4/19/2014 09:24:00 pm

'Unbelievable': Why Jose Mourinho's post-Sunderland rant is absolute genius

Sunderland's stunning victory over Chelsea has all but ended the Blues' hopes of winning the Premier League title, and short of an unlikely catastrophic collapse from Liverpool, the title is on its way back to Anfield for the first time in 24 years. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is always good value when he talks to the media, and his post-Sunderland press conference is, IMO, absolute genius.

Speaking to the press after the game, Mourinho refused to take questions, but made clear his anger at the result with some amusingly ironic criticism of the referee, Mike Dean:



I have to admit, this cracked me up. It's funny stuff, and Mourinho's po-faced demeanour just makes it funnier. I'm an anarchist at heart, and I love to see legitimate acts of defiance, and given the exceedingly poor refereeing standards this season, Mourinho has a legitimate gripe.



Where is the foul? Azpilicueta slides away from Altidore, whose standing leg connects with the Spaniard's foot. It's Altidore's fault that he goes down; Azpilicueta had nothing to do with it.

I don't really understand why rival fans are getting on Mourinho's back here. He praised Sunderland for their victory, which is a touch of class. He also rightly excoriated the ref, but cleverly did it in a way that means he can't be charged by the FA for his comments.

Mourinho's ire is understandable, and I'm sure if the shoe was on the other foot, Liverpool fans would be similarly enraged.

I'm not the Portuguese's greatest fan, but his press conferences are frequently hilarious, and this one is no exception. He's a character, that's for sure, and the Premier League is a far more entertaining place with him in it.

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4/19/2014 06:30:00 pm

'He's up to speed': Molby claims £15m star is ideal 'replacement for Hendo'. Agree?

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is one the club's most improve players this season, but after his deserved red card against Man City last weekend, he'll be missing for Sunday's game with Norwich. Who should replace him, and will Hendo's absence really be that damaging for the LFC?

When it comes to replacing Hendo, it's a straight choice between Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva, and Anfield legend Jan Molby is convinced there's only one solution. He told the Liverpool Echo:

"Joe Allen is best replacement for Henderson.

"Allen is more comfortable with the pressing game and he’s up to speed at that tempo.

"You could play Lucas deeper but you need to keep Steven Gerrard in that holding role as his form has been that good".


Lucas is only recently back from injury, so it makes sense to play Allen, who is probably more match-fit at this moment in time. Plus, as Molby states, Allen is good at the pressing side of the game, which will be vital against a team struggling for their Premier League lives.

Jamie Redknapp insists that Liverpool will Henderson's 'bite' in midfield, but I'm not so sure. Hendo is having a solid season, but he's not really a consistent game-changer, and if - as Redknapp and others seem to suggest - his main contribution is a 'high energy pressing game', then Allen can cover that aspect fairly easily.

One thing LFC won't miss is Henderson's goal-creation. He has only 2 assists in the last 23 games for the club, which, with all due respect, is not good enough. Additionally, he is being outscored this season by Martin Skrtel (!), a central defender, and that is not the most flattering of stats.

Henderson is important to Liverpool, but he is not (IMO) indispensable, and next season, he needs serious competition for his place in a bid to improve his goals/assists ratio. To that end, I really want to see Rodgers sign a top-class attacking midfielder over the summer as it will hopefully put a fire under Henderson to make more of a specific, measurable attacking contribution.

Someone like, say, Ivan Rakitic would put the serious frighteners on Henderson, and that can only be a good thing.

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4/19/2014 12:25:00 pm

'Top Class': BR wants 'fantastic' £8m star who dreams of 'highest level' transfer

Left-back is a problem position for Liverpool at the moment, and a whole host of players - including Luke Shaw, Ashley Cole, Fabio Coentrao, and Marcel Schmelzer - are currently linked with summer moves to Anfield. With Aly Cissokho almost certainly leaving, and Jose Enrique's future uncertain, there are places in the squad up for grabs, and Swansea City youngster Ben Davies is the latest full-back to be linked with a possible LFC transfer.

Reports in February claimed that Liverpool are 'heading the chase' to sign Davies.

On Saturday, The Express claimed that the Reds - along with Man City, Arsenal, and Atletico Madrid - are still monitoring his progress, and when asked about interest from big clubs, the 20-year old told reporters:

"It is nice to hear because it clearly means you must be doing something right. It's got to be a boost for your confidence but it's not going to turn my head".

£8m-rated Davies - described by former boss Michael Laudrup as 'fantastic' - then admitted that he has his eye on a move to a bigger club:

"I am ambitious about playing at the highest level [and] if you put performances in to the best of your ability, things will take care of themselves".

Brendan Rodgers will know Davies well from his time managing Swansea City, and given the LFC boss's penchant for pursuing his ex-players, it will be no surprise if Davies ultimately ends up at Anfield.

Davies is also (potentially) versatile, which will also endear him to Rodgers. Indeed, former manager Brian Laudrup believes he could easily switch position in the future. A few months ago, he told the South Wales Evening Post:

"In the future, Ben can be a good left-footed centre-back. He is getting stronger in the air and physically he is getting stronger as well, and left-footed centre-backs are hard to find".

Former Wales winger Leighton James is also impressed with Davies, and after the youngster extended his Swansea contract in December, he raved:

"To have achieved what Ben's achieved in such a short space of time is phenomenal [and] to see Swansea produce another top-class youngster who's extended his contract with the club and committed himself is good news."

Davies would probably be the cheapest option of all the current left-backs linked with Liverpool (bar Ashley Cole, who'd be free), but is he experienced enough to come in and make an immediate difference?

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4/19/2014 05:00:00 am

Reds Hero blasts: £9m LFC star is 'not the best' & here's 4 reasons why he's a flop

In a recent poll on this site, 51% of 11,000 (approx) participants voted for Pepe Reina to stay at Anfield next season and challenge Simon Mignolet for LFC's No 1 shirt. Whilst not a significant majority, it shows that Mignolet still hasn't totally won over the fanbase, and Reds fan in particular is definitely not impressed with the Belgian's debut season.

When asked this week about Mignolet, Grobbelaar insisted that the £9m signing is 'not the best all-round keeper', and offered offered the following four reasons why he's not the long term solution for LFC:

* He doesn't 'play out from the back' effectively
* He's 'not commanding enough' in the penalty box.
* Position at free kicks is 'not right'.
* He concedes too many goals.

Grobbelaar further explained:

“A keeper should never be beaten – as he [Mignolet] has been – by a header from three yards out. You compare that to the number of goals Petr Cech has conceded at Chelsea and that tells you the difference. The keeper coach has to work him harder and he can improve a lot, of course he can."

Wowsers. That is an absolutely scathing verdict on Mignolet's first season, and I doubt he'll be too happy to read these comments. To be brutally honest, though, Grobbelaar is arguably right with his assessment - The Belgian is a top class shot-stopper, but his distribution, command of the penalty area leave a lot to be desired, and these are issues picked up by fans all season.

As for goals conceded - Liverpool's defensive frailty is partly to blame here (though Johnson, Agger, and Skrtel featured heavily last season, too), but the Reds have conceded more goals than any other team in the top four, and Mignolet has to take his share of responsibility for that.

The smoking gun (so to speak), is this: Last season, Pepe Reina conceded 43 goals for the whole league season. This season, with 4 games still to go, Mignolet is already on 42. If Reina is apparently not good enough, what does that say about his replacement? It doesn't matter what way you slice it, a goalkeeper's primary role is to stop goals being conceded, and it's clear that Mignolet is making zero difference on that front.

Of course, some will argue that it's churlish to criticise the goalkeeper when Liverpool are on the verge of winning the league, but a longer-term view needs to be taken. The amazing goalscoring form of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge is papering over the cracks of LFC's defensive - and goalkeeping - frailty, but there's no guarantee that SAS will be able to continue the same level of prolificity next season.

Is Mignolet the long-term solution? Will he suddenly become a commanding figure in the penalty box? Will his distribution really exponentially improve over the pre-season? Or is time to consider another change between the sticks?

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4/18/2014 09:15:00 pm

Mistake or Masterstroke? BR makes 'important' €12m star LFC's top transfer target

To the delight (and amazement) of fans across the globe, Liverpool are currently within touching distance of an amazing (and improbable) title victory, but the team's stunning achievement this season is punctuated by consistent defensive frailty, and it seems highly likely that Brendan Rodgers will try and tackle this problem (again) during the upcoming summer transfer window. The Reds are currently linked with a raft of defenders, and the latest name to enter the fray is Borussia Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer.

According to reports in Germany and England today:

* Schmelzer is Liverpool's 'top transfer target'
* The Reds are preparing to make a bid at the end of the season.
* The 26-year old will cost around €12m.

Some info about Schmelzer:

* Spent his entire career at Dortmund.
* 197 apps for Dortmund over the last 6 years.
* Averages 33 appearances per season.
* 4 goals/13 assists in 197 apps.
* Averages a goal/assist every 11.5 games.
* 16 apps for the German national team.

Defensively, Schmelzer may be sound, but 13 assists in six years? That's clearly not good enough for a left-back with attacking responsibilities, and I find it hard to believe that this makes the German LFC's 'top' transfer target. If LFC want a left back who'll average a goal every 1.5 seasons, the club might as well just keep Aly Cissokho.

Germany manager Joachim Low is seemingly not a huge fan of Schmelzer, and when faced with having to play him as a result of injuries, Low mused:

“We don’t have any alternatives so we’re going to have to carry on with Marcel for the next three, four or five months,”

Hardly a vote of confidence (!) Schmelzer admitted he was 'flabbergasted' by Low's comment, but he seems to have stayed in the Germany squad despite that withering criticism. Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke was not impressed with the Germany boss's comments, and he told reporters:

"I found the criticism completely counterproductive. I was angry about it and I made that clear to Low himself"

Last year, Dortmund extended Schmelzer's contract until 2017, and after sealing the deal, the club's Sporting Director, Michael Zorc, enthused:

"Marcel is an important component of what is still a young team. He reflects BVB's philosophy to continue the path we're on with the core of this promising and identity-promoting team."

At €12m, Schmelzer is significantly cheaper than Luke Shaw, but in my view, LFC should keep the money and put it towards Mats Hummels, another Dortmund defender.



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4/18/2014 02:30:00 pm

Double-Transfer? BR sends LFC scouts to watch 'fantastic' £22m Dutch duo

Despite spending £23m on defenders last summer, Liverpool's defensive issues are still glaringly apparent, and with the full-back areas a particular concern, it seems likely that Brendan Rodgers will splash the cash once again this summer in a bod to fix the problem. LFC's boss has hinted at this himself in several press conferences, and it comes as no surprise that Liverpool scouts are focusing on defensive players right now.

According to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf this week, Liverpool scouts were in the crowd during Feyenoord's 2-0 victory over PSV on Sunday to watch £15m-rated central Stefan De Vrij, and £7m-rated right back Daryl Janmaat.

In December 2012, the Liverpool Echo reported that Brendan Rodgers sent scouts to watch De Vrij - Feyenoord's captain - in action. Soon after, De Vrij admitted to being flattered by Liverpool's interest. He told reporters:

"It's nice to hear such big clubs are interested in you, but I'm not making a transfer."

When asked about De Vrij's future over the weekend, Feyenoord Technical director Martin van Geel told Algemeen Dagblad:

"Talks have stopped and we will wait for the summer. With De Vrij, we have already made a decision to wait until after the World Cup."

In a recent interview, Van Geel hailed Janmaat, who is also being monitored by Arsenal. He enthused:

“Daryl's development has been fantastic. He is an example of the way we like to do things: came in on a free transfer from SC Heerenveen and became a fixture at De Kuip. This is the sort of player we want to hold onto.”

Janmaat has made it clear that he wants to leave Feyenoord after the World Cup, and he underlined this last week, when told reporters:

"Last week I game my answer to the club. I now see what happens. I can only do my best and wait on any developments"

Liverpool will almost certainly target a central defender and a full-back (maybe even two), so expect the club to be endlessly linked with players in those positions over the next few months.

Stats this season

De Vrij

* 29 appearances.
* 4 goals/1 assist
* Aerial duels: 60% success rate.
* 65 tackles (2.2 per game)
* 57 interceptions (2 per game)
* 177 clearances (6.1 per game)
* 16 blocks (0.6 per game)
* 87% passing accuracy.
* Averages 55 passes per game.
* 9 key passes (1 every 3.2 games)

Janmaat

* 29 appearances.
* 2 goals/5 assists
* Aerial duels: 55% success rate.
* 77 tackles (2.7 per game)
* 41 interceptions (1.4 per game)
* 87 clearances (3 per game)
* 3 blocks (0.3 per game)
* 81% passing accuracy.
* Averages 48 passes per game.
* 35 Key passes (1.2 per game)

Stats: OPTA

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4/18/2014 11:30:00 am

Ex-Red insists: Roy Evans' team 'just as good' as Rodgers' LFC side. Agree...?

I often wax-lyrical about the Roy Evans era at Liverpool, and anyone who watched the Reds regularly from 1994 to 1998 will admit that Evans' team was an absolute joy to watch. Like Brendan Rodgers' current side, the mid-1990s team played relentlessly exciting attacking football, and Stan Collymore - a key part of the side from 1995-1997 - believes Evans' team is just as good as the current Liverpool side.

In his column for The Mirror this week, Collymore - who, in partnership with Robbie Fowler, grabbed over 120 goals/assists for LFC from 1995-1997 - noted:

"My Liverpool team had high hopes back in 1996. When I joined we dreamed of the title and with the likes of Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler, John Barnes and myself I would say the talent pool was just as good as this ­current crop".

I totally agree with Collymore here. In my view, the 1995-1997 team was 'as good' (talent-wise) as the current squad, and both teams had several key similarities:

* Very exciting to watch, and scored a bucketload of goals.
* Brilliant attacking players, but defensively suspect.
* Free-scoring striker partnership (Fowler and Collymore)
* Capable of winning the league.

Between 1995 and 1997, Liverpool came close to winning the title, but in both seasons, the club fell away in the final stretch, mainly due to poor defending, and (arguably) mentality issues. Thankfully, history isn't repeating itself, and despite ongoing defensive issues, Rodgers' team looks mentally well-equipped to go the distance.

Man-for-man, which team has the better players?

* SAS vs. Collymore/Fowler (CAF): Over two seasons, CAF grabbed over 120 goals/assists between them. That is an amazing record. A player like Suarez may have more overt 'skill' than CAF, but scoring/creating goals is the name of the game, and CAF are clearly on a par with SAS. On an individual basis, I'd take Fowler over Suarez, and Sturridge over Collymore (but ony just).

* Steve McManaman vs. Raheem Sterling: Absolutely no contest for me. Sterling is developing into an excellent player, but McManaman was an astonishingly good player for LFC, and one of the Reds' most exciting players to watch over the last 20 years. Plus, he consistently scored/created lots of goals for the club.

* Jamie Redknapp vs. Jordan Henderson: Tough one to call here, but having watched Redknapp live many times during the period, I'd have to go with Hendo. Like Hendo, Redknapp didn't score/create enough goals, but he didn't offer Henderson's energy and purpose, and often went missing in games.

Rodgers' team clearly has the edge overall - the league title is in LFC's hands with four games to go, and short of a catastrophic collapse, the Reds' league drought is all but over. Evans' team always fell away in the final couple of months of the season. Combined team:

---------------- Mignolet

Jones ----- Skrtel --- Carra --- Bjornebye

---------- Gerrard -- Barnes

McManaman ------------------ Sterling

--------- Suarez

--------------- Fowler

McManaman, Sterling, Suarez Fowler: imagine the carnage!

SUBS: James, Hendo, Sturridge, Collymore, McAteer, Coutinho, Agger

* Carra became a semi-regular in the last year of Evans' reign, so I'm having him in defence.
* Sterling gets the nod over Coutinho due to his pace.

* There's no way Robbie Fowler can be left out of this team. In the mid-'90s, he was on a par with Suarez.

* Barnes converted to a central-mid in the later stages of his career, and continued to play brilliantly. I'll have Barnesy over Hendo any day of the week.

* Stig Inge Bjornebye was (IMO) a much underrated left-back, and he regularly topped the assist charts under Evans.

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4/17/2014 10:30:00 pm

'I'm in Top Form': LFC favourites to sign exciting £20m star who's 'like Lionel Messi'

Liverpool are reportedly lining up a summer move for Fiorentina winger Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, who is also wanted by Arsenal, Spurs, and Manchester United.

According to reports this week:

* Liverpool are planning a £20m offer for the 25-year old attacker.

* 'Sources close to the player' claim that Cuadrado wants a move to the Premier League is his preferred destination,

* The Reds are allegedly in pole-position to seal the deal. and that Liverpool are currently leading the way to sign him.

* Fiorentina are willing to sell.

With the ability to play on either wing, or at right back, Cuadrado is the type of player Rodgers - by his own admission - loves: versatile and flexible, with the ability to slot into several different positions. Some info about Cuadrado:

* Co-owned by Fiorentina and Udinese.
* 78 apps for Fiorentina.
* 27 apps for the Colombia national team.
* Two loan spells in the last four years.
* Serie A's best dribbler (4.2 per game)
* This season: 11 goals/6 assists in 39 apps.
* 2012-13: 5 goals/6 assists in 39 apps.
* Two Year Total: 17 goals/12 assists in 78 apps
* Goal/Assist every 2.7 games

When asked in February about his future, Cuadrado told reporters:

"I am very happy to be here with this team and am focusing on the present, which is Fiorentina.”

In March, Cuadrado was asked again about interest from other teams, and he once again outlined his loyalty to Fiorentina:

"I would be an hypocrite if I said that I don’t like that many teams want me but I think about the present and its name is Fiorentina. I dream of staying here, Italy is beautiful.”

In the first part of the season and over Christmas, Cuadrado experienced a noticeable slump in form, and when asked about this in February, Fiorentina boss Vincenzo Montella explained:

"He [Cuadrado] had some physical issues that caused this slump. From players like him you always expect the best and he always gives a lot. He has to come back doing what he can do.”

Since then, Cuadrado has hit 6 goals in 13 games for the Viola, and he's happy with his form. He told reporters recently:

“I’m in top form, I’m fine now. I only suffered a bit after an injury. My family and I are very happy in Florence. I’m happy that Fiorentina count on me. Montella wants me to be more cynical in front of the goal, I also train hard for the defensive phase.”

In a game against Siena earlier this season, Cuadrado ran from deep inside his own half, dribbled past four opponents, beat the last defender with some dazzling skill, then chipped the goalkeeper, only narrowly missing the goal. This prompted some effusive post-match praise from Fiorentina coach Serse Cosmi, who told reporters:

“If Cuadrado always played like he did today, he’d be like Lionel Messi.”

Overall, I don't see how Cuadrado is worth £20m. He has only two assists since November 2013, and none in the last four months which is a concern for a player who plays mostly as a winger. If LFC are to spend big bucks on an attacking player, it should (IMO) be someone with a a great record of goals/assists.

Additionally, there's the Serie A factor to consider. It's almost a cliche these days, but players from Serie A never seem to do well for Liverpool, and that's been proven countless times over the years. Spending £20m on a player like Cuadrado is a gamble on par with spending £11m on Borini, and £35m on Andy Carroll.



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4/17/2014 07:15:00 pm

'I liked what I saw': Carra says £40m star has a 'big future'. Better than Sterling?

Manchester United's downward spiral into mediocrity is - along with LFC's charge for the title - one of this season's true pleasures, but despite their struggles, Adnan Janujaz continues to perform with distinction, and he is (arguably) the only real challenger to LFC's Raheem Sterling for this year's Young Player of the year Award. Anfield legend Jamie Carragher is a fan of the Belgian attacker, and believes he has a big career ahead.

In a recent column for the Daily Mail, Carra enthused:

"The one bright spot [for Man Utd] is the emergence of Januzaj.

"He’s played 32 games, which is a lot for a 19-year-old, but he has a big future. I liked what I saw of him in pre-season and he has built on that impression".


In February, Paris St. Germain were linked with a £40m move for Januzaj, which is a quite ridiculous sum for a 19-year old. However, if Man Utd fail to qualify for the Champions League - which is an absolute certainty at this stage - then Europe's big clubs will inevitably pick over the bones of their squad, with Januzaj a particularly attractive option.

As for Sterling vs. Janujaz - who is the more effective player in the league this season?

Attack

Minutes played: RS: 1870 | AJ: 1422
Passing Accuracy: RS: 80.5% | AJ: 81%
Goals: RS: 7 | AJ: 4
Assists: RS: 3 | AJ: 3
Shot Accuracy: RS: 66.7% | AJ: 40.7%
Cross Accuracy: RS: 16.4% | AJ: 23.9%
Chances Created: RS: 41 | AJ: 24

Defence

Tackles Won: RS: 77.5% | AJ: 80%
Clearances: RS: 13 | AJ: 8
Blocks: RS: 1 | AJ: 2
Interceptions: RS: 16 | AJ: 14
Duels Won: RS: 174 | AJ: 113
Aerial Duels won: RS: 20 | AJ: 16
Recoveries: RS: 133 | AJ: 73

It should be noted that Sterling has played 5 more league games than Janujaz, which means he's had the chance to accrue higher figures in some areas. Both are clearly top quality young players, but if Januzaj is worth £40m, how much is Sterling - who's clearly performing at a higher level - worth?

Here's hoping PSG come in and steal Janujaz over the summer. Anything that weakens Man Utd gets the thumbs-up from me :-)

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4/17/2014 01:59:00 pm

'Not serious': Massive injury boost for LFC as BR hints at 'very good recovery' for £12m star

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed some positive injury news ahead of this weekend's Premier League game with Norwich City.

Daniel Sturridge suffered a hamstring injury during LFC's massive weekend victory over Manchester City, and when asked about the nature of the injury, Rodgers told reporters:

"He [Sturridge] may well make a very good recovery over the next few days and ready for the weekend.

"At this moment in time, we're just assessing him. He does recover very quickly, and it's certainly not as serious as hamstring injuries can be"


That's good news, but in my view, Sturridge should be kept out of the Norwich game irrespective of his recovery.

Obviously, Sturridge want to play, but there's no sense rushing him back and then risking an injury relapse. hamstring injuries are tricky, and if he's not sufficiently well-rested, there's always a chance of aggravating the hamstring again.

A similar issue arose with Daniel Agger earlier in the season. The Dane got injured on international duty, and then played against Southampton, only to be forced off with a reoccurrence of the same injury after 56 minutes (having made a mistake that led directly to the Saints' winning goal). After the match, Agger admitted:

"I shouldn't have played. I made a mistake to say I was ready"

I foresee a similar situation with Sturridge, but hopefully, Rodgers won't make the same mistake again.

If Sturridge must be in the squad, have him on the bench; Liverpool need him fully-fit for the Chelsea game, and I'm sure missing that game will be more disappointing than having to sit out the Norwich match.

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4/17/2014 10:59:00 am

Transfer Confusion: £9m LFC star wants 'transfer to another club', but Agent claims he wants to stay at Anfield.

The Agent of Liverpool attacker Iago Aspas has dismissed speculation that the struggling Spaniard is set to leave Anfield this summer.

Aspas has played just 161 minutes of football in 2014 (an average of 35 minutes per month) and despite the fact it's clear he'll never be a regular starter for the Reds, his agent, Jose Rodriguez Baster, insists that he is 'happy' at Anfield.

Discussing Aspas's future yesterday, Baster told GianlucaDiMarzio.com.

"He wants to play more, but there is no possibility of Iago returning to Spain. He has a four-year contract with Liverpool and is happy to be at Liverpool".

Baster's comments seem to contradict Aspas's own intentions. In an interview last week, the Spaniard made it clear he wants to leave Liverpoll. He told FTBpro:

"I'm not 20 years old anymore, I can't go on loan and explode. The best would be to transfer to another club. This is the hardest part. I used to play almost all the matches and I arrived here playing much less. This is the tough side of football."

Baster's comments are clearly damage limitation, and an attempt to take the focus away from Aspas's comments about leaving. Privately, though, I'm sure the £9m striker wants to leave.

Aspas - along with Alberto, Ilori, Borini, Assaidi, Sahin, and Moses - is part of a £35m collective outlay (by Brendan Rodgers) on signings who've made zero impact for Liverpool.

The Reds should've signed a young, hungry, inexperienced striker in the 18-21 range; someone happy to play a reduced role, whilst learning from SAS throughout the season. That way, the club would (probably) have a developing asset on its hands right now, rather than an unhappy player who wants out.

Why would Aspas want to stay, anyway? Yes, it's Liverpool, but surely he has more ambition that to just sit on the bench every season? He's 27, and in the prime of his career - Aspas should be playing regular football. Choosing to stay in the current circumstances will show a staggering lack of personal ambition (IMO).

Having said that, Liverpool may have no choice but to keep Aspas for another year. Right now, the clubs stands to make another financial loss, as I can't see any club paying £9m plus for a player who clearly can't cut it in the Premier League. The Reds may have to give Aspas some games in the first part of next season and hope he plays well enough to inflate his value, and then sell in the January transfer window.

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4/17/2014 06:30:00 am

Aldo blasts: LFC's 'whining' Prem rivals are not a 'proper big club'. Agree...?

it's fair to say that Liverpool legend John Aldridge is not a fan of Chelsea. He criticised the club and their 'moaning' manager Jose Mourinho many times this season, and he's now taken yet another sideswipe at the Blues this week, suggesting that they're not really a 'big' club.

In his column for Sunday World, Aldo criticised Mourinho for 'whining all season' about Liverpool's success, and delivered the following broadside against Chelsea:

"Unlike Chelsea, City are a proper ‘big club’, and they are also the sworn enemies of Manchester United, so they have a few things in common with Liverpool".

Take away Abramovich's cash over the last 10 years, and Chelsea would probably struggling in mid-table obscurity right now. Like Man City, they have basically bought their Premier League titles. Granted, all clubs spend money to compete, but Chelsea have taken it to another level with the seemingly limitless transfer funds.

Money doesn't always buy consistent success, though, and that is proven many times over the years. Indeed, despite Man City's riches, they have only one Premier League title to date, and Chelsea are flailing in the race this seaso despite a series of huge purchases over the last year.

As for Chelsea not being a 'proper big club' - I'd agree with that. Their 'history' as a footballing force is negligible, and a league win in 1955 is their only title victory prior to the Premier League era.

No one wants Chelsea to win the league. As Manuel Pellegrini summed it up over the weekend, when he told reporters:

"It would be very disappointing if either of the two teams who scored the most goals don’t win the league. For football, for the fans, for everyone it would be disappointing. I think that the most attractive football, the more goals you can score, should be rewarded".

It will be a massive anti-climax if Mourinho's stultifying brand of anti-football leads to the title. Hopefully, though, Liverpool will put the Blues to the sword in a couple of weeks, and finally kill-off any lingering chance of Chelsea soiling this massively exciting season.

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4/16/2014 08:50:00 pm

Dream Deal: €40m star who'd 'like to play for LFC' says he 'admires Gerrard'. Sign...?

Over the last five years, Liverpool have repeatedly tried to sign Atletico Madrid winger Arda Turan, who is a self-confessed admirer of the club. The latest attempt reportedly came during the January transfer window, and with the summer transfer window just around the corner, the Turkey international has once again revealed his love for LFC.

When asked last week if he is Liverpool fan, Turan told Four-Four-Two magazine:

"I've always played for teams in red [Galatasaray, Manisaspor, Turkey] and I've always admired Steven Gerrard. So yes, I have a soft spot for Liverpool, especially given their history and the atmosphere at Anfield".

Turan's transfer history with LFC:

* Apr 2009: Rafa Benitez made a €10m move for Turan, a self-confessed Liverpool fan, but the tricky winger ended up moving to Atletico Madrid.

* Dec 2009: Turan made it clear that he favours a move to Liverpool: told reporters: "I most want to play at Liverpool because of the culture of the club and the fans"

* Mar 2010: Turan reiterated his Anfield preference: "As I always mention, Liverpool attracts me because of their tradition. In Europe, I am a Liverpool supporter, so if I go to play in Europe, I would like to play for Liverpool".

* Oct 2012: Nuri Sahin posted a picture on his Twitter account of Turan in a Liverpool shirt.

* Oct 2012: Liverpool sent an 'observer' to watch Turan in Turkey's World Cup qualifier with Romania.

* Dec 2012: Turan's Agent, Ahmed Bulut, told Turkish television channel TRT: "Arda wants to play for another club, to live a different experience. We are working now to make it happen. Atletico know what our intention is. If all goes well, Arda will leave the Madrid club at the end of this season."

* Mar 2013: Reports in Spain claim that the Reds are lining up a €20m summer bid for the Turkish star.

* Aug 2013: ESPN claimed both Liverpool and Arsenal are 'interested' in signing Turan during the summer transfer window.

* Aug 2013: Turan's agent confirmed that English clubs are on the prowl. He told NTV Sport: "A transfer of Arda to the Premier League this summer is likely. England is where most of the interest in him lies and there have been discussions."

* Jan 2014: The Liverpool Echo reported: "Brendan Rodgers [is] pondering a move for Atletico Madrid winger Arda Turan. Liverpool [could] make a play for the former Galatasaray star before the end of the January"

In a recent press conference, Reporters quizzed Madrid Coach Diego Simeone on Turan's future, and the Argentinean boss gave the following emphatic reply:

"Arda isn’t going, definitely. He has a contract with the club, he’s ours, he’s an extremely important player for the squad and he demonstrates it when he has to".

Turan to Liverpool is a nice idea, but I doubt it will happen, for the following reasons:

* Atletico are top of the league right now, and are in with a great chance of breaking the Barca/Real Madrid monopoly this season. Why would Turan want to leave that?

* Turan's recent injury history is a concern; in the last 18 months, he's suffered three separate incidents, and the last thing Liverpool need right now is to buy more injury-prone players.

* Turan has a €40m buyout clause in his new contract, and if Atletico win La Liga, his transfer fee will probably be prohibitive.

If Liverpool are to make a concrete move, then it should be this summer. At the age of 27 years, Turan is in his prime, and if Atletico win La Liga, he may feel that he's achieved everything he can at the club. After all, the chances of Atletico winning the league again next season are incredibly slim. Additionally, if - as is expected - Diego Costa leaves the club, Turan may feel that the time is right for him to move on too.

Imagine a Costa/Turan double-deal for LFC in the summer...



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4/16/2014 02:39:00 pm

Redknapp raves: £11m for 'fantastic' star is 'money well spent'. Huge loss for LFC...?

Last year, I consistently pushed for Liverpool to sign Spurs star Christian Eriksen, and felt sick when Spurs snapped him up for a ridiculously low fee. Andre Villas Boas' signings last summer have, for the most part, collectively failed, but Eriksen is a success, and former LFC midfielder Jamie Redknapp insists that the £11.5m spent on the youngster is 'money well spent'.

In his column for the Daily Mail on Monday, Redknapp praised Eriksen's ability to score crucial goals for Spurs, and highlighted his last-gasp leveller against West Brom; his winner at Old Trafford, and his two goals against Southampton when then London club were 2-0 down. He further enthused:

"He [Eriksen] has fantastic ability on the ball, good vision and great imagination. He has made the most assists at the club and also created nearly twice as many chances as the next best Tottenham player"

Eriksen has 18 goals/assists in 32 games for Spurs this season, which is a rate of one goal/assist every 1.7 games. How is that anything but a success story? Compare that with Coutinho - who has 12 goals/assists in 33 apps - and it's clear that the Dane is doing fantastically well, especially given the managerial upheaval at White Hart Lane this season. Re chances created, Eriksen is right up there with LFC's midfielders:

* Henderson: 60 chances created.
* Gerrard: 57
* Eriksen: 54
* Coutinho: 53
* Sterling: 41

I'm still gutted Liverpool didn't sign Eriksen. At Spurs, he's playing with a group of inconsistent individuals; imagine him playing alongside Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling, Gerrard et al. It's a mouth-watering prospect, and if he'd joined Liverpool, he undoubtedly would've played a lot this season:

* Cover for Suarez in the first six games of the season.
* Cover for Coutinho's injury period.
* Cover for Gerrard's injury period.

Etc.

I'm not saying Eriksen would've been a cover player all season - initially, perhaps, but I have no doubt that he would've forced himself into being a regular starter. He'd also be superb competition for both Henderson and Coutinho, and at the age of 22, he could've been a mainstay at Liverpool for years.

What's the better deal? £15m on Aspas and Alberto, or £11.5m on Eriksen? It's an absolute no-brainer, and given his contribution for Spurs this season, it's highly probable he'd have a similar impact at Anfield.

In my view, Liverpool lost out big time here, but there may still be a chance to sign the Dane. Why not put in a cheeky bid this summer? I'm sure Eriksen will prefer to play in the Champions League next season.

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4/16/2014 11:26:00 am

'My name's on their list': £7.5m 'revelation' hints he'll 'be an LFC player next season'

Last year, Liverpool legend John Aldridge urged the Reds to think seriously about signing West Ham star Mohamed Diame, a player pursued by Kenny Dalglish during his second spell in charge at the club. Nothing happened over the summer, but the Reds continue to be regularly linked with the powerful central midfielder, and according to the man himself, Liverpool are still interested.

In his column for the Liverpool Echo , Aldo heaped praise on Diame:, enthusing:

"I would urge Liverpool to keep tabs on Mohamed Diame. He is a brute of a midfielder. A tremendous player and so strong and powerful in that central role, and he is exactly what the Reds need in there. Diame is certainly one for future reference".

When asked about his future this week, Diame told reporters:

"Liverpool? I can’t tell you if I will be a Liverpool player next season, but I think my name is still on their wanted list. I don’t hide it, I’m ambitious and I want to join a top-six side. I am 26 years old and it’s time to take that step".

The Reds were last linked with Diame in December, when the Essex Guardian reported:

"Liverpool may make a move for West Ham United midfielder Mohamed Diame with Reds captain Steven Gerrard ruled out for six to eight weeks".

Diame definitely has a £3.5m (€5m) buyout clause in his contract, as confirmed by his Agent, Willie McKay, in December 2012, when he told the Daily Mail:

"Diame was a free transfer and believed he could command a better salary than he was offered so to compensate for that the clause was put in so he could leave in six months time for £3.5m"

Based on McKay's comment about being able to leave for £3.5 'in six months', it seems likely that the clause expired in June 2013. Indeed, Fulham put in a bid of £7.5 during the January transfer window, so the chance to get him on the cheap is probably slim.

Prior to having his contract terminated, Kenny Dalgish pinpointed Diame as a possible free transfer signing in the summer. Liverpool's interest ended when Dalglish left, and the 24-year admits he was 'sad' to miss out on the move. He told the Liverpool Echo:

“I met with Kenny Dalglish and we talked about next season [2012-2013], but God decided to finish this situation. It is true I was very sad in my head as I was thinking to go there”

Sam Allardyce recently revealed that he sought Dalglish's advice prior to signing Diame. He recalled:

"I spoke to Kenny about signing Mo. For me, it just made me feel so much better to have Kenny saying ‘Yeah, we were going to take him. It gives you that bit more ­confidence. To have somebody of Kenny’s ­experience backing up your ­judgment is a big help".

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp is a fan of Diame, and after watching him dominate Chelsea's midfield during West Ham's 3-1 victory in December 2013, he wrote:

"I like the look of Mohamed Diame at West Ham; he’s a cross between Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure. He overpowered Chelsea’s midfield on Saturday. Can West Ham keep him? He came on a free and has an agreed get-out clause. There will be lots of interest now".

West Ham legend Trevor Brooking also rates the Senegalese international, and he praised the midfielder to the hilt in a recent interview. He raved:

“The lad has been a revelation for us. Diame has been fantastic. He’s been the player of the season really.”

It seems like Liverpool fans have been calling for Diame (or a player in a similar mould) for years now, but he's definitely not a replacement for Gerrard, even in the short term. They're two very different players, and Diame would be a better challenger for Lucas.

Would Diame fit in at Anfield, though, and where would he play?



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4/16/2014 04:45:00 am

Rip-Off? After Agent meeting, LFC told to pay £30m for BR's 'unstoppable' top-target

Liverpool continue to be linked with a summer move for Benfica midfielder Lazar Markovic, and the Reds are reportedly taking concrete steps to secure a deal for the exciting Serb, though the price tag appears to be prohibitive.

The story so far:

* April 10th: Liverpool scouts watched Markovic in Benfica's Europa League game with AZ Alkmaar.

* March: Liverpool's Chief Scout watched 20-year-old Markovic during Serbia's 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland.

March: The Mirror reported: "Liverpool are bidding to beat Chelsea in the £20million chase for Lazar Markovic. He has been on the Kop radar since he was a kid. Brendan Rodgers wants to land the Benfica wide man in a massive deal"

Well, it seems the Reds will indeed have to pay a 'massive' fee to land Markovic. According to reports this week:

* Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers 'has been quoted' £30million by Benfica for Markovic.
* Markovic is allegedly the manager's 'top target' this summer.
* LFC 'officials' have met with the player’s agents to talk about a deal.

Markovic is a massive Chelsea fan, and seemingly has his heart set on a move to Stamford Bridge, as he revealed recently:

"Chelsea [is] my dream. I had all the pictures on my wall at home back to when they had Gianfranco Zola. And any time they are on TV I try to watch them. Chelsea are the best".

The presence at Stamford Bridge of fellow Serb Nemanja Matic could be a deciding factor in any move to the Premier League, and the midfield is a big fan Markovic. In February, he told O Jogo:

“He [Markovic] will mature and then he'll be unstoppable. It was great to have played with this fantastic kid for six months.”

I just don't understand all the hype. How is Markovic worth £30m? What has he achieved in the game to warrant that inflated price-tag? Take this season, for example: 6 goals/0 assists in 35 appearances. Is that what £30m buys these days? Coutinho has 5 goals/7 assists this season, and he cost only £8m.

If Liverpool are going to spend that kind of money on an attacking player, he better offer a shedload of goals/assists, and that clearly is not the case with Markovic. Given the fact he's predominantly a winger, his lack of assists is especially concerning.

Massive fees should (IMO) be reserved for players who are the finished article, and will come into the team and make an immediate impact. There's absolutely no guarantee that Markovic will do that, and if he can't create a single goal in the Portuguese league, how is he going to fare in the (arguably) superior - and tougher - Premier League?

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4/15/2014 08:15:00 pm

'I wondered if...' - Man Utd hero reveals doubts over Suarez being 'top class'. Fair...?

Luis Suarez was lucky to remain on the field during Sunday's win over Manchester City, and after a season of mostly excellent behaviour on the pitch, he left himself down by reverting to his old diving antics. Histrionics aside, Suarez is far and away the best attacking player in the Premier League this season, and deserves to win the Player of the Year award, but Man United legend Gary Neville admits that he had doubts that the Uruguayan could reach his current level of brilliance.

Speaking to EA Sports over the weekend, Neville hailed Suarez's performance levels as 'the highest quality', but conceded he once had doubts about the striker's overall quality. He explained:

"12-18 months ago I wondered if Suárez was really top class. There is no doubt about that now. His work rate and tenacity is just incredible".

Over the last '12-18 months', Suarez's involvement in a series of unsavoury incidents has obscured his football genius at times, but it has always been there, and now that the Uruguayan has - for the most part - left the cheating/gamesmanship behind, the quality of his football is consistently shining through.

I may be one of Suarez's biggest critics (and I make no apology for that), but I've never doubted his quality, and the Uruguayan has been top class (in terms of football performance) ever since he signed for Liverpool.

Suarez is Liverpool's Eric Cantona, and like the Frenchman, he's sparked an on-field revolution at Anfield, which has propelled the Reds to the brink of the Premier League title.

Man City is a step-backwards, though, for Suarez. The overriding memory of his contribution to that game is constant diving/going to ground easily, and hassling the referee, but hopefully it's a one-off, and we'll return to lauding his football skills next week.

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4/15/2014 03:00:00 pm

Lucas Killer? Reds favourites to sign €9m powerhouse who's 'very happy to join' LFC

During the January transfer window, multiple reports claimed that Liverpool planned to make a bid for Udinese defensive midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Nothing came of the interest, but the Ghana international admitted that he'd love to join Liverpool, and reports this week suggest that the Reds will go back in for midfielder this summer.

Liverpool's European scouts have personally recommended Badu to Rodgers, and according to reports in Italy today:

* Liverpool are 'leading the race' to sign 23-year old Badu.

* Badu is valued at €9m, but Udinese hope the World Cup will drive up his price.

When asked in January about Liverpool's interest, Badu made it clear that he'd love a move to Anfield. He told reporters:

"It has always been my dream to play in England. We played against Liverpool in the Europa League last year so I know all about them. I would be very happy to join them. The chance to play for such a big club is something I couldn’t pass up."

Some info about Badu:

* Can play in midfield or defence, and that versatility is almost certainly an attraction for Rodgers, who seems to be obsessed with players who can operate in several different positions.

* 2011: Voted Ghana’s best player in Italy.

* 2012: Nominated for FIFA goal of the year award for his strike against Guinea in the 2012 African Nations Cup.

* 2012: Shortlisted for the Puskas Goal of the Year Award, alongside Newymar, Falcao, Lionel Messi and several others. Responding to the nomination, Badu enthused: "I was not expecting it and it came to me by surprise. I'm happy and privileged to be nominated among all these big names like Messi, Falcao and Neymar and others"

* 2012: Nominated for the African Player of the Year award by the Ghana Football Association, and praised by the GFA Chief as 'outstanding'.

* Has some lofty career ambitions, and he revealed in a recent interview: "I want to be remembered as a player who won the African [player of the year], the European [footballer of the year], or a Champions League medal. I know it is a long road but I’m ready to make the dream come to reality."

* 7 goals in 48 appearances for Ghana.

Reds fans have repeatedly called for Brendan Rodgers to sign a tough, physically imposing central midfielder, but Badu is the same height as Sterling and Coutinho, so is he the right choice for the role?

If Liverpool are to sign a defensive midfielder, perhaps it should be a big, strong unit, not another small(ish) player who can be muscled off the ball?

Having said that, Javier Mascherano isn't the biggest player, and he did a good job as a defensive midfielder for LFC, so perhaps it isn't really an issue...?

If Liverpool are planning to sign a dedicated defensive midfielder, what does this mean for Lucas? As well as being increasingly injury prone, Lucas has lost his automatic starting place to Steven Gerrard, and is now limited to camoe appearances.

Signing a new DM may be a sign of Rodgers's decreasing faith in Lucas's reliability.



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