PSG eyeing Man Utd duo

Paris Saint-Germain, the team who earlier this month concluded a deal for former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele have reportedly expressed an interest in Manchester United French duo, Louis Saha and Mikel Silvestre.

According to the report, however both players are set to reject the offer. While Mikel Silvestre is thought to be holding out for a testimonial match – in honour of him spending ten years at Manchester United – Louis Saha is reportedly looking to stay in England.

According to reports in the English media, Saha, who would cost about £10 million has attracted the interest of former club Fulham as well as Sunderland.

[Source: The Daily Mail]

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Blackburn and Portsmouth to battle for £5 million Liverpool winger

Paul Ince has lost David Bentley to Tottenham yesterday while Harry Redknapp has finally realized that his chances of signing Chelsea winger Shaun-Wright Phillips are very slim. Now the two of them have turned their sights to another target, Liverpool’s Jermaine Pennant.

According to The Daily Mail, Rafa Benitez would much rather part with Pennant than Yossi Benayoun, although he could get more money for the versatile Israeli winger who has attracted interest from former club West Ham and Manchester City.

Pennant has joined Liverpool from Birmingham in 2006, but he has failed to impress in his two years at Anfield, now Benitez is willing to sell the player for about £5 million.

[Source: The Daily Mail]

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Arshavin agrees personal terms with Tottenham

The interest that Andrei Arshavin attracted from Arsenal and Barcelona earlier this summer now seems a distant memory. Now, the Russian playmaker is close to sealing a move to English side Tottenham, according to Setanta Sports.

The player’s agent, speaking in broken English, confirmed yesterday that the player has agreed personal terms with Tottenham, but that the two clubs are far off in their evaluation of the player.

“Tottenham Hotspur is the club to agree personal terms with the player but unfortunately we are too far making an agreement with Zenit St Petersburg,” said the player’s representative, according to the report.

“The gap between the two clubs is really huge and I’m still very optimistic but this is not a chance to say the deal is done.”

Tottenham, meanwhile, have completed a £15 million move for former Arsenal winger David Bentley, according to BBC.

[Sources: Setanta Sports, BBC]

Thu 31 July, 2008
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‘One more player’ – Wenger

Arsene Wenger has made three additions to his squad this summer and he has announced that he will look to bring buy more player before closing his chequebook. Speaking after his side’s friendly with Stuttgart, Wenger also said that he was happy with his options in attack for the forthcoming season.

“We’re not as short of strikers as people thought. Vela is integrating very well into the team and Bendtner was already a force at the end of last season . . . and he will confirm that this year,” said Wenger, according to The Daily Mail.

“Overall, we are still maybe one player short. But up front we don’t need anybody.”

The Sun speculates that Wenger is looking to bring Gareth Barry to Arsenal despite Aston Villa’s comment that the player will now stay with the club. According to that report, Wenger and O’Neill could strike a part-exchange deal.

[Sources: The Daily Mail, The Sun]

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Torres and Keane pairing excites Liverpool manager

Rafael Benitez believes he has already seen signs that his new strike force of Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres will gel ahead of the start of Liverpool's coming campaign.

Keane made his Liverpool debut following his 20 million pound (40 million dollar) move from Tottenham Hotspur as Benitez's side played out a scoreless friendly draw with La Liga outfit Villarreal here Wednesday.

The Irishman played just 45 minutes and was withdrawn before Torres came on as a second-half substitute.

But with his side's first competitive game — a Champions League qualifier — looming in less than two weeks' time on August 12, Liverpool manager Benitez knows the duo will have to bed in before the serious business of the season gets underway.

Their first taste of joint action could come when Liverpool continue their pre-season preparations with a friendly against Scottish giants Rangers on August 2.

“You could see Robbie was working hard against Villarreal and trying to impress and that was the key,” said Benitez. “We'll have enough games left now to play him with Torres.

“In the next game Torres could play maybe 45 minutes so I hope they can play together. They'll definitely play together before the start of the season,” the Spaniard added.

Keane, who grew up a Liverpool fan and watched from the Kop as a boy, admitted his first experience of playing for the club was an emotional one.

But he made clear his move from Tottenham was not merely a sentimental one and that his aim was to challenge for the major trophies that eluded him during a six-year spell at White Hart Lane.

His first showing offered plenty of effort but it will be in two weeks' time that the new player's impact will be truly tested.

“I was delighted to get that game under my belt,” said the forward. “I've been dreaming about that moment since I was a kid. I enjoyed every moment of it. It has sunk in I'm a Liverpool player – it had to.

“The trip to Spain has been good for me to get to know the lads and I'm just looking forward to this season.”

Liverpool remain unbeaten in their pre-season programme and Benitez declared himself satisfied at his team's progress, particularly against a side they could face at some stage during the coming Champions League campaign.

He added: “It was difficult to play against a team that held the ball well, moved the ball well and passed the ball well, especially now when we're not quite there yet physically.”

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Tottenham mean business. Can Ramos deliver or will Spurs flatter to deceive?

What chance do you think Tottenham Hotspur have of breaking into the top four of the Premier League during this coming season? In the past I would have said, “Absolutely none,” but under the current regime, I’m not sure.

It seems that the latest recruit for Juande Ramos at White Hart Lane is likely to be Blackburn’s England international wide player David Bentley, who will almost certainly be a Tottenham player by the weekend after going through a medical on yesterday.

If the proposed transfer does goes through, the signing of Bentley would be a welcome boost for Tottenham fans after they witnessed Robbie Keane’s £20.3 million move to Liverpool. Keane has been a hero in that particular part of North London for the last six years and it will have been difficult for the Tottenham faithful to see him go.

There have also been many rumours all summer that Bulgarian striker, the enigma that is Dimitar Berbatov, could also be on his way out of White Hart Lane. It is widely reported that Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to see him in the red of Manchester United, although as time moves on that move seems to be becoming less likely.

Any number of top class forwards have been linked with a move to Spurs, presumably as a replacement for Berbatov if he did leave, and for Keane, who has. Russian forward and Euro 2008 star Andrei Arshavin is the latest player strongly linked with his agent confirming that they are in talks with Tottenham. He was at pains to explain, however, that a deal is still a way off. Amongst others, both Argentine striker Diego Milito and Valencia’s David Villa have been linked with Spurs this summer.

It has to be said that the players coming and the players simply linked, are all players who show that the ambition of Ramos is to take Tottenham into the elite at the very top.

He has spent the summer clearing out some of the ‘dead wood’. Robbie Keane can hardly be described in that fashion, but when he decided he wanted to join the club he has always supported, there was no way to keep him.

The players leaving have been Anthony Gardner, Pascal Chimbonda, Paul Robinson, Teemu Tainio, Jake Livermore, and Joe Martin, whilst Steed Malbranque and Younes Kaboul seem sure to follow.

The players coming in at White Hart Lane seem to be a step up in class. Luka Modric, the Croatian star from Dinamo Zagreb, the exciting Giovani Dos Santos from Barcelona, together with Heurelho Gomes from PSV and the young talent John Bostock from Crystal Palace seem to have raised the bar somewhat in the squad. With David Bentley likely to join them and possibly Arshavin or another world class striker, we might just be looking at the first Tottenham squad for many years who might actually achieve rather than constantly flattering to deceive.

Juande Ramos is a man who is used to success over the past few years and he will not settle for just winning the Carling Cup, however fine an achievement that was last season. He is assembling a squad that he genuinely thinks may be able to compete with the very best.

Having had so much success in the Uefa Cup in the past he will be desperate to repeat that with his new club. I would think that Ramos is targeting a Uefa Cup victory and a top four finish in the Premier League, although publicly he may only say that a top six finish is what he is aiming for.

In the past I have always been skeptical of the many ‘bright new dawns’ there have been at Tottenham but on this occasion I might be persuaded to believe that something is about to happen. I believe that Juande Ramos has been extremely impressive since he arrived in the Premier League and I have seen nothing to suggest that he will not achieve things at the club. He is a building a squad of experienced, talented players and hungry, talented young players.

I have already written about the bright prospects for Portsmouth and Aston Villa this season. When you add Tottenham, together with Everton and Manchester City, the season starts to get even more exciting.

I have consistently predicted that the usual top four will not be displaced from their positions but the more I write, the more I am beginning to question my convictions. I’m going to stick with it, but I do believe the race for the Champions League places might be the most exciting for some time.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Barca´s Messi heads to China after FIFA ruling

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi will head to China early Thursday to join the Argentina squad for the Olympics which get underway next week, the Spanish club said.

The 21-year-old will fly from Italy, where he took part in a 3-1 friendly win over Fiorentina in Florence on Wednesday night, in the company of Pepe Costa, a member of Barcelona's technical staff, the club said in a statement.

The Argentina international has been at the centre of a tug of war between club and country with Barcelona trying to retain him for their Champions League qualifier tie in August.

Earlier Wednesday FIFA confirmed clubs are obliged to release players aged 23 and under for the Olympics but Barcelona, which wants to retain Messi for their Champions League qualifier tie in August, said they would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Speaking before a FIFA judge declared that clubs were under an obligation to release their under-23 players for Beijing, Messi said: “If FIFA say I should be there then I'll go without waiting for the CAS ruling.”

Messi added: “If CAS say that I have to return then I'll come back but for the moment I want to be with my country and my teammates.”

The player will miss Barcelona's pre-season tour of the United States. The team will face Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara in Chicago un Sunday and the New York Red Bulls three days later in New York.

The Olympic football tournament, which takes place from August 6 to 23, clash with the dates of the Champions League preliminary round, set to be played on either August 12 or 13.

A statement issued by world football's governing body FIFA confirmed the judge of the Players' Status Committee, Slim Aloulou, agreed with FIFA's previous ruling that it was “mandatory” for players to be released for Olympic duty.

The judge was called to rule on the matter after Werder Bremen, Schalke and Barcelona questioned FIFA's stance as the Olympics do not appear on FIFA's official calendar.

Bremen and Schalke are unhappy with the inclusions of Diego and Rafinha, respectively, in the Brazil squad.

CAS had been expected to have the final say in the matter but earlier on Wednesday claimed they did not have the jurisdiction to arbitrate between Olympic committees and professional football clubs.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Keane makes Liverpool debut in friendly draw

Robbie Keane made his Liverpool debut in a 0-0 friendly draw at Villarreal on Wednesday night following a 20 million-pound (40 million-dollar) transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.

The forward's future had been in the balance since the end of last season with Spurs initially reluctant to let the Irishman leave and lodging a formal complaint when Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez admitted his interest in the player before finally being persuaded to sell by the size of Liverpool's offer.

The deal went through on the same day Benitez and his squad flew out to Spain for this game, the latest stage of the Premier League club's pre-season build-up. Having pursued the striker for so long, the Reds' boss wasted no time unveiling his new signing.

And the sight of Keane – a self-confessed boyhood Liverpool fan – finally parading in a Liverpool shirt will have brought at least some satisfaction to Benitez who had earlier in the day suffered another setback in his effort to bring in 18 million pounds-rated Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

Villa issued a statement declaring the deal to be off, but Benitez will have taken heart from Keane's impressive energy on his first appearance of pre-season.

But for the home fans, the big thrill was the sight of Liverpool's quartet of Euro 2008 winners – Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa – parading the European Championship trophy with their Spain international team-mates Marcus Senna, Santi Cazorla and Joan Capdevila.

Spanish boss Benitez intends to pair Keane with Torres when the season begins on August 16 but against Villarreal he paired the forward with another new striker – David Ngog, signed for 1.5 million pounds from Paris St Germain.

The duo linked effectively early on and a Keane snapshot from the edge of the penalty area looked set to produce a debut goal before flying over.

Earlier Ariel Ibagaza had was denied twice in quick succession by Liverpool keeper Daniel Cavalieri and Steven Darby while Yossi Benayoun's clever pass almost set up Ngog for an 11th minute opener.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard came through the first half unscathed on only his second pre-season appearance before both managers introduced a host of replacements at the break.

And after Dani Pacheco had come close to putting Liverpool ahead, Benitez sent on Alonso, Torres and Arbeloa in the 70th minute before Reina appeared at his former club in the final minute.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Champions League: Anderlecht and Rapid Wien in trouble

RSC Anderlecht and Rapid Wien both lost their first-leg matches in the second preliminary round of the Champions League, while Glasgow Rangers failed to score against Kaunas.

BATE stun Anderlecht

Anderlecht hosted BATE Borisov in Brussels and thought to be heading for a positive result after a goal from Gillet in the 66th minute.

But only a minute later, the Belarusian visitors were handed a penalty and Krivets scored from the spot. The event also meant the end of the match for Wasilewski, who went off with a red card.

Despite losing Stasevich (ex-pulsed) in the 75th minute themselves, BATE kept their focus and went on to score the winning goal through Nekhajchik with three minutes to play.

Rapid Wien stand no chance in Cyprus

Rapid Wien surely hoped for a better result at Anorthosis Famagusta on the island of Cyprus, but were left with little hope as the home side won 3-0.

Skopelitis opened the score after 35 minutes, and two goals from Salpingidis earned the Cypriots a comfortable win and make things extremely completed to the Austrian side next week.

Rangers forget to score

Glasgow Rangers have some work left to do as well in the second leg, having been held to a very disappointing scoreless draw by Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas at Ibrox.

The return legs of the fourteen ties in the second preliminary round will be played on August 5th and 6th.

Wed 30 July, 2008
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Rangers left with tricky trip after Kaunas draw

Rangers face a nervy return leg in Lithuania after a goalless draw against FBK Kaunas at Ibrox here Wednesday in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

The only positive for the Scottish side was the lack of an away goal for the Lithuanian champions.

Rangers had the best of the game's chances but could not find a way past Kaunas keeper Marian Kello, who looked nervous throughout the match.

Kaunas had started brightly with Brazilian Rafael Ledesma shooting over the bar in the eighth minute from 30 yards out.

And in the 15th minute Rangers had to be at their best to stop a Kaunas attack with a well-timed tackle on the edge of the box by captain David Weir.

The home side looked subdued at this point and it was Kenny Miller who had their first real chance of the half in the 20th minute.

The striker, making his home debut in his second Rangers spell, chested a Charlie Adam cross and then lifted it over the advancing Kello, but his shot was cleared off the line for a corner.

Kaunas responded and Mindaugas Grigalevicius came close in the 23rd minute when he fired a shot just past the post with Allan McGregor beaten.

Ledesma had the first shot on target for the Lithuanians in the 34th minute but it was easily saved by the Rangers keeper.

Jean-Claude Darcheville should have opened the scoring in the 41st minute when a perfectly weighted ball from Miller played him in with only the keeper to beat.

The striker rounded Kello but his weak shot was cleared off the line by former Hearts defender Tomas Kancelskis.

Rangers finished the half brightly and Miller was involved again when he headed a cross into the path of Adam whose shot was well wide.

Spanish forward Nacho Novo replaced veteran Christian Dailly at half-time and this introduced some urgency to the Rangers attack.

Good link-up play between Novo and Miller saw the Scotland striker float a cross into the box with Darcheville and Lee McCulloch just failing to connect.

Rangers dominated possession at this stage and Kello was quick to react to punch out an Adam corner, which looked to be swerving in.

McCulloch collected the game's first yellow card after 55 minutes with a late challenge on Vytautas Luksa as he was breaking on the left-hand side.

Shortly afterwards Miller had a great chance to put Rangers into the lead when he was slipped in by a Steven Whittaker pass but his shot was turned out for a corner by the Lithuanian keeper.

Kaunas midfielder Ledesma, who had looked impressive in the first half, was substituted in the 62nd minute for Nukri Manchkhava.

Ibrox erupted when last season's top goalscorer Kris Boyd replaced Darcheville in the 65th minute.

And it did not take long for him to get involved in the action after a ball over the top played him in but the Scotland international was flagged for offside.

After initially facing jeers from a small minority of Rangers fans because he onced played for arch-rivals Celtic, Miller was given a standing ovation for his tireless display when he was replaced by Andrius Velicka after 73 minutes.

Kaunas offered little in the second-half and their chances were restricted as Rangers constantly pushed forward looking for the winner.

But Rangers could not break the deadlock and travel to Lithuania next Tuesday for the return leg.

Wed 30 July, 2008
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