Double lift for Benitez

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez may be able to move forward more confidently in his quest for summer signings after two significant developments.

The first piece of good news came when midfielder Javier Mascherano, whom Benitez put a £50million price tag on to ward off interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid, spoke in glowing terms about the Spaniard.

And it appears the club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are on the verge of successfully renegotiating the £350million loan they took out to buy the club two years ago.

With the formalities of the £17million signing of Portsmouth's England right-back Glen Johnson expected to be completed in the next couple of days it appears plans are back on track at Anfield.

The futures of midfielder Xabi Alonso and defender Alvaro Arbeloa - both attracting interest from Real - seem less clear.

Benitez has insisted he does not want to sell Mascherano or Alonso but if Real are reported to be ready to offer £30million for the 27-year-old Spaniard then the Reds boss may be tempted to cash in.

There have been noises from Mascherano's camp complaining about the fact the Argentina captain is not among the highest earners at Anfield but the player himself has spoken of his admiration for Benitez.

"(He is) excellent. He`s a perfectionist, working down to the smallest detail that you can imagine," said Mascherano, who has three years remaining on his Liverpool contract.

"Fortunately he has renewed his contract, meaning his ties to the club continue and this will give more calm to everybody."

On the reported interest from the European champions Mascherano told Spanish magazine Don Balon: "It`s really flattering. For me it means great recognition because we are talking about big clubs. I feel comfortable at Liverpool, but it`s always good to know that teams like Barca and Madrid are interested in you. I feel very grateful."

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Glen Johnson
Premier League
Xabi Alonso
Alvaro Arbeloa

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