Benitez closes in on £2.6m deal for Arbeloa

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Liverpool will end their problematic search for a new right-back today providing manager Rafael Benitez proceeds with a £2.6m deal for compatriot Alvaro Arbeloa from Deportivo La Coruña.

Liverpool turned to the 24-year-old after missing out on first-choice target Daniel Alves from Seville last summer and then Lucas Neill in this transfer window, tempting Deportivo with a 100 per cent profit on a player they acquired for £1.3m from Real Madrid only five months ago.

Arbeloa has made 20 appearances for the Spanish club and will provide necessary cover for Steve Finnan should he pass a medical and agree personal terms before tonight's transfer deadline.

The full-back is expected on Merseyside this morning but, contrary to comments from The Riazor Stadium, Liverpool manager Benitez is yet to sanction the deal as he considers the cost of the Arbeloa deal against the risk of persevering with his existing defence until the end of this campaign.

"I'm as surprised as everyone," said Arbeloa, who can operate at right back or centre half. "It looks like a good move for me and Depor especially as they are going to get double what they paid for me."

Deportivo coach Joaquin Caparros insisted: "Arbeloa is going to sign for Liverpool. The club has made a good investment and we are happy for Arbeloa because it is a reward for his professionalism and team spirit."

Liverpool, who are hoping for a breakthrough in the Javier Mascherano saga from Fifa today, will add another promising teenager to their youth ranks when they complete the signing of 18-year-old midfielder Francis Duran from Spanish second division club Malaga.

Wigan received a major lift in their fight against relegation yesterday when Nigerian international striker Julius Aghahowa, a £2.1m signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, was granted a work permit.

Aghahowa scored 32 goals in 85 games for the Ukrainian club and has netted 14 goals in 32 appearances for his country.

"We've really done our homework on this one, while I've watched him personally on two occasions," said Wigan manager Paul Jewell, who last week signed Chesterfield striker Caleb Folan for £500,000. "He's quick, strong, aggressive, good with both feet and I'm sure he will adapt to the rigours of the Premiership."

Everton are embroiled in negotiations with the Premier League over their refusal to sanction Manuel Fernandes' proposed loan move from Benfica. The Goodison Park club applied to sign the midfielder on a six-month loan with a view to a permanent transfer only to be informed that, as they will share ownership of the player with the Media Sports Investment group, the deal represents a potential conflict of interest.

Premier League regulations state a player must be registered 100 per cent with a club but, as Fernandes was allowed to play for Portsmouth under identical terms earlier this season, Everton argue precedents have been set.