Steve Bruce issues challenge to Rafael Benitez

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The Independent Football

Furious Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has challenged Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez to put up or shut up over his pursuit of Kenwyne Jones.

The 49-year-old has grown exasperated recently with repeated speculation on Merseyside that he will allow the Trinidad and Tobago international to join the struggling Reds on loan before completing a permanent move during the summer.

Bruce insists there has been no contact between the clubs, and that Jones would only be allowed to leave if the Black Cats received an offer they could not refuse.

He said: "Kenwyne Jones is not going to go on loan to anybody for the help of Liverpool or anybody else. I would be mad.

"Now, if Liverpool are going to come and offer an amount of money, then we all know what happens.

"Every player - every player - has got a price and a valuation. I have to say though, it would have to be a huge amount of money for us even to contemplate it with a week to go in the transfer window.

"The only thing it's done is unsettle the boy. It's got him probably in a situation where he thinks I don't want him, which is far from the case.

"But I can't stop it. Publicly or privately, I can't stop this constant thing of Kenwyne Jones every day."

Even normally mild-mannered chairman Niall Quinn has been angered by the speculation, and Bruce, who admitted he would have to re-assure Jones he is wanted on Wearside after training today, was at a loss to explain a story which simply refuses to go away.

He said: "I have said - and I try to be as honest as I can - everybody in football has got a price, whether you are Ronaldo or Kaka or Kenwyne Jones.

"Now if Liverpool are serious - which I don't know if they are or whether it is Rafa having games with his board, I don't know - but the ones who are suffering from it are Sunderland and Kenwyne Jones.

"This notion that I'm going to let him go on loan, people must look at that and think I have lost my marbles.

"I may not be very good at the minute after being beaten 7-2, but I haven't lost my marbles totally, that's for sure."

Bruce's admission that Jones has his price, however, is not necessarily an invitation to Liverpool.

He added: "I haven't even got a price because I don't think Liverpool can go there.

"It's like me asking for Steven Gerrard on loan - I'll try, maybe.

"It's hugely disrespectful."

Sunderland, who head for Portsmouth in the FA Cup fourth round tomorrow, have made an enquiry over Schalke frontman Kevin Kuranyi, and while Bruce does not expect that to go anywhere this month, he is adamant he is not looking for a replacement for Jones.

He said: "Kevin Kuranyi would be of interest to most clubs, he is a fantastic player - but it isn't going to happen.

"He is not going to go anywhere, I wouldn't have thought. From what I am hearing, he is going to try to win the league with Schalke and be a Bosman in the summer.

"If he is a Bosman in the summer, I am sure he will have 50 clubs around Europe wanting his signature.

"I haven't looked - and this is the gospel truth - I haven't looked at striking options. I am very, very comfortable in what I have got."

Bruce, who also played down his interest in Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson and admitted Aston Villa defender Habib Beye is a player he admires, but said no deal is imminent.

His hand will be strengthened tomorrow by the return of defender Michael Turner from suspension, while Craig Gordon, Andy Reid and Kieran Richardson are all available after injury.



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