Gerrard ready to sign new Liverpool contract

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The Independent Football

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, said yesterday he hopes talks over a new deal can be resolved quickly. After leading the club to victory in the Champions' League, Gerrard is now ready to commit his future to Anfield.

Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, said yesterday he hopes talks over a new deal can be resolved quickly. After leading the club to victory in the Champions' League, Gerrard is now ready to commit his future to Anfield.

Gerrard has been linked with other clubs - most notably with Chelsea last summer - but he is now keen for discussions with Liverpool officials to get under way.

Asked if he wanted to stay at Liverpool, the 25-year-old said: "Of course. I've still got two seasons left and I don't know how long talks will go on for but the sooner it is sorted the better."

Gerrard insists he is already looking forward to the start of the new season, which for Liverpool begins with a Champions' League first-round qualifier on 12 or 13 July.

He is unconcerned about having to start the season so early and is just happy Uefa has been able to allocate Liverpool a place in the competition. Uefa changed its rules last week to allow the holders the chance to defend their title - Liverpool had not qualified automatically after finishing fifth in the Premiership.

Gerrard added: "It is very important for the champions to defend the trophy. I'm looking forward to a long season ahead.

"We can't complain about being in the first round because the rules stated we shouldn't be in it.

"The European Cup has gone now. We've got to be just as hungry. We won the big one but it is important we forget about that and move on and try to do better in the Premiership."

The early start to Gerrard's season means he could be in action for almost a year should England progress in the World Cup.

But he brushed aside fears he may be tired, saying: "People think I'll be drained but I'll look after myself."

Jose Reina's agent yesterday revealed Liverpool are facing competition in their bid to sign the Villarreal goalkeeper.

It had been thought that Reina's move to Anfield was almost a done deal, but the agent Manuel Garcia Quilon insists Reina and his club are talking to other interested parties.

"We are listening to the offers," Garcia Quilon said. "Liverpool is one of the possibilities but the player also has other offers from England, Spain and Italy."

The 22-year-old has been linked with a move to the Champions' League winners for the past two months.

But Garcia Quilon, who is also the agent for the Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, disputed it being an inevitability. "It's difficult to know at this time where Reina will play next season, we just have to wait and see what the club [Villarreal] decides," he added.

Reina has already expressed an interest in becoming the latest Spanish player to join Benitez at Anfield, after Xabi Alonso, Josemi, Fernando Morientes and Antonio Nunez.

"The move is not sure yet," he said yesterday, "as we are still negotiating and nothing will be definite until the end of June.

"Of course it would be amazing to go there and work with Rafa Benitez because he is a legend but at the moment it is better not to consider being a 'Red' until it actually happens."

The Spanish goalkeeper, whose performances helped Villarreal reach the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup in 2004, signed an eight-year contract with the Valencian outfit last summer.

One player on his way out of Anfield is Vladimir Smicer who signed a two-year contract with the French club Bordeaux yesterday.

"Vladimir underwent a medical at Bordeaux today and he is 100 per cent fit to play," said Dalibor Lacina, a spokesman from Smicer's management group.

The 32-year-old Smicer, who won the French league title with Lens in 1998, scored for Liverpool in the Champions' League final against Milan and converted a penalty in the shootout after extra-time.

The Fifa president Sepp Blatter has told Liverpool they must play in the World Club Championship, despite Liverpool facing an extended fixture list following the decision to allow them into next season's Champions' League.

But any plans to lighten the load by withdrawing from December's World Club Championship in Japan will not be tolerated, according to Blatter.

The tournament incorporates the Toyota Cup, a play-off between the European and South American club champions. "They must play the Toyota Cup because it is binding for them for 2005," Blatter said. "The cup is in Japan and they will have to travel."