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Whittaker: Deserved win at Man City

Stoke 18 hours ago
Read
 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 29, 2007

Benitez confident of Mascherano signing

Rafael Benitez believes Javier Mascherano will become a Liverpool player - even if FIFA do not answer the Anfield club's appeal to be allowed to sign the Argentina international before the transfer window closes on Wednesday.

Liverpool want to end the midfielder's West Ham nightmare by taking him on loan, even though he has already played for two clubs in the last 12 months.

FIFA's rules forbid a player having three clubs in that time, but Liverpool launched an appeal to be allowed to sign Mascherano, who has played only five games for the Hammers - and none since November - since his controversial signing last summer, along with countryman Carlos Tevez.

Benitez, who takes his side to face West Ham at Upton Park tomorrow for a game crucial to both ends of the Premiership table, believes he will get his man in the end.

Benitez said: 'We are waiting for FIFA to make a decision, but even if that does not come before the deadline, I believe he will still be able to join us.'

It appears the only way that could happen then is if West Ham tear up his contract and make Mascherano a free agent. Benitez admitted: 'That is an option.'

The Liverpool boss added: 'I hope he will join us, he has great experience.

'We know the rule says he cannot play for three clubs, but he is unable to play at West Ham and we must take into consideration the law, and the law is more important than the rules.

'He is unable to work at the moment, nobody can say you cannot work.'

Benitez has trailed the midfielder since before last summer's World Cup, and said: 'We were aware of the player when he was at River Plate, he was in the national team at 18. There is no doubt about the quality of the player.

'He played well in the World Cup and he is a great professional with talent and quality.

'We have good midfielders in Alonso, Gerrard, Sissoko and Zenden, but the only holding midfielder is Alonso and the idea is to bring Mascherano here to put pressure on in that role.

'If we sign him it will be on loan for one and a half years, at least. He is a good option and has the character and ability to do well in the Premiership.

'We have an agreement, but we must wait for the FIFA decision. We hope that will come in the next two days, but if it does not we still believe we will be able to sign him.'

He continued: 'We are doing our best as a club to sort this out. FIFA need to do something before January 31. But if they do not, I still feel we can achieve what we want.

'We talked to West Ham and had permission to talk to Mascherano, that says that he is not likely to play for them again.

'They used Tevez because they needed strikers, but they had other midfield players with different styles, that made it difficult.'

It is believed that Tevez and Mascherano have differing contracts, Tevez being able to play as often as West Ham want but Mascherano's has a stipulation that after a certain number of games it would trigger extra payments.

Benitez said: 'I do not know about the contracts, only that we like him and want to make an agreement.'

The Spaniard knows that he will be facing a club in turmoil, with only one league win under new boss Alan Curbishley and a serious injury crisis.

But Benitez, who could have Mohamed Sissoko and Bolo Zenden back in his squad, believes it will be a tough game, saying: 'West Ham players should be more motivated with a new manager.

'When a team changes a manager, they normally win the first game because everyone wants to impress, then the situation can return to what it was like before.

'We need to win the game before talking about the future and how far we are behind Chelsea.

'We know how important this game is and if we can beat Everton as well it will be six points, and that could make a big difference.

'This stage of the season is very important for us. We have difficult games with Manchester United and Arsenal still to come here, but if we can win some games in a row now it will make us closer to the top as the season comes to an end.'