Liverpool have all but finalised a £12 million (€14.7m) deal for Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge for the start of January, the Irish Examiner has learned.
Negotiations between Anfield and Stamford Bridge had intensified over the past few weeks, and high-placed figures at both clubs have confirmed the deal is now almost certain to go through in the first few days of 2013.
With Tom Ince also set to arrive at Anfield from Blackpool for £4m (€4.9m), the transfer will ensure Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers completes practically all of his January business very early in the transfer window.
One player who won’t be leaving Chelsea in the new year, however, is Frank Lampard. Senior Stamford Bridge sources have confirmed that the midfielder will stay at the club until the summer, at the very least.
Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez was more coy when publicly discussing Sturridge’s future in his press conference yesterday, but did admit that “conversations” had been taking place.
“He was training with us, he is fine. It is just a question of the club and some conversations with different options. But at the moment for me, as a coach, he is training and doing well. I can’t say too much as I don’t have much information.”
Benitez did, however, restate Lampard’s importance to the team, despite the midfielder appearing to fall out of favour recently and even publicly speak about how he may be coming to the end of his time at Stamford Bridge.
The Chelsea veteran has only started one of three games since returning from injury at the start of December. That may change over the next few games, however, as Benitez suffers a fitness crisis in that area, with even defender David Luiz having to fill in there.
“If you analyse our team, we don’t have too many options in the middle of the park,” Benitez said. “He is coming back and he will be OK.
“You can’t ask questions about the future of the players all the time but my answer is always the same. As professionals, they are doing really well. They are important players. They are fully committed in terms of training sessions and games. What can I say? I cannot say too much.
“I will say to you he [Lampard] is fully committed, every training session, every game, an important player for us. I’m happy with his attitude.”
Benitez also reminded Neil Warnock that Sheffield United’s relegation from the Premier League was not decided by one match alone.
Warnock, the Leeds manager, is unsure whether he will shake Benitez’s hand before tonight’s Capital One Cup quarter-final at Elland Road due to a dispute between the two dating back to 2007.
The acrimony erupted after Benitez selected what Warnock perceived to be a weakened team in Liverpool’s penultimate game of the Premier League season against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Fulham won and the Blades were relegated, prompting Warnock to declare he would “never forgive” Benitez, whose legal team later sent an email warning of possible action through the courts were he to be mentioned again.
The Spaniard is willing to shake hands tonight in an effort to avoid controversy, but pointed out that survival is determined over the course of the season.
“Every person has their ideas of each other,” Benitez said. “I’m professional and will try to do my job and won’t be involved in anything, but what I will say is that the league is 38 games and not just one match.
“I’m professional so I won’t have any problem (shaking Warnock’s hand). There will be a lot of people watching us, so we have to behave.
“I saw that he said he has an email from me threatening to sue him, but I don’t remember. It’s true, but I didn’t remember it. We need to leave things on the pitch.”
For his part, Warnock has instructed his players to sharpen up their spot-kicks as Leeds bid to emulate local rivals Bradford by claiming a high-profile scalp in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
Bradford claimed a famous penalty shoot-out triumph over Arsenal to book their place in the semi-finals last week and Warnock is full of admiration for their exploits.
“We will be practising penalties,” he said. “(Bradford) should be teaching England. Are they English, the players taking them?
“You can’t replicate it in training. I can score every time in training but I couldn’t do it in front of a crowd.’’
Regardless of how long it takes to reach an outcome, Warnock is relishing the kind of eagerly-anticipated clash that used to be a staple for Leeds a decade ago.
“Win or lose, it will be a great night,” he said. “The whole eyes of the country will be on it.’’
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