Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Mascherano ‘no’ to Liverpool exit

Rafael Benitez revealed Argentina captain Javier Mascherano has turned down an approach by an unnamed club for his services.

The Liverpool boss is preparing his side for Sunday's crucial Premier League clash with Newcastle at Anfield aware that the 25-year-old's position at the club has been undermined.

Mascherano is only 15 months into a four-year contract, but Benitez has held talks with him following the midfielder's claims that he was unsure about his future.

Benitez refused to name the club concerned, but it is understood the approach did not come from either Italy or Spain.

That suggests a British club could be involved because it is unlikely that a club from anywhere else could match the player's wages or likely fee.

However Benitez has been quick to defuse the situation saying: "Javier is happy here. I have had a very positive conversation with him.

"He has already said no to one club, a good side. He wants to stay, but he cannot stop big clubs asking about him.

"If you are a top-class player, people are always asking about you. They will know if there are four or five big clubs asking for them.

"I have had a conversation with him and it was very clear he wants to continue to play for us. I do not see this as a big problem.

"We do not want to lose key players. Players like Mascherano and Xabi Alonso have long contracts so we are in a strong position and we are close to sorting out Daniel Agger's position."

Liverpool expect to announce soon that Agger has ended months of uncertainty about his future by agreeing a new deal, but Benitez, who has also denied he plans to sell Alonso, could have done without the distraction surrounding Mascherano as Liverpool face their last four league games and a continuing race to catch Manchester United at the top of the table.

Mascherano did not help the situation himself by declaring that if Liverpool did receive a bid and want to sell, he would have to go.

Mascherano said: "You never know what is going to happen. If some club can come here with a good offer and the club says 'okay you have to go' then I will leave."

Benitez admits he may have to discuss a new contract for Mascherano in the future.

He said: "If you have to talk about improving his contract it will not be now, maybe in the summer.

"He has a long time still to go on his contract so it is not something that will happen just yet."

Benitez will have skipper Steven Gerrard back after a four-game absence following a groin problem to face the Geordies, who are stuck firmly in the Premier League relegation zone and three points away from safety.

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