Saturday 3 December 2016

Benitez hails statement of intent as star duo close in on new deals

Published 06/03/2010 | 05:00

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes the fact goalkeeper Jose Reina and midfielder Javier Mascherano are close to signing new contracts sends out a significant statement about the club's future.

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Since last summer, starting with Barcelona's courting of Mascherano, there has been constant speculation about several key players, and Benitez himself.

That was intensified by the Reds' poor start to the campaign, but since Christmas things have settled down considerably.

And it is a measure of the faith the players have in Benitez, who is confident he will be in charge for the long term, that two key members of his squad are prepared to commit to contract extensions.

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"Everything is very close and no problems," said Benitez, who in January was targeted by Serie A club Juventus to take over this summer. "I think we will have news about Reina and Mascherano very soon and that will be very positive for the future."

After speculation about Barcelona's interest in Mascherano drifted away following the closing of the August transfer window, the futures of Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and, most recently, Reina have been open to debate.

But Benitez, who in the last year has tied the likes of Gerrard, Torres, Carragher and Kuyt to extended deals, said he had no doubts about convincing Mascherano and Reina to commit to the club.

"I was talking with Mascherano and his agent the other day and it is true Javier is happier," said the Reds boss. "The agent had been really good when we were talking in the past and the conversations were very positive. When you talk with Javier he is very settled and happy."

Asked if a deal would be struck before the end of the season, the Spaniard added: "I think so."

Irish Independent

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