Atletico deny Torres bids as rumours place him in Liverpool

The saga surrounding the possible transfer of Fernando Torres
from Atletico Madrid to Liverpool takes more twists and turns by the day, today
being no different. Denials there had been any offers whatsoever came from
Madrid, rumours the player had already been to Anfield came from Liverpool.

The possible move has been one of the big stories in England
and Spain for the past few days, matched only by coverage of the move to
Barcelona of Thierry Henry. So today Atletico's president Enrique Cerezo felt
he had to issue a denial about bids for his 23-year-old captain: "We've
received no offer from Liverpool or any other club or player," he claimed.
"There is nothing linking Torres with any team. He's on holidays, he's resting
and he'll return to work on July 9." He didn't say where Torres was going for his holidays.

He did confirm that Torres has a buy-out clause in his
contract, although of course didn't reveal the figure: "All the players have a clause
in their contract and in that case we would not be able to do anything, but I
repeat that there has been nothing about Torres from any team. We are now
working to create a good team for the coming year."

The actual amount of that buy-out clause has been speculated
about repeatedly, with estimates as high as £27m, but it is now believed that
Atletico's failure to qualify directly for Europe has activated a much lower
amount of £18m.

Rafa's budget has been the subject of various rumours too,
but his relaxed stance last week suggests that since the audit of his past
transfers has been completed the new owners have agreed to make more money available
than normal after all. Not that they'll readily admit this just yet.

It was clear even as early as the start of last week that
Rafa was left short of funds compared to what he felt he'd been promised. So
when it was leaked that Liverpool were interested in Torres the story needed
some way of showing how Rafa could afford a fee believed then to be somewhere
between £24m and £27m. This resulted in Luis Garcia, Peter Crouch and Djibril
Cissé's names being added as part of a part-exchange deal. It's no secret
Liverpool are looking to offload Cissé, but Rafa certainly does not want to
lose Crouch.

With it being only a couple of weeks since Thierry Henry was
"spotted" at Anfield, and past experience of Zinedine Zidane and his "new house"
in Formby, Reds fans would be forgiven for dismissing out of hand today's internet
rumours: that Fernando Torres was spotted in the offices at the stadium this
afternoon. Except this time the stories have come from more sources, and more
credible sources, and include manager Rafa Benítez being at the ground too.  

There's no doubt Liverpool are interested in bringing Torres
to Anfield, but for how much or how soon remains to be seen. Atletico's hands
are tied if the release-fee is matched – but we still don't know for sure if
the Reds are willing or able to match it. That said, there are signs that the
owners have quietly committed to a greater budget than Rafa was left thinking
he had two weeks ago. In fact Atletico themselves are now believed to have gone
for one of the targets on what was Rafa's B-list – Diego Forlan. As far as
Torres being at Anfield today – well it seems strange that the club would take
a risk on allowing Torres to be seen at Anfield considering he's still not officially
a confirmed target, but the story is coming from reputable sources. Things certainly
seem much more hopeful than they did just a couple of weeks ago.