Liverpool’s Torres scores winner for champions Spain

Euro 2008 winner Fernando TorresLiverpool striker Fernando Torres put his name in the history books last night when he scored the winning goal in the European Championships final. His goal, 12 minutes from half-time, gave Spain their first trophy in 44 years, when they last won this competition.

It wasn’t just Torres who won the trophy of course, the team spirit and unity was something that many observers have mentioned as being the difference between this squad and the talented underachievers of past tournaments. Included in that squad were of course some of the Liverpool striker’s club teammates, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Álvaro Arbeloa.

For the latter two their role was confined to a run-out in the final group game, when Spain had already qualified. Xabi Alonso also started that game, wearing the captain’s armband, and has had more of a role to play, including coming on last night as a 63rd minute substitute to ensure Spain didn’t throw away what Torres had worked so hard to bring them.

Continue reading Liverpool’s Torres scores winner for champions Spain

Stadium enabling begins, Rafa denies £50m demand

For the first time this year, a joint statement has been issued by Liverpool co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, as they announced the commencement of work on the site of the proposed new stadium for the club.

Enabling work begins on New Anfield stadiumWhen planning consent was granted by the council in May there was a waiting period before work of any kind could commence, and it seems that has now passed. The statement on the official club website says the council, “granted full planning permission on June 19 to Liverpool Football Club to build a 60,000 seater stadium and outline planning permission for a mixed use development on the existing Anfield stadium site.”

The 60,000 capacity was a throwback to the plans inherited by the current owners when they took the club over last year. Their decision to scrap those plans was made partly because of a desire for a unique look to the new ground, as opposed the generic-looking bowl appearance of the originals, but mainly because of the need for a larger capacity. The intention is to have the capacity as high as 73,000 by the time the stadium opens – it has room for that capacity – but to do this certain improvements must be made to the infrastructure to enable what is an otherwise residential area to handle an increase of 28,000 visitors to the area on match day. One element of the current plans is an underground car park holding around 1,000 cars, but those cars will have to arrive early and leave late as part of the planning conditions. Proposals to build a new railway station on an existing freight line have been looked at. Continue reading Stadium enabling begins, Rafa denies £50m demand

Gillett: Time heals wounds with Hicks – no comment on sale

Bob McCown (r) and James Deacon (l)The last time George Gillett gave an interview to Toronto’s sports-based radio station The Fan 590, the war for control of Liverpool FC went right back to the top of the headlines again; it signalled the beginning of one of the ugliest phases in the fiasco of the past six months. It was the first time one of the owners had admitted they had a problem with their partner since DIC’s hostile takeover bid began late last year. Gillett admitted his relationship with Tom Hicks had broken down some time before. The interview included allegations from Gillett suggesting he’d received death threats from fans. It also contained a vow from Gillett that he would not sell a single percent of his stake in the club to partner Tom Hicks.

What followed was a public war of words which involved Gillett, Hicks, Rick Parry and David Moores, with Dubai International Capital sitting back and enjoying the fireworks, hopeful that when the dust settled they’d find both Hicks and Gillett standing pens in hand waiting to sign the shares away.

That didn’t happen, in fact very little has changed at all in terms of the club’s future. The battle was potentially damaging, certainly to Liverpool’s reputation, although the team did play on as if nothing was going on off the field. All that heartache for fans,  yet the club is still jointly owned by Messrs Gillett and Hicks.

So when news filtered out that Gillett was about to do another interview with the same presenter on the same station, fans were understandably anxious about what was going to be said, and what the fallout might be. It was made more worrying in that it followed on from a statement two weeks ago by the Liverpool supporter’s union, Spirit of Shankly, implying the ball was now firmly in Gillett’s court: “Is George Gillett still looking for every last penny?” the statement asked. “Well, why is he still here? Gillett is happy enough to give the impression he wants to sell. Well, SOS has been told he can sell whenever he wants. The opportunity is there to get out of our club. Why hasn’t he?” The impression was this information had come from the Dubai representatives in contact with SOS. And Gillett was possibly looking to defend himself. Continue reading Gillett: Time heals wounds with Hicks – no comment on sale

Riise joins Roma

John Arne Riise leaves LiverpoolJohn Arne Riise is no longer a Liverpool player after he left and joined AS Roma for just short of £4m, according to an announcement from the Italian side tonight.

The fee of €5m, which converts to £3.96m, is close to the £4.6m Liverpool paid for him seven years ago, when former boss Gerard Houllier signed him from Monaco. Riise has signed for four years, the Roma website says.

The Italian club’s statement simply read: “AS Roma announce they have reached an agreement with Liverpool Football Club for the acquisition of the sporting rights of the player John Arne Riise with effect from July 1 2008.”

However Liverpool FC’s remained more cautious about confirming the news. The deal has been as good as done, but they are waiting for the red tape before confirming the news. A statement on said: “Liverpool are awaiting completion of the necessary paperwork before officially announcing John Arne Riise’s transfer to AS Roma. Riise arrived in the Italian capital on Wednesday and held talks with the Serie A side, who have since announced he has signed on a four year deal.”

Riise had taken some time to come to terms with the idea he was surplus to requirements in the eyes of Rafa Benítez, but when he did accept the idea commented that the £5m demanded by Liverpool seemed high. The fee paid is good business for Liverpool considering the Norwegian star had just a year left on his deal.

Riise finalised talks on personal terms, already initiated by his agent, and passed a medical in the Italian capital. A statement earlier in the day from Roma said: “As part of ongoing negotiations with Liverpool football club regarding the signing of John Arne Riise, Roma have been authorised to deal with the agent of the player.” His agent, Jan Kvalheim, had also confirmed Riise’s presence in Italy: “I can confirm that John Arne Riise is in Rome for a medical and to finalise the negotiations. A few small details remain.” Continue reading Riise joins Roma

Round-up: Reina to get a start, Torres to stay at Anfield

Dirk Kuyt’s contribution to Holland’s successful start to Euro 2008 meant he and many other of the first-choice Dutch side sat out last night’s final group game against Romania. Already assured of qualifying, manager Marco van Basten was able to give some of the fringe players a chance, with Kuyt coming on in the 61st minute for Robben. Holland won the game 2-0.

Second place in the group went to Italy, whose win over France earns them a quarter-final tie with Spain. After a stuttering start the Italians will be wary of a Spanish side also helped by some good performances by a Liverpool forward. Fernando Torres has helped Spain to get off to a flier too. Spanish coach Luis Aragonés is set to give Pepe Reina a rare start for his country for tonight’s final group game.

The partnership between Torres and David Villa has been something that has left Liverpool supporters desperate to see Rafa Benítez sign the Valencia star and allow the duo to inflict punishment on English defences next season. Villa has played down rumours that he has already agreed to sign for Liverpool, telling Spanish journalist Guillem Balague that he hasn’t spoken to Liverpool, his club insist he isn’t for sale, and he’s concentrating on the European Championship anyway: “I have heard that I am supposed to have said that I would prefer to go to Liverpool to play next season or that I want Chelsea to be my next team. Please, Guillem, make sure that people know that I have not said anything like that. My club insists I am not for sale and, believe me, I am totally focused on the European Championships. As far as I know, nobody from Liverpool has been in touch, but in any case my future is not something I have in my mind at the moment. I do not understand why people put words in my mouth.” Continue reading Round-up: Reina to get a start, Torres to stay at Anfield

Sunderland first for travelling Liverpool supporters

Liverpool’s tour dates for next season, along with the dates for their home performances, have been revealed this morning. However, unlike a rock group or comedian who would actually do all they could to get their list of dates out as far and wide as possible, football teams demand payment before you give them this advertising space.

Costs for fixturesThe fixtures are distributed by PA Sport, who maintain that it is a breach of copyright to announce the fixtures without first obtaining an expensive licence from them. They handle these rights for all league clubs, in England and Scotland. There is some debate as to whether it is actually possible to hold a list of events subject to copyright.

For a full list of Liverpool’s fixtures visit the official Liverpool FC website, in particular the article: REDS TO START AT SUNDERLAND. Continue reading Sunderland first for travelling Liverpool supporters

Reports: Reds agree £14.2m Alonso sale

Xabi Alonso trains for SpainThe next step in Rafa Benítez’s summer transfer plans looks to have taken place, with reports from Italy claiming that Liverpool have now agreed a fee with Juventus for the sale of Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Liverpool’s original expectation, or starting point in negotiations, was £16m, but Corriere dello Sport say that Liverpool have accepted €18 million, £14.2 million, for one of the heroes of Istanbul. The report said Juve had made it clear this was their final offer, and were unwilling to add another million Euros to their offer, which would then have matched Liverpool’s demands.

The report also adds that Juve will send people to Liverpool now to sort out the minor small print on the deal.

Until recently Liverpool had maintained they didn’t want to sell Xabi, and Xabi had maintained that he didn’t want to leave, but Alonso has said more recently that he felt pride at being linked with Juve.

Earlier reports in Italy claimed Juve had given up on Alonso, and were now considering a bid for Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich rather than pay the demanded £15m for Alonso.

Aston Villa have rejected the latest offer from Liverpool for Gareth Barry. Some claims in recent days had Liverpool bidding anywhere from £15m to £20m for Barry, but Liverpool’s bid seems to have been a more acceptable £13m. Acceptable to Liverpool fans that is, who on the whole feel that paying the kind of money Manchester United paid for Barry’s England team-mates Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves is way too much. But not acceptable to the Villa manager, who admits Barry wants to be a Red. Continue reading Reports: Reds agree £14.2m Alonso sale

Carra happy to watch Euros, team-mates and new signings

Carra wants team-mates to do well, but to be fresh for Reds campaign. He\'ll be looking out for potential new signings too.Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is the player most of his club’s fans will be watching out for in this summer’s Euro 2008 tournament, and one of those fans is Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.

Carragher wouldn’t have been involved in this summer’s tournament even if England had qualified, having given up on the stuttering national side in favour of prolonging his Anfield career. He’ll still watch every game possible, probably analysing and noting the strengths and weaknesses of players likely to be opponents for Liverpool in the coming European campaigns.

In the case of some players he’s relieved to know they are on his side at club level. Team-mate Torres is one who he feels could make this a tournament to remember for Spain. Carra told the Liverpool Echo: “Torres will go there as the best striker in the world and hopefully he will prove that with Spain. If he does it will bode well for us next season. He could be the difference for Spain.”

Torres was Liverpool’s top scorer, breaking the goalscoring record for an overseas player in a debut season in the Premier League, and Carra feels he can do something similar in Switzerland and Austria: “If you want to go close to winning it you have to have someone who can go close to being leading scorer in the tournament and there’s no question that Torres is capable. Spain have got other strikers as well, like David Villa, but they will be looking to Torres to get them five or six goals and if he performs as well as he has done for us then I’m sure he can do that.” Continue reading Carra happy to watch Euros, team-mates and new signings

Babel back for pre-season, then the Olympics.

Liverpool forward Ryan Babel could be fit for the start of the season, although Liverpool may not get the benefit of a quicker-than-expected recovery. He tore ankle ligaments during training on Saturday, ruling him out of the Dutch Euro 2008 bid, but his national boss Marco van Basten says he should be fit before the end of July.

Van Basten said: “He needs five to seven weeks to recover,” He explained what happened: “He was on the other end of the field when he turned around. He told me that he heard something snap, and others heard it too. He went to a hospital and there it became clear he had torn a muscle.”

The flip side to this good news is that Holland’s coach for the Olympics in Beijing now has his eye on the 21-year-old, adding to Rafa Benítez’s worries about his squad for the start of the season. Lucas will almost certainly be in Beijing on duty for Brazil, with Javier Mascherano a likely call-up as an overage player for Argentina. Also in with a chance of a place in the Argentina squad are Sebastian Leto and Emiliano Insua.

The Dutch under-23 coach Foppe de Haan will look after the Olympic side, and he made it clear he’d be considering Babel for the trip: “If Ryan recovers, he’s a sure candidate for a place in the team. With his qualities, he could be a very important player or us. We must wait and see how long his convalescence will last.”

De Haan said he’d have preferred Babel to be in the senior side: “I find it a shame that Ryan has to miss the European Championship final stage. His absence is also a large blow to the national side. He could have been our secret weapon.”

Dirk Kuyt, Babel’s team-mate for club and country, also said Babel’s absence would be bad for the national side: “It is a terrible blow for Ryan, and a real shock for all of us.The feeling in the camp was that it was quite a bad injury. And it happened without any contact with anyone else, he went down in training as he was running.”

At first there were fears it was more than ligament damage: “He switched from left to right with the ball and his leg just buckled under him. There was a loud noise, we felt at first it might have been broken, everyone heard it. It is really sad for him and hopefully he will recover as quick as possible to be back at Liverpool next season from the start. I feel very sorry for what has happened to Ryan. He has trained really well and looked very good as the tournament approached.

“It is very disappointing for us, and obviously for him, that he is out. It is a big tournament, and he would have been very important for us and, of course, also at Liverpool. Hopefully he will be fit for the beginning of the season, but we will have to wait and see about that. All I can say is that I want him to be back as quick as possible. I have left a message on his phone wishing him well, he was clearly very upset about what had happened.”

What did Dirk say to Ryan? “I just told him how sorry I was that he was missing the European finals and to get himself back as quick as he could. He has shown how important he was for Liverpool, coming on so often as substitute and scoring really important goals. Maybe Holland would have used him in the same way. He did so well during the Champions League for us, it was obvious what he could give to a team.”

Meanwhile Liverpool’s bid to buy Italian left-back Andrea Dossena has moved a step closer with reports that the player is expected on Merseyside tomorrow for a medical and to discuss personal terms.

His current club Udinese awarded the player a new contract, lasting until 2012, just last October, and had asked £8m for his services. Liverpool were only offering £6m, but it now seems the two clubs have reached a compromise.

Barry: Champions League football important

Liverpool target Gareth Barry is still trying hard to show the utmost respect to his current club Aston Villa, but seems to be trying to prepare them for his departure from the club.

End of season, Gareth Barry says goodbye to Villa fansAlthough 27-year-old Barry hasn’t yet been given permission to speak to the Reds, he obviously knows about their interest. The first public sign of this came when Martin O’Neill responded to a Liverpool Echo article reporting a Liverpool bid. O’Neill had assumed Liverpool FC had fed the story to the Echo and complained bitterly in the press, although he should have looked closer to home for the blame. But his outburst confirmed the bid had been made.

After a personally memorable game for England last night he was asked he was keen on joining Liverpool FC. He was keen to emphasise his deep feelings for Villa, but pointed out it might be the right time to look a little higher up the league: “Just to think about it makes it a tough decision. There’s so much to lose at Aston Villa. I’ve been there more than ten years, got a good rapport with the fans, I’m captain there and have a great relationship with the manager.  But Champions League football helps any player.” Continue reading Barry: Champions League football important