Liverpool battle for Morientes

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The Independent Football

Liverpool are locked in an increasingly bitter battle over the future of the Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes, despite the player's demands to be allowed to move to Anfield.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, is believed to have increased his bid for the 28- year-old striker to £5m. But that still appears to be not enough for Real, who want £7m.

The deadlock has raised the prospect of Manchester City's Nicolas Anelka being an unexpected Anfield target. Sources in France yesterday claimed that there has been an approach from Liverpool and that discussions on a three-year contract have taken place.

Lyon have also entered the race for Morientes and the situation has become increasingly complicated by the departure of the Real coach, Mariano Garcia Remon. His successor, Wanderley Luxemburgo seems likely to want to sign the young Brazilian striker Robinho.

That would push Morientes further down the pecking order, and the appointment of a new manager could delay a decision on the Spanish international.

Liverpool will not pay £7m for Morientes, but may be prepared to give Manchester City £6m for Anelka, who had a short spell at Anfield under Gérard Houllier. Anelka is 25 and would be of more immediate benefit to Liverpool because he could play in the Champions' League. Liverpool also refuse to allow a first-option clause on Steven Gerrard to be part of any negotiations for Morientes.

Morientes is becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation, and said yesterday: "I am going to England, I have decided. I will go to Liverpool and for many reasons; the main one is the coach Rafa Benitez. He is Spanish and knows me perfectly, which is worth a lot for a professional.

"We have asked Real Madrid to make a fast solution and I don't want to expand any further, except to say I am already looking through the English dictionary."

Meanwhile, Liverpool have been hit by an injury to Harry Kewell, who has already missed two matches with a groin problem and will be out for between four and five weeks.