November - 2007

2511: Mourinho linked as Benitez faces...
1811: Rafa's Reds eye double capture
1711: Bayern 'sound out' Rafa
1711: Villa ready to offer £20m for Carson...
1611: Liverpool to sell Peter Crouch for £10m
1611: Reds track Spanish gem
1411: Liverpool join race to sign Argentine...

Mourinho linked as Benitez
faces Liverpool axe

Jose Mourinho is being sensationally linked with Liverpool after Rafa Benitez's latest tirade against the club's American owners.

The News of the World says Liverpool's owners were already preparing to ditch the Spanish boss after tiring of the constant behind-the-scenes bickering but this week's developments have sealed his fate.

It's now a matter of when not if the Spanish boss leaves Anfield and that's expected to be sooner rather than later.

Despite his epic Anfield bust-ups while at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho tops a wanted list already being assembled by the owners.

An approach will be made once Benitez's departure is confirmed.

After victory at Newcastle, Benitez said: "I have passion for this club. The fans who were with me in Istanbul know what it means to me."

With no resignation on the horizon, Hicks and Gillett are now ready to swing their axe regardless of Liverpool's league placing or Champions League progress.

Rafa's Reds eye double capture

By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports

Liverpool are eyeing a major double signing as Rafa Benitez looks to make Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Garay permanent members of his squad.

Benitez is reported to have made a major breakthrough in his negotiations with MSI, the company that own Mascherano’s playing rights.

MSI, who also control Carlos Tevez's involvement with Manchester United, initially wanted a reported £17 million fee for the Argentinean ball-winner, who has enjoyed an impressive 11 months on Merseyside.

However, it is believed Liverpool have agreed for that £17 million fee to include the player’s wages over a five-year spell – beating off interest from Barcelona.

The news would please goalkeeper Jose Reina, who stated: “It is quite important because Mascherano has been one of our best players so far.

“It was a loan, a clever loan, and we have to take the next step which is to get him for a few years.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool have been boosted in their pursuit of 21-year-old centre back Garay after he revealed he would love to play in England.

Garay was named in La Liga’s team of the season last year, and he currently has a £14.2 million buy-out clause at Racing Santander.

“To play in England is a dream,” he was quoted as saying in The News of the World.

“My head is in Racing but I would like to progress.”

Manchester United are also monitoring the defender.

Bayern 'sound out' Rafa

Football 365

Bayern Munich have reportedly 'sounded Rafa Benitez out' about becoming their manager at the end of the season.

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is unlikely to remain in the job beyond the summer, despite some heavy spending on the likes of Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Franck Ribery, players that have taken Munich to the top of the Bundesliga.

The Daily Mail claims that tensions behind the scenes in Bavaria will mean Hitzfeld - in his second spell in charge of Bayern - will not have his contract renewed beyond the end of this season.

Indeed, Hitzfeld has reportedly told friends he will take over as coach of the Switzerland national side after Euro 2008.

The Mail reports that Bayern have already approached Benitez about taking over in Germany, but that the Liverpool manager is likely to rebuff the approach.

Villa ready to offer £20m
for Carson and Crouch

By Jason Burt - The Independent

Rafael Benitez has been told he has to sell before he can buy more players for Liverpool – with Aston Villa hoping to sign both Peter Crouch and Scott Carson in the January transfer window.

A £10m deal is thought to be already in place for Carson to turn his season-long loan spell at Villa Park into a permanent move while the club's manager Martin O'Neill has told Liverpool he intends to bid for Crouch. He would also cost upwards of £10m. Both players featured for England in last night's friendly against Austria, with Carson making his debut.

If Benitez, who is under pressure to deliver trophies, having spent more than £40m last summer with the arrival of players such as Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, can secure the deals he will make a move for the Racing Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay. With Daniel Agger injured, although soon to return to fitness, and Sami Hyypia an unconvincing replacement, Benitez desperately needs to shore up his defence for the rest of the campaign having been prevented, by an arbitration panel, from signing Gabriel Heinze.

Garay, a 21-year-old and, like Heinze, Argentinian, is also likely to cost around £10m with Benitez expected to seek a buyer for John Arne Riise as he attempts to balance the books further and keep the club's American owners happy. Riise has just 18 months left on his contract and is unlikely to be offered a new deal.

It means that Liverpool could be one of the busiest clubs when the transfer window opens. It's also a clear sign that Benitez got his calculations wrong during the summer while selling two English players and buying another foreigner will only add more fuel to the growing debate over quotas – especially as the Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, has already expressed his concern.

The departure of Carson is wholly expected, given that the 22-year-old has spent virtually all of his Liverpool career on loan, including last season at Charlton Athletic, since he joined from Leeds United for £750,000 in 2005. The sale represents a tidy profit for Liverpool even if some will be disappointed Benitez never gave any indication that the highly regarded goalkeeper would be allowed to challenge Pepe Reina as the club's No 1.

Liverpool set the ball rolling for Crouch's expected transfer by contacting a number of Premier League clubs earlier this week, partly in an effort to drive the price for the 26-year-old as high as possible. Portsmouth and Newcastle United would like to sign Crouch but Villa – like Portsmouth, one of his former clubs – have shown the greatest interest. Manchester City, after an initial interest, prefer to pursue the Brazilian Afonso Alves from the Dutch club Heerenveen. His fee and wages would be cheaper.

No price has yet been discussed for Crouch, although Villa will probably have to break their transfer record which was set only last January when they bought Ashley Young – who also made his England debut against the Austrians – from Watford for £9.65m.

Crouch has prospered since Liverpool beat West Ham to his signature two years ago with a £7m move from Southampton, winning 23 caps for England and scoring 12 goals for his country, but he has undoubtedly fallen down the pecking order of strikers with the arrival of Torres and Dirk Kuyt.

There has been some talk of friction within the Liverpool camp, and claims that Crouch has an attitude problem, but these are wide of the mark.

Benitez himself has rejected such suggestions and, even though he has used Crouch, who remains extremely popular with Liverpool fans, sparingly he said recently: "He's a nice boy, a good professional, a good players. It is clear that this team now, with four strikers, creates more competition for places, but I don't have any problems because Crouch is a good player."

It seems certain that his departure is driven mainly by economic reasons, given Liverpool's high spending under Benitez, who will now use Babel more in his preferred position as a central striker rather than seek a replacement for Crouch.

Liverpool to sell Peter Crouch for £10m

By Vicki Hodges - The Daily Telegraph

Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez is ready to offload striker Peter Crouch for the best available price in the January transfer window.

It is thought that Crouch's change of attitute this season has angered Benitez, who in turn is now prepared to sell the England international for a fee in excess of £10 million.

According to the Daily Mail's report, Crouch will insist on seeing out the 18 months left on his contract if Liverpool demand £15m for his services.

Crouch's future at Anfield has been the topic of hot debate this season with the former Southampton striker repeatedly linked with a move to rival Premier League clubs.

Manchester City, Newcastle and his former Aston Villa club have all expressed their interest in signing the 6ft 7in striker - at the right price - and could come in with concrete bids for the player in January.

Benitez has limited Crouch to a bit-part role this season having recruited Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin during the summer.

The Spaniard had indiciated his wish to hold on to the 26-year-old and use him as an impact player, but it now seems that Benitez is finally losing patience with him.

It has been claimed that Crouch's work ethic in training has been affected by his status as an England player.

Crouch's goalscoring record at international level has earned him a large fanbase and the player is set to win his 23rd and 24th caps in England's friendly with Austria tonight and their potentially crucial Euro 2008 qualifer against Croatia next week.

Reds track Spanish gem

By Graeme Bailey - Sky Sports

Liverpool are on the trail of Athletic Bilbao's brilliant young midfielder Javi Martinez.

The Basque playmaker has been outstanding this term at San Mames, carrying on from his successful campaign last season - which was his first in La Liga.

Athletic raised a number of eyebrows in Spain when they splashed out 6 million euros (£4.2million) for him as an untested 18-year-old playing with Osasuna's second string.

But 18 months on, some of Europe's biggest hitters are now tracking the 19-year-old who is also a regular in Spain Under 21 side.

Liverpool and Fiorentina are both tracking Martinez very carefully and scouts from both clubs have been present at recent Athletic games.

The Reds are currently well stocked with pivotal midfielders as Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and Mohamed Sissoko are all able partners for captain Steven Gerrard in the centre of the park.

But Rafa Benitez has never been afraid to bring fresh talent into his squad and so, with Sissoko reportedly unhappy with life as a squad man at Anfield, there could be room to bring Martinez in.

But Benitez also knows he is not the only man looking to land Martinez - whose current get-out clause stands at 24 million euros (£17.1million) as he has more than four years remaining on his contract.

Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli was hugely impressed by Martinez in pre-season after the two sides met in a friendly and he has been following him closely ever since.

Now a battle could ensue, although Benitez would always be seen as favourite given his continued close links with his homeland.

Liverpool are also known to have been impressed by Martinez's team-mate Fernando Amorebieta and a double bid could yet be a possibility.

Liverpool join race
to sign Argentine defender

By Vicki Hodges - The Daily Telegraph

Liverpool have joined Manchester United and Real Madrid in the race to sign Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay.

Coach Rafael Benitez will utilise his Spanish contacts to land the Racing Santander centre-back for £10 million in the January transfer window.

"I've no doubt next year he'll be playing for one of the big clubs," Santander coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said in the Mirror.

"I have to assume he'll leave because we are a selling club, and because he is a truly great player."

Manchester United have been tracking the 21-year-old with Sir Alex Ferguson's brother Martin thought to have made several scouting trips to watch the defender in action.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, are also keen to sign the Argentinian and see him as the player who could eventually succeed Fabio Cannavaro.

Liverpool coach Benitez has already expressed his concern at his squads current lack of defensive options this season.

Although Daniel Agger is on course to return from a metatarsal injury later this month, his injury has left Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyppia as the only two experienced central defenders in the set-up.

Alvaro Arbeloa can be used as a make-shift centre-half, while 19-year-old Jack Hobbs has only made two appearances in the Carling Cup this season.

Thor Zakariassen ©