Chelsea offer record £32m for Gerrard

The Premiership champions stepped into the equation with the record British offer after it emerged the England midfielder had ceased negotiating with his club over a contract extension. However, Liverpool are prepared to offer Gerrard £100,000 a week in a final attempt to entice their disillusioned captain back into the Anfield fold.

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, made an impassioned plea for his prized asset to pull back from an acrimonious divorce from the European champions, insisting that the 25-year-old remained central to his plans and was not being sacrificed to swell his transfer funds by more than £30m.

Benitez went as far as to offer Gerrard the chance to succeed him as Liverpool manager if he signed a new four-year deal at Anfield.

Despite the enticements, the England midfielder left the club's Melwood training complex at 12.33pm without the firm contract offer that, had it been placed before him when negotiations opened last Wednesday, could have avoided this unseemly tangle.

Yet an offer is imminent after agreement was reached at a board meeting last night to raise Gerrard's salary by £1m a year, making him the highest-paid player in the club's history.

Gerrard and his adviser, Struan Marshall of the SFX sports agency, pulled out of contract talks with Liverpool on Sunday night, frustrated at the club's failure to back up encouraging words with hard figures. Benitez, however, denied claims that he had hatched an elaborate plot to sell Gerrard to his former club Real Madrid or that he even needed a £30m cash injection to turn Liverpool into a credible championship force this season.

On the day he unveiled Bolo Zenden as his first signing of the summer, on a free transfer from Middlesbrough, Benitez revealed Liverpool had made three attempts to open contract talks with Gerrard last season and were rebuffed on every occasion.

"I will say this," an unusually animated Benitez declared. "We tried three times last season to talk with Stevie about a new deal and every time he said we had to wait. We waited. We talked about the team winning trophies, then we won the most important one in the world. We talked about improving the team and the squad, and we are improving the team and the squad.

"We want Stevie to stay with us. If I renew my deal after four more years here I would like him to be the next assistant coach, the next assistant manager or the next chief scout if he wants it. He can even be the next manager, though only if I decide to go! I want Stevie to stay here all his life, that's it."

Liverpool's attempts at reconciliation may have come too late, with Chelsea rekindling their long-standing interest.

Rick Parry, Liverpool's chief executive, said: "We hope this situation is repairable", as close as anyone at the club has come to conceding talks had broken down. But Benitez refuses to give up hope of a compromise.

"The club, the board, the chief executive, the chairman and me all want him to stay... We are looking for a solution and I believe it is still possible to get one. I have spoken to Stevie about the situation and asked him what he wants. What he said shall remain private, but we offered him what he wants."

As for claims that Benitez wants the £30m Gerrard would yield to complete the overhaul of a squad, the Liverpool manager said: "We don't need a lot of money. We have a clear idea about what we need and we have the advantage of players wanting to come here because we are European champions."

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