Reds agree Benayoun fee

West Ham United and Liverpool have finally agreed a fee for Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun after protracted talks between the two clubs.

Liverpool’s first bid of around £3m was turned down straight away by West Ham, but Benayoun had heard of Liverpool’s interest by then, refusing to sign a new deal with the London side. At one point West Ham demanded £8m for the playmaker, before coming down to £6m, but Liverpool stood firm. It’s believed the agreed fee is for £4m.

The player had already agreed terms with the Reds after West Ham had allowed him to speak to the Champions League finalists and now all that remains is for the player to undergo a medical before signing the contract, said to be for four years.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez has been an admirer of the player since he was playing in La Liga. It was from the Spanish league and Racing Santander that West Ham signed him for £2.5m two years ago.

Confirmed: Bellamy joins West Ham

West Ham have this morning confirmed that the signing of Craig Bellamy from Liverpool has finally gone through. The two clubs agreed a fee last week, and the player had agreed personal terms with West Ham before passing a medical. On Saturday Rafa Benítez told reporters the deal had gone through but West Ham denied this, saying Bellamy had some issues to resolve with Liverpool first.

That now done, Bellamy has left Liverpool and signed for the Hammers for a fee of – according to West Ham – £7.5m. The West Ham website said this morning: “West Ham United is delighted to announce the signing of Wales international captain Craig Bellamy from Liverpool for a fee of £7.5million. The 27-year-old striker put pen to paper on a five-year contract at Upton Park this morning to become Alan Curbishley’s fourth summer signing.”

Liverpool signed Bellamy from Blackburn last summer for a cut-price £6m after learning of a clause in the Welshman’s contract which allowed him to leave for a Champions League club at that set figure. The season he had at Anfield wasn’t a disaster, but Rafa told Bellamy he wasn’t part of his main plans for the new season. Bellamy, a boyhood Red, is set to earn £75,000 a week at West Ham.

The low-point of Bellamy’s time at Anfield probably came during the infamous trip to Portugal when Bellamy was alleged to have hit team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club. That was quickly followed by one of the highlights, when an excellent performance from Bellamy saw him score one and set up the other – ironically for Riise – as Liverpool earned a 2-1 lead in the first leg of their Champions League tie against Barcelona.

Good luck from to Craig in his future career.

Ajax confirm Liverpool bid for Babel

Ajax have confirmed that Liverpool have made more than one bid for Holland international Ryan Babel to Anfield and now seem resigned to losing the player. Liverpool’s initial bid is believed to have been for a potential £10m, but now they are believed to have upped it to one worth up to £13.5m – and Ajax are listening.

The Dutch side’s technical director Martin van Geel told the media last night: “Liverpool are very serious about signing Babel and have made an offer a lot higher than before. Because they want him so much, I think we will lose him.”

The overall bid is thought to be based on how successful the twenty-year-old becomes during his time with Liverpool. His agent had been the first person to confirm Liverpool had contacted Ajax about the under-21 international, saying to Sportweek magazine: “I can say nothing about transfer fees, but I can confirm that Liverpool have made a bid for Ryan. Ryan himself hasn’t spoken with that club. Only when Ajax say that the clubs have an agreement can we speak, and phase two starts. But it’s not that far yet. We first have to wait to see if the clubs reach a deal or not.”

Babel is comfortable playing on either wing or up front, Rafa being most likely to use him as a winger. However Rafa likes players who offer him ‘possibilities’ and Babel is likely to make some appearances away from the wings.

Carra confirms England retirement plan

Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher today confirmed the leaked report from yesterday that he has told Steve McLaren he wants to bring his international days to an end.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo’s Chris Bascombe, Carragher said he wouldn’t leave England in the lurch should an injury crisis occur, but has given up waiting for a chance to impress and earn a place as a regular for England. He told Steve McLaren how he felt, that he was tired of being overlooked – especially for a centre-half place but also as a full-back – and was ready to concentrate on his domestic career. Now it seems this news has come as a shock to the England management who are said to have been trying frantically to persuade Carra to persevere with the England national team. They seem to have managed that at least until the next England game, which takes place next month against Germany.

Carra told the Echo: “I’m 29 now, and I have to accept if I’m not a regular starter at this stage of my England career, I don’t think I will ever be. It’s going to be difficult for me to be seen as anything more than a squad player, and that’s not what I’m interested in now. Playing the odd game here and there for England isn’t enough for me anymore. My first priority has always been winning trophies with Liverpool.”

Carra has confided many times in friends that despite feeling pride when playing for England he doesn’t see them as a priority. He confirmed this today: “I’ve always seen England as a bonus. With the club good enough to give me a four year contract, I want all my focus to be on Liverpool for the rest of my playing career. I’ve spoken Steve McLaren and explained my feelings, but I’ve agreed to speak to him again before England play Germany before I make a final decision. I’m not doing this to leave England in the lurch. If it’s an absolute emergency – and by that I mean if all available centre halves are out injured or there are suspensions – I probably won’t say no if I’m asked. I’ve committed 12 years of my career to England, but I’ve been thinking now is the time to concentrate 100 per cent on Liverpool.”

Carra says he’s been thinking about this for some time, and that although his recent omission from the side to face Estonia added more weight to his thoughts of quitting, his decision wasn’t based purely on that: “There are a number of reasons why I’ve been thinking about this. I first thought about it after the World Cup because I wondered how many chances I’d get for England at centre half. Then when Sol Campbell was out of the picture I thought I could put pressure on Rio Ferdinand for the other centre half position alongside John Terry. Given my form for Liverpool, I genuinely thought that was possible, but over the last 12 months players like Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King have played there ahead of me.”

Not that Carra is claiming he’s better than those two – just that if he’s got so many ahead of him in the pecking order how can he hope to break into the side on a regular basis? “They’re top drawer players. It’s not as if they’re Mickey Mouse defenders. Even in the last two games against Brazil and Estonia, England conceded just one goal, so people can argue the manager got his decision spot on.”

For Carra though it’s time to concentrate on Liverpool, that Estonia fixture making it clear and dispelling his doubts about whether quitting was the right thing to do: “It was particularly disappointing for me when Rio was out against Estonia and I wasn’t picked. I thought I’d had a good season for Liverpool, especially helping us get to the Champions League final, like any player I thought I deserved to play, but not doing so made the situation crystal clear to me.”

Carra sees his age as a big part of his decision: “Playing the odd game here and there isn’t enough. Four or five years ago I was happy to have that role, but not now. Recently when I’ve been asked to play at full-back I’ve found it a lot more difficult than I did when was doing it for Liverpool. It’s a physically demanding position and I didn’t think I played well against Brazil. It’s more tiring than being a centre back, particularly when you’re not as used to it as I used to be. I think it would be a good time for me to step aside.”

He also took time out to say that his decision wasn’t an attack on Steve McLaren: “I want to stress this has nothing do would Steve McLaren. It wouldn’t have mattered who was the England manager, I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve worked with Steve for five years as part of the England set-up.”

Carra isn’t happy to hurt anyone, and sees the chance to step away from the England fold as a chance to improve his work for Liverpool: “When you go away with England you get back to Liverpool on a Thursday and sometimes have a match early on Saturday. I’ve never liked the situation where I’ve not felt 100 per cent before a Liverpool match. Even if you don’t play in the international, going away and travelling can take it out of you. I’ll be happier when those breaks come around and I’ll be fresher for the Liverpool matches. It could add at least two more years on my career at the top level, and that’s uppermost in my mind.”

The Echo also quote a ‘senior England source’ as saying: “Steve McLaren has total respect for Jamie as a player and as a man and is still determined to do all he can to keep Jamie in the England squad.”

Rafa has eye on £10m Babel

As the dust settled on Friday night on Craig Bellamy’s near-transfer to West Ham (it waited on Bellamy and the Reds agreeing a contract settlement) and Djibril Cissé’s actual transfer to West Ham, rumours started to gather pace as to what – or who – was next on Rafa’s agenda.

Yossi Benayoun was now said to have agreed personal terms with Liverpool after West Ham had allowed him to speak to the club – but the clubs are still to agree a fee. Liverpool’s top offer of £4m is still some way short of West Ham’s lowest demand of £6m.

Then over the weekend came news of a link between Liverpool and Ajax’s 20-year-old attacking player Ryan Babel. Liverpool gave up on Florent Malouda of Lyon when the French side leaked details of the interest and slapped a ridiculous price on him – Chelsea have now paid £13.5m for a player Liverpool had valued at around £8m. Babel can play on either flank but is also happy playing up front. Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez loves the idea of ‘possibilities’ in his squad, but would be looking at Babel’s abilities in wide positions first and foremost given his recent confirmation that he is on the lookout for ‘wingers’. Babel has scored 4 goals in 14 full international appearances for Holland, and also played a starring role for the under-21s in their recent UEFA championships success.

This link gathered more credibility today when the local press on Merseyside also ran the story, hinting at a fee of around £10m. The same newspaper also pointed out the actual sums involved in Liverpool’s transfer dealings this summer, suggesting that the club are still roughly at a break-even point when comparing incoming and outgoing fees. That would change should Liverpool buy a player like Babel.

Now Babel’s agent has confirmed the Liverpool interest. Speaking to Sportweek magazine Winne Haatrecht said: “I can say nothing about transfer fees, but I can confirm that Liverpool have made a bid for Ryan. Ryan himself hasn’t spoken with that club. Only when Ajax say that the clubs have an agreement can we speak, and phase two starts. But it’s not that far yet. We first have to wait to see if the clubs reach a deal or not.”

With Rafa’s quest to buy those ‘wingers’ there have also been rapidly growing rumours linking the Anfield side to Porto’s Ricardo Quaresma, and Liverpool are said to have still not given up on a move for Simao Sabrosa.

There is yet to be an official announcement on Craig Bellamy’s transfer having finally gone through. Bellamy believes Liverpool owe him a certain amount of money under the terms of his contract because he didn’t seek a move away from Anfield himself, but with a potential £75,000-per-week contract at West Ham hanging in the balance Bellamy is not likely to hold out too long for his full settlement.

Round-up: Parry on loans, Hicks on stadium, Carra to quit England

The Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has spoken out
about the relatively new practice in the Premier League that sees clubs loaning
players out to fellow top-flight clubs.

According to Parry, this is a situation that leads to
problems, and a situation that isn’t actually necessary. Parry used to be the
Premier League Chief Executive before taking on his role at Anfield, and said
that when he was there it wasn’t felt there was a need for two competing clubs
to deal with each other in this way: “At the Premier League we thought that,
given the money there is, you didn’t need loans – you should be able to stand
on your own two feet. There is enough money around to make transfer deals

Players on loan can’t play against their own clubs when the
two sides meet, but last season saw some questionable “gentlemen’s agreements”
where players on loan had their deals made permanent, often outside the
transfer window, on condition that the same rule stood.

Parry, speaking to the BBC, said the old rule worked well: “That
stood over 10 years. It’s only in the last two or three years that we have had
the loan system in the Premier League. It worked fine without it. There is a
sense that it can be open to abuse but clearly it was the will of the clubs to
allow the relaxation of it and clearly the majority are in favour.”

Liverpool saw some benefit from the rule last season, with
goalkeeper Scott Carson spending the season on loan at Charlton.

Continue reading Round-up: Parry on loans, Hicks on stadium, Carra to quit England

Rafa: Bellamy and Cisse sold. West Ham deny Bellamy deal done

Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez has confirmed that strikers
Craig Bellamy and Djibril Cisse have left the club, although Bellamy’s supposed
buyers, West Ham, are denying the deal has been completed.

Craig Bellamy had a medical at West Ham earlier in the week,
and he agreed personal terms believed to include a £75,000-a-week pay packet.
Earlier today the only stumbling block was believed to be the fee for the player,
but that seemed to have been resolved when Rafa was interviewed after Liverpool’s
3-2 friendly defeat of Wrexham this afternoon: “He’s signed for West Ham, it’s
done,” claimed Rafa. “He knew what I thought and I think it’s a good move for

Bellamy had already been unhappy with the rotation policy
Rafa has, and the Spaniard told the Welsh striker that next season he was
likely to get even less games. The Liverpool boss needs the money more than the
player so he can fund more signings. A fee of an initial £7.5m was agreed, but
West Ham say the player is still to resolve some contractual issues with the

Also without a chance of playing a game again for Liverpool
was Djibril Cisse, who spent last season on loan at Marseilles. The French side
announced they had agreed a deal “in principle” to make Cisse a permanent
fixture and now that too seems to have been finalised. Rafa said: “Yes, it’s
done also.”

Liverpool’s attempts to sign West Ham’s Yossi Benayoun are
still ongoing. The Hammers are reported in some places as having put a
ridiculous £8m price tag on him, at one point trying to get a straight swap for
Bellamy, but Liverpool won’t be messed about. Rafa has a number of targets and
will switch to others if West Ham don’t budge soon. Benayoun has told West Ham
he doesn’t want to play for them again, upsetting the London side after he’d
agreed verbally to sign a new contract with them. Asked if the Israeli
international would be coming to Anfield Rafa said: “I don’t know. It’s clear
he’d like to come. Any move for Benayoun to join us from West Ham will not be
linked with the Bellamy sale. We have made an offer which has been rejected, now
we need to wait. He’s a player I like and would want to sign, and I believe he
wants to join us, but that deal will be separate now. We will have to wait and
see what happens next week. He’s a good player for me.”

The deals are clearly going to remain separate, especially
with West Ham attempting to get £8m for a player who doesn’t want to play for them
and who Liverpool value at around £3.5m.

Regarding the signing of Bellamy, West Ham’s busy press
office released the following statement on the club’s official website: “Following
comments attributed to Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez today, West Ham United
would like to make it clear that Craig Bellamy has not yet completed a move to
Upton Park.

“After a fee of £7.5million was agreed between the two
clubs, we can confirm that the Welsh international captain has successfully
passed a medical and agreed personal terms.

“However, the deal has been delayed due to a private
contractual issue between Craig Bellamy and Liverpool, which must be resolved
before any transfer can be completed.

“The player is due to meet with Liverpool on Monday morning,
and we expect to complete the transfer soon after.

“As always, confirmation of any new signing will appear here
on as soon as it is formally completed.”

Liverpool’s official site was, as is usually the case with
unconfirmed signings, quiet on the issue.

Continue reading Rafa: Bellamy and Cisse sold. West Ham deny Bellamy deal done

Reds’ new No 10 not here to make up numbers

Andriy Voronin was officially unveiled by Liverpool
yesterday after signing on a free transfer this summer. The Ukrainian
international has played in Germany since his teens but when Liverpool showed
interest in him he couldn’t resist the opportunity, one he’s been hoping for
since playing at Anfield against Liverpool a couple of seasons ago.

One of the first things he noticed was that the atmosphere
within the club was extremely friendly, he’s been made to feel very welcome: “I
am pleased to be here finally,” he told the official site. “I am very excited
to be at a new club and especially one where all the players and staff are so
friendly. I’ve noticed how the atmosphere here is really good. The club is
helping me and my girlfriend find somewhere to live. I’m currently living in a
hotel but hopefully that’ll change in the next few days.”

What was it that brought him to Anfield? He said: “After
being in Germany for 12 years I felt it was time for a change, and then even
more so when the offer came in from Liverpool. It’s such a famous and big club
– one of the most famous in the world. You can’t resist an offer like that. The
task in front of Liverpool at the start of every season is to win trophies and
I want to be part of that. I want to help Liverpool achieve things.”

It was when playing for Bayer Leverkusen in 2005 that he
first experienced Anfield on a European night and he says it was an “unforgettable”
experience: “I will never forget that night, even though my team didn’t perform
as well as we could. Even for an opposition player, the supporters and the
atmosphere in that stadium were unforgettable, and definitely the thing I
remember most from that match. The Liverpool fans are world famous, and though
this was not the only reason I decided to join this club, it was certainly one
of the main reasons. I can’t wait to play at Anfield in a red shirt.”

Continue reading Reds’ new No 10 not here to make up numbers

Bellamy and Cisse on their way

Liverpool strikers Craig Bellamy and Djibril Cisse both look
to have found new clubs, bringing much-needed transfer funds in for Rafa Benítez.

Marseilles announced that they had now made a deal “in
principal” with Liverpool for Cissé, who spent last season on loan there. They’d
been trying to persuade Liverpool to allow them to have the French
international for another year on loan, but Liverpool held firm. Their plan
seemed to be to continue delaying their attempts to sign him to force Liverpool
into dropping the price, but late interest in the player from West Ham seems to
have forced their hand. A fee of over £8m is believed to have been agreed.
Cisse will be joined by former Reds teammate Bolo Zenden, who signed on a free
transfer for Marseilles yesterday.

Meanwhile Craig Bellamy has reportedly agreed personal terms
and passed a medical at West Ham. The personal terms are said to include wages
of £70,000 per week. The transfer fee is believed to be around £8m, a clear
profit on the £6m Liverpool played for the Welsh captain a year ago. The
complication in this deal seems to be that whether as part of the same deal or
not, Liverpool want to sign West Ham’s Jossi Benayoun, who the Hammers are
valuing at a ridiculous amount.

The deal for Bellamy is certainly not all done and dusted, but
Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez wants the funds from the transfer to keep his
summer spending going. He’s looking at buying “wingers”, with a number of targets
in mind. Benayoun has allegedly told West Ham that he won’t play for them again;
he only wants to play for Liverpool. The London side are certainly not short of
cash, but seem to be trying to make a stand against Benayoun.

In the place of Bellamy and Cisse come Andriy Voronin and
Fernando Torres. Torres was signed for £20m, the club-record fee for Liverpool,
but Voronin arrived on a free transfer. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s
being put into the squad as fourth-choice striker, and he’s been handed the
number 10 shirt too, which may finally end speculation that Rafa Benítez is
considering signing one of the former holders of that shirt, Michael Owen.

There are still mixed messages coming out about Harry
Kewell. The Australian player is currently out on duty with the Socceroos, and
is entering the final year of his Anfield contract. There is no doubt that Rafa
Benítez rates him highly, knowing what Kewell is capable of, but after so many
injuries the boss has rarely had chance to use him. Kewell is convinced he can
stay and show Rafa what he can do, but Rafa is believed to be prepared to
consider offers for the current number 7.

Rafa’s revelation that he is looking for new wingers
certainly adds more weight to the feeling he’s willing to let Kewell go. Rafa
is also thinking about wingers in the longer term, after agreeing a deal with
Stockport Country to sign their 18-year-old winger Ryan Crowther. The fee hasn’t
been revealed but the player has now agreed personal terms with the club and
has only the formality of a medical to complete – on Monday – before he becomes
a Red. He has made just two appearances for County’s first team, one as sub,
but Liverpool’s scouts have spotted something in him that they feel will make
him an important part of Rafa’s new youth set-up.

Continue reading Bellamy and Cisse on their way

Marseilles: Cisse deal agreed “in principle”

Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse looks set to finally be
making his move to Olympic Marseille a permanent one. Marseille’s official
website is reporting that they have now agreed a deal in principle with

Cisse was set to leave Anfield for £8m last summer until he
broke his leg on international duty for France. Instead he spent the season on
loan at Marseilles, and they were given the option to sign him. They did not
take up their option, but by the time the season came to an end they realised
they did want to try and keep him. The past weeks have been spent with
Marseilles making efforts to persuade Liverpool to drop their £6m valuation, or
to even allow Cisse to spend another year in France on loan.

Cisse had been Liverpool’s record signing until the arrival
of Fernando Torres earlier this week. He cost the club £14m but never got to
play for the man who’d signed him. Gerard Houllier had set the deal up 12
months before Cisse arrived, and by the time he did Houllier had left the club,
replaced by Rafa Benítez.

The news follows the earlier story from Marseilles that they
have signed free-agent Bolo Zenden. Zenden was a part of Liverpool’s Champions
League Final side in May, but had been told by boss Rafa Benítez that he wouldn’t
be part of the plans for this season. Zenden’s contracted ran out on June 30th.
He signed for two years for “l’OM” and will wear the number 10 shirt.

Continue reading Marseilles: Cisse deal agreed “in principle”