Gerrard and Carragher sign new four-year contracts with Liverpool

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The Independent Football

Gerrard and Jamie Carragher ended a traumatic week for the Champions' League winners yesterday when they signed new four-year contracts in front of a relieved Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, and their chief executive, Rick Parry.

The Liverpool captain will make his first public appearance since his latest transfer saga this afternoon against Wrexham in a pre-season friendly at The Racecourse. Gerrard, who will parade the Champions' League trophy before kick-off, has moved to allay scepticism about his future by accepting a deal without any get-out clauses.

The 25-year-old attributes a dip in form last season to the uncertainty that surrounded his Liverpool future. With his career mapped out until 2009, however, the England midfielder believes he will be an even greater asset to his hometown club next season when Liverpool hope to emerge as genuine title chasers.

Gerrard said: "I think the speculation has affected me, though not too much because I think at the right times I've still pulled out the big performances. It'll be different over the next four years because that speculation has gone and won't come back. I'm looking forward to playing with a free mind, relaxed and concentrated solely on football.

"Liverpool will get the best of Steven Gerrard because I feel ready to move into the prime years of my career. I'm only 25 and I think over the next few years you'll see me playing my best football and I hope to lead this club to more success and more silverware."

Benitez dismissed Gerrard's offer to give up the Liverpool captaincy after the fraught conclusion to his contract negotiations. The midfielder added: "I spoke to the manager and players and apologised to them for all the speculation that has been going on. I don't think it's been helpful for the team or squad."

Gerrard's new deal is worth an extra £20,000 a week while Carragher, who shares the same agent as his captain - SFX's Struan Marshall, has more than doubled his wage to £60,000 a week. The increase is a fair reflection of the defender's outstanding form last season and importance to Benitez, who labelled the 27-year-old as "the finest centre-half in England".

Carragher, for his part, hopes to complete his Anfield medal collection with Liverpool's first league title for 16 years. "It's going to be tough to close the gap, but there's no point us being defeatist about it," he said; "We proved in Europe what we can do on the big occasion and we've got to produce the same on a consistent basis in the League."

Luis Figo held talks with Real Madrid officials last night in an attempt to keep his move to Anfield alive. He had agreed a £65,000-a-week contract with Liverpool on the understanding that he could leave the Bernabeu on a free transfer. However, the move will not proceed unless Madrid drop their unexpected demand for €3m (£2.06m) for the 32-year-old.

Benitez is also awaiting developments on his move for Mohammed Sissoko, the Valencia midfielder who was scheduled to join Everton this week. The Everton manager, David Moyes, left Everton's training base in Austria to meet the 20-year-old in Amsterdam on Thursday, in a late attempt to convince Sissoko he will get more first-team chances at Goodison Park than Anfield.

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