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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Rafa reveals Reds are close to Mascherano deal

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is confident the club will complete the permanent transfer of Javier Mascherano as they prepare for their Premier League clash against his former club West Ham.

The timing of Benitez's comments will not be lost on fans of both clubs, particularly the Hammers, who were thrown into crisis last season over the contract arrangements that brought Mascherano and Carlos Tevez to the Boleyn Ground.

Mascherano's loan switch to Anfield last January triggered the uproar that almost cost West Ham their Premier League status.

With Mohamed Sissoko having moved to Juventus today for 8.2million, Benitez has the finance available to rid the Argentinian of the third-party ownership that has dogged him and Tevez since they arrived in English football.

The Premier League will have a new rule in place soon to outlaw such agreements, while Liverpool have the funds to make a sizeable down-payment on the midfield player who is valued at 17million by his owners MSI group.

Publicly Benitez claims there is no intense hurry over the deal because Mascherano's loan does not end until the summer.

But after co-owner Tom Hicks agreed to the outlay this week Benitez is keen to ward off interest from other clubs and ensure the transfer is tied up as quickly as possible.

Benitez said: 'Rick Parry (Liverpool chief executive) is working on the deal. He has also concluded the deal for Sissoko to go to Juventus.

'That will be good for him (Sissoko), he wanted to play and needed to play. But we have enough players in this position.

'We have Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano and now Lucas for the midfield roles, and that made it hard for Momo to play regularly.

'Momo is a fantastic professional and a nice boy and I feel this was the right outcome for us and him. Now we are working hard to complete the Mascherano deal, and I believe that will happen.'

Benitez added: 'I am confident it will be tied up soon. Sissoko has gone and we are closer to a deal for Javier.

'We are working very hard to achieve that before the window shuts. I hope for something positive in the next 48 hours. Javier has made it very clear he wants to stay here and I believe he will.

'But we do not need to do anything quickly - he is our loan player until the summer, and it could all be sorted out then.

'We have two days, and if we can finish everything now it will be perfect. He wants to stay.

'The fee we have got for Momo can certainly help as we try to complete the deal.'

Benitez has also called on his side put together a winning streak with his team having not won a league game since Boxing Day.

A poor run of disappointing displays that has seen them sink to sixth in the table, seven points ahead of the Hammers.

Benitez will bring back Steven Gerrard, Jose Reina, Fernando Torres, Jamie Carragher and Xabi Alonso - none of whom started in the 5-2 FA Cup win over Havant and Waterlooville.

He said: 'As far as our recovery following the Havant cup tie is concerned, I accept that I needed to say some things at half-time to ensure that were much better, we now have to improve in the league too.

'We must now start winning matches, we have West Ham and Sunderland before we go to Chelsea and we need six points ahead of that.

'It is difficult to explain why we have not been getting the results, but we have been creating the chances. We just need to be more precise in our finishing and things will be OK.

'What we need now is confidence. We had the players capable of scoring and winning games at in the first half of the season when were unbeaten in the league until December, we were doing everything very well.

'We still believe we are best placed to finish fourth. We are not happy that it has become difficult. But we have one game in hand and we must get back to fourth and then try to catch the third-placed team.'




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