Xabi Alonso's Liverpool career appeared to be coming towards an end as he arrived for training yesterday. The midfielder, 28, expects to hold talks with manager Rafael Benitez as Real Madrid are believed to be preparing an improved, bid. A club source has now confirmed that Alonso has submitted a transfer request, with the Spanish player having previously only told Benitez verbally that he wanted to leave the club.
Now if Real produce an offer of at least £28million (Dh170m) , the chances are that Benitez will agree to sell the man he signed from Real Sociedad for £10m in August 2004. Alonso flew back from Spain yesterday, having spent three days with his family in San Sebastian, determined to end a summer-long saga over his future. Benitez has defiantly refused to let Alonso leave, and Real's only official bid of £24m was rejected. But a formal transfer request clearly changes the situation.
Since that first bid, both parties have been engaged in a war of words over the deal, with Real president Florentino Perez maintaining that Liverpool's valuation was much too high. Benitez had talks with Alonso during Liverpool's Far East tour last week, and tried to convince the player to stay, underlining the fans' delirious response to the player in Bangkok and Singapore as a reason to think again.
But on Liverpool's return to England, Benitez told Alonso that he wanted the uncertainty around the player's future to be sorted out before the weekend, one way or another. Now the deadlock looks like being broken, just 48 hours after the two clubs agreed a £3.5m fee for Anfield full-back Alvaro Arbeloa to move to Real. In the blue half of Merseyside, Everton rejected Manchester City's latest offer of £18m for England defender Joleon Lescott, insisting they do not want to sell.
City manager Hughes was delighted to land one of his defensive targets, though, in Kolo Toure. Toure believes the club are now Premier League title contenders and dismissed the view of critics like Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, who referred to them as a "small club with a small mentality". Toure said yesterday : "When you hear people talk it's just because they are scared. They don't know what to expect really.
"Everything the club do is to make sure we play at the top of the league and that's a really good objective. We saw that with Chelsea and they made it, so why not Man City?" One player not part of City's future is Elano, who has joined Galatasaray for around £7m. According to Hughes, the Brazilian feared a lack of regular first-team football would jeopardise his dream of playing in the World Cup.