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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec 21, 2007

Pompey's Muntari focused despite Liverpool link

Sulley Muntari insists he is fully focused on helping Portsmouth progress despite being linked with a possible move to Liverpool.

The club's £7.2million record signing will line up against his potential suitors at Anfield tomorrow adamant that he will not be distracted by any speculation that the Reds might make a bid in next month's transfer window.

Pompey manager Harry Redknapp has described the reports as 'absolute nonsense' even though it might be the only way he could prise much-admired striker Peter Crouch from Merseyside.

But Muntari, who arrived from Udinese just six months ago, has been linked with major clubs before.

And as he prepares for his first Anfield visit he said: 'Often these things just don't happen.

'I have not heard about Liverpool's interest but before I left Ghana six years ago I heard Manchester United wanted to sign me and that it was close after I had a trial with them. I heard they offered a lot of money.

'But it came to nothing and I went to Italy with Udinese instead. It turned out well because they are a fantastic club and the president was like a father to me.

'Now, though, I'm glad to be in England and doing well for Portsmouth. I always said it was my dream to one day play for a big club and although Liverpool are a really big club and a very good side, Portsmouth can be that as well.

'I've got a five-year contract here and don't want anything else in my head right now although I will have to refocus again soon when I go with my country to the African Cup of Nations in January.

'At the moment I will just keep my head down and work hard to keep doing well.'

Despite temporarily retiring from international football after a fall-out with Ghana officials a few years ago, Muntari continued: 'It's great, amazing when you are called up by your country, always a pleasure.

'But it is definitely difficult to leave my club when we are doing so well - like having to turn off good music when you mum comes into the room.

'But Ghana are one of the favourites because we have a good side and we are at home (for the tournament). We think we have special responsibilities to our people.'

Four Portsmouth players will head for the finals which start on January 20 with the final in mid-February - Muntari, Nigeria's Kanu and John Utaka plus Papa Bouba Diop of Senegal.

Redknapp does not expect big money to be available for buying replacements and is resigned to relying on 'quality loans' in the next two months.

But Muntari insists: 'The manager is good and knows what players to pick to fill in. So I will be surprised if Portsmouth are not still doing well when we return. I'm confident they will cope without us.'

Redknapp has warned Liverpool that Pompey have improved since taking four points off them last season - and another in September when only Pepe Reina's penalty save from Kanu denied the south coast side.

He said: 'They've lost a couple of tight games but they have such a great squad and will make loads of changes from the match I watched at Chelsea.

'We'll go to win but we know we'll have to do a lot of defending. It is not deliberate. When teams have Liverpool's quality of player they force you back and you just have to make the most of your chances when they come along.

'We are looking at the Tottenham defeat as just a blip. We are in the mood again but only time will tell whether we are good enough to bounce back - and we've got Arsenal at home on Boxing Day.'

Muntari concurred: 'Liverpool is a tough place to go. They have lost some games now but that could make them dangerous and we will have to fight to gain even a point.

'It will be great to play there. I've never been but I've seen it on TV and I'm looking forward to it but I made my debut for Udinese in the San Siro against Milan and it was a fantastic experience.'

Pompey's unbeaten 12-match Premier League run came to an end at home to Tottenham last Saturday and they have not scored on their own ground for four consecutive matches.

But Muntari maintains: 'I don't think it is a case of preferring to play away from Fratton Park. We are not liking our results there at the moment but they are going to come again.'