Alonso transfer remains in limbo

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The Independent Online

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso's future remains undecided with Real Madrid yet to table an acceptable offer for the Spain international.

Representatives from both clubs met at a Barcelona hotel yesterday prior to the Reds' friendly against Espanyol to have discussions about the 27-year-old.

Real have tracked the player for several weeks but have been unwilling to meet Liverpool's £30m asking price.

However, after yesterday's meeting it seems a move to the Bernabeu from Anfield seems increasingly likely for Alonso and all that remains is for Madrid to come up with a suitable bid.

Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow told Spanish newspaper AS that he had spoken with Real's director Jose Angel Sanchez but that no agreement had been reached.

"This (meeting) has only served to put our positions on the table. We need to continue talking," he said.

In the wake of the 3-0 defeat to Espanyol - in which Alonso played the last six minutes - manager Rafael Benitez insisted he did not want the player to leave.

But with Alonso already having submitted a transfer request it seems improbable the midfielder will still be at Liverpool when the Barclays Premier League season kicks-off in 12 days' time.

And reports in Spain and Italy of the club moving closer to lining up Roma's Alberto Aquilani as a replacement have done little to suggest otherwise.

Alonso is hoping for a swift conclusion to the long-running saga.

"It's reassuring to know that Madrid and Liverpool are talking seriously now," he told AS.

"I decided a long time ago to stay on the margin of everything that was happening.

"My stance has been clear, as you all know. I'm a professional and I must wait for an agreement to be reached, but I hope it is resolved soon, for better or for worse."

Real were today linked with a move for 21-year-old Belgium midfielder Steven Defour, who plays for Standard Liege, if they could not progress the Alonso deal.

However, this seems more like a tactic to hasten negotiations as so strong has been Madrid's pursuit of the Liverpool midfielder it seems inconceivable they would pay £17m for a player who is not in the same bracket as their primary target.

With matters off the field dominating the agenda Liverpool's pre-season campaign has gone relatively unnoticed.

Benitez criticised the players' work-rate after yesterday's defeat in Barcelona but even with just one victory - 5-0 over Singapore - in five friendlies winger Albert Riera insists the squad will be ready for the opening league match at Tottenham on August 16.

"Some of us came back from our national teams a little bit later and have only had 10 or 12 days' training," he told liverpoolfc.tv.

"We need a little bit more before the start of the season, but we will be ready.

"Of course we are disappointed because we lost. Even if it's a friendly match, you always want to win, but as I said, it is all about being ready for the very first game."

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