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Liverpool launch legal battle for Gabriel Heinze

Liverpool launch legal battle for Gabriel Heinze

By Mark Ogden in Macau
Last Updated: 1:15am BST 24/07/2007

Manchester United and Liverpool are heading for a courtroom showdown after the Merseyside club increased their efforts to sign defender Gabriel Heinze.

Gabriel Heinze and Sir Alex Ferguson
Opposites attract: Gabriel Heinze's move down the East Lancs Road has been blocked by Sir Alex Ferguson

Three days after United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that he would not sell the Argentinian to the club's arch-rivals, Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benitez, yesterday said he had drafted in lawyers in an attempt to bring Heinze to Anfield.

"It's clear he's a player we like and he's a very good player. That's the reason why they don't want him to leave for us," Benitez said. "We made an offer which they rejected. The lawyers are now working on it and so we have to wait."

Liverpool met United's valuation of Heinze last week with a £6.8 million bid. However, Ferguson, having assured the 29-year-old that he would be allowed to leave this summer for the right price, made any transfer conditional on Heinze moving abroad, or to a club unlikely to emerge as rivals for domestic honours. Juventus and Real Madrid are also monitoring the situation.

Ferguson, who yesterday saw his new signing Nani score in a 6-0 victory over Shenzhen Xiangxue in Macau, hit back at Liverpool by revealing that the Old Trafford club were investigating the circumstances surrounding their pursuit of Heinze.

He suggested last night that the conduct of Heinze's representatives had become a key issue. "There hasn't been any change in our stance because Heinze is not going to Liverpool as far as I am concerned," Ferguson said.

"We are examining some of the statements coming from his agent of when the contact was first made, but at the moment we have nothing more to say. We are not happy with the agent's conduct in the matter and we're examining that."

Heinze has so far kept his own counsel but the left-back still has two years remaining on his United contract, weakening his bargaining position. United's chief executive, David Gill, says a signed letter allowing Heinze to move for a set fee is now "meaningless" although the player's representatives are adamant the agreement he has with United is binding.

Gill has also dismissed suggestions that the player would invoke a new Fifa ruling enabling him to buy out the remaining two years of his contract.

Heinze has made it clear he is keen to link up with compatriot Javier Mascherano at Anfield and is ready to fight for the move, despite the risk of antagonising United's followers.

Benitez believes Heinze's case is strong enough to undermine United's hardline stance and Liverpool will wait for as long as the player fights on, with a court hearing looking an increasing possibility.


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