Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tevez is the Prime Target for Liverpool Boss

LIVERPOOL are confident of gatecrashing Manchester United's title party by snatching Carlos Tevez in a stunning £22million raid.

In what promises to be the biggest transfer coup of the summer, Kop boss Rafa Benitez has decided to make signing the Old Trafford idol his top priority.

He will make the offer for the Argentine striker after this month's Champions League final.

Benitez has already earmarked Liverpool's No 10 shirt for the South American and alerted the player's representatives of his determination to make a deal happen.

Now Tevez is willing to snub overtures from across Europe - and a £135,000-a-week offer from Manchester City - to become the first player to make the sensational move direct from Old Trafford to Anfield in 45 years.

Benitez's confidence he will land the striker grew after Tevez's announced his intention to quit United in last week's Sport of the World exclusive.

Liverpool have put a transfer strategy in place which relies on the £18m sale of Xabi Alonso and the release of up to 10 other squad players, raising the necessary funds to pay for 25-year-old Tevez.

Benitez wasn't originally in the market for a striker this summer, but the opportunity to steal Tevez from under the nose of Sir Alex Ferguson has been too much to resist.

Rafa is still smarting from Fergie's refusal to allow Gabriel Heinze a Kop move two years and wants to ram the United boss's claim he'd never let a top player join Liverpool down his neck.

Most importantly, he sees Tevez as a world class addition to his emerging squad, with Gareth Barry also joining from Aston Villa to add a formidable array of talent at Anfield.

Although the frontline partnership between Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres has been an electrifying success for the Merseysiders, Rafa doesn't want to pay the price for more injury woes to his hitmen next season.

He believes Torres' hamstring problems cost Liverpool the vital points which would have won the title. And there are concerns about the large amount of football the striker has missed recently.

Benitez is currently headhunting a replacement physio to join his backroom team next season, with particular focus on protecting his Spanish superstar from further muscle problems.

He sees an attacking trio of Tevez and Torres, with the versatile Gerrard rotating between forward and midfield roles, as the winning formula for a renewed title assault.

The capture of Tevez will also reassure Kop fans disturbed by the prospect of losing the popular Alonso.

Alonso has said he'd rather stay on Merseyside, but privately his relationship with manager has been strained since last summer. He's set to snub a mega-offer of his own from Manchester City in order to join Real Madrid.

It was thought Alonso was being forced out to make way for Aston Villa's Barry, but it's now clear Benitez wants Tevez and Barry as he reshapes his side.

Liverpool were hopeful of offloading former Real Sociedad star Alonso to Manchester City after learning that Mark Hughes was ready to pay £18m.

But the midfielder, 27, whose wife gave birth to their first son just over a year ago, would need to have been persuaded to make the move and sacrifice Champions League football.

A source close to Alonso said: "If he was given the choice he would join Real Madrid and they are definitely very interested in signing him."

He has three years left on the five-year deal he signed in the summer of 2007 and Real would be willing to pay Liverpool around £15m.

Benitez was willing to listen to offers for the player last summer but his failure to land Barry meant they had to turn down an enquiry from Arsenal. Alonso was also strongly linked with a move to Juventus.

Tevez's desire to move to Liverpool will stun Fergie and the Old Trafford faithful, but the lure of joining his friend Javier Mascherano in a side where he'll be first choice will be hard to resist.

Liverpool fit the bill for the striker because he won't have to move home and is also assured Champions League football and a title challenge next season.

The irony won't be lost on both United and Liverpool fans that it is Tevez's performances in the last month which have gone a long way to keeping the title at Old Trafford for another year. But that has not put off Benitez, who thinks Tevez has recently proved Fergie has made a mistake not securing the player on a permanent deal.

The north-west rivals have notoriously refused to do business with each other over five decades of power-shifting success.

Paul Ince played for both club's in the 1990s, but joined Liverpool after a stint at Inter Milan. The last player to move directly from United to Liverpool was Phil Chisnall, signed by Bill Shankly in 1964.

Liverpool's pursuit of Tevez will see the battle lines between Rafa and Fergie drawn earlier than ever over the summer.

On the day United equalled Liverpool's record of 18 titles, Benitez was preparing to fire the first bullets in next season's war of words between the managers.

Tevez exclusively revealed he plans to quit Old Trafford but stay in England in the News of the World last week.

He told us: "It's not true I want to leave England for Spain. My four-year-old daughter Florencia is learning English and my wife is very happy living in England.

"We want to stay. I want to play in England because it is the best league in the world and it suits my style."

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