July didn’t start particularly well for the Reds. The World Cup was still being played out in Germany; Spain had already been knocked out by France in the first knock out game so Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Javier Luis Garcia were on their way home, and 3 days in England had to play probably the team they really didn’t want to come up against at the Quarter final stage ‘“ Portugal.
What with all the fuss over Luis Felipe Scolari and the will he/wont he become England’s next manager saga, hyped up as always by the British press, and the reminders of that fateful night at the European Championships 2 years ago, I don’t think any England fan was looking forward to this match.
Sven-Goran Eriksson though, as always, was upbeat and in numerous press conferences still claimed we could reach the final. As it panned out, England lost. Again. On penalties. Again. Stevie G and Carra both missing (Carra having to retake his, after not waiting for the Ref’s whistle first time round!).
As soon as the England team came home, Beckham resigned as England captain, and the bandwagon for Gerrard to take the armband started rolling. It was over a month later that the decision was taken.
And so it began. Pre-season.
We kicked off with confirmation of our Pre-season schedule, taking in Wrexham, Crewe Alexandra, and then going overseas to FC Kaiserslauten, Grasshopper Club Zurich and finally FSV Mainz 05. A later friendly at Lincoln City was also announced soon after.
On American Independence day July 4th we announced our second signing of the summer, and what a player he seems to be. A young, tough tackling, English style, Argentinean central defender by the name of Gabriel Paletta. He came from a small club called Banfield, and a lot of top Argentinean sides were after his signature ‘“ so much so that River Plate even reserved a shirt number for him, but we beat them all. He has put pen to paper to a 4 year deal, and been compared with Roberto Ayala of Valencia. High praise indeed.
The transfer market was in full swing for us by this time ‘“ having already acquired boyhood Liverpool fan Craig Bellamy and Gabriel Paletta, Fabio Aurelio soon followed from Valencia, as did Mark Gonzales from Real Sociedad, having finally been granted his work permit! We now have 3 South Americans on the books ‘“ could we soon be dancing the Samba around Anfield way?!
Rafa’s transfer dealings didn’t stop there though. We still had a problem on the Right Wing. Who were we going to sign ‘“ the press were having a field day! Old names continued to crop up, Simao Sabrosa being one, but we were looking more seriously at Daniel Alves, a Brazilian who could play Right Back or Right Wing. Negotiations kept stalling though after his club, Seville jacked up the price and Rafa refused to bow to their demands. A new target was needed. A surprise was in store’¦..
Italy were crowned World Champions on 9th July after a fierce match with France, and that head butt by Zidane!
The transfer merry-go-round continued. Chris Kirkland was told to find a new club, and almost immediately signed a short term loan deal with Wigan, although if he impresses, Paul Jewell may make the deal permanent. Didi Hamann also left for Bolton, or was it Man City? Nope, Bolton. Oh, wait a minute ‘“ definitely Manchester City!
Djibril Cisse, while still recovering from his second horrific broken leg he sustained playing for France against China in a World Cup warm up match, was also shipped out to Olympique Marseille on a year long loan deal, which could lead to a permanent deal if he plays well after his recovery.
What won’t have been a surprise to many either was Fernando Morientes departure to Valencia. He never really played at his best for us and Rafa decided to let him go.
The latter part of 2005 and most of 2006 have been driving all Liverpool fans crazy regarding the new strip for the coming season. We know we’ve dumped Reebok and gone back to Adidas but what would the new kit look like? Fans on just about every on-line Liverpool forum were posting pics of what they thought it’d be, their suggestions, their ‘˜tip off’s’ but it was announced at last, that the new kit was to be unveiled, and we would be wearing the new European away kit for our friendlies.
Our first pre-season match came up against Wrexham a few days later. A chance to get a look at the new kit! It was a good run out for the new signings and Liverpool youngsters alike. Paul Anderson in particular had a good match, meeting a John Arne Riise cross for his first goal just six minutes in. Mark Jones and Chris Llewellyn went close for Wrexham; while Bellamy showed the desire he has for the Reds and got his rewards when 8 minutes after the start of the second half, being only one of two players left on the field after half time, he scored to make it 2-0 to Liverpool. He was then substituted to cool down, and 2-0 was the final score.
The transfer market’s still in full swing, and we were still trying to get Seville to lower their price for Alves, but they seemed to be very stubborn on their price. Never mind, we still had someone else in mind’¦..
The Seeding’s had been announced for this seasons Champions League. Although like Arsenal we do have to qualify for the group stages first, Liverpool, along with Manchester United and Arsenal, were all in the Top Seeds ‘“ therefore avoiding early clashes with the Barcelona’s, the Real Madrid’s and the Inter Milan’s of this world. Chelsea, however, may not ‘“ as they were only placed in the Second Seeds, despite being Premier League Champions for the second consecutive time last season. Juventus, and possibly AC Milan will not be playing any part in this year’s competition due to the Italian match fixing scandal.
But I digress. Up next for The Reds was our annual friendly with Crewe Alexandra. Young striker Craig Lindfield scored the only goal of the game, the 17 year old banging the ball into the top corner on his debut, before being replaced by Craig Bellamy. Crewe almost equalised but their goal-bound effort was cleared off the line. 1-0 to Liverpool final score.
Rafa carried on trying to clear out the dead wood. Salif Diao took a trip to South East London with the gaffer’s blessing for a trial with Charlton Athletic.
What with the transfer rumour mill at its height in mid-July, we had apparently accepted a Â£20 million offer from Real Madrid for Xabi Alonso. No, I didn’t believe it either. Rafa told the press that Xabi wasn’t going anywhere, and even Xabi himself had to come out and say he didn’t want to leave Anfield before this one died a death.
One that hadn’t though is that Liverpool had given up on Daniel Alves as negotiations with
Seville was going nowhere, and switched their attentions a bit closer to home. Jermaine Pennant from Birmingham to be exact. No, surely not? We’ve already got one player with a lot of baggage, having taken on Bellamy, why in God’s name do we want another? Answer? Quite simple really.
Pennant is a classic Winger. One that isn’t seen in the game too often these days. Pennant managed to put in 497 crosses for Birmingham last season. More than any other player in the league. And that’s with them being relegated. And he’d done a job for Birmingham against us. Something Rafa obviously takes note of (Peter Crouch at Southampton anyone?). In one game against Birmingham last season, Pennant ripped apart Stephen Warnock. The same Stephen Warnock who had marked a certain Cristiano Ronaldo out of the game a week before. Did Warnock have a bad game? No, Pennant had a brilliant one. We have needed a classic Winger for around 6 years now, and Rafa seemed certain that he’d got his man.
Chief Executive of Birmingham, Karren Brady, denied that they’d received any bid from Liverpool, but the next day, the deal was done, and Pennant was ours. He passed his medical and immediately flew out to our Swiss training camp.
Scott Carson and Paul Anderson also signed new contracts to keep them at Anfield until 2011 and 2010 respectively.
Before our next friendly with Kaiserslautern, we had to await the Champions League 3rd round qualifiers draw. The draw took place on Friday 28th July. Maccabi Haifa of Israel. The TIA forums went into overload. We shouldn’t have to play the away leg in Israel because of the conflict out there screamed Reds fans. Then there was the influx of forum posters from Israel, and the arguments commenced. Thankfully things were kept in check by the Moderators!
Rafa himself though came out and told UEFA in no uncertain terms that Liverpool would not travel to Israel while the war was going on because of all the security issues.
Then, our match against Kaiserslautern. Strange sort of match really, even for a friendly. Nothing of note in the first half but the second half was much more entertaining. Craig Bellamy, Gabriel Paletta and Mark Gonzalez all started while Jermaine Pennant began the game on the substitute’s bench.
Kaiserslautern gained the lead when Ricardo Villa scored, and Bellamy equalised on the hour. Fowler came off for Luis Garcia, and Garcia promptly decided to up the stakes when he put Liverpool ahead eight minutes later. Shortly after, Fowler came back on for Garcia when Luis had to go off with an injury and Rafa had used all his subs. Bizarrely Pepe Reina, playing outfield, almost put Liverpool further ahead, but Ziemer bagged two in the last twenty minutes to snatch the win for the German side. Final score a 3-2 reverse for Liverpool.
To round off July, the transfer stories are still flying around. It was reported towards the end of the month that Salif Diao wasn’t the only Liverpool player that Charlton were after. Djimi Traore was also invited for a tour of The Valley.
As we know, in the end, one went, one stayed ‘“ but that’s a tale for another day’¦.