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Benitez 'not behind bids' for Pool duo

RAFAEL BENITEZ last night denied he was the instigator of Inter'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.

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."

Benitez 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 as the club's key targets in this transfer window.

The dispute overshadowed preparations for Liverpool's second leg Europa League win against Trabzonspor in Istanbul last night. Hodgson has said that he will resist all attempts to sign Kuyt, whom Benitez brought to Liverpool four years ago.

While Kuyt's departure would be a surprise, it would seem like only a matter of time before the Italians, or Barcelona, agree a deal for Mascherano, valued at £25m.

Meanwhile, Hodgson moved a step closer to signing his former left-back Paul Konchesky from Fulham.