Saturday 22 October 2016

Liverpool set to seal James Milner deal but baulk at £32.5m Christian Benteke fee

Manchester City's James Milner in action with Southampton's Ryan Bertrand
Manchester City's James Milner in action with Southampton's Ryan Bertrand

Liverpool hope to complete the signing of free agent James Milner this week as manager Brendan Rodgers prepares for his first post-season face-to-face meeting with key figures among the club’s American owners.

Milner, 29, has been one of Rodgers’ long-standing targets and is available on a free transfer when his contract at Manchester City ends.

One of the players the Liverpool manager considers key to his rebuilding process following the departure of captain Steven Gerrard, Milner would sign a pre-contract committing him to a long-term deal when his City contract expires on June 30.

Liverpool also retain an interest in the Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke but are not prepared to pay the £32.5m buy-out clause in the Belgian’s contract. The Villa manager Tim Sherwood has said that Benteke would not be permitted to leave for less than that sum; however, Liverpool hope that they can persuade Villa to sell him for less.

Milner has been a highly sought-after free agent, attracting interest from Arsenal as well as Liverpool, but Rodgers is confident that he will sign for the club. The England international joins up with Roy Hodgson’s squad at St George’s Park on Wednesday ahead of the games against Ireland and Slovenia.

The England international is the first of two deals the club want to announce, with Danny Ings, 22, another free agent, having given the club his assurance that he too will sign when his Burnley deal expires at the end of next month. Liverpool are as yet to agree a compensation deal with Ings’ club Burnley but they are hopeful of coming to an agreement in the next month to avoid the case going to a tribunal.

In the meantime, Rodgers will meet Tom Werner this week with the club chairman over from Boston to attend the Premier League shareholders’ meeting on Thursday. Werner will accompany the executive Mike Gordon, the second biggest shareholder in FSG, with both men arriving in Liverpool yesterday. Over the next three days they are due to meet Rodgers to review the season and also hold meetings over the development of the stadium and the club’s academy.

There is no question that Rodgers’ job is under threat in the short term. However, it was significant that Jurgen Klopp, a potential successor at Liverpool, ruled out any possibility that he might take a job this summer following his departure from Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season.

In a statement, Klopp said: “After seven intense and emotional years, I think it’s a good idea to let the numerous memories settle in before I take on a new challenge. I’m going to take a break until further notice.”

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