Gonzalez deal completes hat-trick of South American signings for Liverpool

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The Independent Football

On Monday, the 20-year-old Argentinian defender Gabriel Paletta signed a four-year contract after moving from Banfield and while the work permit hearing for Gonzalez was taking place, the club completed the paperwork to secure the services of Valencia's Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio on a free transfer.

The key signing for Benitez has been the arrival of Gonzalez, who has been training at the club this week, following more than a year of wrangling.

The player had an initial application last summer rejected and then an appeal later in the year turned down. Gonzalez has spent the past six months on loan at Real Sociedad, where he helped them survive the drop from La Liga.

Benitez said: "This is very good news for us and I am absolutely delighted to welcome Mark to Liverpool as he is a player the supporters will like to see.

"Mark is an exciting left winger who can cross good balls and beat defenders. He has a very good mentality as when I was talking with him he told me, 'I want to play for Liverpool'."

Benitez tried to sign Gonzalez last summer and a fee of around £4m was agreed with Albacete. But the player was suffering from a serious knee injury at the time and the deal Liverpool proposed was only a loan because of that situation.

Because of Chile's low Fifa ranking and the fact that the player could not go straight into the first team, Liverpool's original work permit application failed.

Gonzalez was not able to play again until mid-season, and an appeal to the Home Office was also turned down, which left Benitez with the only option of sending the player out on loan to another Spanish club.

Gonzalez's arrival will give Benitez the pace on the left he has needed, and it could cast a doubt over Harry Kewell's future.

The Australian is recovering from the foot injury that ended his World Cup campaign. The signing will also allow Benitez to concentrate on the acquisition of another new striker - Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt is still high on the Liverpool manager's hit list - and a right winger, with Jermaine Pennant a target.

Benitez could also rekindle his interest in Real Betis' Joaquin after refusing to meet Seville's asking price of £12m for Daniel Alves and that potential deal appears to be dead. Benitez was linked with a move for Joaquin last season.

The wide man has just returned from World Cup duty and has made it clear that he intends to leave Betis for a new challenge this summer. Betis' new president Pepe Leon admits he will cash in if the right offer comes along. He said: "Betis would be equally happy to keep Joaquin or to have their coffers full. There have always been a lot of teams after the player, but nobody has yet decided to make the final move."

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