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Ruud van Nistelrooy on Liverpool FC radar as Rafa Benitez plans clear-out

Ryan Babel in action against Thailand in a pre-season friendly

ANDRIY VORONIN and Ryan Babel are set become the first casualties of Liverpool’s Champions League elimination.

The pair are likely to be the most notable names to be told their futures lie away from the club as Rafael Benitez ponders a mini-clearout in January.

The Anfield manager is hoping to raise funds to bolster his underperforming squad as he plans his long-term transfer strategy.

And Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy is believed to be keen on making a controversial move to Liverpool in the New Year.

Voronin has not been involved in the matchday squad since starting the 1-1 Champions League draw in Lyon three weeks ago.

The Ukraine international missed a gilt-edged chance during the match, with Liverpool’s failure to win contributing to their exit from the competition that was confirmed on Wednesday by Fiorentina’s 1-0 win over Lyon.

Voronin has proven unpopular with large sections of the Anfield support since

his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen on a free transfer more than two years ago, and spent last season on loan at Hertha Berlin.

Eintracht Frankfurt have confirmed an interest in taking the 30-year-old back to the Bundesliga in the forthcoming January transfer window but a lack of finance means any move may only be temporary.

Babel’s Anfield career is seemingly also in doubt after his latest outburst in which he reiterated a desire to leave in the New Year if he does not play more regularly.

The 22-year-old also questioned some of the managerial methods of Benitez, which is unlikely to improve his chances of the first-team football he craves.

But while Voronin and Babel edge nearer the Anfield exit, sources in Spain have suggested van Nistelrooy would jump at the chance of a move to Liverpool.

The former Manchester United striker has intimated to his advisors that he wishes to make the transfer to provide backup to the injury-hampered Fernando Torres.

The Dutch international has found himself on the fringes at the Bernabeu this season following the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Kaka in the summer.

Van Nistelrooy has also fallen behind Gonzalo Higuain and Raul in Real coach Manuel Pellegrini’s plans.

Like Babel, van Nistelrooy is hopeful of retaining his place in Holland’s squad for next summer’s World Cup but is mindful of Dutch national team coach Bert van Marwijk’s comments he will only take players who are appearing regularly for their clubs.

Real, however, are not thought to be keen to part with van Nistelrooy.

Meanwhile, Pepe Reina has revealed Liverpool have already started training their thoughts on Europa League glory.

“Of course we’re disappointed because this is a big competition that we’ve done well in for the last three or four years,” said Reina. “Now we’re out, though. It’s a tough competition and it’s not always possible to get out of the group stage.

“The Europa League is another competition for us and we want to win it. It also has strong teams and it will be nice to play in it.

“It’s already become a target. It’ll be tough because there are so many good teams involved, but we have to look forward and keep trying to win.”

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