The Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said yesterday that he had received an indication from Fernando Torres that the Spaniard was ready to commit to Liverpool for another season and resist the temptation of a move to Chelsea or Manchester City.
Although Liverpool will only know on Monday – when the World Cup winner returns from holiday to training – precisely how Torres feels about his club future, Hodgson gave his first clear indication that the player's discussions with the club had convinced him to stay. "He has told me he is looking forward to Monday, getting back to work and playing for us next season," Hodgson said. "That's what we know and as far as I am concerned all other reports are erroneous."
Hodgson confirmed that Javier Mascherano had informed him on Monday that he wishes to leave the club, with a £25m move to be reunited with Rafael Benitez the most likely outcome, although Hodgson expects the Argentine to honour his contract – he has two years remaining – if a deal is not struck with Inter or the other possible suitors, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Hodgson was clearly disappointed but Mascherano's decision did not take the gloss off a day that seemed to mark a new era at Anfield. Joe Cole, Serbian Milan Jovanovic and 18-year-old Scottish centre-back Danny Wilson were unveiled in the Liverpool trophy room, to which Hodgson is seeking to add something after four barren years.
The journey begins in earnest today when an inexperienced side – probably without Cole and Steven Gerrard, but with Jovanovic, who signed as a free agent from Standard Liège after impressing for Serbia in the World Cup – flying to Skopje to face Macedonian side FK Rabotnicki in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
Hodgson said he hopes for several more new signings and with more vestiges of the Rafael Benitez era likely to be on the way out – Real Sociedad are interested in Daniel Pacheco, the young Spanish striker Benitez set much store in, and Argentine Maxi Rodriguez may also be going – the money raised by Mascherano's sale may not be all at the new manager's disposal.
A left-back is the priority and with Hodgson not interested in pursuing talks about the Toulouse left-back Cheikh M'Bengue, Wigan Athletic's Maynor Figueroa remains a prospective acquisition. Hodgson cut a witty and commanding figure among his new signings, picking up on two mentions of Everton at his press conference.
"Not an Everton fan are you?" he asked the reporter who tackled Wilson on the Goodison loyalties of Walter Smith, his previous manager at Rangers. Hodgson also brought much-needed levity when Joe Cole committed the cardinal sin of talking about winning the title before Liverpool's season has even started.
"You've done a great job of building us up," Hodgson said, seemingly to the assembled press rather than Cole. "We've gone from seventh place [last season] to winning the League. We've not spoken about the Champions League yet. That might take a year, I suppose. We've been elevated as high as Jupiter – which is the highest."
It was certainly an antidote to the torturous ambiguities of Benitez as his own tenure ran out and Hodgson suggested the Spaniard had left him with a big rebuilding job. "Rome was not built in a day," Hodgson said.
Sitting among images of Liverpool's glorious 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, the £90,000-a-week Cole later said it was his mission to leave a mark on his new club. "Look at all the pictures around this place and you want more of that," he said.
"The whole club is built on success. I can feel the hunger and the desire here, and that's a great base to come from. I am convinced we will do better than last season. I left a mark at Chelsea, being part of great teams that won things – [supporters'] player of the year [in 2008] and stuff, and I am proud of that. Now I want to leave my mark at a massive club like this as well.
"All I need is time and patience because I've not even played a minute's football for them yet. The last time I played 90 minutes was February and I need to be able to do that week-in, week-out, and I will do that."