Liverpool open Torres talks to prevent striker's summer exit

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The Independent Football

Liverpool's American owners have already started the process of ensuring the club hold on to Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina this summer, opening preliminary discussions which it is hoped will remove release clauses written into the two players' contracts.

It is understood that Torres reached an informal understanding with Liverpool before the New England Sports Ventures (NESV) group, headed by John W Henry, took over that he would be permitted to leave at the end of this season if Liverpool had failed to qualify for the Champions League and a good offer came in. The same goes for Reina, with unconfirmed suggestions that a £20m release clause is in place.

Henry and his new chairman, Tom Werner, have already held initial talks with specific players. Though they believe there is no emergency – neither Torres not Reina are agitating to leave – they will be seeking to ensure that the undertakings, given at a time when the former managing director Christian Purslow needed his key playing assets secure to continue his search for buyers, do not leave Liverpool at risk of losing their best players.

It is understood that NESV does not consider there to be any risk of either Torres or Reina leaving the club in January, as reflected in Henry's assertion in the weekend press that players should expect to be held to contracts – the looseness of which made the Premier League akin to the "Wild West" in comparison to American sports, he said. NESV believes it is incumbent upon the company to make key players feel that they want to stay at Anfield.

The Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, declared yesterday that his side will be facing Roy Hodgson's team at "the worst possible time" tomorrow night, and ascribes Torres' struggle for form to the effects of the World Cup, a tournament in which Liverpool's head of sports science, Dr Peter Brukner, declared last week that Martinez's compatriot had not been fit enough to play.

"The number of niggles and injuries he has had [have been a problem] and as a player you always have the World Cup in your mind and that could have been a problem," Martinez said. "All the big players when they get to the World Cup, try and put extra energy into it and that affects the start of the next season and that is normal.

"When [Torres] came out in the summer and made clear what he wanted to do [stay at Liverpool], it has never been in doubt. He's a really focused boy and if you look how he was the youngest captain in Atletico Madrid's history it shows his maturity. He is an old head on young shoulders," Martinez added.

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