Benitez hopes to retain Babel

As Rafael Benitez downgrades his summer transfer targets, Ryan Babel has made it clear he does not want to leave Anfield while two Spanish youngsters have been linked with the club as part of a reported possible deal to take Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid.

Increased financial restraints suggest the Liverpool boss is now looking at a different level of players to bring to Merseyside.

And he has also intimated Babel still has a future at Liverpool, despite claims earlier in the summer the Dutch winger would be allowed to speak to other clubs.

Babel, who now has confirmation Holland will be taking part in next summer's World Cup finals after recent qualifying results, is seemingly a player Benitez wants to retain rather than sell to raise transfer market cash.

And there are again claims from Spain that once new Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has turned his attentions from signing Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, Alonso will once again be a target.

Perez has made no secret of his desire to sign Alonso, and although he yesterday admitted such a move would be difficult, it did not stop the wily operator from naming him in his dream Real Madrid XI.

Sources in Spain are now suggesting two Real youngsters could be part of a deal to take Alonso to the Bernabeu, despite Benitez's continued insistence the player is not for sale, and has three years left on his contract.

But if Alonso, currently on Confederation Cup duty with Spain, intimates he wants to become involved in a second wave of Galactico signings in Madrid, then Benitez may have to consider the best deal for Liverpool.

Benitez would want big money for Alonso, approaching £30million, but Spanish sports paper AS claim that strikers Alvaro Negredo and Alberto Bueno could be included in any deal.

Negredo, 23, has spent the last two years on loan at Almeria, and scored 19 goals last season. Under his current deal Real Madrid own 50 per cent of any possible deal for the player and they also have a buy-back option.

He said: "My future depends on Real Madrid, but I believe that this summer it is logical that I am interested in playing in the Premier League and especially Liverpool.

"I believe that playing in England would be a great chance for me as this league is a sensational place for forwards."

Bueno is considered to be a star of the future. The 21-year-old was the tournament's top scorer in the 2006 Under -19 European Championship.

And prior to making his first-team debut in the Spanish Cup last season, he had scored 37 goals in 37 games for Castilla, the club's reserve team.

Further confirmation Benitez has lowered his sights in the market came earlier this week when he talked of "one or two new signings" rather than the half-a-dozen big names that have been linked with the club.

And Benitez pointedly included Babel's name in a list of young players he felt would be important next season.

Benitez said: "Hopefully Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will play alongside each other more next season, and we also have good young players like David Ngog, Nabil El Zhar, Ryan Babel and Emiliano Insua coming through."

Babel's agent Winnie Haatrecht has made it clear the player does not want to leave Anfield.

He said: "Ryan is very happy at Liverpool and clearly doesn't want to leave. He still has a three-year contract."

Babel has been an impact player from the bench at Liverpool, and carried out a similar role for Holland yesterday when the Dutch celebrated qualification for South Africa with a 2-0 win over Norway.

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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