Liverpool have stepped up their pursuit of Aston Villa's Stewart Downing but may have to pay up to £20m for the winger, despite a desire to leave which may lead him to table a transfer request next week.
Two Liverpool bids have already been made with the latest one for £15m rejected as well as the opening offer of £12m. Villa's new manager Alex McLeish is resigned to the fact that he can do no more to keep the England international, though a battle of wills seems to lie ahead. Despite Villa's demand for £20m, Liverpool's third bid next week is likely to be at around £18m. Proprietor John W Henry has made it clear that he considers English players overvalued in the summer market and that he may look abroad. The third bid may be Liverpool's last one.
McLeish did not consider Downing's departure a fait accompli in the same way as Ashley Young's move to Manchester United when he took over at Villa Park last month. But the 26-year England international had made it clear through friends yesterday morning that he wants to leave. Liverpool's 22-year-old striker David Ngog could possibly be used as a makeweight in the deal.
Blackpool are not making Liverpool's approach for Charlie Adam easy, having indicated that they value him at £9m. The Serbian forward Milan Jovanovic, who has always looked well short of Liverpool's standards since arriving from Standard Liège last summer has said he has been told he has been given permission to find a new club, though the challenge is finding someone ready to match his £60,000-a-week wages. Jovanovic has been linked to Greek side Olympiakos as well as a return to Belgium and admitted he is open to offers. "I got the paper from Liverpool that I am free to search for a new club," Jovanovic said.
Kenny Dalglish's need of a fit Steven Gerrard for his own first full campaign back in charge at Anfield was underlined yesterday when rumours that Liverpool would not risk him for their forthcoming pre-season friendlies in the Far East proved accurate. Results were positive from a scan Gerrard underwent last week on his groin, intended to assess the extent of his recovery from surgery which has kept him out of Dalglish's side since March. Gerrard has struggled with groin injuries over the past two seasons. Dalglish said he wanted his captain fit to compete for a full season and there was no point taking any chances flying him out to Asia .