Football: Berger and Liverpool set for parting of the ways

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The Independent Online
LIVERPOOL'S Patrick Berger has been given permission to fly home to Prague tomorrow. It means the Czech Republic international is out of contention for the match at Tottenham on Saturday and it is the clearest indication that the forward may have played his last game for the Anfield club.

Berger refused to be substitute last weekend against Bolton, and then had a meeting with the manager, Roy Evans, over his demand to be allowed to join his countryman Karel Poborsky at Benfica, who are managed by the former Liverpool manager, Graeme Souness.

Evans was upset by Berger's reaction and left the former Borussia Dortmund player to decide for himself whether he was available for the game at White Hart Lane.

Berger said: "I am going to leave on Friday to go to Prague to see my family. Everything now is in the hands of my agent, he is looking after everything and I will be on standby at home in Prague for the green light if anything happens."

Berger desperately wants to join Benfica, although Roma and several Spanish clubs are monitoring the situation.

Berger said: "Benfica would be my first choice. My wife is friends with Karel's wife and she has told us how good it is to live in Lisbon."

The problem for Berger is that Benfica have serious financial problems. The club is aiming to raise money with a stock market flotation in the summer, and have been unable to pay the bulk of the fee to Manchester United for Poborsky.

Souness has been trying to sell players to help raise some cash to meet Liverpool's pounds 4m valuation of Berger, who joined them from Borussia Dortmund after the European Championships in England when the Czechs reached the final.

Benfica have got to the last day of March to complete the deal because that is when the Portuguese transfer system closes for signing non-EC players.

If the deal cannot be completed by then, Berger will have to wait until the summer or leave to join another club.

After the Spurs game, Liverpool do not have a Premiership match for a fortnight because of internationals, and Berger has been given a nine- day break in Prague.

He said: "I have talked to Roy Evans and he understands my position, he has been helpful and I have no problems with him on a personal basis. We are still friends.

"I have talked to the Liverpool players who know Graeme Souness, like Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, who have worked under him and they have told me he is OK."

Evans said earlier in the week that Berger could not leave "on the cheap", but he accepted that the player would be allowed to leave after the circumstances of last weekend's request not to be on the bench against Bolton.

"I only want players who want to play for this club and we are looking for firm offers," Evans said.

Berger joined Liverpool less than two years ago for pounds 3.5m and Liverpool want their money back, at least.

l The former goalkeeper Bertalan Bicskei will be coach of Hungary for the next four years, it was reported yesterday. The presidium of the Hungarian football federation elected the 53-year-old by secret ballot yesterday to replace Janos Csank.