Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists Peter Crouch is not for sale but has to earn himself a new contract.
The Spaniard was reacting to growing speculation that Manchester City will try to sign the England forward in the January transfer window.
Crouch has 18 months of his current contract still to run, and there is a growing fear at Anfield he may see out that deal without signing a new one and be able to leave for nothing - just like Steve McManaman once did at Liverpool.
Benitez, who may well use Crouch from the start on Sunday at home to Bolton, has made it clear he has not been offered a new deal yet, and the player has not intimated that he would reject such an offer.
This uncertainty over his future has increased rumours that City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson is waiting to pounce.
But Benitez said: 'Peter knows how to win a new contract. He has to work really hard, play very well and score a lot of goals. So he has a chance to win a new contract because he can do all of this.
'For now, though, we have to win a lot of games and then we will talk about his future later on.
'He does not play every game, but now with two games every week for some while he will get his chances to impress.'
He added: 'I do not think it will be the situation that he will walk away for nothing in 18 months, that will not happen. For now, though, I just want him to score more goals.
'The key is for him to score, play well and be happy. Then we will have the conversation about a contract.
'We do not want to sell Peter, we are really happy with him. Players in top sides know they cannot play in every game, but you can see how important he is for us.
'Against Porto in midweek he and Harry Kewell were key substitutions that helped us win the game. We do not want to see any transfer movement involving him.
'I want to see Peter score a lot more goals for us, he is not for sale. He is a good professional, he is always ready and waiting for his chance.'
Crouch has revealed this week that he will 'do everything' to stay at Anfield, and Benitez clearly does not want the giant hitman to leave.
He said: 'In a top side you need good players, but they cannot play every game, that is impossible.
'Crouch is a key player for us, we do not want to sell him. But when someone is not playing every game other clubs ask about them.
'They will be trying to get close to the player. But we do not want to sell him, we want him here to help us win the title.
'They all want to be involved. Sometimes it can be a problem for him when he is not playing, he can see the other strikers doing well.
'But he is a key player for us and hopefully that will continue in the future.'
He added: 'Manchester City have done well this season, and they have some money to spend. But they will not have Peter Crouch.'
It is a welcome relief for Benitez to be discussing someone else's Liverpool future, rather than his own.
The Spaniard now expects to have talks with Foster Gillett, co-owner George's son, who has been installed at Anfield to work alongside chief executive Rick Parry.
Benitez said: 'My position is to just enjoy the last game. I have not had the chance yet to talk with Foster Gillett but I will do, and I have also talked again with Rick Parry.
'I hope everything is now behind us. We need to talk about any misunderstanding.
'I have shown my loyalty to the club (over approaches from clubs) and it is clear that I want to stay here, I am really pleased and happy.
'The supporters, players and staff have been excellent and my idea is to keep working just as hard as I have done in the past and try to win trophies for my club. We all want the same thing.
'I said thank you when they bought Fernando Torres, a top-class player, the relationship has been good in the past and must be good again.
'It has been a difficult few days, but I can now say that I am really proud to be here.
'I want to stay here, my commitment to the club is clear. My family is very happy here and I want to win trophies with this club.
'I have had a positive meeting with Rick Parry, we needed to sort out any misunderstandings and talk about the future.'
Liverpool have also dismissed today claims that Gillett's partner Tom Hicks wants to sell his holding in the club.
Parry described the suggestion as 'utter garbage' while Benitez added: 'I understand that is not true, but I only want to concentrate on my team now, other things I cannot control.'