Benayoun signs new Liverpool deal

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The Independent Online

Yossi Benayoun today signed a new Liverpool contract and insisted "playing for this club is a dream come true".

The Anfield club have rewarded the Israel skipper following his best season in English football with a new two-year extension to his current deal which has two seasons to run.

The 29-year-old told www.liverpoolfc.tv: "I am very happy that we have reached an agreement. Of course, to be at a club like this is a dream come true and I want to keep playing here.

"Hopefully now I can concentrate on the hard work that needs to be done and try to play better and better and win some silverware."

Benayoun, who moved to Anfield from West Ham in July 2007, scored nine goals in 42 appearances during the 2008-09 campaign.

The high spot for Benayoun came in February at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, when he scored the late winner against Real in the Champions League last 16.

A dramatic stoppage-time winner at Fulham followed in April before he struck twice in the pulsating 4-4 draw with Arsenal at Anfield.

He follows Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt in committing his long-term future to the club.

Boss Rafael Benitez said: "You know that our idea was to extend the contracts of some players and Yossi was one of these players.

"He has been really good for us over the last year, scoring crucial goals and getting assists, so we wanted to keep him and I'm really pleased with the extension."

The majority of Liverpool's stars returned for pre-season training today, as the club also announced new contracts for two of their most promising home-grown youngsters.

Midfielder Jay Spearing and full-back Stephen Darby - both 20 - are expected to put pen to paper on the new deals later this week.

Spearing, who captained the FA Youth Cup-winning side of 2007, has made a big impression as a competitive midfielder and made his senior debut last season as a substitute in the Champions League mauling of Real Madrid.

The memory of the Kop rising to sing the youngster's name as he trotted onto the pitch alongside some of the greats of European football is one of the more endearing moments of last season, and underlined their desire to see local youngsters given a chance by Benitez.

Darby, a former reserve-team skipper, made three first-team appearances last season.

The Liverpool boss has lost Sami Hyypia and Jermaine Pennant on free transfers from last season's squad and he has raised £4.2million from the sales of Paul Anderson, Jack Hobbs and Sebastian Leto so far this summer.

But the crunch will come when Liverpool receive bids for Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano from Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

That has yet to happen despite constant speculation about the pair's future. And in such a climate it clearly makes sense for Benitez to keep Benayoun.

Benitez has publicly stated he does not want to sell Alonso or Mascherano, but he has been linked with possible replacements in Udinese's Gokhan Inler and Inter Milan's Esteban Cambiasso.

The saga over Alonso's future could drag on for a few weeks yet, with the Spain international not due back for training until the day before Liverpool fly out for their tour of the Far East on July 20.

The Spanish contingent have been given an extra fortnight's rest following the Confederations Cup.

England pair Gerrard, and new signing Glen Johnson, both return to training on Wednesday following their summer internationals.

Liverpool's first pre-season friendlies will take place while they are away at their Swiss training camp. They play Swiss side St Gallen and Austrian outfit Rapid Vienna before travelling to Bangkok.

On their return they will open Espanyol's new stadium in Barcelona on August 2, before a trip to play Lyn Oslo three days later. Their final warm-up game is at home to Torres' former club, Atletico Madrid, on August 8.

Another of Liverpool's "new" signings - former boss and playing legend Kenny Dalglish - also had his first day in his new job with the club's academy today.

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