Saturday, July 31, 2010

Steven Defour Is Hodgson's New Target

STEVEN DEFOUR has become a major transfer target for Liverpool after Javier Mascherano edged nearer an inevitable Anfield exit. Mascherano has been left out of the squad for tomorrow's friendly in Germany to increase speculation of an move to Inter Milan.
And Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has lined up Standard Liege midfielder Defour as a possible replacement for the wantaway Argentina international.
Mascherano confirmed Liverpool's fears earlier this week when, on returning from World Cup duty, he informed the club of his desire to leave.
Inter's former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez wants to be reunited with the Argentine at the San Siro with the Serie A side preparing a £25million offer for his services.
And now Hodgson has taken the decision to omit Mascherano from the squad for tomorrow's friendly against Borussia Moenchengladbach despite intimating the player would remain available for selection as long as he was at Anfield.
Preliminary talks have already been held with Inter representatives and it seems certain Mascherano, who was signed for more than £18m in January 2007, has played his last game for the club with Hodgson already pondering midfield alternatives.
And top of his wanted list is highly-rated Belgium international Defour, who could follow Milan Jovanovic in making the move from Standard Liege to Anfield.
Defour has won two domestic championships with Standard and has been the creative force behind their impressive European showings in recent seasons, the Belgian side running Liverpool close in a Champions League qualifier two years ago before dumping Everton out of the UEFA Cup.
But Defour missed much of last season with a serious foot injury and, in his absence, Standard failed to qualify for Europe.
And the 22-year-old, a one-time target of both Arsenal and Everton, is now available for a fee of around £10m (12m euros).
However, Liverpool would face serious competition from Manchester United for Defour's signature, with Sir Alex Ferguson a known admirer of the player.
Hodgson is also monitoring Denmark international defensive midfielder Christian Poulsen.
Juventus general director Giuseppe Marotta claims Liverpool are interested in the 30-year-old, whose absence from the side that faced Shamrock Rovers in Thursday's Europa League qualifier has fuelled speculation of an imminent move.
And Marotta said: “Liverpool have shown interest in Poulsen, but the fact that he did not play in this game is only due to a technical decision.”
Meanwhile, Joe Cole will make his first appearance in a Liverpool shirt in tomorrow's friendly in Moenchengladbach, which is being held to celebrate the German club's 110th anniversary.
Cole, who was signed on a free transfer last week following his release from Chelsea, is among the latest batch of World Cup representatives to return to action.
Fellow England internationals Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson will also fly to Germany. “Yes they will be involved,” said Hodgson. “It's a friendly game so I can control the amount of time they play. “In competitive games we only have three substitutes to use, so it's very dangerous to put players on the field who don't have 90 minutes in their legs.”
New signing Danny Wilson, who travelled with the party to Macedonia to take part in training, is also in line to make his Liverpool bow while Argentine winger Maxi Rodriguez may also appear.
And with Spanish duo Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina and Holland pair Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel back at Melwood next week, Hodgson will finally be given the opportunity to work with a full-strength squad.  

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