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Liverpool deals put on hold for internationals

Liverpool deals put on hold for internationals May 28 2007 by Nick Smith, Liverpool Daily Post RAFAEL BENITEZ’S hopes of finalising new contracts for several key players this week could be frustrated by international commitments. The Liverpool manager, who had put talks on hold until after last week’s Champions League final against AC Milan, is keen to conclude negotiations as he begins the process of rebuilding his squad. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have agreed to new deals while Pepe Reina has intimated he wants to extend his stay at the club. But Benitez is likely to have to wait for the trio to put pen to paper given they are involved in Euro 2008 qualifiers. Steve Finnan will also sign a new contract, and Benitez is hopeful Xabi Alonso can agree a fresh deal despite interest from Barcelona. Benitez, who is now on a short holiday, last week revealed his growing exasperation at the length of time taken for contract and transfer dealings to be concluded at Anfield. Those comments prompted a transatlantic conference call on Friday evening involving American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, their respective sons Foster and Tommy, chief executive Rick Parry and Benitez himself. And reports over the weekend suggest the Liverpool manager expects the first major new signing of the summer to be on board by the end of the week. With the Spanish league season still ongoing, that would appear to rule out, at least for now, the likes of David Silva, David Villa, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres. Instead, efforts are more likely focused on targets elsewhere, which include Benfica’s Simao Sabrosa, Lyon’s Florent Lamouda and Carlos Tevez of West Ham United. Any new arrival would be the latest step of a major summer overhaul for Benitez’s squad. Mark Gonzalez, Jerzy Dudek, Robbie Fowler and Bolo Zenden have played their last games for the club while the futures of Craig Bellamy, Harry Kewell and John Arne Riise are uncertain. Sami Hyypia could be another to depart, with promoted Sunderland joining neighbours Newcastle United in attempting to capture the Finnish centre-back. Momo Sissoko, though, wants to extend his Anfield career – provided he remains a part of Benitez’s long-term plans. The midfielder will seek talks with the Liverpool manager over his future with Barcelona thought to be tracking the Mali international. Sissoko, who had been struggling with a knee injury, didn’t even make the bench for the Champions League final defeat in Athens last Wednesday. And the 22-year-old said: “At the beginning of the season I played a lot, but then I play, not play, play, not play – for me I am not happy. “Now I'm 22, and I know I am still a young player, but now I need to progress because playing every game is important to me. “I've two years left on my contract and I'm happy with Liverpool. But I need to play football and now after the final I need to know my position.” Meanwhile, reports in Hungary claim Liverpool have signed Krisztian Nemeth and Andras Simon from MTK Hungaria. Strikers Nemeth, 18, and Simon, 17, appeared for Hungary in last year’s UEFA Under-17 Championships.

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