Papers: Alonso set for Anfield farewell on Sunday

Xabi Alonso will play his final game for Liverpool as Rafa Benitez looks to offload the Spanish international to raise transfer funds this summer, according to a report.

The Daily Express claims Benitez will accept a large bid from Real Madrid and let Alonso, who is currently the fans’ player of the year, go. Paul Joyce writes:

A belated deal for Aston Villa star Barry has been secretly set up, while Benitez is also ready to seal a £10million move for Portsmouth right-back Glen Johnson, who has been on his wanted list for some time. Benitez is also interested in unsettled Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez and Valencia’s David Silva.

But before you get all worried, this is probably just the rags way causing sensational headlines and profiting from the wildest of rumours. Besides, a Liverpool spokesman last night reassured supporters, ‘œThere has been no contact from anyone and Alonso is not for sale.’

The Independent – a somewhat a more respectable source that the Daily Express however also mentions Alonso’s links with a big money move to the Spanish capital. Paul Walker writes:

Xabi Alonso is being linked with a £22m move to Real Madrid, while Ryan Babel could also be sold. Striker Andriy Voronin is also expected to be moved on.

On the recent speculation linking the Reds with a move for Argentine striker Carlos Tevez, whose loan deal at Manchester Utd runs out at the end of this season, Walker writes:

The club say they have not made a bid to the player’s third-party owners. But Benitez is known to be keen to pair Tevez again with his compatriot Javier Mascherano, the pair having joined West Ham together in August 2006.

Sany Macaskill of The Telegraph says Aston Villa are ready to splash the cash to prevent their captain Gareth Barry from making a move to Liverpool this summer.

Initial reports have suggested that Villa are prepared to offer Barry a weekly salary of around £75,000 if he commits himself beyond the one year that he has remaining on his contract.

In the same back pages, Rory Smith has a report on Benitez’s best and worst signings since he arrived at the club in the summer of 2004. To cut a long story short, the best five are (fairly obviously) Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano and Luis Garcia (pictured). The five flops are Robbie Keane, Jermaine Pennant, Fernando Morientes, Andrea Dossena, and somewhat harshly in my opinion, Ryan Babel.

And finally, there’s an interesting piece in this morning’s Telegraph, naming five recent occasions where managers have named controversial starting line-ups in the face of upcoming big games. With the pressure from relegation threatened clubs on Man Utd to field a normal team against Hull City this Sunday, despite Utd having the Champions League final on Wednesday, it brings back memories of Liverpool in 2007 and a moaning, bitter Neil Warnock.

With a rematch with AC Milan in the Champions League final on his mind, Rafa Benitez sent a second XI to face Lawrie Sanchez’s relegation-threatened side. Clint Dempsey’s goal against the likes of Gabriel Paletta and Mark Gonzalez secured Fulham the three points which, ultimately, kept them up and sent Sheffield United down.

Oh and in case you didn’t know, Shakhtar Donetsk beat Werder Bremen 2-1 after extra time to lift the UEFA Cup last night. But you probably don’t care.