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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gerrard: Premier League is my priority

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has admitted a fear of failure drives him on in his quest to claim a so far elusive Premier League title before he retires.

The influential midfielder will celebrate the 10th anniversary since making his Reds debut when West Ham visit Anfield this weekend.

During his glittering career the 28-year-old has lifted the Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup and two League Cup trophies with Liverpool, however, he admits it is the Premier League title that he covets the most.

''My priority is to win the Premier League. We believe we are good enough to challenge,'' he told the Daily Express. ''Everyone wants it so badly here. I want it because I have never won it - and I don't want to finish my career without one. I don't want to finish my career and people look at me as a failure.''

Liverpool are arguably better placed to make a title challenge than at any other time during Gerrard's career.

The Reds currently sit level on points with leaders Chelsea, with just over of a third of the season gone, and Gerrard believes they can can push on and end a league title drought that stretches back to 1990.

He continued: ''Getting invloved in the title race and staying involved in it is a completely different challenge to what we are used to at Liverpool.

''To finish in the top four you can have a defeat and it does not hit you too bad. Two successive defeats in the title race and it could be over. But we are in there and everybody wants to make sure that's the case at the end of the season.''

He added: ''I'm coming up to 10 years and it doesn't feel like that. It's flown. I'm sure the next five or six will be exactly the same, that's why I have to make the most of every minute I've got.''

Reflecting on his career so far Gerrard said that while he ''wouldn't change anything for the world'' he did have some regrets about his links with making a move to Chelsea a couple of summers ago.

The England midfielder had been strongly linked with the London club in the consecutive summers of 2004 and 2005, and even released a statement stating his desire to move to the Blues in the latter of those years, before a late change of heart kept him at his home-town club.

''I wouldn't change anything for the world. I am captain of the club and doing what I always wanted,'' he added.

''It's only as you get older though that you realise how important playing for Liverpool is. You cannot grasp that when you are setting out, so maybe that is why I look at things a bit differently.

''Looking back, I'm pleased how I have reacted. From the bad tackles and sending offs, to all the talk of a Chelsea move, which I regret getting involved in, and the own-goal in the cup final.

''Without the setbacks, I don't think I'd have achieved as much as I have.'

Calderon vows to bring 'high-class' signings to Real

Spanish champions Real Madrid are close to signing two young players to reinforce the squad through the January transfer window, club president Ramon Calderon said.

"You want headlines and I'm going to give you them," Calderon told Radio Marca.

"We are going to make two good signings in the month of December. I don't know their names because that is (sports director Predrag) Mijatovic's domain, but I know they are going to be young, quick, and will be able to play in the Champions League.

"We want them to be players who will stay for a long time, similar to Marcelo, Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain."

The statement appeared to end the media speculation that had surrounded Real's reported interest in Inter Milan's 33-year-old striker Hernan Crespo. "I don't think he is going to come," Calderon added.

Local media have reported Real are interested in Lazio striker Mauro Zarate and Ajax's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar among others.

Real have been hit by a string of injuries to key players, the worst being to leading striker Ruud van Nistelrooy who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after knee surgery.

They have also looked short of options on the wing with Royston Drenthe struggling to provide effective cover for the injury-prone Arjen Robben.

Calderon went on to talk of plans for reinforcements at the end of the campaign.

"In May or June we are going to make two or three world class signings. I won't give names because I don't want to raise false expectations," he said.

Names linked with Real in the media have been Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Olympique Lyon striker Karim Benzema, Bayern Munich winger Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zenit St Petersburg forward Andrei Arshavin.

Marseille charged over missile-throwing at Anfield

Marseille have been charged by UEFA after an object was thrown in the direction of Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard during Wednesday's Champions League game at Anfield.

Gerrard appeared to be hit by a missile thrown from the Marseille fans' section as he went to take a corner in the first half of Liverpool's 1-0 victory.

UEFA confirmed yesterday the incident was to be included in Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca's report as well as the report from UEFA delegate Svein Johannessen.

European football's governing body today confirmed to PA Sport that Marseille will answer the charge at a meeting of UEFA's control and disciplinary panel on December 11.

UEFA also confirmed that the French club have been fined 15,000 euros following a near identical incident at the Stade Velodrome in September.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez welcomed UEFA's decisive action although also said he had some sympathy with the French club.

He said: "It is good that UEFA have acted. But the problem is that it is just one person out of thousands who decides to do something like that, so how can you control it? It is not easy to stop these things.

"It is difficult to control everyone, if someone wants to do something like this then it is hard to stop. You can fine the club and look for solutions afterwards, but you cannot control everything. But the response of Gerrard was very good."

Meanwhile, Roma are facing charges from UEFA following crowd trouble at their Champions League match against Chelsea earlier this month.

A UEFA spokesman confirmed that Roma have been charged with ''insufficient organisation'' at the Stadio Olimpico after fireworks were set off at the match on November 4.

There was also fighting between fans prior to kick-off. Roma won the game 3-1. UEFA's control and disciplinary panel will hear the case on December 11.

The Stadio Olimpico has been selected to host the Champions League final in May next year, but UEFA had already voiced concerns over crowd trouble and there is speculation Rome could be stripped of the marquee event.

Zlatan: Inter don't need Drogba

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has poured cold water on reports linking Didier Drogba to Inter by claiming the Ivorian is not needed.

Drogba has been heavily linked with a move to join his old boss Jose Mourinho at Inter since the Italian media claimed the Ivory Coast star had held a meeting with Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes earlier this week.

Mourinho has already denied any knowledge of the alleged meeting, and Inter president Massimo Moratti has also told the Italian press his side do not need any more strikers.

Now Ibrahimovic too insists between him and Brazilian forward Adriano the Nerazzurri have more than enough firepower to defend their Scudetto.

"He (Drogba) is a great player, one that thanks to his physical strength scores so many goals," the Sweden international told Corriere dello Sport.

"But when it comes to great strikers we already have plenty. Adriano for example can make a massive difference if he's fit. I really enjoy playing alongside him and he creates a lot of space for me."

Ibrahimovic has been nominated alongside Drogba as one of the 30 players shortlisted to win the Ballon d'Or this season.

However, the 27-year-old admitted he has his eyes on a different prize.

"If I could choose between winning the Ballon d'Or and the Champions League then there's no doubt in my mind that I'd want the Champions League," he said.

As for who he believes will win the France Football award, he added: "Cristiano Ronaldo because he did so well in the Champions League, but if we take Euro 2008 into account then (Spain and Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker) Casillas deserves it."

Ron happy with Milan start

AC Milan forward Ronaldinho is happy with his progress since making the switch to the Rossoneri from Barcelona.

The 28-year-old completed his move to Serie A following a torrid final campaign in Spain where he was held largely culpable for the Catalan club's two-season trophy drought since helping them win a league and Champions League double in 2006.

Injury woes and a lack of form saw the 2005 Ballon d'Or winner lose his starting spot at Barca and confined him to only 11 appearances last season, while he was constantly being accused of being lazy and overweight in the Spanish press.

Despite all this Ronaldinho insists he enjoyed his time in Spain and is now happy to have a new challenge.

"I am very happy to be able to play here in Italy," he told the AC Milan website,

"In the past I had the chance to play in Spain in a team full of great champions, but now at Milan I'm having a lot of fun because I'm at a club with a lot of good players.

"For me it's a joy to be able to help my team-mates by giving my contribution. I am going through a good time."

He added: "Coming here I had hoped things would go well, I am a positive person. But life is like this. It's impossible to always be doing well.

"I am happy to have started this season in the best possible way after a bad year in Barcelona. It was the best thing I could hope for. I see things going better every day.

"Here at Milan I feel an important player, just like all my team-mates."

United get Tosic clearance

Manchester United have been granted a work permit for young Serbian winger Zoran Tosic, who will sign in January.

Sir Alex Ferguson attended a hearing for the 21-year-old on Friday and emerged with positive news, meaning Tosic will sign from Partizan Belgrade in January.

United have not confirmed the fee they have agreed for Tosic, although they have been looking at the wide-man for some time.

Tosic has appeared 12 times for his country and can play on either flank, having also starred for Serbia's Under-21 side.

He will join fellow countryman Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford, with the prospect of more to come as another Partizan player Adam Ljajic - a 19-year-old dubbed the 'Serbian Kaka' - is also thought to be in talks with United.

Old Trafford officials are staying silent on talks with Ljajic though, insisting there have been no developments.