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By ESPN Staff

Liverpool edge closer to Mascherano transfer

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insists he is edging closer to completing the permanent signing of Javier Mascherano despite fresh reports linking the Argentinian with a move elsewhere.

Mascherano had expected his move to be wrapped up by the end of last week but with the situation still ongoing, Spanish daily Marca now claims the player has been offered to Barcelona.

Benitez said today: 'We are closer than we were one week ago but I don't know how close.'

The 23-year-old Mascherano remains on loan at Anfield from West Ham, although the player is effectively owned by the sports investment group MSI.

It is just the kind of distraction Benitez does not need following the resumption of rumours about a fresh takeover of the club from a Dubai consortium, and the ongoing possibility of legal action against a Sunday newspaper.

'I am only going to concentrate on the football,' Benitez said. 'I have got a team to prepare for this weekend's FA Cup game against Barnsley, and that is what I am thinking about.'

Benitez is still consulting his lawyers over an article referring to the manager's relationship with the club's American owners.

Benitez said today: 'You don't like doing these things but sometimes you have got to protect yourself, and the lawyer will be in contact with them and we will see what is the situation.

'You can have your own opinion, but when somebody is twisting things you must say stop. Our lawyer must say, listen, for these reasons we think you need to say something and change your approach.'

Defender Martin Skrtel is a major doubt for Saturday's clash with Barnsley after he picked up a calf injury in training.

The news comes as a blow to Benitez, who will now have to decide whether to risk Sami Hyypia ahead of Liverpool's clash with Inter Milan in the Champions League next Tuesday.

With Daniel Agger still recovering from a metatarsal injury, it could also mean a place in the squad for Spanish youngster Mikel San Jose, who was on the bench at Chelsea on Sunday.