Valencia move ends Morientes' Liverpool nightmare

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The Independent Online

The inglorious Liverpool career of Fernando Morientes came to an end last night after the Merseyside club agreed an as yet undisclosed fee with Valencia for the sale of their Spanish centre-forward.

Liverpool were seeking to recoup £4m of the £6.3m they paid for the 30-year-old in January 2005 following a disappointing return of only 12 goals from 60 appearances, and a Premiership campaign that he described as "terrible" which resulted in his omission from Spain's World Cup squad.

Liverpool had rejected Valencia's opening offer of an exchange deal involving their Italian forward Marco Di Vaio and will also have to take a significant loss on Djibril Cissé to offload their £14m record signing and enable the manager, Rafael Benitez, to purchase two replacements, with Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt, Jermain Defoe, of Tottenham Hotspur, and Charlton's Darren Bent high on his list.

The FA Cup holders will next week lodge a renewed work permit application for the Chilean international winger Mark Gonzalez that, if successful, will result in his permanent transfer from Albacete.

Bolton Wanderers joined Wigan Athletic "in the box seat" for Andrew Johnson when they had an £8.5m offer for the England international accepted last night, but the 25-year-old's final destination remains far from certain as both Everton and Portsmouth are considering renewed approaches for the Crystal Palace forward.

The Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, has granted Johnson permission to leave the England squad today, where he remains on stand-by duty for the World Cup, for talks with the managers and officials of Wigan and Bolton, the only clubs to match his valuation of the former Birmingham striker so far.

Demonstrating the intent of their manager, Sam Allardyce, to target younger, more expensive talent this summer, Bolton matched Wigan's ambitious offer following two days of deliberation yesterday and will hope to convince Johnson not to accept the £40,000-a-week contract available at the JJB Stadium.

"Crystal Palace have accepted another bid for Andrew Johnson, after Bolton Wanderers offered £8.5m for the player on Thursday," confirmed Palace in a statement last night. "The offer from Sam Allardyce's side matches the one made on Wednesday by Wigan Athletic, and therefore the 25-year-old now has permission to speak to both Lancashire clubs."

Bolton responded quickly to warnings from Jordan that the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, had behaved impeccably in his pursuit of the striker and was now "in the box seat" to clinch what would be a club record transfer, although that offer - and the £5.5m lodged for Chelsea's Robert Huth - illustrates how the Latics are having to pay top prices to convince established players to move to the JJB.

Everton, Johnson's preferred choice, were prepared to raise their initial offer of £7.25m only as far as £8m, with a proven marksman a priority after David Moyes' side registered the lowest goals tally in the club's history last season. Moyes and the Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright, were considering their options last night. Though their prospects could improve if the striker holds out for a move to Goodison, they know that Jordan will not lower his valuation before the World Cup.

Portsmouth, the wealthiest of Johnson's suitors, are in a position to pay £8.5m and will enter the race if their manager, Harry Redknapp, sanctions a move.

The Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, has dismissed suggestions that his club was offered the chance to bring the England centre-back Jonathan Woodgate back to St James' Park.

Woodgate, 26, has struggled for fitness since his £13.4m move to Real Madrid in August 2004 and has been linked with a return to English football. However, Shepherd denied his club had turned Woodgate down.

"These reports are simply not true, and it is important our fans know that," he said. "Stories saying we have been offered Jonathan back - and that we have rejected him - are completely inaccurate."

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