Barcelona close in on signing Mascherano

The negotiations are under way and despite Benitez’s understandable objection to losing Mascherano, it appears that Masche wants to sign with Barcelona. If he puts some pressure on Liverpool it could be a done deal.

Javier Mascherano’s agent holds Barcelona talks to test Rafael Benítez

Mascherano’s agent met Barcelona last night

Rafael Benítez’s insistence that Liverpool will not countenance the sale of Javier Mascherano is likely to be tested after the Argentina captain’s agent held talks with Barcelona officials over a possible move to Camp Nou.

Mascherano’s agent, Walter Tamer, met Barcelona representatives in the city’s Rey Juan Carlos I hotel for two hours last night as the European champions intensify efforts to sign the 25-year-old.

It is believed Tamer, who last week claimed Mascherano would relish a move to Barcelona and that “a transfer would be feasible”, was seeking assurances about the personal terms on offer should his client attempt to force through a deeply unpopular exit from Anfield.

Liverpool have not yet received an inquiry from Barcelona for Mascherano, who has been earmarked to replace Yaya Touré as their holding midfielder by the coach, Pep Guardiola.

Benítez has made his opposition to any move clear, however, and while the Liverpool manager must sell to inflate his transfer budget above a net £20m, he is under no pressure to offload such a key member of his team, particularly at a time when doubts surround the Anfield future of Mascherano’s midfield colleague Xabi Alonso.

Responding to Tamer’s opening gambit last week, Benítez insisted: “Mascherano has no price. Barcelona could not afford to match his value.

They can offer £40m or even £50m. We don’t want to sell.” That stance will be tested should Mascherano agitate for a move from the club that revitalised his career following a dreadful spell at West Ham United or Barcelona follow up their interest with a staggering offer.

Liverpool paid £18m to sign the Argentinian in February 2008 and there are suspicions within the club that, having seen Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt offered and accept lucrative new contracts in recent months, Mascherano wants a similar pay rise.

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