Masch deal close but still in hands of lawyers

Rafa Benítez is confident that the permanent transfer of Javier Mascherano will go through successfully, despite reports in the Spanish press suggesting otherwise. Mascherano is desperate to see the move finalised and his future secured, and showed a lot of anxiety in interviews before Christmas. But with the current owners needing any help they can get to try and claw back some support of their own from the fans, they’re keen to see the move for the Argentinean succeed – it’s at quite a bargain price after all.

The deal is for £17m excluding the £1.6m spent on the first 18 months of his Anfield career under the original loan. The £17m includes his wages for the duration of the deal, which reportedly would come to an end in the summer of 2012.

Rafa explained that although he knew progress had been made, he wasn’t able to say how much more work needed to be done: “We are closer than we were one week ago but I don’t know how close. Mascherano isn’t a concern for me. I think it’s very, very close.”

The player, his representatives and the club all agreed the terms of the deal some time ago. The hold-up is ensuring that the deal complies with the Premier League’s rules on third-party ownership, as it is believed that it remains, in effect, a long-term loan deal. The current loan deal is effectively with West Ham, but the new one would have to be directly with MSI, which is where the complications arise. Rafa says the legal team are getting near to wrapping the deal up: “I don’t talk directly for the lawyers but I’m sure it’s close. I think it will be okay.”

He’d rather not worry about it now, feeling that whatever happens at least he’s done all he can to get the deal to go through, having now got the owners to agree to it. Instead he’s going to think about the matches ahead: “I am only going to concentrate on the football. I have got a team to prepare for this weekend’s FA Cup game against Barnsley, and that is what I am thinking about.”

That said, he may not be speaking to the lawyers involved in the Mascherano deal, but he’s had lawyers acting for him against the News of the World, in action against their report on Sunday, which implied journalist Rob Beasley had got exclusive quotes from Rafa Benítez, despite Beasley’s attack on Rafa on national TV. Rafa’s job is under threat already, the owners having already tried to line up a replacement for him in Jurgen Klinsmann. The owners lined up Klinsmann, they say, as insurance after newspaper reports said Rafa was thinking of leaving. With that in mind, he quickly explained the truth about the Beasley report, pointing out it had been lifted a manipulated from a Spanish interview, and the following day instructed a solicitor to act on his behalf.

Rafa explained that he wasn’t happy that he’d had to take this line, but said he had to look after himself: “You don’t like doing these things but sometimes you have got to protect yourself, and the lawyer will be in contact with them and we will see what is the situation. You can have your own opinion, but when somebody is twisting things you must say stop.”

It’s unusual for a newspaper to let something slip into print that doesn’t bypass potential lawsuits by using carefully-worded claims and running anything close to the knuckle past its own lawyers. It’s unlikely that this will go all the way to court, but there’s still no word on what the newspaper’s response will be. Rafa seems to imply that he’d be happy with an apology and undertaking not to twist words from elsewhere like this again: “Our lawyer must say, listen, for these reasons we think you need to say something and change your approach.”

The unofficial boycott against the News of the World, something a lot of Reds felt they had to do despite it not being part of the official boycott which saw sales of its sister paper The Sun plummet in 1989, had been the subject of much debate amongst supporters in recent times. When trusted Echo journalist Chris Bascombe went there he came under a lot of criticism which started to subside when his exclusives last year relating to the owners did indeed turn out to be on the mark. It was a window of opportunity for the paper to get this unofficial boycott softened – but Beasley put paid to that. The paper remains outside the official boycott, which was started for reasons far, far worse than anything said to attack Benítez, but why buy a paper that seems to have such an agenda against your club? That’s how many fans will see it, which is unfortunate because Chris Bascombe would not write anything against the club purely to see his story be the first one reviewed on Sky Sports News or the one that was splashed across the rest of the press the following day. The News of the World’s next edition will be interesting, if they do decide to respond to the letter from Rafa’s lawyer, but it’s unlikely they will. In reality they’ll probably be too busy with the latest episode of the Ashley Cole soap opera or jumping on the back of Scudamore over the Game 39 idea.

Youngster Danny Guthrie has accepted his days are numbered as a Liverpool player. He doesn’t feel he’s going to get a chance to break into the first team at Anfield, and is enjoying life at Bolton under Gary Megson. The twenty-year-old is now hopeful of getting a move to the Lancashire side at the end of the season. The fee would be in the region of £3m, although he’s not assuming anything just yet: “A lot can happen between now and the end of the season, but I could see myself staying here. However, it’s up to people above me to decide what happens.”

He says that he’s had no feedback from Anfield about his situation: “I’m sure Liverpool have been monitoring my progress but I haven’t spoken to anyone. In terms of me staying, it depends what the two clubs want to do and then it comes down to me.”

It looked in the first half of his loan period that it had been a bad move, with him making only rare appearances, but he’s now become a regular part of Megson’s sides: “I’m loving it now. When I first came I wasn’t getting too much of a look-in. But I’m involved on a regular basis now.”