Birmingham sign Benitez

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Birmingham have beaten off competition from top European clubs to sign Ecuador striker Christian Benitez from Mexican side Santos Laguna.

The Blues confirmed a fee - thought to be a club record - had been agreed for the 23-year-old, who will travel to England for a medical next week having agreed personal terms.

Although the fee is undisclosed it is set to surpass the £6.25million paid for Emile Heskey in 2004 and is reported to be in the region of £9million.

Benitez - son of the Ecuador's all-time leading goalscorer, Ermen - starred in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and has scored 31 goals in 58 games in Mexico's Primera Division over the last two campaigns.

He recently underwent surgery on a shoulder injury and is unlikely to be involved when Ecuador play World Cup qualifiers against Peru (7 June) and Argentina (10 June).

The club are confident of acquiring a work permit for the striker as he has played in 86 per cent of Ecuador's competitive A grade games over the last two years - well above the required amount.

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Emile Heskey

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