Benitez sets 48-hour deadline for Alonso to decide on Anfield future

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has told Xabi Alonso to make a decision once and for all on his Anfield future in the next 48 hours.

Alonso is spending two days with his family in his native San Sebastian and Benitez wants the player's future decided before he reports for training tomorrow. Liverpool have no intention of reducing their €30m (£26m) asking price for the player and it is now down to Alonso to find out if Real Madrid are prepared to meet the valuation or not. Benitez has made it clear to the Spain international that, with the start of the Premier League season looming for Liverpool, he will not tolerate the saga continuing beyond the end of this week.

Real Madrid have repeated in recent days that they will be making no more big signings until they can sell some of their unwanted stars. They had hoped to raise around £90m by releasing strikers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Alvaro Negredo and Ruud van Nistelrooy as well as midfielders Wesley Sneijder, Mahamadou Diarra, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart and defenders Gabriel Heinze and Royston Drenthe, but so far they have been unable to cash in on their surplus squad members.

For that reason they looked to have closed the door on the Alonso interest but, after their opening game of the Peace Cup in Spain ended in a disappointing draw with Saudi side Al-Ittihad, president Florentino Perez was back under pressure to meet Liverpool's asking price for Alonso.

The player's representatives are understood to have had discussions with Real and if the Spanish giants agree to pay the €30m up-front in one instalment, as Liverpool are requesting, then Benitez will immediately set about bringing in replacements, with Athletic Bilbao's Javier Martinez and Valencia's David Silva two possible options.

If Madrid continue to stall then Benitez will draw a line under the matter, leaving Alonso at Anfield for another season. Another player who wants the matter resolved as quickly as possible is defender Alvaro Arbeloa. He looks set to make the move to Madrid from Liverpool but is waiting to see if his switch will be part of the Alonso deal or a separate operation.

Arbeloa last night denied that ill-feeling between Benitez and Alonso was behind the midfielder's desire to switch to Spain. He said: "Xabi was my room-mate on the tour and we have both spoken to Rafa. He knows the situation and he has made his feelings clear to us both. My relationship with him is good and I think with Xabi there is also mutual respect."

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