Premier League

Skrtel future set to be sorted

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Mon, 10 Jun 2013 18:31:00

Sunderland have confirmed the appointment of Italian Roberto De Fanti in a newly-created director of football role at the Stadium of Light.

De Fanti, who helped the club lure Paolo Di Canio as manager, is joined by new chief scout Valentino Angeloni in a restructure of the club's player recruitment department.

De Fanti and Angeloni, formerly head of scouting at Inter Milan, have previously worked together at Udinese, as well as Inter.

Sunderland's CEO, Margaret Byrne, told the club's official website: "Roberto and Valentino bring with them a wealth of experience, knowledge and football contacts from across Europe and indeed the world and we are delighted to welcome them to Sunderland.

"The recruitment of players is of course key for any football club and Roberto and Valentino will work closely with the head coach and the board to identify targets as we look to strengthen our squad for next season and beyond.

"I would also like to extend our thanks to the president of Inter Milan, Massimo Moratti, who graciously agreed to allow Valentino to make the move to Sunderland."

Reports have suggested new Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has made highly-rated winger Draxler one of his top targets as he prepares for his second stint in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Draxler is regarded as one of the best young prospects in Europe with the 19-year-old already an established member of the Germany side.

Schalke 04 general manager Horst Heldt insists they have no enquiry from Chelsea about Draxler, but it is not surprised to hear other clubs are interested in the skilful midfielder.

"I have heard nothing about it," Heldt told BILD. "There has been no official transfer enquiry from Chelsea FC incoming and we are also in no touch with that club actually.

"Still it is a fact there are always clubs considering the qualities of players like Julian Draxler. Of course!"

Wright has been named as the Perth outfit's new manager after Lomas quit to take over at Championship side Millwall.

Saints chairman Steve Brown has also announced that current McDiarmid defender Callum Davidson will act as the new boss' number two.

And Millar - Saints' second-longest serving player - says Brown has made the correct call in promoting Wright to the top job.

He said: "Tommy is the right man for the job. His appointment will bring continuity to what we did last season.

"He was a big part of the success we has last year being Steve's assistant and bringing in Callum as his number two is a really good move as well. He knows all the boys and will bring a great deal of experience as well.

"He's played at a really high level and it's a really good appointment. All the boys in the dressing room are really happy with it I'm sure.

"We will miss the gaffer with him going south. He did a fantastic job. But it was a move he wanted with his family being down there and it was the right time for him."

Wright is currently on a family holiday but will be unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday, June 18.

Lomas stepped down from his post to take over at the New Den after leading St Johnstone to a European slot for the second successive season.

The former West Ham midfielder replaced Derek McInnes in November 2011 and was joined at the Clydesdale Bank Premier League club by former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Wright a short time afterwards.

Millar believes that Wright has got the right credentials to continue the club's impressive development.

"The guys who have been managing St Johnstone recently have all gone on to do well for themselves with Owen Coyle, Derek McInnes and now Steve Lomas," he said. "I'm hoping that will continue with Tommy and we have more good times."

Wright started his coaching career as a goalkeeping specialist under Glenn Roeder at Norwich but made his move into management with Limavady United in his homeland in November 2003.

Spells in charge of Ballymena United and Lisburn Distillery - where he led the Whites to the Irish League Cup in 2011 - followed before he made the move to Scotland to work alongside his former international team-mate Lomas.

But Millar insists the two men are not carbon copies of one another, saying: "Tommy and Steve are different kinds of people. Steve had great passion and great drive.

"But Tommy had more to do with the organisational stuff and was very methodical.

"It will be funny seeing him as the gaffer, though. It's the first time I've been in the situation where an assistant has been made boss. Our relationship might change as he might want to distance himself a bit more from the players now.

"But he was always great to talk to. A couple of times when I was coming up for contract talks he made time for me to give me some good advice and I'm sure that will continue. I'm looking forward to working with him and Callum."

The full-back is leaving the Broadfield Stadium despite having a year left on his deal following 91 appearances and two promotions.

Manager Richie Barker told the club website: "We are parting with Hunty on good terms.

"He has always been the consummate professional and we thank him for his tremendous service to the football club and wish him well for the remainder of his career."

Hunt, who moved to the Sussex club in January 2011, added: "I'm not leaving on bad terms and I would only ever have good things to say about the club.

"There have been so many highlights and it is difficult to pick one when you have been involved in back-to-back promotions and played at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.

"To be part of as club that has risen from non-league to be an established League One team has been one of the most rewarding periods of my career and I am proud to have played my part.

"Along with Brentford, I have had some of the best years of my career at Crawley and I will always have a soft spot for them and look out for their results.

"I have made some great friends at the club and the fans have been brilliant to me. I will miss them and I just want to wish the club all the best for the future."

Speculation about the Slovakia international has been widespread ever since he lost his first-team place to the now-retired Jamie Carragher in January.

He has recently been linked to a reunion with Rafael Benitez - the man who took him to Anfield - after the Spaniard was appointed Napoli coach.

And although agent Karol Csonto has told the Italian club they will have to approach the Reds first he did not dismiss the idea of the 28-year-old moving to Serie A.

"There has been no contact between the two clubs. Martin has a contract with Liverpool and it is important to honour that," he told Italian station Radio Crc.

"Obviously Napoli know Martin well, but there cannot be any contact between us and them if they do not first reach an agreement with Liverpool.

"Between Martin Skrtel and Rafa Benitez is a professional relationship that has gone on from the years they spent together at Liverpool.

"[Napoli midfielder] Marek Hamsik and Skrtel are very good friends and they met last week.

"The midfielder requested information from Martin about Benitez, while Skrtel has asked questions about Napoli.

"But I think that if Napoli want to take Skrtel, they should first talk to Liverpool.

"I will be in England next week to talk with Liverpool and define Martin's future."

Liverpool are tracking Schalke centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos as a replacement for Carragher but they also have interest in other targets as the future of Skrtel and Sebastian Coates means there could be a major reshuffle in defence.

Ajax's Toby Alderweireld is also believed to be on Rodgers' watch list and the player gave the Reds boss every encouragement by stating his intent to move to England.

"England and Germany are the best leagues where I think I can take the next step," the 24-year-old Belgian told De Telegraaf.

"I have to go somewhere where I can play football a bit and where my style of play suits.

"On the other hand, I do not want to play for a team at the bottom of their league.

"I want to leave Ajax for a nice club, otherwise I'll just stay in Amsterdam."

One player closer to an Anfield switch is Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas, who is due on Merseyside for a medical.

A deal worth about ?7.7million has been in place for a couple of weeks but progress was held up by the end to the Spanish season.

Celta survived relegation on the final day and since then the Reds have been trying to finalise arrangements for the 25-year-old to visit the club's Melwood training ground for physical assessment.

That is expected to be advanced in the new couple of days with the playing telling Spanish media over the weekend: "I was forced to cancel my holiday in the Caribbean but the reason I did more than justifies why.

"When I heard of Liverpool's interest I did not hesitate even for a minute.

"Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the world and although I had offers from Italy and Portugal and other countries I decided my future was in English football."

Aspas is set to Rodgers' second signing of the summer, following Kolo Toure to Anfield after the centre-back's contract expired with Manchester City.

A third could also be in the offing in the form of Luis Alberto but further movement cannot be made on that until later this week at the earliest.

The 20-year-old has been on loan at Barcelona B from Sevilla and the Catalan club have first option to sign the striker permanently but it is understood Thursday appears to be decision day on that front.

Alberto, who scored 11 goals in 37 second-tier appearances, has been capped by Spain Under-21s.

"It would be foolish and deluded for me to say no to a club like Liverpool but as far as I know, there's nothing," the youngster told Spanish reporters at the weekend.

Rodgers is keen to offload striker Andy Carroll, who is stalling on a move to West Ham where he spent last season on loan despite a deal worth ?15million-plus being in place for several weeks.

The delay does not appear to have put off the Hammers, with boss Sam Allardyce telling the club's website: "At this moment in time, our first priority is signing Andy Carroll, if we can.

"(The off-season is) about the recruitment of the other players who we want as quickly as we possibly can.

"That will be the most difficult part of this summer."

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