Liverpool's board are due to meet today to discuss the possible transfer to Anfield of Lucas Neill and Javier Mascherano.
Liverpool's interest in Neill has been no secret, not since both the Reds and his current club Blackburn spoke about how a move to sign him failed in August due to Blackburn holding out for a fee much higher than the Reds were willing to pay. The move for Mascherano has only recently started being spoken about but according to the Liverpool Echo has been being worked on for some months.
According to the paper both players are willing to join the club, but the deals are far from complete. The board need to discuss the deals with the likely DIC takeover in mind – but Rafa doesn't want there to be any delays which could scupper the plans.
The paper also discusses Rafa's hopes of completing a deal for Hamilton Academicals' 16-year-old central midfielder James McCarthy for £100,000 this transfer window.
McCarthy is one for the future, but Rafa sees central midfielder Mascherano as an important addition to the squad. If the deal goes ahead he would be signed initially on loan with the Reds having an option to make the deal permanent after that. One of the biggest problems facing Liverpool in this deal is getting permission to play him. Reports that he's played for two clubs this season would be true if the South American season ran through the same time period as the European one. Mascherano played for Corinthians last season in South American terms, a season which officially ended on Sunday, so technically hasn't actually played for two clubs this season. Liverpool will no doubt ensure this definitely is the case before going ahead with the deal.
The Echo says Mascherano has "made it clear he wants to move to Liverpool, and a deal has been agreed with his representatives Media Sports Investments". Mascherano himself spoke to the press about how unhappy he was at West Ham, where he's rarely been played. He said: "I must get out of here. I cannot stay at West Ham any more like this, without playing. At my age my game will stagnate if I don't play. If I am not playing in the West Ham team I will have to leave to continue my career with another team."
Lucas Neill will be signed for a fee if he does arrive this month; the amount of that fee is what is causing the delays at the moment. He will be eligible for the Champions League too under new UEFA rules. Stephen Warnock's name keeps cropping up in the talks with Blackburn who think they should get the Reds left-back as part of the deal. With Neill available on a Bosman this summer it does seem that Blackburn are still putting too high a value on their player.