Premiership rivals join Liverpool in pursuit of Morientes

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The Independent Football

The agent for Fernando Morientes said yesterday that four Premiership clubs are vying to sign the Real Madrid striker, with Aston Villa understood to be the most serious rivals to Liverpool and Newcastle for the Spanish international's signature. Birmingham and Everton have also been linked to a bid for the 28-year-old, whose stated preference is Anfield.

"Morientes now has four offers from different English clubs and two from French teams," Gines Carvajal said. "He is very clear that he wants to play and wants to do so in a great and competitive team. We're not considering a loan deal. What we want is a transfer. He already went last season on loan for six months [to Monaco] and he doesn't want to do that again."

Monaco are one of the French sides interested in Morientes, whom Real have valued at £7m. Liverpool have had one bid of £3.5m rejected and although they might go as high as £5m, they are unlikely to match Real's asking price.

Newcastle have offered to top whatever Liverpool offer. Such a tactic could scupper Liverpool's plans if not actually land Newcastle the player. Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benitez, does not want to become involved in a protracted auction and could look elsewhere. Morientes does not want to move to Newcastle.

Villa, Birmingham and Everton are all looking to sign forwards when the transfer window opens on Saturday. Morientes has scored 23 goals in 36 games for his country and has several years of Champions' League experience, but he is behind Ronaldo, Raul and Michael Owen in the pecking order at the Bernabeu and wants regular first-team football.

Signing Morientes would almost certainly be a more attractive option for some of his English suitors than paying similar money for a player such as Southampton's James Beattie. Villa and Everton both tried to sign Beattie, 26, in the summer. Villa's offer of £6m was deemed too low at the time while Everton's bid came too late for Southampton to accept it and replace him.

Both have been linked to Beattie again but Liverpool's initial bid of £3.5m for Morientes prompted wider interest in the Spaniard. Real have made it clear the player is available, but whether Villa or Birmingham - both in mid-table - fit his bill as "great and competitive" teams must be a doubt. Everton's lofty league position could be more attractive if their reported interest hardens.

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