It’s been an eventful two week stretch in Sven’s world, with Jury Duty and other assorted excitements occupying the bulk of waking time, so new posts have been reduced to the weekly Friday transfer wrap-up. Yet, nothing has really fallen by the wayside as, unlike the weather, the transfer market is only just starting to warm-up. For everybody other than Liverpool, it seems.
Although my weekly recommended footie fix has been met with multiple pick-up, co-ed and 6v6 league games, not mention Gold Cup and Copa America viewings, I must admit to suffering from Liverpool withdraws. There’s only so many times you can read the news, visit the Official Site and RAWK or entertain yourself with statistics of years gone by from LFCHistory.net. In fact, I almost re-watched the Champion’s League final yesterday, but decided to save it for a depressing rainy day.
While no news of earth-shattering proportions have eminated from the Merseyside, there has certainly been measurable seismic activity. Firstly, former Ajax player Piet Hamberg was named as the new Technical Manager of the Academy, replacing the void created when Steve Heighway’s resigned. Youth coach John Owens and scout Malcolm Elias also got promotions, to Academy Manager and Director of Recruitment, respectively.
“I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be, So I learned to depend on me
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me, They can’t take away my dignity”
By all accounts, Rafa is doing his best to overhaul the youth set-up in hopes of producing the next batch of (most likely foreign) Gerrards, Owens & Carraghers. And this announcement of the Academy’s new management structure dovetails nicely with actual transfer business done by the club this week. *smirk* Shocking!
First to come aboard was Nikolay Mihaylov, a 19-year old (as of Thursday) Bulgarian goalkeeper from perpetual Champions League whipping boys, Levski Sofia. No word on the fee, though. The U-21 net minder has signed on for three years and had this to say about coming to Liverpool:
I have no words.
Seriously. But, he did eventually manage to mention that it was the best day of his life. Interestingly enough, his father is president of the Bulgarian Football Union.
Next up is central defender Mikel San Jose (age 18), who has come to us from Athletic Bilbao for the bargain price of £270,000.
Also announced are two more U-18 additions, Swedish winger Alex Kacaniklic (from Helsinborgs) and German striker Marvin Pourie (via Borussia Dortmund).
edit: Liverpool have also apparently signed Dani Pacheco, a 16-year old striker from Barcelona. Nicknamed ‘The Killer’, he is regarded as one of the top youngsters in the Spanish club’s youth system.
Listening to the always entertaining MPRed podcast (from the NY Supporter’s Club, available for free through iTunes), there was a comment that suggested Rafa’s collection of talent was more or less an attempt to copy Arsenal’s blueprint of youth success. I tend to agree.
Some of the younger players recently brought to the club:
- Jordy Brouwer – 19-year old Dutch striker
- Martin Hansen – 17-year old Danish goalkeeper
- Francisco Duran – 19-year old Spanish midfielder
- Ronald Huth – 17-year old Paraguayan defender
- Besian Idrizaj – 19-year old Austrian winger
- Godwin Antwi – 19-year old Ghanian/Spanish defender
- Nabil El Zhar – 20-year old Morrocan winger/striker
- Miki Roque – 18-year old Spanish defender
- Emiliano Insua (loan) – 18-year old Argentinian defender
- Sebastian Leto – 20-year old Argentinian midfielder
- Lucas Leiva – 2o-year old Brazilian midfielder
- Krisztian Nemeth – 18-year old Hungarian striker
- Andras Simon – 17-year old Hungarian striker
- Astrit Ajdarevic – 16-year old Swedish midfielder
As Rafa continues to stock the cupboard with talent from various time zones, the likelihood of unearthing a real gem steadily rises. If only one or two of these players (or anybody to come in the future) eventually end up shining and going on to force their way into the starting XI, the money, time and effort continually spent identifying, signing and grooming them will be more than worth it.
This is the basic idea behind the youth system and I’m glad to see Rafa gets it. Mind you, we haven’t even talked about the homegrown lads.
While he continues to have our scouts comb the globe (“Comb the desert!” “Man, we ain’t found shit!”) for fresh faces, the continued improvement of the Academy and its players are crucial to our long-term success. The ability to produce Robbie Fowlers and Steven Gerrards is critical, as it will literally save the club tens of millions of pounds if they can cultivate their own stars from ‘scratch’. It may be especially critical if and when FIFA successfully implements/inforces the mandated numbers of homegrown players on any given squad.
Easier said than done, right?
In other Liverpool-related news, Harry Kewell has been getting some press ahead of the Asian Cup. As his favored Socceroos prepare to lock horns with heavyweights like Iran and Korea, Harry has been musing about how totally awesome it is to be injury-free. Shockingly, during his 11-month lay-off, it occurred to Kewell that his career might be over.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think everything was going to be over but I had strong support behind me which pulled me through. You get over one injury and another one appears and all of a sudden they all round up in one big piece and you think ‘am I ever going to be the same?’
He was certainly not the only one to ponder that possiblity, and honestly, the jury may still be out in some people’s minds. I have no idea what plans Rafa may have for the Aussie; I’m alright to see him leave, but a fit Kewell could be an exciting addition to the squad. Let’s see if he can report back for preseason training injury-free and we’ll take it from there.
Also, Carlsberg will be the ‘Official Club Sponsor’ for another three years, as LFC and the Danish beermaker have extended the deal to the end of the 09/10 season. I believe this is also the year when Liverpool’s deal with adidas comes to an end. And, the new stadium should be opening then too. Looks like we’ll be moving into Stanley Park free of contractual obligations.
Oh, the plans for the Stanley Park stadium are due to be unveiled next month.
On that note, let’s rake the dirty transfer muck, shall we?
- Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman would like to bring Godwin Antwi back to the club after the defender spent two months on loan there last season. Coleman is understood to be interested in loaning Antwi for the duration of the upcoming season. While I’m unsure where the 19-year old stands in terms of his progression, first team football is always critical in the ongoing development of any player. I just can’t help but wonder if he would be aided with a level of competition higher than League Two. (edit: Only hours after this post went up, as if just to taunt me, League One side Hartlepool United signed Antwi to a season-long loan deal)
- Phase One apparently continues as Mohamed Sissoko is going nowhere. After rumors surfaced last month that newly-promoted Juve were coming in with a £10m bid, Momo has now signed a new deal that gives him until 2011 to record his first Liverpool goal. Can you imagine what a midfield Liverpool will boast if they actually sign a winger of high quality?! (Understand that’s not a knock on the youngsters, Pennant and Gonzalez. I think younger talent playing at such a high level like the Premiership should be allowed time to grow) But, really, who has a stronger central midfield than us right now? And, maybe more importantly, Rafa has grown a goatee!
- As part of the escalating Torres Talk (more on that later), ‘Lil Luis Garcia has stated that he’d be open to serving as transfer bait for Atletico Madrid. While I rather like the idea of having Garcia as a super-sub, especially with his ability to play on either flank, I’d be willing to part with him if that’s what it takes to land such a highly valued striker. £16m and the little Spainard has been rumored to already been rejected, though. For his part, Luis has this to say:
Liverpool are in my thoughts at the moment, but one day I would like to come back, and not to Barcelona, but to Atletico Madrid, who are always in my thoughts.
- Rafa has stated that there will not be any more loan spells for Djibril Cisse. If you want him, you’ll have to buy him. Cash money. The Frenchman has also had his name mentioned as a counterweight in the Torres firestorm. Reportedly, Cisse’s agents have been instructed to go to work on Atletico’s management. Go get ’em, boys.
- Oh yea, Peter Crouch has also been lined up as a piece of the swap puzzle for Senor Torres as Madrid are supposed to have asked for him.
- Once again, Javier Mascherano has ‘urged’ Carlos Tevez to join him at Liverpool as he believes Anfield is the best possible destination for the forward. The pair are currently playing for Argentina in the Copa America, so here’s hoping Masch is whispering sweet nothings in Carlos’ ear about life at Liverpool. Quite honestly, I’d take Tevez over Torres in a ‘taquicardia‘. Interestingly, Inter are apparently now out of the running for his services. The Argentinian is said to have turned the Italian club down after they imposed a deadline for his decision on joining them. Real Madrid, fresh off of kicking the chair out from under Fabio Capello, are still extremely interested.
- PSV striker Arouna Kone and Ajax’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have randomly been selected for linkage with Liverpool this week. Congratulations, gentlemen.
- David Trezeguet says he blew off Liverpool in order to sign a new deal with Juventus. More specificially, he said his daddy (who serves as his agent) told him there was interest from Man U, ‘Pool and Barca. He’s had a splendid career, but I can’t say I’ve ever felt an ounce of desire to see him in red. Enjoy your stay with the Old Cheating Lady.
- With Spurs having agreed on a fee for Darren Bent (£16.5m), can the ‘Defoe to Liverpool’ rumors be far behind?
- Word on the street is that Chelsea have had their £12 million bid for Florent Malouda turned down by Lyon. Funny how talk linking him to Liverpool has cooled considerably as speculation about Chelsea’s interest has spread like veneral disease.
- Rumors are rampant that a LFC group are in Madrid, negotiating with Atletico over the sale of one Fernando Torres. One report puts the two clubs £8m apart in their valuations while most reports have Atletico Madrid valuing him at £25 or £27 million. Hence, the plethora of stories naming Cisse, Garcia and Crouch all as possible pawns in a part-exchange. Another rumored snag is that Torres himself is intitled to 10% of any fee and the Spanish club insists that Liverpool must pay this as well instead of having it come out of the overall fee. The Atletico fans have not embraced the idea of their young striker leaving, instead holding demonstrations in defiance of the club. The club’s major shareholder has come out to say that no one player makes a club and has alluded to a future without Torres. For their part, though, Atletico president Enrique Cerezo claims no offer has been received and, hypothetically, no decision could even be made until the player returns for preseason training on July 10. Rumors have also been flying that Diego Forlan is being lined up to replace Torres. (edit: This move seems to have become concrete over the weekend) As far as transfer speculation goes, this Torres saga has been, by far, the most elaborate to date. If you believe the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” mantra, then you probably should expect an annoucement by Monday the 11th. Or sooner. Or not at all.
- Yossi Benayoun continues to stall on signing a new 5-year deal at West Ham in hopes that Liverpool will come sweep him off his feet. If Luis Garcia were to actually make a move to Madrid, then this transfer would actually make a bit of sense. There are also reports that if Sven takes over at City, he could make a move for the Israeli international. I’m unsure if that’s a fabrication of a tabloid, Benayoun’s agent or West Ham. Once again, let me state my preference of LG over Yossi. Luis can play on either wing and although he can prove frustrating at times, he is also capable of moments of sheer excellence.