Mascherano heads for exit as Drenthe claims transfer on Facebook

Argentine insists on move while Liverpool play down deal for left-back
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The Independent Online

The Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano is understood to have told the club's new manager Roy Hodgson that he wants to leave Anfield, having met with him for the first time yesterday after returning to pre-season training.

The 26-year-old's representatives knew that he was set on leaving the club but he appears to have made that clear even earlier than they had anticipated, having been unwilling to go through the motions of training at Melwood in the knowledge that his future lay elsewhere.

Though a £25m move to reunite him with his former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez at Internazionale is the most likely outcome, Real Madrid is another possible destination for Mascherano and also Barcelona, if the Catalan club's move for Cesc Fabregas fails.

The Argentina captain had been uncontactable by Hodgson since going on holiday after the World Cup but arrived back at Melwood on schedule, along with his compatriot Maxi Rodriguez. It meant Hodgson was able to speak to a player who has made 93 performances for Liverpool and a further seven on loan from West Ham.

Hodgson had not held out any great hope of persuading Mascherano to stay, having been able only to leave several messages after the World Cup saying he was looking forward to meeting him on Merseyside.

The player's departure will at least give Hodgson a substantial sum to reinvest in another central midfielder and to seek the left back he needs.

Liverpool dismissed in the strongest possible terms last night British radio reports that a deal to take Torres, who is on holiday, to Chelsea has been concluded. Carragher has high hopes that Torres will be persuaded to stay at the club, though he has cautioned that Liverpool can expect neither the major investment in players which the Spaniard has been hoping for, nor a Premier League title at the end of the season. For the first time in his Liverpool career, Carragher played down title expectations and said that instead Liverpool must aspire to the top-four finish which will see them re-enter the Champions League in the 2011-12 season.

"Liverpool aren't a club like Real Madrid, who can just throw £100m at it if we don't win the title," Carragher said. "For clubs like Real Madrid and Inter Milan, it's a disaster if they don't win the League, so they go out and spend big money on new players. Liverpool can't do that – we have to build. Next season we have to concentrate on getting back into the top four."

Liverpool also moved last night to reject a claim by Real Madrid's £9m rated Dutch player Royston Drenthe that he is moving to Anfield, a development that did nothing to solve the club's problematic lack of a left-back.

Though Wigan's Maynor Figueroa interests Hodgson, Drenthe, who can also operate as a left-winger, claimed on his Facebook page that he is set to move to Anfield. "I will soon be joining Liverpool FC. I hope I will have a good season," he said. Hodgson can ill afford to delay in his move to fill a position which is the club's biggest priority. The departure of Argentine Emiliano Insua to Fiorentina for £4.5m earlier this summer left the club with no recognised left-back, following the departure of Andrea Dossena to Napoli in January and Fabio Aurelio's exit as a free agent after his failure to agree a new contract. Drenthe, 23, a former Dutch Under-21 international, has been frustrated in Spain, having played just 46 times since he arrived three years ago from Feyenoord.

Liverpool's medical staff have warned Hodgson against bringing back the likes of Gerrard, Carragher, Glen Johnson, the new signing Joe Cole and Daniel Agger for Thursday's Europa League third qualifying round against FK Rabotnicki in Macedonia, suggesting playing them too soon may have effects later in the season. But a largely reserve side has failed to score in two pre-season friendlies and Hodgson admits he may not be able to take that risk. One senior player who will be available is the midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who sat out Saturday's friendly defeat to Kaiserslautern with a knee problem.

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