Real and Barcelona continue pursuit of Alonso and Mascherano

The battle for Liverpool's first-choice centre midfielders looks set to continue after Real Madrid and Barcelona refused to concede defeat.

Real are keen to lure Xabi Alonso to the Bernabeu while European champions Barcelona believe they can find a place for Javier Mascherano in their treble-winning side.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez does not want to lose either but the sums being suggested - £30m for Alonso and £25m for Mascherano - may mean some difficult decisions have to be taken at Anfield.

Speculation about the future of Alonso has been rife ever since Liverpool considered selling him last summer to fund the Gareth Barry transfer that never came off.

The Spain midfielder went on to have one of his best seasons for the club but rumours persisted about his unhappiness over his supposed treatment by Benitez.

Benitez plans to have talks with the 27-year-old now Spain's involvement in the Confederations Cup is over but he may not be able to persuade Alonso to commit himself to the club.

"I don't close any door in that area, so we'll see what happens," was the player's response to questions about his future.

"Last year I was close to joining Juventus, I do not have a defined career plan. It is always good that several clubs want you - it's better than no-one wanting you - but I can't do too much about it.

"I know that I have to do my work well and, in the future, I'll decide what I have to decide."

That is hardly the definitive statement Benitez is looking for and discussions may be difficult as the pair's relationship is not as friendly as it could be despite their shared nationality.

"My relationship with Benitez is professional, like he has with any other player. I leave it at that - professional," the former Real Sociedad player told Spain's Don Balon magazine.

Alonso also admitted that while he has settled on Merseyside he still misses some home comforts.

"I've already been in England five years and the truth is I have adapted well," he added.

"I am happy here, although from the beginning I have longed for certain things and continue to do so."

Mascherano is equally in demand with Barcelona seemingly not put off by the £50million price tag Benitez put on him to try to ward off the attention of the Champions League winners.

The Catalan club appear to be mounting a charm offensive with Mascherano's international team-mate Lionel Messi the focal point.

Despite giving defensive midfielder Yaya Toure a new contract Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reiterated his interest in the Argentina captain.

"Mascherano is a close friend of Leo Messi. We will see what happens. He's a player I like very much," he told icat FM.

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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