Wenger ponders move for Carson

The Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson is attracting the attention of Arsène Wenger as the Arsenal manager searches for a long-term replacement for Jens Lehmann.

Wenger, who is also known to be interested in Hearts' goalkeeper Craig Gordon as Lehmann approaches the end of his contract, has had scouts monitoring the England Under-21 international during his current impressive loan spell with Charlton Athletic and is considering a move for the former Leeds United prospect at the end of the season.

Liverpool signed Carson for a nominal £750,000 from the Elland Road fire sale two years ago but his Anfield career has been restricted to just four Premiership appearances before this season because of competition from Jerzy Dudek and, latterly, Jose Reina. However, with Dudek due to depart this summer and Chris Kirkland sold to Wigan, the manager Rafael Benitez will be reluctant to sell to one of his closest rivals.

Liverpool will be expected to play promotional friendlies in Japan and China now that they have been taken over by the American sports moguls Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Rick Parry, the club's chief executive, has flown to the United States for talks about the club's future with their new owners, and he is likely to be told that the "brand" needs to be promoted more in the Far East. In a National Post interview in Canada, Gillett has expanded his theory of how to get the best from the £450m investment he and Hicks have made.

"Liverpool is the No 1 brand in Europe," Gillett said. "If you go to the Far East, where Manchester United has historically been the No 1 brand, Chelsea has recently become quite popular. They have a global branding concept which involves playing a number of games in the Far East.

"In that part of the world, Liverpool is No 2 and growing. We have had conversations with management in the last several months and I believe you will see Liverpool playing some friendlies in Asia. I think you'll see Japan first in this coming year and then others beyond that."

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United may well contest Gillett's view that Liverpool are the No 1 European brand, but there is a clear business decision being made on how best to promote the Anfield club.

Gillett continued: "We have looked at the possibility of branding in a different way, in that investments in soccer clubs in emerging parts of the world are part of our strategy."

Gillett sees Liverpool as part of an umbrella branding of several sports. He adds: "You have the Texas Rangers in baseball, which is hugely popular in the Far East, the Dallas Stars, the Montreal Canadiens, Liverpool and our family's involvement with Nascar [motor racing].

"You've got four unbelievably popular sports with growing international interest. There's a unique opportunity because the market is demanding it."

Liverpool should soon hear the outcome of their loan move for the Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano. The decision to allow the deal has been delayed for almost a fortnight by a Premier League inquiry, but it is believed nothing irregular has been discovered with the move.

A Premier League spokesman said: "You can expect a decision by the end of the week."

* Owen Hargreaves, the England and Bayern Munich midfielder, underwent emergency surgery yesterday after he was diagnosed with gallstones, it was reported last night. He is expected to be out of action for up to three weeks.

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