interest. The player, it seemed, was more concerned about money than his dreams.

Today he signed a two-year deal with Inter Milan, the team disgraced by their fans in last season’s Champions League. In doing this he gave up on his "dream" move and Liverpool will look elsewhere now for a right-winger. Although Liverpool have lost their target, they refused to be held to ransom for a player that is heading towards the end of his career.

The Reds also tried to dismiss the stories linking them with a move to bring another Real Madrid player – Michael Owen – to Anfield. The denials were not made directly by the club, but through the local newspaper the Liverpool Echo. The Echo reports "club sources" as saying that the Reds are still putting priority on signing a central defender. The paper says Liverpool are "not in talks with Owen". It then goes on to say that Rafa Benitez "could be ready to reassess his attacking options".

One of the reasons that the Echo says Benitez may be rethinking his striking plans is due to the injury to Peter Crouch, and also the departure imminently of Milan Baros. The Crouch injury only causes him to miss two Champions League games – he was already ruled out of Liverpool’s first two league games.  Milan Baros has been earmarked to leave since well before the end of last season. Anthony Le Tallec was allowed to leave on loan to Sunderland earlier in the week, despite injuries to Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama Pongolle. To say that Benitez is only now going to rethink his striking options seems to be a little off the mark. The whispers round Liverpool now are that Jamie Carragher’s mate Michael Owen is about to come home.

Peter Crouch meanwhile spoke of his frustration at his injury. He said: "It is really frustrating to pick up an injury like that but hopefully I will be back sooner rather than later. I wanted to finish the game against Kaunas because I was really enjoying my home debut but I had no choice in the end and had to come off. It is a real disappointment for me."
Continue reading Figo joins Inter, Rafa needs a striker

Reds will travel to Bulgaria – without Crouch

Liverpool’s opponents in the third qualifying round of the Champions League will be Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia. Sofia beat SK Tirana 2-0 tonight, 4-0 on aggregate.

The first leg is to be played in Bulgaria next week – on Wednesday 10th August . The return leg is at Anfield on Tuesday 23rd August. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the fixture is against Bulgarian opposition, meaning the Reds are to travel to the country which currently holds an innocent Liverpool fan in its prisons. Michael Shields was today denied bail and an appeal hearing won’t now be heard until next month at the earliest.  Perhaps the real perpetrator of the crime – Graham Sankey – will be prepared to travel over next week to face justice.

Liverpool were due to play a Premiership fixture away at Charlton on the 23rd, this game has now been postponed – no new date has been set yet.

One player that looks likely to miss both of those Champions League fixtures is new striker Peter Crouch. The England international was substituted early in the second half of last night’s fixture against Kaunas with a suspected hamstring problem. A scan today confirmed the hamstring strain in his right leg and the medical staff estimate a two-to-three week absence. Although it’s a blow from a Champions League point-of-view, the player isn’t available for Premiership action for the games against Middlesborough and Sunderland in any case due to suspension. The postponement of the Charlton game, and the postponement of the match against Arsenal scheduled for August 27th, means that Crouch won’t be able to make his league debut for the Reds until September 10th at the earliest, when Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane.

The Arsenal game was postponed as Liverpool are due to meet CSKA Moscow in Monaco on Friday 26th in the UEFA Super Cup final.

Continue reading Reds will travel to Bulgaria – without Crouch

Reebok are to be bought out by Adidas

Liverpool’s shirt sponsors Reebok are about to be taken over by German company Adidas in a deal worth around £2billion. Adidas and Reebok are currently ranked second and third in the industry behind Nike, and the move is designed to close the gap.

The deal was described by Adidas as a friendly takeover and will more than double Adidas’s sales in North America. The deal needs to be approved by Reebok shareholders and competition and antitrust authorities.

Adidas expect the deal to be finalised early next year.

Liverpool’s relationship with Reebok followed on from a long-term tie-up with Adidas. The merger will make a difference when it comes to the next round of negotiations over shirt sponsorship, as there will be less competition. Perhaps most concerned about the impact in English football will be Bolton Wanderers, who not only have shirt sponsorship from Reebok, but also stadium sponsorship.

There’s no word yet in terms of whether the Reebok brand name will disappear or wether it will continue as part of the Adidas portfolio. Liverpool’s current home kit is due to be replaced anyway next summer.

Continue reading Reebok are to be bought out by Adidas