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Benitez fails in bid to swap Babel for Sunderland’s Jones

Manager wanted to trade unhappy winger and bring in cover for stricken Torres

RAFAEL BENITEZ, who has learnt that Fernando Torres’ knee operation went well on Saturday, has his work cut out securing Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones as a stand-in, with the Wearsiders not interested in a swap deal involving Ryan Babel.

Benitez was hopeful late on Saturday that a trade for the two players might be possible, with Jones now out of favour on Wearside. But asked if he was interested in Babel, the Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, replied flatly: “No.”

He said: “The one thing I am trying to do is build the squad and build the squad to improve. The last thing I want to be doing is trade or anything like that.”

Benitez will not offload Babel unless he can find a better alternative, despite the Dutchman venting his frustrations with the manager on the social networking site Twitter on Friday. But the Spaniard had a veiled warning for the player late on Saturday. “If Ryan trains hard and is ready to play he will be available. If not, he won’t be available,” he said. “We have to concentrate on the next game with the players we have available.

“I was talking with Ryan one week ago and I explained the situation very clearly to him. After the meeting everything was fine. He was working and he was on the bench and he played against Reading. After this game (against Reading) I decided he would not be on the bench and that is it.” Babel (23) has become little more than a fringe player at Anfield. Reports of problems between Liverpool and Steven Gerrard are wide of the mark.

They have their roots in rumours, which circulated after Gerrard did not appear for the second half against Reading, of a falling out between the captain and either Sammy Lee or Mauricio Pellegrino, Benitez’s assistant, at halftime in that game.

“He (Gerrard) is very disappointed that we have not won these games like everyone else but he was here to help (at the Britannia Stadium),” said Benitez. He is the captain and he was (at Stoke) supporting the team. He knows it is important to be with the team.”

Central defender Daniel Agger is doubtful with a groin injury for Liverpool’s vital rearranged home match with Tottenham in midweek. But Torres is at least through his surgery, which took place in Barcelona on Saturday under Ramon Cugat, the surgeon who has advised on the treatment of his long-standing groin problem. He is now resting.