Mascherano signs on but still no relief for Benitez

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The Independent Online

Javier Mascherano signing a four-year deal should have made Rafael Benitez a happy man yesterday, though there was still the sense of an underlying brittleness at the club as the Spaniard implied that he is unwilling to spend much time justifying himself, or his ideas, to Steven Gerrard after his captain's verbal onslaught in midweek.

"Steven knows some ideas that we have," Benitez said. "I can't explain every movement, but our scouts are working hard around the world." Gerrard's form, often in attacking roles rather than his favoured central midfield, has been indifferent at times this season though Benitez would not accept the view that he should have been operating centrally more often. "He's played more or less all of this season in centre midfield," said Benitez, a view which has not been borne out in the past month by starting line-ups which have featured Mascherano and Lucas Leiva in those roles. "Tell me how many games he has played as a central midfielder this season?" Benitez asked. "I think you should check the statistics."

Benitez's revelation that he takes some delight in seeing pre-match television analysis placing Gerrard on the right when he is in the middle – "I enjoy that," he said – suggest an irritation. "We are progressing, going in the right direction. Sometimes you can go faster, sometimes you cannot," he insisted.

Benitez, who is in discussions with Peter Crouch's representatives over a new contract, has also endured another week of turmoil surrounding Tom Hicks and George Gillett. He said yesterday that he has had contact with both men, despite the absence of Gillett and his son Foster from club issues in recent months

Liverpool travel to Bolton tomorrow, with Jamie Carragher back after suspension, seeking to reassert their position in the top four which, if they do not triumph in Moscow in May, is a goal of financial significance.

At least Mascherano is contented. "I am very, very happy and now I can concentrate just on playing football," he said yesterday.

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry said the Argentinian's signing – having been on loan from owners MSI – showed two things. "Firstly, that life at the club goes on despite all of the speculation to the contrary. And secondly... in a very large measure the ongoing commitment of the owners, who once again have come good when funds have been needed."

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