Olympic row attracts Liverpool's attention

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The Independent Football

Liverpool will watch with interest as the Bundesliga yesterday signalled they are ready to test Fifa's resolve on releasing players for the Olympic Games next month. A dispute in Germany over the Werder Bremen midfielder Diego threatens to break the goodwill pact permitting famous international names to play in Beijing.

Rafael Benitez is currently planning to be without Javier Mascherano for the start of the season when the Argentine represents his country in Beijing, as well as Lucas Leiva, playing for Brazil, and Ryan Babel of the Netherlands. Mascherano is one of Argentina's three players aged over 23 and he is there only on the basis that Fifa have encouraged clubs to show goodwill to the Olympics – there is no rule compelling Liverpool to release him.

Only the players who are under 23 – such as Lucas and Babel – can be compelled to join up and, with that in mind, Bremen blocked Diego's request. The player subsequently walked out of the club's training ground after a meeting yesterday and, without permission, flew to Paris to join up with the Brazil squad.

Klaus Allofs, the club's sporting director, said that the matter would go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). It is the Brazil players who are believed to be under the most pressure to join up with their squads because their current coach, Dunga, is under so much scrutiny that he could even be sacked on the basis of his team's results in China.

Should Diego be prevented from travelling, and he has said he will abide by a CAS decision, then Benitez could be minded to block Mascherano from going to Beijing.

The pact is under further pressure with Real Madrid refusing Robinho permission to go – a problem that would be inherited by Chelsea should they be successful in signing him this summer.

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