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Nou deal for Masch

Javier Mascherano's long-awaited transfer to Barcelona is set to be completed this weekend after Liverpool accepted a bid from the Catalans.

The midfielder almost joined the Primera Division champions 12 months ago only for former manager Rafael Benitez to eventually price the player out of a move.

However, with the 26-year-old keen to move for personal reasons -- he constantly complained his family had not settled in England -- the club came to an agreement with him that if they received an acceptable bid they would allow him to leave.

After rejecting an initial bid of £16million from Barcelona last weekend an offer has now been forthcoming which comes close to their valuation of £25m.

The player was never likely to stay once he became aware of Barcelona's initial bid and told Hodgson he did not want to play in Monday's defeat by Manchester City. But Liverpool were never going to accept anything less than they paid for Mascherano when they rescued him from West Ham's reserves for £18m three and a half years ago.

"Liverpool Football Club have agreed terms for the transfer of Javier Mascherano to FC Barcelona," said a Liverpool statement.

"The Spanish club have now been given permission to speak to the Argentina midfielder."

This week Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted he was in the market for a defensive midfielder having been thwarted in his attempts to sign primary transfer target Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.

Reports in the Spanish media earlier this week claimed Mascherano had already agreed a four-year, £85,000-a-week contract and, now Liverpool have accepted a fee, the Argentina captain will travel to Barcelona for a medical this weekend.

A statement from Barcelona appeared to confirm that, with the Catalans even suggesting Mascherano played a part in the final negotiations.

"FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC have reached an agreement in principle for the transfer of Javier Mascherano to the club for the next four seasons," it said.

"The deal was closed after intensive efforts made by the club in the final hours and through the player himself in the negotiations.

"Barcelona will report the details of the operation once the player passes the medical and the transfer is concluded. It is hoped Javier Mascherano will arrive in Barcelona this weekend."

There was better news for Liverpool fans from forward Dirk Kuyt, who last night insisted the club have made him proud by outlining his importance to them and he does not want to leave Anfield.

The Dutchman's agent claimed on Wednesday the 30-year-old wanted to be reunited with former Reds boss Rafael Benitez at Inter Milan.

Kuyt does not deny he was curious about what his prospects would be if he decided to leave but he was soon reassured about his status.

"My future is at Liverpool. I have had four great years at the club," he said. "Unfortunately we have not won any trophies but hopefully I will in future. The point for me was that I am 30 years old and I wanted to know if there was any interest from any other club in the world.

"Liverpool spoke to me and explained everything. They said I was really important. That made me very proud and at that point I focused my thoughts on Liverpool."

Hodgson reiterated his desire for Kuyt, who scored the second in Liverpool's late 2-1 Europa League play-off victory over Trabzonspor in Turkey last night, to remain a central part of his team.

"Dirk is a player who is an important part of Liverpool, I've made it clear we don't welcome any offers for him and he's not for sale," said the Englishman. "As far as I'm concerned he is someone I believe in, someone I count on, and it is important we improve the team around the Steven Gerrards, Fernando Torreses, Jose Reinas and the Kuyts and not sell them and start all over again."

Kuyt and a Remzi Kacar own goal -- both coming in the last six minutes after Teofilo Gutierrez's early strike had levelled up the tie -- put Liverpool through to the group stages 3-1 on aggregate. It prevented Hodgson earning the unwanted record of being the first Reds boss to be knocked out of Europe in August but also handed him another one.

The victory was his fourth in succession in Europe -- a feat matched only by the legendary Bill Shankly in 1964/65, the club's first season in Europe when they beat Reykjavik and Anderlecht home and away.

However, the 62-year-old was quick to play down his achievement.

"I think it would be remarkably immodest of me to claim any credit for that," said Hodgson, who had opened his European campaign with two wins over Rabotnicki and victory in the first leg against Trabzonspor. "I don't think Bill Shankly played too many matches in the qualifying rounds against Macedonian teams."