Monday 10 December 2018

Liverpool set sights on Juve's Fernando Llorente

Liverpool target Fernando Llorente
Liverpool target Fernando Llorente

Jason Burt

Liverpool are turning their attentions to Juventus striker Fernando Llorente and Sevilla's Carlos Bacca after refusing to meet the £32.5m release fee to sign Christian Benteke from Aston Villa.

Llorente is expected to be made available by the Italian champions, who are reshaping their attack this summer and signing Atletico Madrid's Mario Mandzukic, while Sevilla have insisted, so far, that Bacca is not for sale.

There is understood to be a €30m release clause in Bacca's contract, which Sevilla say has to be met, while Juventus may try and hold out for as much as €20m for Llorente but will probably let him go for less.

Liverpool are determined to add to their strike-force and had targeted Benteke, having already signed Danny Ings, for a fee to be set by a tribunal but which could be between £5m and £7m, although they will not bid anywhere near the Belgian international's buy-out clause.

As that interest has started to cool, possibly to see whether Villa lower their asking price, Liverpool are examining the possibility of signing either Llorente or Bacca.

Spanish international Llorente is 30 while Colombia's Bacca, a prolific goalscorer in La Liga, currently representing his country in the Copa America, where he was sent off with Neymar in the fiery group game against Brazil, is 28.

Although their age does not fit in with the preferred policy of Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group, who want to sign younger players, manager Brendan Rodgers has argued for more experienced quality to strengthen his squad, having already brought in 29-year-old James Milner.

Benteke is 24 and although he emerged as Liverpool's No 1 target, the club do not want to meet the release clause which was inserted when he signed a £50,000-a-week deal two years ago after initially submitting a transfer request amid interest from Tottenham Hotspur. Liverpool want to pay closer to £20m, it is thought.

Liverpool are also poised to make a fresh bid for right-back Nathaniel Clyne, having had an initial £9m offer rejected by Southampton, who are holding out for £15m for the England international. Again, Liverpool will not go close to that valuation - Clyne has just one year left on his contract - but may reach a compromise price of £11-12m.

Liverpool have been linked with a move for attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino, who is expected to leave German club Hoffenheim, with his agent claiming the Brazilian will move to the Premier League.

Sources at Manchester United have distanced themselves from claims that the club are negotiating a deal, while it is unclear how firm Liverpool's interest is.

Liverpool have completed the signing of Joe Gomez from Charlton Athletic for £3.5m with the 18-year-old defender expected to go into the first-team squad.

Centre-back Sebastian Coates has joined Sunderland on a permanent deal.

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