Johnson hits jackpot with Anfield move

Offer of £80,000 a week should seal England full-back's £17m transfer to Liverpool
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The Independent Football

Glen Johnson has been drawn towards a £17m move to Liverpool by a salary which will make him one of the club's highest earners.

The England international defender's earnings at Anfield will be eclipsed only by the club's elite players, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, if, as expected, he becomes one of the most expensive full-backs in history and signs next week.

As well as the substantial wage, thought to be £80,000-a-week net of tax, Liverpool are also prepared to fork out £5m more for Johnson than the £12m valuation set by Portsmouth which they balked at last summer. Rafael Benitez's ability to pay this, when the club also have the purchase of a back-up striker to consider before the season starts, is in part due to the fact that they can offset the transfer fee against the £7m still owing from Portsmouth's £11m purchase of Peter Crouch last summer. The £8m Liverpool may secure from Real Madrid for their current right back – Spaniard Alvaro Arbeloa – could also help make the deal achievable for Benitez.

Nevertheless, the outlay on Johnson is extraordinary, even in the context of the last two weeks. One perspective from within Anfield yesterday was that Benitez, witnessing the frenzy of activity in the European transfer market this month, felt a need to act quickly and avoid missing out. The memory of the drawn-out Gareth Barry saga last summer also lingers for the Liverpool manager and having lost out on Barry following his move to Manchester City, and facing speculation about the futures of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, he may have felt the need to make a statement of intent now.

It has been a positive 24 hours for Benitez, who learned yesterday that Real have apparently cooled on the idea of signing Alonso. The Spanish club's sporting director, Jorge Valdano, said: "Liverpool valued him at €18m last year because he wasn't an essential player. But he is now. They've given him more chances to play and he has responded magnificently."

It remains unclear what interest Real actually retain in Alonso. Valdano's interview in Marca may be a part of the negotiating process, aimed at persuading Liverpool to lower their asking price for the midfielder.

Later, Benitez discovered he had a free run in his pursuit of Johnson. In the final reckoning, Chelsea decided that a sum of £17m for a player they sold to Portsmouth for £4m two years ago was too high. Manchester City had not tabled a bid for Johnson, either.

Regarding full-backs, only Barcelona's Dani Alves and Lilian Thuram have moved for more than the figure Liverpool are set to pay for Johnson. His performance for England in Kazakhstan earlier this month suggested that his offensive wing-back play is not yet matched by defensive resilience. But Benitez has been a long-time admirer of the player and gave serious consideration last summer to the idea of offering Crouch in return for Johnson.

Now the Liverpool manager will turn his attention to filling the gap at second striker which has not been filled since Robbie Keane returned to Tottenham Hotspur in January. He has said already that he must sell to buy, so funds are limited, and the prospect of signing Valencia's David Silva now look much slimmer.

Liverpool believe that Andrea Dossena, who wants a return to Italy, may yield a further £7m for the club. Real Madrid are known to have a keen interested in the 26-year-old Arbeloa and though no bid has yet been tabled, there is optimism at Anfield that one will be forthcoming for a player who came through the ranks at the Bernabeu and made two senior appearances before his career took him to Liverpool in 2007 by way of two years at Deportivo la Coruna.

Johnson signed a new four-year contract at Portsmouth in January but club officials accepted they could not stand in his way if he was offered the opportunity to move to a club playing in the Champions League.