Mascherano and Neill latest

Liverpool's hopes of signing West Ham's unhappy midfielder Javier Mascherano increased slightly yesterday when FIFA announced that correspondence from the Reds relating to the player was being considered.

The Argentine midfielder is, to the letter of FIFA's regulations, unable to play for another club this season as he has already played for two sides since July 1st. He played for Corinthians of Brazil in August before he signed for West Ham, where he became an unwanted player at the troubled London side. He made seven appearances at West Ham, the last of which was on December 3rd against Everton. Liverpool want to sign him on loan until the end of the season; if the deal goes ahead the Reds will have an option to make the deal permanent.

Liverpool's appeal, supported by the player's agents Media Sports Investments, concerns the fact that since October the player has played just six minutes, none at all since West Ham changed manager, and that FIFA's regulations being upheld would lead to a restraint in trade.

Liverpool have also listed precedents where this regulation has been bypassed previously, and have also drawn attention to the fact that Mascherano's two seasons were played in different parts of the world, with totally different season calendars.

FIFA's spokesperson said of the Liverpool appeal: "We have received correspondence from Liverpool regarding their proposed signing of Javier Mascherano and a case has been opened. It will now be processed and we will see how it progresses."

Liverpool target Lucas Neill should know where his future lies by the end of this week.

Blackburn are demanding a £2million fee for the services of the defender for the next six months, and Liverpool have been forced to consider whether this is reasonable for a player who would be free by the end of the season.

The deal is complicated by the interest of Newcastle United (as ever) and West Ham, who are both said to be willing to pay the fee and to also pay higher wages to the Australian international. The other two sides would see Neill as a first-team regular and so can justify paying him wages that reflect that. Liverpool see Neill as a squad player, cover for all the defensive positions, and are not willing to pay him wages so high. The high fee demanded by Blackburn has also played a part in just how much Liverpool want to spend on wages for the player.

The move would, according to reports, see Stephen Warnock move the other way, and it seems now that Liverpool have dropped their demands for £500,000 in cash to be added to the deal. Neill now has to decide whether the money and regular first team football on offer at West Ham or Newcastle means more to him than playing Champions League football for the next few seasons. Rafa Benítez is hoping that Neill will be in his squad for the visit of Chelsea this weekend.