Belfast Telegraph

Inter Milan boss Rafael Benitez denies bidding for Liverpool stars Dirk Kuyt and Javier Mascherano

By Sam Wallace

Rafael Benitez last night denied he was behind Inter Milan's attempts to poach Dirk Kuyt and Javier Mascherano after his successor Roy Hodgson's accusation that Benitez had reneged on an agreement not to pursue Liverpool's best players.

Hodgson's side secured their place in the group stages of the Europa League thanks to a 2-1 win at Trabzonspor in last night's play-off. Meanwhile, their former boss was enjoying the main event – the Champions League draw in Monaco and he responded to Hodgson's allegations that he had gone back on a deal with Liverpool by claiming that player acquisitions were not his responsibility. Benitez said: "I am the coach and I cannot sign players – that is for the technical director and the chairman. I am fine like this – I can focus on my work on the pitch and that is all. I am the coach, not the manager."

He refused to expand further on whether it was just a coincidence that the Italian team's president, Massimo Moratti, and the technical director, Marco Branca, had earmarked Kuyt and Mascherano – two of Benitez's stalwarts during his time at Anfield – as the club's key targets.

The dispute overshadowed preparations for the second leg of Liverpool's Europa League qualifier against Trabzonspor in Istanbul last night where a Giray Kacar own-goal and a Kuyt strike saw Liverpool home. Hodgson has said that he will resist all attempts to sign the Dutchman Kuyt, whom Benitez brought to Liverpool four years ago. Benitez's response did nothing to suggest that he is about to back down in the tensions with his former employers.

Hodgson has previously suggested that Benitez has had contact with the agent Rob Jansen who represents Kuyt. While Kuyt's departure before the end of the transfer window on Tuesday would be a surprise, it would seem like only a matter of time before the Italians, or Barcelona, agree a deal for Mascherano, whom Liverpool value around £25m.

Branca said that he was waiting for a reply from Liverpool to the club's latest offer. He said: "Everybody knows that Mascherano would like to change team and to change country. He also has a good relationship with our manager. We've made a very good offer, around the amount they are asking for. We have a strong team here, the best in Europe, but we would like to add one or two players to make us stronger."

Hodgson moved a step closer to signing his former left-back Paul Konchesky from Fulham when it emerged that the London club were concluding a deal for the Mexico left-back Carlos Salcido, who plays for PSV Eindhoven. Salcido was at the club's Motspur Park training ground to undergo a medical yesterday which would pave the way for Konchesky to leave Craven Cottage.

Konchesky, 29, has been told that he will only be allowed to leave on the condition that his valuation of £5m is met by Liverpool and that a replacement can be found.

Source: Independent

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