Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Liverpool face fight to land Johnson

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's summer plans may not be as straightforward as he would have wanted as it seems he faces another transfer battle.

Having spent the last couple of weeks fending off interest in midfielders Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano from Real Madrid and Barcelona, it now appears Chelsea are competing for the signature of Portsmouth defender Glen Johnson.

The Merseysiders were in pole position to bring in the England international for a fee, which includes money still owed to them from the transfer of Peter Crouch to Pompey, believed to be around £17million.

However, with Fratton Park chairman Peter Storrie confirming a second club, understood to be Johnson's former side Chelsea, had lodged an identical bid there is now serious competition for the 24-year-old's signature.

Having seen Gareth Barry, Benitez's number one transfer target last summer, complete a surprise move to Manchester City earlier this month the Liverpool boss will not want to be pipped at the post again.

Liverpool remain confident they are Johnson's preferred choice and it has been reported the player is to cut short a holiday to have a medical over the weekend.

“The matter will come to a conclusion at the beginning of next week. I do not have a preference over the move, it is up to Glen,” said Storrie.

“The deals are almost identical so it really is down to him and what club he prefers, which one is going to pay him more money.”

With Madrid's interest in Alonso seemingly still alive and Barcelona reportedly considering a move for Jose Reina to replace goalkeeper Victor Valdes, signing Johnson would be a welcome relief for Benitez.

At least he can rely on star striker Fernando Torres, who signed an improved contract last month.

The Spain international also believes much of the speculation about his club-mates, although unsettling, will not be too damaging.

“A lot of players committed themselves to Liverpool this summer with new contracts and players don't do that unless they think they can have their ambitions met,” he said.

“There is a lot of belief at the club and a lot of trust in the manager. I'm very happy with my contract at Liverpool and wouldn't leave just to earn a little more somewhere else where I wouldn't be that happy. To want any more would be greedy and that is not me. As long as Liverpool want me, I will stay.”

Recent comments by Liverpool's auditors about the level of debt at the club — American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are in the process of renegotiating a loan of £350million — have only increased speculation about departures from Anfield.

Torres, however, believes the majority of the squad will remain and dismissed suggestions Mascherano was unhappy on Merseyside.

“Javier loves it at Liverpool, that is all I can tell you,” said the striker. In the summer people like to make a lot of noises about world-class players — and Javier is a world-class player.

“He has said himself that he is very happy at Anfield and there is no reason for him to want to leave.”

The future of left-back Andrea Dossena could be finalised next week as the Italian's agent believes Juventus will soon make a decision on whether to make a bid.

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