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Benitez flexes muscle to land Ryan Babel

By Mark Ogden
Last Updated: 1:40am BST 13/07/2007

Having delivered a thinly veiled criticism of Liverpool's ambition in the transfer market following the club's Champions League final defeat against AC Milan, Rafael Benitez underlined the new financial reality at Anfield last night - taking his summer spending beyond £40 million by signing Ajax forward Ryan Babel in a deal worth £11.5 million.

Babel, the Holland Under-21 striker, who was also a target for Arsenal earlier this summer, agreed a five-year contract on Merseyside. He passed a medical yesterday which means the deal will be rubber-stamped ahead of the friendly at Crewe tomorrow.

The highly-rated winger joins £26.5 million forward Fernando Torres, playmaker Yossi Benayoun, who completed his £5 million move from West Ham yesterday, and free transfer signing Andriy Voronin at Anfield after being enticed to Liverpool by Benitez's aggressive assault on the transfer market.

Stung by Manchester United's £50 million-plus moves for Owen Hargreaves, Nani and Anderson, the Liverpool manager had warned the club's American co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr, of the risks of being left behind by United and Chelsea.

Hicks now insists that the investment proves their commitment in backing the manager's drive towards success. He said: "I know the team is going to be better. Part of the plan Rafa explained was that we needed to have more depth as it is a long season.

"He explained to George and me that we were able to compete better in the Champions League because of the format than we were in the nine to 10 months of the Premier League. We tried to add to that depth, and I think we have.

"We talked to him about a plan. First we had to get an existing core of players on our team to sign extensions. Then we started with the process of getting new players in."

Meanwhile, former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, 32, arrived in Australia yesterday to discuss a move to Sydney FC.


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