Tuesday’s Papers: Riera deal close

Rafa Benitez has made it clear he wants a left midfielder following the departures of Kewell and Riise. Gareth Barry has been his number one target all summer but two other names have also been mentioned since May; Albert Riera of Espanyol and Middlesbrough‘s Stewart Downing.

RieraIt is Riera who is now being strongly linked, with reports of a £4m bid plus Andriy Voronin having been turned down last week. Riera is also being chased by Merseyside rivals Everton, who have had a bid accepted but the player is keen to snub the Blues and join the Reds.

The Guardian report “Liverpool are close to concluding Rafael Benítez’s search for a left-sided midfielder… having yesterday made an improved offer for the Espanyol winger.” They also suggest it will bring an end their pursuit of Gareth Barry.

They report a fee of £12m being accepted from Everton:

The Anfield club’s latest bid is less than the £12m that Everton submitted for the 26-year-old on Friday and they remain reluctant to match the offer of their local rivals. However, despite the Spanish club’s insistence that they will only sell Riera for £12m, Liverpool are confident the player’s stated wish to move to Anfield will force a compromise.

While The Times claim the bid was £9.5m and therefore only that needs matching by Liverpool:

Although Everton have had a £9.5 million bid for Riera accepted by Espanyol, the one-time Manchester City player has made clear his desire to move to Anfield, with Liverpool hopeful of agreeing a deal in the coming days provided that they match the offer made by their Merseyside rivals.

Former Liverpool coach and now Espanyol sporting director, Paco Herrera, said ‘œThere is a team which is offering what we have asked and another one which isn’t, but the player is interested in the one which is offering the least. We will not lower our asking price.’

Both newspapers also report Stewart Downing as another target of Benitez’s but the £14m fee and the doubt over whether a deal can be concluded before the transfer window closes means that is unlikely to go through.

While Guillem Balague discusses Riera on his blog:

I have spoken with sources close to Albert Riera who have told me that the player “could not be trying any harder than he is to make the move to Liverpool happen.” With Anfield therefore clearly the player’s first choice, the same sources also said that Albert knows “he will learn a lot from Benitez and he knows how serious the Liverpool manager is, although he knows he is going to have to work very hard.”

And The Times suggest the arrival of Riera may not be the end of our summer spending if others can be sold:

He (Benitez) has identified Riera as his main target, the Spaniard could still be in the market for another player in the event that he manages to offload any of Voronin, Jermaine Pennant or Xabi Alonso.

And The Guardian write:

Benítez will persist in his efforts to raise further funds this week, with Xabi Alonso still a target for Arsenal, who have yet to increase an initial offer of £12m for the Spain midfielder. Stoke City have made a joint £7m offer for Jermaine Pennant and Sami Hyypia, although the former’s reluctance to move there is proving a major obstacle to that deal. Pennant is also a target for the Blackburn manager Paul Ince, although they have offered only £3.5m for the winger and Liverpool are holding out for at least £5m.