Four Reds in Spain squad but no place for Reds target

Luis Aragonés has named four Liverpool players in his final 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championships, to be held in Austria and Switzerland.

Pepe Reina, Álvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres are all involved.

Spain will play a friendly against Peru on May 31st, but their Euro 2008 fixtures get underway on June 10th against Russia in Innsbruck. Four days later at the same venue they play Sweden before ending their group games with a match against Greece on June 16th in Salzburg. Continue reading Four Reds in Spain squad but no place for Reds target

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

Hicks delays Glorypark due to “extreme conditions”

A press release issued in Dallas overnight UK time will add more weight to the claims that Liverpool FC co-owner Tom Hicks will not be able to find suitable finance to purchase the other half of the club from partner George Gillett.

The Glorypark project in Arlington, Texas, is to be delayed due to financial concerns.

The Dallas Morning News quotes Hicks as saying: “We’re in the most difficult credit crunch I’ve seen the last 20 years.”

The press statement, from Hicks Holdings, said that “financing and construction of a proposed mixed use development between Rangers Ballpark and the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington has been put on hold because of ‘extreme conditions’ in the country’s financial and retail markets.”

Glorypark, Arlington, TexasIt goes on to say that “the nation’s economic markets today have made it impossible to come to terms with lenders for Glorypark, a half billion dollar (approx £257m) project.”

Hicks Holdings’ development partners on this project are Steiner +Associates, and the statement says that S+A have “been unable to secure a firm and final commitment from an anchor department store.” It’s reported in the Dallas media that S+A have been in lengthy discussions with Dillard’s department stores.

Now, the statement says, “The developers do not plan to exercise a May 15, 2008 option to extend a letter of commitment to underwrite bonds for roads and parking garages. As a result, construction mobilization will not begin this spring as planned.”

Tom Hicks is quoted in the statement: “We have put an enormous amount of time and money into Glorypark. In the end, the dream can’t become reality without the right financial package. We will pursue alternative funding options and examine our reprogramming options.”

Hicks compared it to another project he was a partner in, the Victory Park project, a similar initiative sighted alongside the American Airlines Center, home of his Dallas Stars NHL side. “This is extremely disappointing to me, personally,” Hicks said. “It’s almost the exact situation we had at Victory when we were ready to go, but the financial markets were in deep trouble after 9/11. That’s when we had to regroup.”

Of the Victory Park project, the statement says: “After two years, Victory did re-emerge although the project has evolved and continues to evolve.” Last week Ross Perot Jr’s company announced their plans to build a 43-storey hotel on the Victory development were being delayed, also due in part to the condition of the financial markets.

Hicks said in the statement that the land between his Texas Rangers baseball stadium and the new Dallas Cowboys stadium would still be developed: “When my family purchased the Rangers, we pledged to invest in a development around the Ballpark. We are still committed to doing that, but we may have to re-examine what should be built and what actually can be built if the market conditions continue.”

Hicks said he contacted Arlington’s mayor, Robert Cluck, about their decision: “These events are in no way related to the City of Arlington. The city did absolutely everything possible to facilitate negotiations while, at the same time, protect the taxpayers’ interests. We all must take the long view for this important piece of real estate between two great sports venues.” The Fort Worth Business Press says: “The city of Arlington has approved several zoning changes to make way for the development and the city had planned to contribute about $135 million through various taxing districts.”

According to Hicks, the developers will now be most likely to concentrate on attracting dining and entertainment businesses to the site: “We have had enormous response from those business segments at Glorypark. I believe reprogramming will produce a plan that is more incremental and includes those elements as well is specialty retail, residential and office components.”

The statement says that Hicks Holdings has invested “almost $50 million into the improvements, design studies, and master planning of the area around the Ballpark.” It also says “plans will continue for the development and opening of the 310-room Westin Hotel and condominium project that was previously announced by Hicks Holdings and Gatehouse Capital. It will be located across Johnson Creek from the new Cowboys stadium.”

Glorypark was due to open in March 2010. The Dallas Morning News talks about how Dallas and the rest of the US have felt the pressures of the current financial environment: “Since last summer, lenders have increased requirements for virtually all types of real estate loans. And some debt sources that previously financed office buildings, hotels, high-rise condos and such have exited the market. The so-called credit crunch is expected to significantly reduce the amount of speculative development this year in Dallas and cities across the nation.”

According to the same paper, this isn’t the first holdup to the project: “The completion of Glorypark, which would have included restaurants, retail, office space and residential, had been delayed at least twice previously.”

As well as needing to raise investment of around £200m (approx $389m) to buy George Gillett’s half of Liverpool FC, Hicks also needs to raise the funds to continue with the building work on the club’s new £300m (approx $584m) stadium, due to open on Stanley Park in 2011. £60m is already in place to commence the work, but the other £240m (approx $467m) still has to be found.

Much can be read into this announcement.

On the one hand it does add weight to the various claims Hicks had been struggling to get finance for his Liverpool FC needs, but on the other hand it suggests the Texan could now be in a stronger position to get the finance for LFC – the total borrowings of the Hicks Holdings group of companies won’t now include this figure in the immediate future.

Again, on the one hand this announcement adds weight to the claims that the US banks Hicks does business with have been looking to call time on his borrowings, but on the other it could be said that recent talk of Hicks approaching hedge funds related to his quest for finance for Glorypark rather than Liverpool FC.

Is it possible Hicks has sacrificed this phase of Glorypark for now in favour of finalising the LFC situation?

The fact remains that Hicks is adamant George Gillett cannot sell without his say-so. This would leave Dubai relying on Hicks hitting financing problems as their only means of getting control of the club. If their assumption turns out to be true then sitting it out could eventually see them take control for the figure they’ve already decided is their top price. But if their assumption is wrong, and they don’t make a substantially higher and tempting bid, George Gillett may just go back on his vow not to sell to his partner rather than sit in this state of limbo for too long.

Further reading:
Star-Telegram – Hicks puts Arlington’s Glorypark development on ice
Fort Worth Business Press – Arlington’s Glorypark development on hold
Dallas Morning News – Arlington will have to wait for Glorypark development near stadiums

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”

Rafa offered new deal by both owners?

Quotes in Sunday’s press, reportedly from Rafa Benítez, claiming he’s already been offered a new contract were surprising to say the least. According to the reports, Rafa said he expected to sign the new deal over the summer: “The contract will be done before the start of next season. The owners have said that will be the case, so that is good.”

Tom Hicks said recently that Rafa would get a new deal if he took over, and although Dubai have made no indication of any extension for Rafa if they won the battle for control, they’ve made it known that he’d be a part of their plans. But few expected any offers to Rafa from the current, joint, ownership.

Rafa went on to say in the report: “Every manager likes to have his position clarified. I still have two more years on my contract and I am happy here. That is vital when you look to sign players because they want to know the manager is happy and they are joining the right club.”

It seems odd after all the water that has passed under the bridge to hear now of some real co-operation from the owners.

The idea of replacing Alex Miller, and in effect Pako Ayestaran, with former Liverpool player and coach Sammy Lee is one that isn’t too hard to see a way round despite the stand-off between the owners. Few would claim that replacing two coaches with one, assuming it is done within existing budgets, would be something either owner would block.

Even allowing certain transfers to take place is something that the club could still do with owners who won’t sit in the same room. Budgets of between £10m and £20m net have been mentioned, and if that money is already in the club’s funds, either from the January finance package or the various amounts of prize money and other forms of income the club gets, then it seems unlikely that either owner would actually block the funds from being used for transfers, or for players to be sold as part of the overall summer transfer process.

In cases like those, it protects their investment.

But to offer Rafa Benítez an improved contract seems at odds with the way George Gillett has been acting. He’s made it clear for some time that he wants out. He wants to sell his half of the club, just not to Hicks. And his opinions of Rafa aren’t exactly the kind that you would use to fans to show you back him. So for him to be a party to an improved offer to Rafa, who still has two years left with the club, is strange to say the least.

The fact the quotes appeared in the Sunday Mirror in an article by Simon Mullock are perhaps a sign that they should be taken with a pinch of salt, but to carry direct quotes that haven’t actually been said is a little risky.

Gillett has just been in England to take in the league match with Spurs, but also to attend a meeting with Dubai’s representatives. It was some distance to travel just to see the last game of the season – particularly with Gillett having been ill on a number of occasions recently – suggesting the meeting with Amanda Staveley and others was the main reason for his journey, and in addition suggesting the meeting would be worth his while.

Rafa had said last week in his regular press conference that he wasn’t too sure what was happening in the boardroom, but intriguingly suggested a solution could be forthcoming soon: “All I can add about the boardroom situation is that I am in contact with both of them and we are trying to progress with different issues that we have. I do not know exactly everything about shares, but in terms of what is my responsibility, we are progressing and I am doing my job. Everybody knows the club needs to be well organised and everybody knows what they have to do.

“Who will be in charge? Maybe the final solution will be soon.”

Unusually, compared to recent months, very little has been said in recent days by Gillett, DIC or Hicks.

Hicks did make some comments on the stadium, which got planning permission last week: “Site work will start in September and actual construction in late October, early November, with completion in time for the season starting in August 2011.”

Those comments came on the back of claims that work couldn’t start on the new stadium due to funding worries, but the initial £60m required to get that work underway has been in place since January as part of the refinancing package Hicks and Gillett took out at the time. Other restrictions mean the work can’t start before September.

May has been described as a key month in negotiations for some time now, amidst claims of pre-emption agreements having time limits set to expire in this month, banks having given Hicks only until the end of the club’s Champions League run before pulling the plug on his US loans, and of course a desire from fans to see a resolution tied into the end of one season rather than carrying on into a new season.

A compromise certainly needs to be found if the club is to move forward. Hicks is unwilling to allow DIC to take 50%, Gillett is unwilling to sell even one percent of his stake to Hicks, and DIC are believed to want 51% or more.

Spurs 0 Reds 2 – Torres gets record

Barclays Premier League – Sunday May 11th 2008 – Result

Tottenham 0 Liverpool 2

A game that was pretty meaningless ended with another three points for Liverpool, and for one player at least it certainly wasn’t meaningless.

Fernando Torres got his 24th League goal from 33 appearances, 33 goals in 46 appearances overall. The league total makes him a record holder, beating the total Ruud van Nistelrooy previously held for the most goals in a first season by a foreign player in the Premier League.

Free-signing Andriy Voronin got Liverpool’s other goal, his 5th league goal from 19 appearances, 6 goals in 28 appearances overall.

Pepe Reina made it 18 clean sheets in the league, the best in the league this season, meaning he’s won the golden gloves award every season he’s been at Anfield, this being the third season in a row.

Liverpool end the season in fourth place, 11 points from top, and 11 points above 5th place. They scored 67 league goals, 119 in all.

Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant and John Arne Riise, all strongly linked with a departure from the club before the new season, were left out. So too was Xabi Alonso, although in his case it was due to injury.

George Gillett sat in the stands to see what might be his last game as a co-owner of Liverpool. Continue reading Spurs 0 Reds 2 – Torres gets record

Teams: Spurs v Liverpool

The last game of the season for Liverpool is about as meaningless as it gets, with neither team in need of the points, their places in Europe next season already finalised. Tottenham could move up a place with a win if West Ham also lose, but that’s the only positional change possible from this game.

Rafa has decided to give Insua another run-out at left-back, although it’s difficult to work out what his formation will be today until the players are actually running around after kick-off. Gerrard and Mascherano seem to be the two central midfielders in a 4-4-2, with Babel and Kuyt playing wide. Torres is of course up front for the Reds, but looks likely to be partnered by Andriy Voronin. The other option is for Voronin to play in the role Gerrard has recently been playing in the 4-2-3-1.

No place in the sixteen for John Arne Riise, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant or Xabi Alonso, all the subject of speculation as to their futures for the club.

George Gillett is expected to attend the game, fresh from recent talks with representatives of the Dubai group trying to buy his half of the club from him.

Tottenham: 12 Cerny, 28 Hutton, 20 Dawson, 39 Woodgate, 11 Gilberto, 15 Malbranque, 8 Jenas, 4 Zokora, 24 O’Hara, 9 Berbatov, 10 Keane
Subs: 1 Robinson, 2 Chimbonda, 6 Tainio, 22 Huddlestone, 23 Bent

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 48 Insua, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 19 Babel, 9 Torres, 10 Voronin
Subs: 30 Itandje, 3 Finnan, 4 Hyypia, 11 Benayoun, 21 Lucas

Referee: Uriah Rennie

3-0 win sees Reds youngsters crowned national champs

Congratulations have to go out to Gary Ablett and his excellent reserve side who last night added a third trophy to their haul for this season at the end of a great performance at Anfield.

After winning the Dallas Cup earlier in the season they became the Barclays Premiership Reserve League North champions after a season of excellent results. Then last night was the chance to claim the national title by beating the champions from the Barclays Premiership Reserve League South – which they did in style.

Aston Villa’s reserves were beaten 3-0 by Ablett’s boys, all of them made up of youngsters the club hope they’ll soon be able to pick from for first team appearances.

Krisztian Nemeth and Jordy Brouwer scored the first two, with regular first-team player Lucas, brought in because of injuries, finishing Villa off with the third.

Brouwer got the assist for the first goal from Nemeth, which came after ten minutes. Liverpool continued to threaten the Villa goal after that, with El Zhar narrowly missing on a couple of occasions and Villa’s 27-year-old keeper Stuart Taylor forced into action to deny Brouwer a goal of his own. But with 67 minutes gone Brouwer finally got his goal, Liverpool’s second, Nemeth returning the favour with the assist.

Villa had not been short of chances to get back into the game, Herd and Salifou hitting the woodwork, and Liverpool’s Mikel San Jose needed to clear off the line to prevent a Shane Lowry effort from going in.

The Lucas goal came on 76 minutes, when a good Daniel Pacheco pass allowed the Brazilian to slot the ball past Taylor in front of a delighted Kop.

Over seven-and-a-half thousand supporters turned out to watch the game, a figure that would have been higher had Villa fans not faced traffic problems on the M6.

That’s three pieces of silverware so far for the youngsters, and they’ve still got a chance for more with a match against Manchester United to come in the Lancashire Senior Cup final.

Rafa Benítez was at the game, sitting alongside Rick Parry in the directors’ box. Continue reading 3-0 win sees Reds youngsters crowned national champs