Liverpool get green light over Gonzalez work permit

July 5, 2006

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has completed a hat-trick of South American signings this week with the club finally winning their battle to claim a work permit for Chilean winger Mark Gonzalez.

On Monday 20-year-old Argentinian defender Gabriel Paletta signed a four-year contract after moving from Banfield.

And while Liverpool were attending the work permit hearing to allow Gonzalez to start his Anfield career, they were also completing the paperwork to secure the services of Valencia's Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio on a free transfer.

But the key signing for Benitez has been the arrival of Gonzalez, who has been training at the club this week, after more than a year of wrangling.

The club were finally given the green light to allow the 23-year-old to start his Liverpool career, delayed after the player had an initial application last summer rejected and then an appeal later in the year turned down.

Gonzalez has spent the past six months on loan to Real Sociedad, where he helped them win a relegation battle in La Liga. Benitez, determined to bring him to Anfield, was forced into such a drastic action to keep Gonzalez fit and in match practice ahead of this summer's second application to the Department of Employment to allow Gonzalez to play in the UK.

Benitez said: 'This is very good news for us and I am absolutely delighted to welcome Mark to Liverpool as he is a player the supporters will like to see.

'Mark is an exciting left winger who can cross good balls and beat defenders and he is a very good signing for us. He has a very good mentality as when I was talking with him he told me, 'I want to play for Liverpool'.'

Benitez tried to sign Gonzalez last summer and a fee of around £4million was agreed with Albacete.

But the player was injured at the time with a serious knee problem, and the deal Liverpool proposed was only a loan move because of that injury uncertainty.

Because of Chile's low FIFA ranking and the clear fact that the player could not go straight into the first team, Liverpool's original work permit application was rejected.

Gonzalez was not able to play again until mid-season, and an appeal to the Home Office was also turned down, which left Benitez with the only option of sending the player out on loan to another Spanish club.

Gonzalez's arrival will give Benitez the pace on the left he has needed, and it could well cast a doubt over Harry Kewell's future at the club.

The Australian is currently recovering from the foot injury that ended his World Cup campaign, but he will find Gonzalez a serious threat to his first team place considering how much faith Benitez has put in the player.

It will also allow Benitez to concentrate on the acquisition of another new striker - Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt is still high on the Liverpool manager's hit list - and a right winger, with Jermaine Pennant a target.

Benitez could also have rekindled his interest in Real Betis star Joaquin.

Benitez has been chasing Sevilla's Daniel Alves, but he has refused to meet the £12million asking price, and that deal looks dead.

So he has retrained his sights on Joaquin, having been linked with the player last season.

The wide man has just returned from World Cup duty and has made it clear that he intends to leave Betis for a new challenge this summer.

Betis' new president Pepe Leon admits he will cash in if the right offer comes along.

He said: 'Betis would be equally happy to keep Joaquin or to have their coffers full. There have always been a lot of teams after the player, but nobody has yet decided to make the final move.'

Spanish sources suggest Liverpool will offer £10million plus Antonio Barragan, Jerzy Dudek and Bolo Zenden to land their man.

Benitez, though, will be just delighted tonight to have finally landed Gonzalez, having heavily criticised the Home Office for their previous refusals to let the player start his career at Anfield.

The arrival of Brazilian wing-back Aurelio, on a free transfer, has been completed now he has put pen to paper on a four-year deal.

He won a Spanish title under Benitez at Valencia and becomes the first Brazilian to play for Liverpool.

Aurelio has also been training with Liverpool this week having seen his Valencia contract run out last Friday, but the fine points of the move have only just been completed.

Benitez said: 'Fabio is a player with a lot of quality and he is a really good signing for us.

'His technical ability is fantastic and he has a great left foot and provides the team with a lot of options. He has a really good mentality and he is a winner.'