Rafa refuses to deny Fowler interest

Rafael Benítez made comments today about the possible return of Robbie Fowler to Anfield that harked back to his Michael Owen comments throughout last summer. When he was asked about the player being given a chance to play in his favourite Red shirt again he said simply: “I cannot say it will never happen. I cannot say no, I cannot say yes.” Normally if Rafa denies a piece of speculation he does so firmly with a straightforward no. With Fowler he seemed to sit on the fence, which adds weight to all the rumours. The latest whispers say that Fowler will be back in a Red shirt next week as long as Manchester City agree to it. City know he fancies a move back to Anfield, and they will be glad to let him go and reduce their wage bill just as long as they can secure some cover for him. Fowler himself is said to be willing to move after being informed that he will be used regularly if he signs.

Rafa also spoke about the situation involving winger Mark González if his work permit doesn’t get sorted soon. The move to secure a work permit under rules normally used to allow talented individuals from other professionals still hasn’t reached a conclusion, and time is now running out for the Chilean winger before the transfer window closes so, as explained earlier in the week, Rafa is arranging for him to go out on loan.

To get even more value out of the loan move than just ensuring González keeps up his fitness levels, the Reds boss explained that a swap deal may be done on a temporary basis. Claiming the Reds are close to using up their transfer budget, Rafa says a swap deal would be the best way to get something positive from the situation: “We don’t have a lot of money, so we need to use our imagination. And we will try to use our imagination to bring in players. We are trying to do something with Mark Gonzalez, because we cannot wait forever for a work permit. Right now I am thinking about another player in Spain, maybe in a swap if it’s possible.”
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Potter goes to Saints for six months

The official Liverpool FC website reports that Darren Potter has started a six-month loan deal with Southampton.

Potter was all set to join Hearts on a deal said to be worth around £10,000 per week, until an error was spotted in the contract. In the end this proved too much for the player and his agent who felts Hearts had been extremely unprofessional in their conduct of the deal. Potter had been looking forward to the move, but on balance it just did not seem right.

His loan deal sees him stay with troubled south coast side until May 31st. Chairman Rupert Lowe was the subject of fan protests at their home game last night. Harry Redknapp left earlier in the season to rejoin Saints’ rivals Portsmouth. The man in charge – sort of – at Southampton is George Burley, who was actually manager at Hearts when the Scottish side first showed interest in Potter.

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FA charge Neville for his fan-baiting

Gary Neville has been charged by the Football Association for his taunting of away supporters at the Manchester United v Liverpool game on Sunday. Neville claimed in his newspaper column that he “laughed” when people condemned his actions, actions which could have resulted in serious crowd control problems at the ground, and prompted the local police force to write a letter of complaint to both the FA and United.

According to the official FA website, Neville has two weeks to consider the charge and to make a response if any. The site says: “Manchester United defender Gary Neville has been charged with improper conduct. The charge relates to Neville’s celebrations following Manchester United’s goal in the 90th minute of the Premiership match against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday 22 January. Neville has until 10 February to respond to the charge.”

The FA may also be investigating more trouble at Old Trafford last night. United won their semi-final against Blackburn Rovers, managed by former player Mark Hughes, but there are allegations of a bust-up in the tunnel between Rovers and United players in what seemed to be another demonstration of the ugly side of the game.

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Parry: Fowler story untrue

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has denied the story that Robbie Fowler is on his way back to Anfield. The rumour about a return for Fowler, on either a low-wage or even a pay-as-you-play deal has been gathering momentum, and was the subject of radio reports this morning.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Parry said Liverpool had not been in contact with Fowler’s current club Manchester City. He said: “There has been no dialogue whatsoever between Manchester City and ourselves. The story is not true.”

Those that like to read between the lines will note that Parry did not mention contact with Fowler’s representatives, and most versions of the rumour do involve Liverpool representatives talking directly to those that represent Fowler. Despite this it seems unlikely that Liverpool would leave it so late into the transfer window to make even a tentative approach to City.

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New Reds kits? Adidas-Reebok deal approved by EU

Adidas LogosNews this week that the European Commission has approved the £2.1 billion takeover of US sportswear giant Reebok by German rivals Adidas will renew speculation about changes to Liverpool FC’s current shirt deal. The merger, if it does go ahead, will create the second biggest firm of its kind in the world, behind Nike.

The move to merge the two brands was announced during the last transfer window, back in August, but even with the approval from the EC there is still a need for Reebok shareholders to similarly approve the move. US competition authorities have already approved the move.

A statement from the EC said: “Adidas is perceived as a professional, technically oriented brand with strong European roots. Reebok predominantly targets young people and women, is more a leisure brand and has a stronger presence in American sports that are not excessively popular in Europe. ” The green light was given because the commission felt that “the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.”

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Agent: Cologne want Dudek

Jerzy Dudek’s agent continues to work hard to fulfil his player’s wishes by trying to engineer him a move away from Anfield. Dudek is now firmly installed in Reds folklore after his display at the Ataturk Stadium in May, but this hasn’t been enough to earn him a place as first-choice keeper at Anfield this season, not even for one match. Dudek’s concern is that if he doesn’t get to play some games this season his dreams of representing Poland in the World Cup this summer will be all but gone.

Although Dudek would prefer to stay a Liverpool player, he wants to play. Pepe Reina’s form has made that highly unlikely, and when the Spanish keeper was rested recently for the FA Cup tie with Luton, it was young Scott Carson that took his place.
Articles in the media shortly after that tie attributed quotes to Dudek where he allegedly made highly critical comments against Rafael Benítez. Dudek later made a denial that he’d ever said those things, saying he had great respect for the manager. No doubt that the quotes came from someone representing Dudek though, but rather than help him to get a move they seemed to hinder his chances. He returned to the bench on Saturday after being demoted to third choice recently, but of course that is not enough of an improvement for the player.

Dudek’s agent has told the press in Germany that his client wants to get back on the field again, and says that FC Cologne want to help him achieve that. Speaking to the Cologne Express, Jan de Zeeuw said: “Jerzy wants to play at the World Cup and just to play football again. Jerzy would be willing to move to Germany and join Cologne, but we need to reach a compromise with Liverpool.” In other words the German side want an undoubtedly good goalkeeper, who has an enhanced reputation after his performance in Istanbul, but they don’t fancy the £4million price tag quoted after the recent press articles. No doubt Liverpool are willing to compromise to some extent, but the days of letting unhappy players leave at cut price are gone. Dudek is an experienced goalkeeper and an injury to Reina would see him chosen ahead of Carson to take over, so Benítez will only accept serious offers.

Dudek’s penalty shoot-out heroics followed on from his wonder save that not only denied AC Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko what would have been a winning goal, but seemed to sap all of the confidence from the striker. Shevchenko saw his shoot-out effort saved and Liverpool won the Champions League.  Reina’s signing had already been agreed before the final, meaning Dudek’s days as first-choice keeper were already numbered.

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All quiet at Anfield as window moves to a close

It’s all gone quiet – publicly at least – on the transfer front at Anfield, as we move into the last week of the transfer window.

Deals for youngsters like Paul Anderson and David Martin have been accompanied by deals for more experienced players like Jan Kromkamp and Daniel Agger. Very little has happened with players leaving the club, Josemi went as part of the Kromkamp deal and John Welsh as part of the Anderson deal. Most unwanted Liverpool players are on loan elsewhere at the moment, with other players loaned out to get first-team experience before being at the very least reviewed again in the summer. Neil Mellor turned down a move to Hearts and will be glad he did after scoring the winner for Wigan in his first match after starting a six-month loan.

Hearts have shown a lot of interest in Liverpool, Mellor was the latest Red target of many that they’ve made moves for. Their move for Darren Potter – a move that was verbally agreed between the two clubs and the player before the transfer window even opened – seems to have fallen through though now. According to The Liverpool Way , who have good contacts with many of Liverpool’s fringe players and one or two bigger names, the deal was doomed when Potter’s agent saw the contract. The problems with the contract, added to a Hearts approach for a Liverpool youngster that left the club three years ago, suggested that Hearts weren’t being as professional as a club in their position should be. At this point in time the deal may still go through, but Potter will need to be convinced that these incidents were isolated.

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Neville sees nothing wrong in his crowd-baiting

Punishment for Gary Neville’s taunting of Liverpool supporters at Old Trafford on Sunday is still under consideration by the FA, yet the self-confessed scouse-hater sees no wrong in his actions.

Neville ran 60 yards on Sunday after his England colleague Rio Ferdinand scored United’s winner. Rather than joining his team mates in congratulating Ferdinand, he stood in front of the Liverpool supporters trying to find his badge to kiss, pumped his arms and basically made sure he could rub salt in the wounds.

FA directives on celebrating too much in front of your own fans were introduced fairly recently, but are designed to avoid too much time-wasting as much as crowd control. Celebrating in front of opposing fans has been outlawed much longer, and police have powers to act if they feel the action could have, or did, lead to public disorder. Liverpool supporters after the game reported trouble outside the ground from Manchester United supporters intent on violence, Dennis Irwin’s car was allegedly vandalised.

It’s a rare occurrence that either Merseyside or Greater Manchester Police allow matches between the two sides to kick off later than midday – Neville’s actions probably mean there’ll be no hurry to do it again.

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United get their big prize

Liverpool’s defeat against Manchester United came as a huge frustration to the Reds, with Liverpool clearly controlling the game. Manchester United looked to be happy to settle for a draw, their rare attacking moves only coming on the break.

At the end the excitement proved to be far too much for Gary Neville to take, and he must surely now be expecting an FA charge after he went over to the Liverpool supporters to show them his badge in what is usually described as incitement. Neville has made it clear on many occasions just how much he hates Liverpool – the city as much as the club – and must find it hard to share a dressing room with Wayne Rooney, who just hates Liverpool the club. If Neville doesn’t face an FA charge, or at least an investigation, then Sven Goran Eriksson’s revelations this weekend don’t even scrape the surface of what is wrong in English football.

Manchester United supporters added to the bad feelings with sickening taunts and even more sickening gestures about Hillsborough. Some Liverpool fans angrily responded with chants they should have avoided, but that hatred from Old Trafford needs to be looked at. The protests during the summer from United fans unwilling to see their club taken over by Americans showed how nasty some of these supporters are prepared to be, but the majority of their fans must be ashamed at the actions of the rest.
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Result: Man United 1 Liverpool 0

FA Barclays Premiership

Sunday 22nd January 2006

Manchester United 1 Liverpool 0
Ferdinand 90
Half Time 0-0

Man Utd: E Van der Sar, G Neville, R Ferdinand, W Brown, P Evra, R Giggs, D Fletcher, J O’Shea (L Saha, 45) , K Richardson, W Rooney, R van Nistelrooy
Subs: T Howard, N Vidic, M Silvestre, G Rossi
Booked: K Richardson 18 W Rooney 88

Liverpool: J Reina, S Finnan, S Hyypia, J Carragher, J Riise, S Gerrard, X Alonso, M Sissoko (J Kromkamp, 89) , H Kewell, P Crouch (F Morientes, 60) , D Cisse (F Sinama Pongolle, 75)
Subs: J Dudek, D Traore
Bookings: M Sissoko 18, X Alonso 82, S Gerrard 90

Referee: Mike Riley
Continue reading Result: Man United 1 Liverpool 0