Blackburn face battle to keep Bentley

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The Independent Online

David Bentley has alerted a host of clubs by refusing to sign a new, improved contract at Blackburn Rovers. Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham are all interested in signing the 23-year-old England international who hopes to win his fourth cap against the United States at Wembley tomorrow.

Bentley has three years left on his current deal at Ewood Park, having agreed a new contract only last year following his permanent move from Arsenal in January 2006, and even though he would double his money with the improved terms, to earn more than £40,000 a week, he has declined the offer.

Bentley is aware of the interest in him and is in particular demand this summer because clubs are eager to recruit young English players in case Fifa push through their quotas proposal. Given the clubs already in for him it is likely that a fee to sign him could rise as high as £15m – although Blackburn are adamant that they do not want to sell. Yesterday Bentley refused to discuss his future saying only: "I'd rather not talk about my contract".

But it is understood that he has declined Blackburn's terms with Liverpool making the early running for his signature having decided upon Bentley as a replacement for right-winger Jermaine Pennant who has been put up for sale by Rafael Benitez and offered to both Aston Villa and Newcastle United.

Bentley has made no secret that he is ambitious to play in the Champions League and said of last week's final between Chelsea and Manchester United: "They're the matches I want to play in. I want to reach the top of my game, and haven't done that yet. I've not played in a big tournament, in the Champions League. I've still got it all to do. Everyone wants success today. I wouldn't say I'm impatient, but I'm hungry for success. I don't run around in training every day for nothing. I want to play in big games at the top of the game, and for people to enjoy my football. I want to be successful."

It has been a remarkable 12 months for Bentley who courted controversy last summer by refusing to take part in the European Under-21 Championship, citing tiredness, and was later booed playing for the senior team at Wembley. "I'm feeling in good condition," Bentley said when asked if he felt fatigued now. "At the time I didn't know whether it was right or wrong but I'm looking to the future."

That will include attempting to displace David Beckham on England's right-flank and as much as Bentley impressed manager Fabio Capello in the Italian's first game in charge against Switzerland, he was replaced against France. According to sources within the England camp Bentley did not react well to being left out even though he was told that Capello was pleased with how he had performed and he wanted to look at Beckham.

Yesterday Bentley acknowledged Beckham's contribution – Capello, too, has been impressed by how the former captain has reacted so far both on and off the pitch – and said: "I really respect what he's done for England, he's been brilliant. Through hard times, he's worked so hard and every time he's out on the pitch he delivers."

It is something that cannot be said of the England team as a whole and Bentley, who has been a critic in the past, admitted that they have been guilty of under-performing. "Individually, look at our team," he said. "On paper there isn't a better team in the world. It's maybe about the team pushing together and working better as a team. It's about belief. There are eight players here who played in the Champions League Final. The standard is so high, I can only see us doing well."

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