Gerrard calls off contract talks with Liverpool

The England midfielder looked to have ended speculation surrounding his future in the aftermath of Liverpool's European Cup triumph over Milan on 25 May, insisting there was "no way" he could leave his boyhood team.

Only 39 days later, however, the 25-year-old has brought contract talks with the Champions' League victors to a sudden and acrimonious end, a development that will alert Chelsea and Real Madrid.

Amid the delirium of Istanbul and the pledge to remain at Anfield Gerrard admitted that any new deal with Liverpool had to be concluded swiftly.

Yet the club captain is exasperated by the absence of a firm offer from Liverpool and, with relations between the two parties at an all-time low, his time on Merseyside appears to be drawing to a close.

Gerrard's current contract, which has two years left to run is worth around £80,000 a week.

He was looking for a pay rise to between £90-£100,000 a week - less than he was offered by Chelsea 12 months ago - and the lack of a definite response by Liverpool has heightened his suspicions that Rafael Benitez is prepared to sacrifice his inspirational skipper in order to spend a £30m transfer fee on strengthening a squad that finished fifth in the Premiership last season.

Gerrard, and his representative Struan Marshall of the SFX agency, has no plans to reopen negotiations with the hierarchy at Anfield. Liverpool cannot afford to allow their prize asset to enter the final year of his existing deal - a situation that saw them collect only £8m from Real Madrid for Michael Owen last summer.

Without a U-turn from either side Liverpool will now have to entertain the prospect of selling Gerrard to the highest bidder.

"Our position is very clear," said Ian Cotton, a Liverpool spokesman. "We want Gerrard to stay at the club."

There was some better news for Liverpool supporters with the arrival of the Dutch international Boudewijn Zenden from Middlesbrough.

The former Chelsea midfielder was an influential figure in the Teesiders securing a place in the Uefa Cup for next season and had been targeted by Benitez as a replacement for Vladimir Smicer.

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