Liverpool need Alonso, pleads Mascherano

Javier Mascherano has urged Liverpool to do all they can to keep the "influential" Xabi Alonso.

As Reds boss Rafael Benitez ponders the future of fringe players such as Sebastian Leto and Andriy Voronin, it is the destiny of Alonso that will concern supporters with the prospect of a bid from Real Madrid.

Benitez needs to sell squad players to raise money for his summer transfer targets - rumoured to include Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and David Silva - having been promised only £20m from the club's American owners.

The manager - who held a meeting last week with Alonso's agent - has insisted he does not want sell the Spaniard.

Mascherano said: "Xabi is so influential. Hopefully the great players at Liverpool can stay and we can bring another player in to improve the team.

"It is important when you have the team in good form you keep the key players, and Xabi is one of them.

"For sure Rafa will work really hard to improve the squad and maybe next season we will be stronger.

"If we can keep this squad and improve it, things will be really good for the future. We will be fighting in all the competitions, not just league."

Benitez insists that he will again try to solve the work permit problem for Argentina-born winger Leto, who has spent the last season on loan to Greek club Olympiacos.

Ukraine striker Voronin was hoping that Hertha Berlin would make his season-long deal there permanent, but the German side's failure to reach the Champions League means they will not be taking up the option and he will be returning to Anfield.

He is now expected to be put up for sale with a £6m price tag.

The situation with Leto is more complicated by the work permit issue, but Benitez said: "We will try to work something out, I do not want him to go."

Leto has impressed in Greece and played over 30 games for Olympiacos, despite having disciplinary problems with coach Ernesto Valverde, who has now left the club.

Benitez could now sell Leto, or send him out on loan again - although that is now unlikely with the 22-year-old wanting his future cleared up permanently.

He signed for Liverpool in August 2007 and figured in pre-season friendlies and early qualifying rounds for the Champions League, but could not make his Premier League debut because of the passport and work permit problems.

The reasons for refusing the permit were his lack of international and club experience.

Benitez was critical of that decision, and hopes that a season in the Greek league and selection for the Olympics will change the situation.

If not Leto will also be sold this summer, with a £3m fee now likely.

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