Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has today confirmed reports that Liverpool and West Ham have agreed a fee for playmaker Yossi Benayoun, and has also announced that Ajax have allowed Liverpool to talk terms with Ryan Babel.
Parry said: “We’ve agreed the fee with West Ham for Yossi Benayoun. We’re not quite there with Ryan Babel yet, but we’ve now been given permission by Ajax to talk to the player. We hope to reach an agreement with Ajax very shortly.”
Benayoun now just has to tie up some loose ends before he becomes a Red, and according to the local press Babel is due in Liverpool today to undergo those talks. The Benayoun fee is undisclosed, but believed to be anywhere between £4m and £5m, with the fee for Babel expected to be somewhere around the £10m mark.
Many Reds see similarities between Benayoun and the outgoing Luis Garcia who joined Atletico Madrid last week. Rafa Benítez agrees, saying: “They are similar – maybe Luis is a player who scores more goals and Benayoun tends to make more assists. Like Luis, he is a very technical, clever player with a lot of game intelligence. He can also play in many positions, giving us a different option for the team.” Rafa says he’d already had an eye on Yossi when he played in Spain, but took the opportunity to watch him whilst in England to see how well he had converted to the English game: “I first saw him play for Racing Santander in La Liga when he was a really good player, but when he first came to England we were watching to be sure he could adapt to a different style of football. It’s clear he’s done this very well at West Ham.”
Rafa was impressed with Benayoun’s performance in Cardiff at the end of the 2006 season: “Liverpool fans will remember how he played in the FA Cup Final against us when he was outstanding. We thought then this was a player who is capable of stepping up to a higher level.”
And Benayoun is also about to become the latest player to turn down more money in return for the honour of playing for the Reds: “He was offered a big new contract at West Ham and received offers from a lot of other clubs offering him more money, but Yossi’s message was always the same. He said he was desperate to only join Liverpool because this was his dream. When Rick, the Americans and I spoke about the player, we all agreed this is the kind of attitude we and our supporters really like. When you have quality players with his ability showing so much passion to play for your club, it’s really good for the team.”
In fact the opposite to that sort of attitude is what puts Rafa off players, and more than one player has seen Liverpool’s interest wane when Rafa has perceived money as being their biggest motivator.
Rafa mentioned that Fernando Torres may have to delay his first training session for the Reds due to an ankle injury, which Rafa says isn’t serious but shouldn’t be risked.