Aquilani to fill gap left by Alonso

Italian set for Anfield after Real Madrid seal £30m deal for Reds' Spanish midfielder
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The Independent Online

Liverpool expect to close the deal for Roma's £17m midfielder Alberto Aquilani in the next week after finally agreeing to Xabi Alonso's £30m departure to Real Madrid yesterday. The contract for Aquiliani has been in place for some time and the move can now go ahead after weeks of brinkmanship over Alonso.

With Liverpool's first Premier League game of the season 12 days' away, Benitez has once again proved himself a durable negotiator, holding out for a price of £30m for a player he valued at little more than half that last season. Having held out for a price they made clear was non-negotiable during talks in Spain last week Liverpool last night announced they had "reached agreement for the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, subject only to a medical".

Aquilani, 25, has long been his first choice as a replacement and Roma's financial difficulties have allowed Liverpool to take advantage. One of the fans' homegrown favourites at Roma – along with Francesco Totti and Daniele de Rossi – his signing is something of a coup given that he plays for a club that has been resistant to selling their best players.

The sale of Aquilani should mean that Roma – who were the subject of a failed takeover bid by the agent Vinicio Fioranelli last month – will not have to sell again this summer thus quashing any hopes that Arsenal's Arsène Wenger had of prising away De Rossi. The midfielder can play in the role formerly occupied by Alonso alongside Javier Mascherano in the pairing that operates in front of the back four.

Alonso follows Alvaro Arbeloa from Liverpool to Madrid, providing further evidence that Florentino Perez's new regime has the power to take key players from the Premier League's best teams. Although it took longer than the negotiations for Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer this summer, Perez has once against demonstrated that although he usually gets his man he also has to pay the asking price.

The end of Alonso's five-year spell at the club means that Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are the only two players still at Anfield who featured in the club's Champions League final victory over Milan in Istanbul four years ago. Despite Alonso's impressive last season at the club, his relationship with Benitez has been damaged by the Liverpool manager's attempt to sell him last summer to Juventus to fund the bid for Gareth Barry.

Alonso had made it clear this time that he was determined to leave. He will be Real Madrid's fifth major signing this summer after Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Raul Albiol. At 28, and signed from Real Sociedad for £10.4m, he will remain one of Benitez's best-ever signings.

Liverpool and Manchester United both intend to meet with Valencia officials this week to discuss the availability of David Silva and David Villa. Both players, especially Villa, have proved impossible to budge this summer, and any breakthrough would probably be for Silva and at more than £20m. Valencia are in England to play friendlies against United today and Arsenal on Saturday.

Everton are close to signing Philippe Senderos from Arsenal in a move that could give David Moyes the security to allow Joleon Lescott to leave for Manchester City. City will pay more than £20m which would also end their interest in the Newcastle defender Sebastien Bassong, allowing Harry Redknapp a clear run at the player who has emerged as his top transfer target at Tottenham.

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