Alonso transfer saga drags on

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The Independent Football

Xabi Alonso is due to fly back to Spain with Liverpool tomorrow as the negotiations over his possible transfer drag on.

Liverpool are playing in a friendly against Espanyol on Sunday to open the Barcelona club's new stadium and at the moment Alonso is expected to be in the travelling party.

A final decision is likely to be taken after the squad have trained tomorrow morning ahead of an afternoon flight.

But with both Liverpool and prospective buyers Real Madrid digging their heels in over the fee for the 27-year-old international, a decision on the deal is now not expected until Monday.

Real are believed to now have offered players in part-exchange while Chelsea, Manchester City and an unnamed Italian club are still monitoring the situation.

But Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is still demanding £30million for the Spanish international and has previously said that he is not interested in taking any Real players in the deal and wants a cash-only agreement.

The players on offer are Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Alvaro Negredo and Rafael van der Vaart.

Alonso handed in a transfer request earlier this week, and is known to want to make his Madrid debut in his home town of San Sebastian on August 15, when the Bernabeu club play in Real Sociedad's centenary match. Alonso started his career with the Basque club.

Reports in Italy claim that midfielder Alberto Aquilani has been lined up as Alonso's replacement. Cash-strapped Roma are willing to sell for around £15million and the player is happy with a five-year contract worth around 4million euros a year.

But formal negotiations cannot take place until the Alonso deal is settled.

Liverpool are expected to field a strong side against Espanyol, including £17.5million full-back Glen Johnson who has now recovered fully from an Achilles injury.

Johnson figured in both games in the Far East last week, but as a second-half substitute.

Liverpool's new club ambassador, Kenny Dalglish, has been hugely impressed with the new boy.

He says: "Attacking full-backs have always been important to the way Liverpool sides have played.

"Historically, even going back to the days of (Bill)Shankly, we have always been a club who have put great faith in players in those positions having a certain comfort on the ball.

"Even in teams where there were out-and-out wingers, you could normally rely on the full-backs getting forward to join in with the attack.

"Ultimately, the more threat you carry going forward, the better that will be for our prospects this season.

"He(Johnson) can improve as a defender at Liverpool, and he has shown he can attack with the best of them."