Rafa: Go out and buy Fields of Anfield Road

The new ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ single, produced to help raise awareness of the Hillsborough disaster, is now available to buy or download.

The Fields of Anfield Road Single out todayThe ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ is sung regularly by the Kop, and is based on ‘Fields of Athenry’. A number of local musicians and former players are amongst those who have recorded this new version, which features an extra verse poignantly remembering the ninety-six supporters who died almost twenty years ago.

The club are fully behind the single, and manager Rafa Benítez has asked that all Liverpool fans buy a copy. He said: “I was lucky enough to be at the launch of the single and I think it is fantastic. My message to our fans is to go out and buy it because it’s for a very, very good cause.”

The fight for justice for the 96 continues, and although it’s a fight that should have been won a long time ago it’s a fight that won’t end. As Rafa says, “We must never forget the Liverpool fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough.”

If you prefer old-fashioned physical copies of your music to just a downloaded mp3 version, you can buy the single online or in person from the club shop or from HMV. It’s actually only as old-fashioned as a CD, not vinyl, but features four tracks in that format.

There’s the “A” side, ‘Fields of Anfield Road’, by the Liverpool Collective featuring The Kop Choir.  The owner of the copyright to the original version of the song, Peter St.John, has agreed to not receive a penny from this single. There’s also a second version of the song, entitled ‘Fields of Anfield Road (Sunday morning version)’, performed by Starsailor’s James Walsh.

Wah!’s Pete Wylie has also donated a recording of ‘Heart as Big as Liverpool’ as one of the four tracks on the CD, with the other track coming from Elvis Costello, who has supplied a special version of his ‘Turning the Town Red’ track.

That Costello track was the theme tune to the excellent Channel 4 series ‘Scully’ which was screened in the mid-eighties, well before the awful events of Hillsborough, featuring cameo appearances from a number of Liverpool players.

Please do as Rafa says – buy the single – and see if you can not only help it get in the charts but to give the subject of Hillsborough the chance of some extra airtime and perhaps the ability to reach an audience that are unaware of what happened, or why it happened, in Sheffield on April 15th 1989.

Buy ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ from the LFC official online store.

Buy ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ from HMV

Buy ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ as a download from iTunes

For more on the single, visit the official ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ single website or see the video on the club’s official site.

Robbie Keane is now a Red

Liverpool have made their first big transfer of this summer, signing Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur in a deal that could be worth up to £20.3m. After passing a medical on Merseyside earlier today Irish forward Keane signed a four-year contract for the Reds, said to be worth £80,000 per-week, and is expected to be unveiled at a press conference tomorrow, ahead of Liverpool’s flight to Spain for a pre-season friendly.

According to the Spurs website, Liverpool will pay the London side £19m for Keane, with a further £1.3m potentially to be paid later, based on undisclosed conditions.

Liverpool's Robbie Keane in an Ireland matchBefore the Keane deal was done, Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez had so far spent less than he’d brought in for transfers over the summer. His four previous signings added up to a total cost of £11.5m, with £7m Andrea Dossena the most expensive ahead of £3m Diego Cavalieri, £1.5m David N’gog and free transfer Philipp Degen.

Peter Crouch has been the most lucrative departure at a potential £11m, with the £4m received for John Arne Riise, alongside £3.25m for Scott Carson and £2.5m for Danny Guthrie, bringing in a total of around £20.75m. Jermaine Pennant, Andriy Voronin, Álvaro Arbeloa and Steve Finnan are some of the names still linked with moves away from Anfield, with Xabi Alonso’s future still uncertain.

On top of these sales Rafa is believed to have a £20m net transfer budget; his net spend so far for the summer, including the full Keane fee, is just over £11m.

For Keane it’s a second chance to pull on the famous shirt of the club he supported as a child. He was given the chance to sign as a youth for Liverpool fourteen years ago, but instead chose to start his professional career at Wolves, moving from local schoolboy side Crumlin United. The South Dublin club are believed to be entitled to a small cut of the fee Liverpool have paid for the player.

After Wolves he joined Coventry for £6m, which in 1999 was a record for a teenager. Then his value more than doubled when Inter Milan snapped him up for £13m. This didn’t work out after the coach who bought him – Marcelo Lippi – was sacked by the Italian side and so Keane was soon back in the Premier League, playing for Leeds, on loan initially.

Leeds were still spending big money at the time, and turned the loan permanent six months later for £12m. A little over a year later the financial troubles had hit and Keane was sold to Spurs for £7m.

That proved to be the longest run he had with any club, today’s transfer ending a six-year spell with the London side. In that time he scored 80 goals in 197 league appearances, 107 goals in 253 appearances overall. He was named vice-captain and wore the armband on numerous occasions in the absence of Ledley King, and was very much adored by the White Hart Lane fans.

Surprisingly he has only won one major honour, picking up a Carling Cup winner’s medal last season as his club beat Chelsea at Wembley.

Internationally he became Ireland’s skipper in 2006, and with 33 goals is their all-time top scorer, well ahead of previous record-holder Niall Quinn’s haul of 21. Quinn was just ahead of former Liverpool striker John Aldridge, who ended his career with Ireland having scored 19 times.

Keane shares an agent with Liverpool captain and vice-captain Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and it seems this link has helped this deal to come off. Spurs weren’t happy, according to their chairman Daniel Levy, who recently claimed he had reported Liverpool to the Premier League for an unauthorised approach. This claim related to Rafa admitting in a press conference, in response to a direct question, that he was interested in Keane. But the admission came after Liverpool and Spurs had already been in advanced discussions for some time. Spurs were annoyed all the more that Rafa’s comments also appeared on the club’s official site on July 10th: “Keane is one of the other names and, okay, we are working on other names. We were in contact and we will see now.”

Spurs now say that they have dropped any action against LFC, in return for a Reds donation to a Spurs charity, the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. A statement on Spurs’ official site read: “The Club can announce that it has reached agreement with Liverpool FC for the transfer of Robbie Keane.”

It then quoted Levy, who said: “I was incredibly disappointed when I first heard, not only that Liverpool had been working behind the scenes to bring Robbie to Anfield, but that Robbie himself wanted to go and he submitted a transfer request to this effect.

“I have already made my opinion clear on the nature of this transaction. I don’t regard it as a transfer deal – that is something which happens between two clubs when they both agree to trade – this is very much an enforced sale, for which we have agreed a sum of £19m as compensation plus a potential further £1.3m in additional compensation.”

The Spurs site said Liverpool had “acknowledged” how putting Rafa’s comments (which had been on many other websites over the course of the day, including in video form on the Sky Sports website) on their own website was “inappropriate”: “Liverpool FC has also acknowledged that the way its website reported comments of its manager, which were widely covered by the media, was inappropriate and in light of that acknowledgement has apologised and agreed to make a donation to our Club’s main charity, the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. Tottenham Hotspur has therefore agreed not to pursue its official complaint to the Premier League.”

Keane himself actually thanked Levy, and said he hoped the Spurs fans would understand why he felt he had to make this move: “I would specifically like to thank Daniel Levy for understanding that, as a fan, joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn’t let pass me by. I hope one day the Spurs fans, who have been brilliant to me, can understand this, too.”

Although it seems likely Liverpool will need to sell at least one player first, the pursuit of Gareth Barry isn’t entirely dependent on Xabi Alonso being that player sold. Rafa has spoken before of how Barry would not be a direct replacement for Xabi. Regardless of that, Liverpool will not pay Villa’s asking price of over £18m, no matter how many times Martin O’Neill complains through the press. And the hints that Robbie Keane has been signed instead of Barry are wide of the mark; Keane’s signature has not ended Liverpool’s interest in Barry.

After fining him and banning him from Villa’s premises, O’Neill is now talking about how he wants Barry to stay, perhaps even offering him a new contract. Knowing Liverpool are still very much interested in him, Barry is unlikely to accept that offer, knowing that he becomes more and more affordable the less time is left on his contract.

O’Neill turned down the option of first refusal on Scott Carson earlier in the summer, a fee of £8m believed to have been agreed when Carson first joined Villa on a 12-month £2m loan deal. Rafa is believed to have later offered him Carson for just £6m, again O’Neill unwilling or unable to meet that price. With Carson joining Villa’s local rivals West Brom for just £3.25m, O’Neill could still have stepped in with a better offer and turned Carson’s year-long stay into a permanent deal. Instead he has bought another former Liverpool keeper, Brad Friedel, for a fee believed to be just £2m.

The £10m fee often reported as agreed between the two clubs was believed to include the £2m loan fee already paid for Carson’s 12 months at Villa park, but it did seem to be the fee holding O’Neill back from buying Carson permanently: “We have a number of issues,” O’Neill said in May, “Scott is not our player. Liverpool have the right to do what they see fit at the moment. What I would like to say is that he has come here this season and other than being sent off in one game against Manchester United, he has played all the games possible. He played 35 out of 38 games in the league and overall I am really pleased he came to us.

“Scott came in and he had a lot to face up to in terms of having played for England in his tenure here. All the England players, and especially him, were blamed for their failure to qualify. Then he had the next couple of weeks where he was under pressure. I thought he coped with that pretty well.”

Despite those praise-filled words, O’Neill decided against beating the West Brom bid of just £3.25m, and once again questions have to be asked as to just how much of a budget O’Neill has this summer, and how much his plans might hinge on persuading Liverpool to pay his valuation for Gareth Barry. Although Liverpool’s interest in the player remains strong, the more of pre-season goes by the less effective his arrival at the club could be, and eventually there will come a point where Rafa will look at other options.

But Rafa Benítez will be delighted that Robbie Keane will be pictured alongside him in a Liverpool shirt tomorrow, LFC scarf over his head, after the club have paid what is second only to the Fernando Torres fee in their list of record signings. He’ll be delighted to have a similar photo-shoot alongside Barry, but O’Neill will have to accept a lower fee first, a fee that would still be Liverpool’s third-highest transfer fee of all time.

Keane is expected to be given the number 7 shirt, recently vacated by his former Leeds team-mate Harry Kewell.

Hammill goes out on loan, Keane deal said to be close

Liverpool’s young winger Adam Hammill has signed a new contract with the club – and then gone immediately out on loan.

20-year-old Hammill will join up with Blackpool tomorrow as he begins his six-month stint at the Lancashire side. Rafa Benitez is keen to see certain members of the young reserve squad get competitive experience. Blackpool will play in the Championship for the second year running, having waited until the final day of the season to avoid relegation. It was their first season at that level in 29 years.

Hammill’s new deal with Liverpool runs until 2011, and his loan follows spells in previous season at Dunfermline and Southampton.

There has been an influx of young foreign talent coming into Liverpool’s reserves in the last couple of seasons, but Hammill is a local lad and a product of the club’s Academy. Chances of first team football at Anfield will be limited for even the most-talented youngsters, and by playing at Championship level at relatively-local side Blackpool, Hammill will get vital experience without being forgotten by the club who pay his wages.

Meanwhile a player who turned down a chance to move to Liverpool as a youngster, because he feared a lack of first team experience would stall his career, should get that chance again in the next couple of days. Tottenham’s Robbie Keane chose to start his professional career with Wolves instead, despite having supported Liverpool as a boy, and now Liverpool are believed to be on the verge of making him their latest signing.

Keane is the Spurs vice-captain, and it seems it is only the lure of Champions League football, at the club he supported as a boy, that could tempt him to look elsewhere. He signed a five-year contract just over a year ago, meaning that Liverpool will need to pay a large fee for the 28-year-old. The overall deal, including add-ons, is expected to be close to £18m. Keane is now believed to have already agreed personal terms with Liverpool, and is set to undergo a medical very soon.

The 28-year-old has the same agent as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and was one of the guests at the opening of Carra’s restaurant in Liverpool. He is believed to be desperate to join up not only with Carra and Gerrard, but to play alongside Fernando Torres in a strong Liverpool attack.

At the moment Rafa’s summer spending is actually in credit, to the tune of around £11m. Liverpool have so far spent £10m on additions to the first-team squad, in the shape of defenders Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena, along with goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri. Outgoing players so far are Danny Guthrie (£2.5m), Scott Carson (£3.25m), John Arne Riise (£4m) and Peter Crouch (£11m). Also no longer at the club are Harry Kewell and Anthony Le Tallec, neither of whom commanded a fee, meaning Rafa has so far had just under £21m back in.

As well as the money from those and other sales, Rafa is believed to have been handed a summer budget of £20m net. Charles Itandje, Jermaine Pennant, Steve Finnan and Xabi Alonso are all possibilities for leaving this summer, potentially bringing over £20m back in. But Rafa has other targets lined up, Villa’s Gareth Barry the most well-documented, and Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing one of a number of others being seriously considered, meaning the full budget looks likely to be used.

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 LFC.tv 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

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

Dossena wants to join, Xabi wants to stay

Reports that a Juventus representative held talks with Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez have seen renewed speculation that Xabi Alonso is on his way out of the club, but once again the Spanish midfielder has denied any knowledge of being on his way out.

Juventus director Jean-Claude Blanc did meet Rafa, but the clear signal coming from Melwood is that Rafa would not even consider for a second anything less than a “massive” offer for Xabi, according to the Echo. Italian paper Gazzetta dello Sport said on Monday that Juve had offered £12 million and had expected to finalise the transfer next week, but it won’t be done at that price, if at all. And reports from Liverpool said no formal offer had been made.

Xabi and Rafa talk tacticsAlonso himself was asked by the press back home about the latest claims but said nothing had changed since the last time he said he wanted to stay at the club. Speaking to the Catalonian paper Mundo Deportivo he said: “This is nothing new, there is always speculation about me. I know perfectly well what my situation is.”

He says the speculation wasn’t down to him, and there were no signs of Liverpool actively seeking to sell: “This has nothing to do with me. If the club wanted to sell me, I would know about it. If the club want to cash in on me and buy other players, I would accept it and look for another club, but they haven’t said anything to me. For that reason I think my future is still with Liverpool.”

In an earlier interview he said he would expect Rafa to be honest with him if was looking to sell him: “He has never said that he wants me to leave. If he thought that way I would prefer him to be honest and say ‘Xabi, we are thinking about other players and you are not going to play that much,’ then I would look for a different option. But he still thinks I can play an important role.” Continue reading Dossena wants to join, Xabi wants to stay

Reports: Dossena set for Reds, Lee delighted to join

With Rafa Benítez having already lined-up one new full-back in Swiss right-back Philipp Degen, the Liverpool boss is now linked with another in Italian left-back Andrea Dossena.

26-year-old Dossena made his one-and-only international appearance for the World Champions in a friendly against South Africa last October, getting the assist for Lucarelli’s only goal of the game. Italy coach Roberto Donadoni still hasn’t named his squad for the Euro 2008 finals and is giving little away as to who might be in it, but the Udinese number 8 will consider himself a possibility.

Andrea Dossena (No 8) celebrates scoringTottenham have been linked with the Udinese defender too, but are no longer believed to be interested. The fee quoted in reports linking him with Spurs was £8m. Reports in the Italian press claim a deal with Liverpool is close, saying Liverpool have already agreed personal terms with the player’s agent, Federico Pastorello, and are now talking to Udinese about the fee.

Udinese director general Pietro Leonardi played down the links yesterday: “We have always said that we will not change the team. For Dossena to Liverpool there is nothing concrete, he has a contract with us until 2012 and the rest is speculation.”

Dossena has been with Udinese since 2006, and has had two red cards so far in this Italian season, which ends tomorrow. Udinese visit AC Milan who are hoping for three points and favours elsewhere to get them a Champions League qualifying spot. Udinese will finish in at least seventh place and have already qualified for the UEFA Cup. Continue reading Reports: Dossena set for Reds, Lee delighted to join

Lee set to join as Rafa continues transfer work

Former Liverpool midfielder Sammy Lee is looking more likely to be offered the job of assistant to Reds manager Rafael Benítez.

Lee’s departure from Anfield last time round was when he took up an offer to work full-time for the England national set-up under Sven-Goran Eriksson at the same time as Rafa arrived as the replacement for Gerard Houllier. He’d been first-team coach for Liverpool up until then, a position he’d moved into after a time as reserve coach.

As the only existing Spanish-speaking member of the coaching staff when Rafa arrived in 2004 it was expected that Sammy would stay on, but he felt it was time to try a new challenge. A year later he took the job as assistant to “Big” Sam Allardyce at Bolton, before getting the job as boss himself at the Horwich-based outfit right at the end of last season. Unfortunately that was one phase of his career that didn’t work out and he left the job in October. Continue reading Lee set to join as Rafa continues transfer work

Torres: Support is “something special”

Fernando Torres has returned some of the compliments the Liverpool supporters have been paying him over the course of his electric first season in the English league. Torres signed from Atletico Madrid last summer and in scoring his 24th league goal on Sunday broke himself a record. He is now the most prolific foreign player in a Premier League debut season.

Fernando TorresHe says that a big part of his success is down to the encouragement and support of the Anfield faithful: “The supporters back the players, regardless of who is out on the pitch. They enjoy watching their key players play, because Liverpool has great players, but Liverpool will always be a team.”

There were times this season when it wasn’t the case, as the discontent during a run of poor form could be heard clearly from the stands, but on the whole Liverpool fans don’t turn on their own team: “The fans get behind the side even when things are not working out, and they are always there until the death. That is the major difference with football back in Spain. If a team is not doing well, then it is because the players do not deserve to be wearing the club’s colours.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Torres went on: “At Liverpool, if a player is wearing their shirt, it is because he deserves it. The fans ask for effort and dedication, and their support is something special, something that stays with you.” Continue reading Torres: Support is “something special”