Sunday, 6 June 2010

Kopstuff 6/6/10 - Hunt for Reds Boss Heats Up / Mascherano and Torres to Leave?

Sunday 6th June.

Summer of speculation at Anfield / Star exodus to begin with Mascherano

After Rafa Benitez’s sacking, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re set for a summer of speculation and rumour at Anfield. The Sunday papers are awash with Reds related stories, despite the fact that there is likely to be a transfer embargo installed until a new manager is appointed.

Former manager Benitez would now appear to be the number one target for Inter Milan, with many news outlets reporting that a number of key players could well follow. This would seem to contradict the suggestion that it was player power that forced the Spaniard out of Anfield.

News: The BBC reports that the ex-Liverpool manager is to hold talks with Inter Milan next week, with president Massimo Moratti reiterating his admiration for the former Reds gaffer. Rafa may have been deemed the wrong man to get Liverpool back in contention for a Champions League spot, but the Italians appear to believe that he is the right men to help them retain the Champions League crown.

Rumour: ...and should Rafa go, it would appear increasingly likely that Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano will be plying his trade at the San Siro next season. The Sunday Mirror builds on his quotes that Benitez’s football ‘is his football’, to pad out its ‘exclusive’.

Rumour: Stories of an exodus abound, with the Reds number nine a prominent subject. For the press, it’s becoming less a matter of if Fernando Torres will leave Liverpool, and more wherehe will leave them for. After yesterday’s speculation about a record breaking bid from Chelsea, the Sunday Express proposes that big spending Manchester City are preparing to make the Spaniard the world’s richest footballer. A £200,000 a week deal is on offer, although El Nino would still have to make do with the rigours of Europa League football next season.

Rumour: ... although one player who will be at Anfield next season is new England captain Steven Gerrard. The Sunday Mirror reports that Gerrard is expected to reject the overtures of Jose Mourinho for a second time, determined to clinch the Premiership crown before he calls time on his Liverpool career.

Rumour: Should Gerrard achieve this life-long ambition, it will be under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson - if the News of the World is to be believed. The Sunday rag reports that the Liverpool board will make a formal approach to Fulham as early as this week in order to secure the services of the 62 year old.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Kopstuff 5/6/10 - Gerrard to Captain England to World Cup Glory / Sven a Liverpool Fan?

Saturday 5th June.

Gerrard to be England's Captain Fantastic / Sven a 'lifelong Liverpool fan'.

Gossip: Rafa Benitez may not have cleared out his locker, but already the first candidate for the vacant Liverpool manager’s job has thrown his hat in the Anfield ring. Reports in the S*n suggest that Sven Goran Ericsson has admitted to being a ‘lifelong Liverpool fan’, for whom the club ‘holds a special place in his heart’. It’s strange how these things only ever come out when there is a sniff of a transfer (isn’t it Robbie Keane?).

The Swede was mentioned yesterday amongst a number of potential candidates, but is the first one to have shown an active interest in the position. Despite this, it is not believed that the former Manchester City man ranks high on the Red’s shortlist, with Kenny Dalglish preferring either Roy Hodgson or Louis van Gaal.

Gossip: A manager who is unlikely to take the reins at Liverpool is Dutchman Gus Hiddink. Quotes attributed to his agent make it clear that Hiddink is unlikely to break his existing contract with the Turkish national side, and has already turned down overtures from Inter Milan.

News: Former Reds star Emile Heskey defied his critics and proved his worth to the England squad by ruling defender Rio Ferdinand out of the World Cup. The big striker bulldozed through the injury prone Manc, ending his chances of lifting the FIFA trophy. Ferdinand was alleged to have ‘screamed in agony’ as he tore knee ligaments, cementing Heskey’s place as a Liverpool legend.

Step forward newly appointed England captain Steven Gerrard, who will now be tasked with leading the nation to glory in 2010, just as he did for the Reds on that famous night in Istanbul.

Gossip: Still on the subject of Gerrard, former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso has been credited by the S*n as apparently ‘urging Real Madrid to sign the Liverpool captain’. Six lines of text, in what just about passes as a story provides no actual quotes or evidence to back up its tawdry claims.

Gossip: The press continues to fan the flames of an exodus, with the reports that Chelsea are to give the Reds board an almighty financial headache. The Mail has suggested that the time is now right for the Stamford Bridge club to make a British record breaking £70million bid for striker Fernando Torres. The sale of the Liverpool front-man would go some way to easing the club’s mounting debts in the short term, although the loss of the Spaniard could prove equally costly if the Reds were to remain in the Champions League wilderness. Without a manager, managing director Christian Purslow and the American owners will be left with the ultimate decision, and one should never underestimate the power of the dollar.

Friday, 4 June 2010

KopStuff 4/6/10 - King Kenny in The Frame as Liverpool Search for New Manager

Friday 4th June.

It’s the morning after the night before, and Anfield wakes up managerless; six years of Rafa Benitez stewardship consigned to the history books. An FA Cup, European Super Cup and that famous European Cup will be his official record, a team languishing outside of the top four his legacy.

Protests occurred, noises were made, but the decision was taken to relieve the Spaniard of his position, a £6million compensation package to sweeten the deal.

Benitez was still a popular figure amongst Red’s fans, despite guiding the team to seventh place last season. Most placed the blame for the club’s failures firmly at the feet of the American owners; their boardroom squabbles and inability to provide substantial investment muddying the Anfield waters. Throughout, the manager himself became almost an icon of rebellion; a like-minded figure, a symbol of dissent; forever afforded goodwill after the heroics of Istanbul.

Now, in the cold light of day, the hunt is on for a new manager, with managing director Christian Purslow and Kop legend Kenny Dalglish instrumental in the search. Speculation is mounting that Dalglish himself could take over the reins - based largely on comments attributed to Phil Thompson, rather than anything from within the club. The rumour mill is already in full spin, with over ten names in the frame, although the board have stressed that they will not be rushed into making an appointment. One thing is for certain though - after spending £6million dispatching Benitez to the footballing scrapheap, it is unlikely that they will be wanting to spend too much in compensation to prise another manager away from his club.

Below, we have a look at the main runners and riders for the Liverpool manager’s job.

As previously mentioned, one name in the frame is former player and manager Kenny Dalglish. But what are the actual chances of King Kenny himself taking over the vacant position? A cluster of Anfield legends have been quick to throw their weight behind the iconic Scot, despite him having been out of managerial work for some time. Jamie Redknapp, Bruce Grobelaar and Phil Thompson have all argued for the stability that Dalglish’s appointment would bring to the club, and the backing of the fans is without question. Kenny would fit the other important criteria of being relatively cheap, being already on the Anfield payroll as a club ambassador. But despite these factors, it is unlikely that Dalglish himself would want the position. Having been involved in the club’s glory years, both as a player and a manager, would he be willing to risk his reputation by taking on a club in severe trouble, both off and on the pitch?

Roy Hodgson is another favourite who may also be available on the cheap. The Fulham man is believed to be on a one-year rolling contract, so any compensation would be negligible, certainly below £2million. His tactical nous has helped Fulham to the Europa League Finals, but would he be able to guide the Reds back into Champions League contention? Would the Anfield job be a step too far for the former Inter Milan manager?

Sven Goran Eriksson is another intriguing possibility, with the former England and Manchester City man currently managing the Ivory Coast. The Swede has always made it clear that he would like another crack at the Premier League, and is likely to have an escape clause in his contract with the African side. Any approach would have to wait until after the World Cup, meaning an unsettled summer at Anfield, with a transfer embargo likely.

Martin O’Neill has repeatedly been linked with the Anfield hot seat, along with most jobs in English football. The Aston Villa manager may have been available a season ago, after his relationship with chairman Randy Lerner became strained. However, assurances about his position and transfer funds led the Irishman to commit his future to the Midlands club, and an approach is unlikely to be welcome from either the board or the man himself.

Manuel Pelligrini, the recently sacked Real Madrid manager is another name mentioned in the press, with the Chilean having a further feather in his cap of speaking both fluent Spanish and English. Keeping Rafa’s Spanish contingent happy would be a prime responsibility of any manager working with limited funds.

Rank outsider is ex-Manc Mark Hughes. Several newspapers have touted the ex-Manchester City manager as a possible successor, with Hughes having been unemployed since the winter. With a new stadium still on the agenda, the board may be looking to save on demolition costs here, as Anfield would more than likely be burned to the ground if Sparky was appointed.

Whoever is appointed, their first job will be to assure the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres that the club will be competing for silverware in the coming season.

That’s assuming that those players haven’t already been sold to ease the club’s mounting debts before the new manager is even named…

Thursday, 3 June 2010

KopStuff 3/6/10 - Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez on His Way Out of Anfield in Mass Exodus

Thursday 3rd June.

Red’s manager Benitez in talks with agent over Anfield exit.

Rumour: Speculation over Rafa Benitez’s future is growing, with stories surrounding the Spaniard dominating most of the national newspapers this morning. Indeed, the S*n, the Mirror, the Mail, the Star, the Express, the Guardian and the Independent all cover the saga, suggesting that Benitez’s reign at Anfield is nearing an end.

Benitez was due for showdown talks with the Liverpool board, and the understanding is that the Red’s manager is due for talks with his agent, and is looking to engineer a move away from Anfield. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the board have made Benitez an offer to walk away from the club, believed to be in the region of £2.5 million. Rafa has four years of his Liverpool contract remaining, meaning that substantially more compensation would need to be paid if the Spaniard was sacked – possibly in excess of £16million. Should Rafa accept the deal on offer, he could be out of the club by the weekend.

Benitez has been linked with a host of other clubs of late, although he has repeatedly reiterated his commitment to the club. Only last week, he was quoted in the Liverpool Echo as being very happy at Liverpool. Nevertheless, Inter are believed to be interested in the 50 year old, along with the UAE national side. With the ‘walk away’ offer on the table, the chance of a move may become more attractive to a manager at odds with the board.

Liverpool fans will be largely split on the news, with many still backing Benitez, and seeing the club’s problems lying firmly at the feet of the American owners. The relationship between the two has been strained ever since Hicks and Gillett admitted an approach for Jurgen Klinsmann nearly two years ago. Those who support Benitez will wonder what calibre of manager will be attracted to a side struggling financially, and facing struggles both off and on the pitch. It is unlikely that there will be any funds for rebuilding, so the new manager would be expected to perform better than Benitez with the current squad – something that few managers would be capable of. Certainly the names in the frame do not make pleasant reading – few, if any, would be happy to see ex-Manc Mark Hughes at the helm. Roy Hodgson has been linked with the position too, but although he has performed consistently well as a manager, there are concerns that the Liverpool job would be too much of a leap for the Fulham man, and that his name may not be big enough to attract top drawer talent to Anfield.

There are also concerns that several of the Spanish contingent – notably Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres – could be tempted by a move should Benitez move to a high profile European club. Should that happen, it would be increasingly likely that captain Steven Gerrard would finally lose hope of winning the title with his beloved club, opening the door or a move to Real Madrid. However, several newspapers report that it is ‘player power’ that has ultimately resulted in the board’s decision to remove Benitez – it would be unthinkable then for those players to leave, having been granted their wish.

The only thing for certain at the moment is that nothing is for certain. The club could be about to undergo its most important change in recent history – we just need to hope that the board makes the right decision.

This might be the most worrying thing of all.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

KopStuff 2/6/10 - Gerrard to Join Mourinho in Madrid? Torres Inter Bound?

Wednesday 2nd June.

Gerrard Mourinho’s ‘number one target’? Torres Inter bound?

Rumour: The Daily Mirror returns to speculation regarding Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s future, suggesting that the midfielder is Jose Mourinho’s ‘number one target’. The newly appointed Real Madrid manager has apparently identified a central midfielder as the Spanish sides most pressing need. Regular readers will recognise this story, as it has been bouncing around the rumour mill ever since Mourinho left Inter, although the alleged quotes and targets appear to change on an almost daily basis. The Mirror adds nothing new, regurgitating old news to fill column space, ignoring the fact that Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard would appear to be the more likely target for the Portuguese.

Rumour: The Mail runs with a multitude of Liverpool stories, beginning the with news that Fabio Aurelio may be a target for Fulham boss Roy Hodgson. Aurelio was deemed surplus to requirements at Anfield, with the club unwilling to offer anything other than a pay-as-you-play deal to the frequently injured Brazilian.

Rumour: Second is the slightly more interesting suggestion that Rafa Benitez is weighing up a move for out of favour Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz. The paper proposes that any move would see Yossi Benayoun travelling in the opposite direction, but Reds fans would see that as a small price to pay for a chance to partner up the talented Paraguayan with Fernando Torres.

Rumour: ...although, if the Mail is to be believed, Torres himself may be on his way to Inter, should new Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho succeed in taking Diego Milito or Samuel Eto’o to Real Madrid. The latter would seem unlikely, as the big Cameroon has only recently left arch rivals Barcelona, although Milito is known to have a fractious relationship with the Italian club.

Rumour: ...or should that be Chelsea? Or City? The Mail obviously believes that if you throw enough stones, you’ll end up with at least one broken window. In the very same story, Torres is linked with champions Chelsea, and big-spending Manchester City, both of whom are apparently ready to table £70million bids. The reason for the claims? Last week's news conference where Torres made the heinous mistake of failing to declare his absolute, undying love for the club and sign a new contract, in blood, live on Spanish TV.

Rumour: And finally, the S*n reports that Rafa’s future should be sorted out later this week, with the Spaniard having a third round of talks with the Liverpool board. The summer transfer budget is likely to be one of the major issues being discussed, as well as Rafa’s commitment to the club in the light of alleged interest from Inter.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

KopStuff 1/6/10 - Benayoun Target for Chelsea? Inter to Swoop for Rafa?

Tuesday 1st June.

Benayoun in Chelsea switch? Inter in shock swoop for Rafa?

Fabio Capello has named his final World Cup squad, with Liverpool players Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Jamie Carragher preparing for the trip to South Africa. Gerrard is included despite taking a knock to his knee against Japan, although the Red’s captain is expected to recover in time for the match against the USA. Former Reds David James and Peter Crouch have also been handed their boarding cards, with Emile Heskey and, surprisingly, Stephen Warnock joining them. No current or former Reds are amongst the seven players who have missed out this time around.

News: One more Liverpool player who will be in South Africa is Martin Skrtel. The defender has made Slovakia’s twenty-three man squad, in what will be the countries World Cup debut.

News: …and he will be joined by fellow defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos. The big Greek has been included in the European Champions squad. Whether he’ll have to buy his own plane ticket is another story.

Rumour: TeamTalk reports that Liverpool and West Ham are amongst a number of clubs watching Real Madrid’s Ghanaian youngster, Daniel Opare. The full-back was injured for much of last season, and it is believed that Madrid are looking to loan him out for a year. Whilst Liverpool may be the highest profile club in the chase for the player, Opare may want more of a first team guarantee than the Liverpool management would be able to offer, making a move to the Hammers more likely.

The Daily Mail, tiring of the Danny Wilson saga, turns its Anfield attentions to Reds midfielder Yossi Benayoun. Sportsmail reports that the 30 year old Israeli is a target for champions Chelsea, with the Stamford Bridge club willing to pay £10million for his services. Ironically, the sale of Benayoun to Chelsea could help in Rafa’s pursuit of Joe Cole whose contract with the Blues expires at the end of this month. Cole’s high wage demands were believed to have been a stumbling block, but if Cole were to be acquired on a free, the funds from the sale of Benayoun could be used as a signing on bonus for the England man.

Rumour: Picking up on yesterday’s quotes attributed to Inter President Massimo Moratti, the S*n has managed to spin a tale about a ‘sensational swoop’ for Reds boss Rafa Benitez. Evidence is provided by means of a dubious ‘unnamed source’, suggesting that yet another S*n reporter may have been eating too much cheese before bed…