Benitez sticks to his guns over player prices

May 22, 2008

Rafael Benitez is playing hard-ball over the valuation of several of his players as he battles to bring in the funds to allow his own summer transfer market plunge.

The Liverpool boss is believed to be sticking to his guns over a £10million asking price for goalkeeper Scott Carson, which will almost certainly rule out Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill.

O'Neill would like to make Carson's season-long loan move permanent, but will not pay that price.

It was thought that Benitez had lowered his price to help ease through a swap-plus-cash deal for Gareth Barry, but Villa are believed to be still insisting on £16million for the England international.

With Peter Crouch already labelled with a £15million price tag, Liverpool have now slapped a £16million valuation on midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Juventus have held talks over the Spain international with Benitez, but the Anfield boss is not in any haste to see the deal go through unless a large fee can be acquired.

Benitez has a limited cash kitty for the summer, and he must sell to raise money for several deals he is working on. Benitez wants Barry as well as £8million-rated Udinese full-back Andrea Dossena.

Benitez has defended his stance on the Carson fee, which would surely be less if Villa agreed to sell Barry.

Benitez says: 'It is a matter between the clubs. We agreed the fee with Aston Villa last year.

'The fee has been there for one season so to talk about the fee now is not correct. We agreed with Martin O'Neill and that was the situation.'

Liverpool have confirmed a prestige pre-season friendly with La Liga runners-up Villarreal, and they are also expected to confirm soon another warm-up game against Rangers at Ibrox.

So far the only date confirmed is the July 30 visit to Villarreal, a side Liverpool could end up by facing in the Champions League next term.

The match is part of the deal that took Spain goalkeeper Jose Reina to Anfield in the summer of 2005.

Liverpool are also almost certain to be facing a trip to Ibrox to face the UEFA Cup beaten finalists. That date could be July 26, but there has been no official confirmation yet.

Liverpool will travel to Switzerland in early July for their usual pre-season training camp, where a couple of games against local opposition will be organised.

Liverpool also hope to have a friendly on the weekend prior to the start of the new Premier League season.

There are no plans for a pre-season tour to the USA or the Far East, as Liverpool have staged in previous years.

Liverpool enter the Champions League at the third qualifying round stage next season, and the draw will be made on August 3.

The Premier League starts on August 9, with the third qualifying round first leg on August 12 or 13 with the second leg on August 26 or 27, with the group stage starting on September 16 or 17.