Friday, December 22, 2006

Neill Nailed On?

Liverpool will sign the Australia international defender Lucas Neill in a cut-price deal from Blackburn Rovers next month with the Merseysiders' manager Rafael Benítez aware that the anticipated transfer funds from the takeover of the club by Dubai International Capital will not materialise until the summer.

Neill, who is out of contract at Ewood Park at the end of the season, will complete his move to Anfield having almost joined on deadline day in August only for the clubs to fail to agree a fee at the last minute. Blackburn had explored the possibility of taking the Liverpool full-back Stephen Warnock in part-exchange, but they are close to signing a replacement with the Dynamo Kiev defender Andriy Nesmachnyi in Lancashire and due to take a medical last night. Rovers will hope to raise around £1.5m from the sale of Neill.

Benítez's move for the 28-year-old Neill reflects the reality that DIC's proposed takeover is unlikely to be completed until nearer the end of January, thus denying him a chance to exploit the winter transfer window. The state-owned private equity firm is still scrutinising the books at Liverpool with both club and company confident that a deal can be struck which will see the chairman of 15 years, David Moores, sell his 51.6% stake at Anfield.

Company takeover law then dictates that DIC must make an offer for the rest of Liverpool's shares, an offer which would remain open for 60 days. Should they ultimately secure a stake of 90%, they would be able to make the club a private business, in the same way that West Ham were recently bought by Eggert Magnusson, though Moores and the current chief executive Rick Parry are likely to retain roles at Anfield in the future.

Benítez still hopes to benefit from significant transfer funds in the close season though, having met the chief executive of DIC, Sameer al-Ansari, after the recent victory over Fulham, he is aware that he will not be offered a blank cheque to plunder the market. As Parry and Al-Ansari have been at pains to insist, DIC's interest in Liverpool is considered an investment - such as their recent purchase of Madame Tussauds and the Travelodge chain of hotels - with the group attracted to the club partly because the playing squad would not require a radical overhaul.

Drogballs: To me, he's a reasonably good defender who had a wonderful World Cup and then a decent Premiership season so far. A tough tackling, no nonsense defender who can play across the back line, his versatility will be invaluable. We have been in search for someone to challenge Finnan's right back spot for quite some time and both Josemi and Kromkamp wasn't up for the scratch.

I just think he will be the man. Experienced but not without problems. Temperamental and often rash in challenge. I think before he could enter Melwood, he would have to go apologise to Carra. Remember he broke Carra's leg few seasons back. I think that underlined Neill's approach in games. But he might have 'matured' and now named as captain of Blackburn, he is given new responsibility and nowadays, you seldom hear of him conceding stupid penalties or getting a red card.

He'll be a pretty good signing I reckon.

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