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.

Carson joins Baggies

Liverpool have sold goalkeeper Scott Carson to West Bromwich Albion for £3.25m.

The 22-year-old was signed by Rafael Benitez in January 2005 for a fee of £0.75m. Although bought as a player for the future, he actually got called into action on Liverpool’s journey to the 2005 Champions League final, making his debut in the competition against Juventus.

After Pepe Reina was brought in as first-choice keeper, and Jerzy Dudek became second-choice, Carson eventually went out on loan. He spent time at Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Aston Villa. Villa paid £2m for his services for one season, but turned down their option to make it permanent, with suggestions being made that Liverpool were asking too much for the England international. They certainly seemed to rate the keeper – he only missed one league game other than the ones against Liverpool which regulations meant he couldn’t appear in.

The £3.25m fee could rise to £3.75m depending on certain performance-related conditions being met.

Cavalieri signs, Guthrie speaking to Newcastle

Liverpool’s signing of Brazilian goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri has now been completed, with the £3m signing from Palmeiras officially unveiled today. The third player unveiled this week, after full-backs Andrea Dossena and Philipp Degen, 25-year-old Cavalieri has signed for four years.

Able to play without a work permit due to his Italian passport, the Brazilian knows he won’t be first choice ahead of Pepe Reina. He is prepared to work hard and take any opportunity that comes his way, as he told Liverpool’s official website: “I know it won’t be easy to get into the team. I watched some Liverpool games in both the Premier League and Champions League last year and I know Pepe is a very good goalkeeper. But everyone has to fight for their place and I’m sure we will have a healthy rivalry. I know I will have to be patient and work very hard to achieve my aims – but it is always like that when you come from another country.”

Cavalieri with Rafa, and Rafa with Degen and DossenaHe was pictured wearing the number 13, with Liverpool’s number 1 jersey likely to remain vacant as long as Pepe is first choice. The Spaniard prefers number 25, and has turned down the chance to move to number 1 previously. Cavalieri says he may get the chance to wear that number at Anfield eventually: “My confidence has got me where I am today and maybe people are aware of what I did at Palmeiras in Brazil. I am sure that one day I can get the number one position but that will only come with hard work. I feel very privileged and happy to have signed for Liverpool because everyone knows they are one of the top clubs in the world, the name ‘Liverpool’ is known all around the world. It’s an honour to wear this shirt.”

He also revealed that the move had happened at a rapid pace: “It was a dream for me to come to Europe, though I was taken aback by how quickly everything happened. It’s all been sorted out in one week, but I have been given a very good welcome from my teammates and the manager, so I’m very happy to be here. I just hope I can respond to all this.” Continue reading Cavalieri signs, Guthrie speaking to Newcastle

O’Neill says Barry deal is in Liverpool’s hands

Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill is standing firm in his valuation of midfielder Gareth Barry, but is finding that Liverpool are too. Villa value the player at £18m, a figure close to what Liverpool paid for Fernando Torres a year ago, and Liverpool quite bluntly don’t value him at that level. Villa have also more or less run out of bridges to burn with the player, having banned him from pre-season training, banned him from all Villa property, fined him two weeks wages and made it clear he won’t be going on their pre-season training camp. This is their club captain, who himself can’t be accused of having stepped out of line at all in the time since Liverpool’s interest was first made public.

That interest was first made public by Martin O’Neill, who had a rant about Liverpool leaking their first bid, of £10m, to the local press on Merseyside. In reality the leak had not come from Liverpool at all, but O’Neill continued his angry response to the interest via the media. Patrik Berger, already set to leave in the summer with his contract at an end, was sent packing early for saying that he thought a move to Anfield would be good for Barry. O’Neill discussed the saga regularly in the papers, and then continued to talk about it on the TV as part of his summer job with the BBC.

O’Neill probably feels he can get one over on Liverpool in the style he did with Emile Heskey when he was boss at Leicester. Liverpool memorably paid an extra £2m for Heskey in 2000, in the days before transfer windows, to get the players’ services in March rather than wait until the summer. O’Neill claimed he had tried hard to retain Heskey, but he did eventually let him go for £11m. Continue reading O’Neill says Barry deal is in Liverpool’s hands

Rafa admits David Villa is on his list

Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez wished outgoing forward Peter Crouch all the best at his likely new club, and then admitted for the first time that Valencia striker David Villa is a name on a list of possible replacements.

Peter CrouchCrouch’s Anfield days are now all but over, with his former club Portsmouth expected to officially announce his signature within the next 24 hours. He passed a medical on Monday, and with the two clubs having verbally agreed a fee, the wait now is to ensure the fine print matches that verbal agreement. The fee is believed to be £8m, rising to £11m on certain conditions, and these conditions have to fit in with the existing agreement between Liverpool and Portsmouth’s biggest rivals Southampton. When Liverpool paid £7m to the Saints there was also an agreement that a percentage of any future profit Liverpool made on the player would be payable to Southampton.  There are also elements to be agreed on the personal terms for Crouch.

Rafa was criticised for paying £7m for Crouch at the time, and that criticism increased as he began his Anfield career on a long run without scoring. Now, with one year left on his deal, the critics are attacking Rafa for not selling him a year earlier, when he would have potentially been worth more. The potential £4m profit, subject to those clauses, is seen by some as Liverpool being short-changed. That’s a sign of how much respect Crouch has earned in his time at Anfield, and the Liverpool boss is proud of that change: “I am proud of the progress he has made. When we brought him here people were talking – especially because he didn’t score for 14 games or something like that – but he showed his quality, showed he was a good player and a fantastic professional.” Continue reading Rafa admits David Villa is on his list

Reade’s 43 years of being a Red

Daily Mirror columnist Brian Reade brought out his new book on Friday, charting 43 years of his life as a supporter of Liverpool Football Club.

Brian Reade - 43 yearsReade is a passionate, Kop-season-ticket-holding, Red, and his book intends to show just what it is that has given him that passion.

He’s won awards for his columns, which are always witty and straight to the point, and so his book should be on the must-read list for any Liverpool fan.

He’s called it “43 years with the same bird” and you know which bird he’s talking about.

It’s the bird that has been on the shirt of the captain each time one of the 48 trophies was lifted during those 43 years. Reade talks about his memories of the FA Cup run in 1965, right at the start of the 43 years, and then on through the others, including five European Cups, 12 league titles, the years when Liverpool couldn’t stop winning the League Cup, the FA Cup wins, and of course the times when it didn’t all work out. Continue reading Reade’s 43 years of being a Red

Crouch goes south

Peter Crouch’s time at Anfield is now drawing to a close after he underwent a medical for Portsmouth, following an announcement from the Reds that he had been given permission to speak to Harry Redknapp’s side.

A spokesman was quoted on the official Liverpool FC website confirming the news: “We have reached a verbal agreement with Portsmouth and have given them permission to speak with Peter.”

Crouch joined the club from Southampton in 2005 for what many thought was an overpriced £7m. As that first season began those critics were enjoying his slow start, until he finally did find the net and put the 19-game dry spell behind him. In the end he scored 42 times for the club, in his 135 appearances and earned a lot of adulation from supporters. 22 of those goals came from his 85 league appearances.

If the move goes ahead it will be his second spell at Portsmouth. He had been linked with two of his other former clubs, Tottenham and Aston Villa, but it’s believed it was always Portsmouth he was most interested in moving to.

The player has a year left on his Liverpool contract, and so Rafa Benítez would not have seriously expected to achieve the £15m valuation he publicly put on the forward. The fee is, according to the Liverpool Echo, £11m – but only £8m of that would be paid up front. The rest is linked to various add-ons. The paper says he’s about to undergo a medical. Continue reading Crouch goes south

Kewell tries to justify move to Galatasaray

Kewell’s move to Galatasaray is likely to be lucrative, with no fee being payable to Liverpool for his services, and the move has angered fans of his last club Leeds. Their instant thought when hearing the name of the Turkish side is of the deaths of two of their fans in 2000 on the eve of a UEFA Cup match. Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were stabbed in Istanbul by Galatasaray fans.

The Australian international’s decision to sign for Galatasaray was announced on Friday, before his agent claimed it wasn’t actually finalised. The player was in Turkey on the Friday however, and the deal was officially announced the day after. It’s taken another 48 hours for his thoughts on what this move might mean to Leeds fans to be released.

Kewell goes to \"hell\"Kewell left Leeds for a transfer fee of just £3m, with his representatives getting £2m, as the Yorkshire side were about to start on their slide down the divisions and a period of financial ruin. It was hardly Kewell’s fault that Leeds had taken big risks financially, but many Leeds fans still felt the player’s part in his cut-price transfer was a betrayal, showing a lack of respect and little concern for their club’s welfare. Speaking through Sky, Kewell says nothing has changed: “My love and respect for Leeds United and what the club has done for me will never change, no matter what anyone says about me and whatever their motives are.”

Kewell claims he was thinking of Leeds when he chose his shirt number for his new club: “I chose the number 19 shirt when I signed for Galatasaray as a sign of respect for Leeds because that was the number I got when I first became a regular member of the Leeds United FC starting XI.”

He went on: “I felt that it might be a way to demonstrate that I had not forgotten where it all started and I was hoping that in a small way it would help the healing process of the tragedy that occurred on the 5th of April 2000. My sense of sorrow and sympathy for the families and friends of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight will always be with me.”

The statement then leads up to his own justification for joining a club the Leeds fans have such distaste for: “For me, sport should first and foremost be about the love of your game. But equally important is the respect for not only your team-mates but all those who you compete against. For this reason I have always objected to any form of discrimination in any sport and football in particular, as that is the sport that is the most near and dear to me.”

And he is sure to enrage Leeds supporters with this comment: “To blame the Galatasaray club for the tragedy in Istanbul is simply wrong and discriminatory.” Continue reading Kewell tries to justify move to Galatasaray

Degen looks forward to Anfield challenge

Swiss defender Philipp Degen is now Liverpool’s first official first-team signing of the summer, after he signed a four-year deal with the club.

He arrives on a Bosman deal, after his Borussia Dortmund contract expired at the end of June and is glad to be here: “It’s a great club with great fans and I am happy to be here. I know the club has a strong tradition and a rich history. I hope to play a big role in the future.”

Speaking to the official Liverpool FC website, he said he sees a comparison between the Premier League and the Bundesliga: “You probably know that I played in Germany with Borussia Dortmund – that was a strong league too. But now I’m looking forward to the challenge of England and the Premier League, which is probably the strongest league in the world right now.”

His name has appeared on an Anfield team-sheet already, in 2002 when Basel drew 1-1 at Anfield in the Champions League. He was an unused sub, but remembers the occasion well: “I have been to Anfield before, with Basel, although I did not play on that occasion. But it was a great experience and to see the fans singing the famous song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was something special.”

He describes himself as a “pacey player who likes to get forward. I have a good attacking mentality and like to get up and down the flank. I also have good technique.” He also has good words to say about manager Rafa Benítez, who he says was an important part of his decision to join: “He was very important. He is the manager here and one of the finest coaches in the world. He has a fantastic record with both LFC and Valencia. I’m looking forward to working with him.” Continue reading Degen looks forward to Anfield challenge