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By ESPN Staff

Heinze had to go abroad, claims Benitez

Rafael Benitez believes Gabriel Heinze had no alternative but to leave Manchester United and England after the Barclays Premier League blocked his proposed move to Liverpool.

The messy saga reached its conclusion with the Argentinian defender joining Real Madrid on a four-year contract.

Heinze, 29, was still considering whether to launch an appeal against the decision when the Spanish champions made their move.

Liverpool manager Benitez could not hide his hurt at seeing the player finally slip out of his grasp.

He said: 'I am really disappointed with the situation because we had 100% confidence he would be arriving at Liverpool.

'But after the hearing it was impossible for him to remain here. He was so disappointed he knew he would have to go to another country.'

Benitez maintains that his club got a raw deal from the panel that adjudicated on the matter.

'It was a special situation - because we are Liverpool,' he said.

'The verdict was a surprise for everyone, our lawyers, the player and his agent. I could not believe it.'

Although Heinze still wanted to explore the Liverpool option, he knew that by dragging the situation out even further, his chances of moving out of England before the August 31 transfer deadline would effectively disappear.

Having already had one lot of talks with Real earlier in the summer, he opted to join them instead.

Benitez is now considering his options following Heinze's departure to Spain although he is running out of time with the transfer window due to close in eight days.

However he insists his focus at the moment is on the Premier League match against newly-promoted Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Benitez said: 'We need to analyse the situation and look at the squad. It is not easy to find a player of Heinze's quality.

'However for the moment we have to concentrate on the game at Sunderland. That is the important thing.'

England midfielder Steven Gerrard is expected to be ruled out because of a broken toe.

However Benitez claims he has enough good cover at the club to cope with Gerrard's absence.

'It is clear we have a better squad and more players in this position, '

said the Anfield coach.

'If we need to manage now it will be easier, I am sure.'