Liverpool were given hope of a breakthrough in their laborious efforts to sign Javier Mascherano from West Ham United last night when Fifa announced the Argentina international may be allowed to move to Anfield after all.
Rafael Benitez is anxious to strengthen his squad with the World Cup midfielder but has been frustrated in his attempts by world football's governing body, which prevents a player appearing for three clubs between 1 July and 30 June the following year.
Fifa regulations stipulate that while a player can register with a maximum of three clubs during that time, they can only play for two, and as Mascherano starred for Corinthians after the World Cup and before his astonishing move to West Ham in August, he is ineligible to play for Benitez's side. Only last week Fifa announced that the ruling was binding but, having received a written submission from Liverpool that contests the decision, the governing body has now confirmed it will consider a possible U-turn.
A Fifa spokesman said last night: "We have received correspondence from Liverpool and a case has now been opened."
Liverpool's detailed argument is supported by Mascherano's representatives, Media Sports Investments, the group founded by Kia Joorabchian who also brought Carlos Tevez to West Ham before his failed attempt to take over the east London club. Liverpool's case is that, as the midfielder has played just six minutes for the Hammers since October and has made only seven appearances in total, and none since Alan Curbishley became manager, leaving the asset idle on the sidelines represents a restraint of trade.
Liverpool also argue that precedents have been set on the three-club rule and there should be an allowance for Mascherano as he played in both the European and the South American seasons last year, with the latter's calendar extending beyond 1 Julyt.
Should Fifa grant an exception, the Argentine's move to Anfield would proceed instantly.
The Anfield directors have also sanctioned a deal for Blackburn Rovers' Lucas Neill, who could be involved in the Liverpool squad to face Chelsea on Saturday provided he resists greater financial offers from West Ham or Newcastle United.