Roy Hodgson last night won his battle to keep Dirk Kuyt out of the clutches of Internazionale and Rafael Benitez after a day in which Liverpool's relations with their former manager hit a new low over poaching allegations.
In the aftermath of Liverpool's 2-1 Europa League play-off second leg victory over Trabzonspor, Kuyt pledged his future to the club thus ending a day of rising tensions over whether Benitez had reneged on an agreement not to try to sign his former players.
At the Champions League draw in Monaco earlier yesterday, Benitez responded to Hodgson's allegations that he had gone back on an agreement with Liverpool not to poach their players by claiming that transfers were not his responsibility. Benitez said: "I am the coach and I cannot sign players – that is for the technical director and the chairman. I am fine like this – I can focus on my work on the pitch and that is all. I am the coach, not the manager."
Benitez refused to expand further on whether it was just a coincidence that his club's president Massimo Moratti and technical director Marco Branca had earmarked Kuyt and Javier Mascherano – two of Benitez's stalwarts during his time at Anfield – as the club's key targets in this transfer window.
Hodgson has previously suggested that Benitez had been in contact with the agent Rob Jansen who represents Kuyt. Kuyt, who scored last night, said after the 3-1 aggregate win over Trabzonspor: "As far as I know my future is at Liverpool. I've had a great time so far and I hope my future will be great here. All I want is to win trophies with Liverpool."
Hodgson said: "Dirk Kuyt is not for sale so excuse me for not understanding the speculation of being happy now he has said he is staying because I never doubted he was staying.
"Dirk is an important part of Liverpool, I've made it clear we don't welcome any offers for him and he's not for sale. As far as I'm concerned he is someone I believe in, someone I count on, and it is important we improve the team around the Steven Gerrards, Fernando Torres's, Jose Reinas and the Kuyts and not sell them and start all over again."
Without his midfielder Mascherano for the second consecutive game, Hodgson ridiculed the offer made by Inter for the player. Liverpool value the Argentina captain at around £25m and have so far resisted attempts by Barcelona and Inter to buy him for less.
Hodgson said: "I saw a fax but I think it was sent tongue-in-cheek. The offer was so unbelievably far from a valuation it seemed to me the sporting director was putting the fax in to maybe satisfy people at the club. We didn't even bother to answer it, that is how ridiculously far from a serious offer it was."
Branca said that he was waiting for a reply from Liverpool to the club's latest offer. He said: "Everybody knows that Mascherano would like to change team and to change country. He also has a good relationship with our manager. We've made a very good offer, around the amount they are asking for. We have a strong team here, the best in Europe, but we would like to add one or two players to make us even stronger."
Hodgson moved a step closer to signing his former left-back Paul Konchesky from Fulham when it emerged that the London club were concluding a deal for the Mexico left-back Carlos Salcido of PSV Eindhoven.