Liverpool prepare to sell Crouch to fund Villa move

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The Independent Online

Liverpool are understood to be preparing to sell Peter Crouch - and want to sign Valencia's David Villa as the England striker's replacement. The moves, which would cost a combined total of more than £40m, could come as part of what is being predicted as the busiest January transfer window since the system was introduced four years ago.

There is a number of stumbling blocks to any deal, however. Although Crouch is wanted by Newcastle United, they may not be prepared to meet Liverpool's £12m valuation. Instead they would like to pay around half that amount for the 25-year-old, who moved to Anfield for £7m in the summer of 2005 from Southampton.

Liverpool need to generate a bigger fee for Crouch to help to pay for Villa, also 25, who would cost around £25m from Valencia and who has long been tipped for a move to the Premiership and is believed to favour joining Liverpool.

Villa, who scored 25 goals in 35 League games last season, but just eight so far this term, has long been admired by the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, who has made attempts to sign the Spanish international. Villa would not be eligible for Liverpool's European Cup tie against Barcelona, having already played in the competition this season and with Valencia still involved it will make his transfer even harder to secure.

Crouch has fallen out of favour and in recent weeks has fallen further behind Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy. He got his chance against Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day but was singled out for criticism by Benitez after missing three headed chances.

That defeat meant Liverpool slipped out of the Champions' League places and, with the takeover by Dubai International Capital still to be completed, they need to add fresh impetus to their season. Blackburn's Lucas Neill is also expected to sign next month.

With Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi injured, the Newcastle United manager Glenn Roeder has targeted a striker as his main January signing. He is considering Lyon's John Carew, who has been told he can leave the French champions and could arrive initially on loan, as a cheaper alternative should Newcastle fail to land Crouch.

As he attempts to add more physical presence to his attack Roeder also knows that Charlton are unlikely to sell another of his targets, Darren Bent.

* The Charlton manager, Alan Pardew, has said that he is confident of signing the former Hearts defender Stephen Pressley. The Sweden defender Andreas Granqvist will join Wigan on loan until June.

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