Mascherano closer to new deal
Benitez believes talks are progressing with midfielder
Last Updated: March 22, 2010 5:35pm
Mascherano: Admired by Benitez
Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano is closer to agreeing a new contract at Anfield, according to manager Rafa Benitez.
The Argentina captain has been in talks with the Reds hierarchy for a number of months after a summer in which he was reportedly close to joining Barcelona, where he would have linked up with close friend Lionel Messi.
But Barcelona's interest appears to have cooled and Mascherano now seems committed to Liverpool, and Benitez is desperate to tie the 25-year-old to a contract extension.
Goalkeeper Jose Reina, the Reds' best player in a season that suffered another dent with Sunday's defeat at Manchester United, is expected to pen a new deal within the month and Mascherano may not be far behind.
"We were talking, progressing and we're closer now. Still we need to talk a little bit but we are closer," said Benitez.
"It would be very important for the club. We have some important players with some years left on their contracts and this could be another one. It's very important that we're keeping the spine of the team.
"Every fan knows he's a very important player for us, a key player who's good for team spirit. He's an example for a lot of players.
"He shows every game his commitment, desire and passion. He has great character, but he can also play. He's a player every manager would like to have in their team."