Poulsen moves to Anfield as Mascherano substitute

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The Independent Online

As javier Mascherano's departure from Anfield moved ever closer, Roy Hodgson yesterday secured an immediate like-for-like replacement as he completed the signing of the combative Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen.

It appears just a matter of time before the Argentine completes a move to Internazionale, and a quick reunion with the former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez – perhaps as early as today. In preparation for his exit, Liverpool agreed a £4.5m fee – with another £1m payable depending on appearances – with Juventus in the wake of the 30-year-old's medical at Melwood on Wednesday. The Danish FA had allowed him to withdraw from the squad for their friendly with Germany.

Since the World Cup, Mascherano has made no secret of his wish to move on. While Inter is believed to be his first-choice destination, there have been reports in Spain of late interest from Barcelona as they try to bolster their midfield following Cesc Fabregas's decision to remain at Arsenal. Liverpool are seeking a fee of around £25m for Mascherano, which may yet delay any deal and leave him still a Liverpool player come Sunday's opening game against Arsenal.

Yesterday, though, he as good as offered his farewells to supporters after three years at the club. "My problem is not to play for Liverpool. I'm very proud to play for Liverpool. It's another thing," the 26-year-old said in Dublin, where he had led Argentina to 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland. "I said to him [Hodgson] that maybe for my life I prefer to change the country, not to change the club – that is the fact.

"At the end the only thing I can say is thank you to everyone in Liverpool because they supported me all the time, from the beginning until now."

Poulsen is a familiar figure to Hodgson; the pair were together during the manager's time in charge of FC Copenhagen a decade ago. The Dane, who has played in Germany, Spain and Italy and in two World Cups for Denmark, is the third experienced signing made by Hodgson as he fashions his own side at Anfield. Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic are both in their late twenties – an approach that contrasts with Manchester United's policy of signing only young players. There is an exception to Hodgon's pragmatic recruitment policy – Scottish defender Danny Wilson is 18 – but he appears to be following the path he trod at Fulham, where the successful team he assembled was composed largely of players long on experience.

Poulsen said: "I have a lot to prove. If you come to a club like Liverpool, you have to deliver."

The midfielder has a reputation for getting under the skin of opponents. In Euro 2004 Italy's Francesco Totti spat at him and was given a three-match ban. A year later Carlo Ancelotti called him a "coward" after a Champions League game between Milan and Schalke in which Poulsen was accused of kicking Kaka out of the match.

But most infamously, in a qualifier for Euro 2008, he punched the Swedish striker Markus Rosenberg. The referee awarded the Swedes a penalty, whereupon a fan attempted to attack the official, who abandoned the game. Poulsen was banned for three matches amid calls back home for him to be imprisoned for his actions.

Meanwhile, Kenny Huang broke his silence regarding his attempt to lead a buyout of Liverpool last night, declaring that there had been "smooth progress" but that he was only "50 per cent confident" of completing the deal.

With the Liverpool board still awaiting proof of funds from Huang's consortium, he declined to reveal his backers or discuss Chinese sovereign wealth funds, citing the confidentiality clause he has signed with Liverpool.

"I am 50 per cent confident we will acquire the club," Huang told a Chinese magazine. "Our adversaries [believed to be Syrian Yahya Kirdi's consortium and the New York-based Rhône Group] are stronger and we lack experience, so we need to do further research. We have provided a large number of documents and Liverpool's board has approved our proposal. We will have an answer in less than 10 days."

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