Rafael Benitez has increased the pressure on Benfica to sell their winger Simao Sabrosa with another bid of around £8m for the player who came within hours of joining Liverpool in the summer and, as the Portuguese champions grow increasingly desperate to sell, he now seems close to completing the deal.
Benfica blocked Simao's transfer to Liverpool for £8m in August at the very last moment when they raised the asking price to £12.8m. Yesterday, in an attempt to raise the price again, officials at the club said that Manchester United's assistant manager, Carlos Queiroz, had made an inquiry about his availability. However, sources at Old Trafford have indicated that they would not be interested in the player, who scored against them in the Champions' League this season.
Benitez has reason to be confident that the 25-year-old will sign this time after the player came to an agreement with Benfica's president, Luis Felipe Viera, following the collapse of his original move in the summer. Simao was told that he could leave in January after the club had negotiated the group stages of the Champions' League and he is understood to have informed Benfica he has set his mind on leaving this month.
Benfica have already made provision for his departure and yesterday completed the signing of the Newcastle United winger Laurent Robert. At a press conference to introduce the Frenchman, Viera said that he was not interested in selling the club's best players, but privately Benfica are concerned that they will not realise their valuation on the winger with just Liverpool bidding.
Benitez has already lost out to United in the race for the Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic, whose former club Dynamo Moscow finalised a £7.2m fee with Old Trafford on Christmas Day. Liverpool are confident they can now buy Simao, who scored a memorable free-kick in United's 2-1 victory over Benfica in September, for close to their original offer.
Benfica are understood to have offered him to Tottenham but Simao, who can play on either wing, is said to be unwilling to join a club who have not yet established a Champions' League pedigree. Liverpool's need for a right-sided player is no secret after the problems they have had obtaining a work permit for the Albacete winger Mark Gonzalez and the subsequent injuries that the Chilean international has suffered.
Simao is represented by Jorge Mendes, the Portuguese agent whose influence has soared in English football with the emergence of clients like Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo. He was very close to bringing Simao to Liverpool in the summer after the two clubs agreed a fee of £8m and the player had even boarded a jet for Merseyside before being told that Viera had pulled out and raised the price.
Liverpool have already signed the Danish full-back Jan Kromkamp from Villarreal. Kromkamp is part of a swap deal which involves the Anfield club's Spanish defender Josemi moving the other way. Kromkamp, 25, has passed a medical and completed the formalities of his move.
Liverpool are also believed to be close to completing a deal for Daniel Agger, the Danish centre-back who plays for Brondby.