Benitez eyes Valencia veteran Pellegrino

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The Independent Online

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, has approached his former club Valencia about acquiring their veteran Argentinian centre-half, Mauricio Pellegrino.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, has approached his former club Valencia about acquiring their veteran Argentinian centre-half, Mauricio Pellegrino.

The 33-year-old was an integral part of the Valencia side that Benitez steered to two La Liga titles and the Uefa Cup, although he has barely figured under the club's new coach, Claudio Ranieri. Since he is out of contract at the end of the season, Ranieri may well be prepared to allow Pellegrino to leave.

Benitez inherited an ageing and somewhat unreliable central defence when succeeding Gerard Houllier. Sami Hyypia and Stéphane Henchoz, who is likely to leave Liverpool during the transfer window, are now into their thirties, while Djimi Traore's performances have been erratic. Benitez solved the problem by moving Jamie Carragher successfully from full-back to centre-half.

The only stumbling block to a move is that Benitez's predecessor, Hector Cuper, who guided Valencia to two European Cup finals and is now managing Real Mallorca, has also enquired about Pellegrino's availability.

Whether Benitez succeeds in his attempt to bring Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid to Liverpool will be left in the hands of the new Madrid coach, Wanderley Luxemburgo. It had been expected that the Madrid president, Florentino Perez, would sanction a quick sale as Morientes is now the fourth-choice striker at the Bernabeu. However, Perez has been persuaded to wait while Luxemburgo makes his assessment.

Morientes' agent, Gines Carajal, said: "We should have confirmation by next week. We have not started negotiations yet."

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