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RAFA BENITEZ is closing in on Atletico Bilbao wonderkid Mikel San Jose.

The central defender, 18, is one of Bilbao’s hottest prospects and has jumped at the chance to switch to the Premiership with Liverpool.

San Jose - who will lead Spain’s U-19’s at the Euro Championships next month - could be available for as little as £750,000. He said: “Liverpool’s interest was a massive surprise for me but I have decided to accept the opportunity to join such a big club. It’s a fantastic chance for me but I know how hard I will have to work if I want to get anywhere near the first team.”

A Bilbao source added: “This is bad news for us but it is impossible for the club to fight against a European giant like Liverpool.”

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LIVERPOOL will this week smash their transfer record and complete the £25million signing of Atletico Madrid superstar Fernando Torres.

Sport of the World can reveal the two clubs have agreed a fee in principle and all that remains for Kop boss Rafa Benitez is to agree terms with Torres. The Spain ace is on a £5.1million a year contract with Atletico and will expect at least the same terms from Liverpool. Torres' people have been told that Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry will open talks with them next week to conclude a deal.

A source close to 23-year-old Torres told Sport of the World: "We are expecting a call from Mr Parry next week to discuss personal terms. And although for Fernando it is heartbreaking to leave Atletico, the club he's loved all his life, the prospect of playing for Liverpool fills him with pride hope and great expectations."

http://' target="_blank">The massive fee eclipses the £14million Gerard Houllier had splashed on Kop flop Djibril Cisse. Atletico Madrid have accepted a bid slightly lower than Torres' £28m get-out clause and are desperate to clinch the signing of Diego Forlan from Villareal to replace their talisman. The Reds will definitely pay £18million in cash and it remains to be see whether Luis Garcia will be part of the deal. One thing is for certain, Garcia's Liverpool career is over after three seasons at Anfield. He's keen to return to Spain and Benitez will not stand in his way - even though Garcia's recovery from a knee injury that kept him out most of this season could determine whether he completes the move to Atletico where he played a season in 2003.

It means Benitez will have spent half of his £50million warchest to finally land a big-name star to take Liverpool to the next level. The Kop chief will now turn his attentions to his pursuit of Lyon's Florent Malouda - even though the Frenchman wants to join Chelsea. Benitez - who wants to offload hothead Craig Bellamy - is set to rekindle his interest in Portugal and Benfica star Simao.

Would Torres be a hit in the Premiership? Could he be the man to fire Liverpool to their first Premiership title? Send us your comments below.

Po

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I can't believe how much Liverpool spent for Cisse. It was all worth it for me, though, for his fantastic goal in the FA Cup final. Set up by a magnificent pass from Gerrard for sure, but an extremely difficult volley and an important first goal all the same. They just got better from there.

Edit: Garcia has actually been my favorite player for the Reds the last three seasons, and I'm bummed to hear he wants to leave.

Edited by Jimjim

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Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres is poised to fly into Liverpool to undergo a medical on Tuesday before completing a £26.5m switch to Anfield.

Torres, 23, could even be paraded as a Liverpool player as early as Wednesday after completing formalities.

Liverpool have agreed a club record deal with Atletico and BBC Sport understands the Spain striker will sign a six-year contract.

The Reds will then target Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze.

Villarreal's Diego Forlan has been lined up to replace the departing Torres in a £14.2m deal, while the Anfield club have recouped some of their outlay by selling Luis Garcia to Atletico for £4m.

Once the Torres deal is done, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will increase his efforts to seal a shock deal for 29-year-old Argentine Heinze.

It may prove complicated, however, with fierce rivals Liverpool and United notoriously reluctant to sell players to each other.

But it is understood the Merseysiders have been given enough encouragement from Heinze's camp to pursue their interest.

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Liverpool officials are playing their cards close to their chest on the Torres deal, a move that shatters their previous club record, the £14m paid to Auxerre for Djibril Cisse three seasons ago.

But it now appears only the formalities remain after Torres cut short his holiday to return to Madrid to prepare to say an emotional farewell to Atletico's fans.

Spanish international Garcia signed for Atletico on Tuesday.

And even though Atletico are reluctant to sell Torres, he is keen to link up with Benitez.

Benitez wanted to land Torres to provide a spearhead for an assault on the title - and also allow Liverpool owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks to demonstrate their own financial commitment to his plans.

Torres has been consistently linked with a move to England, particularly with Arsenal and Chelsea, but Liverpool will now win the race.

He will join fellow countrymen Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso, as well as boss Benitez, at Anfield.

Gil Marin, Atletico's major shareholder insisted that Torres is not irreplaceable.

"Nobody is indispensable. No player by himself, very good though he is, is able to make a team achieve its aims," Gil Marin said on Punto Radio.

"We have spoken to him and told him we would like him to stay. It is normal that he has doubts. It is normal that the offers and everything surrounding them has made him think."

Torres scored 14 league goals in 36 starts last season as Atletico finished seventh in La Liga.

The Spain international's Atletico contract runs until 2009. Torres came up though the youth ranks at Atletico and has been their leading scorer in each of the last five seasons.

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Garcia seals Atletico Madrid move _42451110_garcia203.jpg Garcia has completed his return to SpainLiverpool midfielder Luis Garcia has joined Atletico Madrid on a three-year contract, as striker Fernando Torres moves in the opposite direction.

The 29-year-old Spain international is believed to have signed for a fee in the region of £4m.

Garcia joined Liverpool from Barcelona in 2004 and helped the Reds win the Champions League but has been out injured since January this year.

He has played 121 games in three years for Liverpool, scoring 30 goals.

Garcia ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during January's extraordinary 6-3 Carling Cup defeat by Arsenal at Anfield.

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So the boy Luis Garcia has left Liverpool.

I've got to admit , I was one of his biggest critics when he was playing for us but I'm still a little upset to see him leave.

You never knew what you were going to get from him and some of his goals for us will live long in the memory , the one against chelsea in the champions league semi final and again against chelski in the F.A cup semi final were sweet.

All the best Luis :o:D .

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So the boy Luis Garcia has left Liverpool.

I've got to admit , I was one of his biggest critics when he was playing for us but I'm still a little upset to see him leave.

You never knew what you were going to get from him and some of his goals for us will live long in the memory , the one against chelsea in the champions league semi final and again against chelski in the F.A cup semi final were sweet.

All the best Luis :D:D .

So we've signed Torres then.

I wasnt that keen on us getting him as I reckon E'to is a far better player and only a few million more.

The jury is still out on him , its not that difficult to look good when your playing for a mediocre team , as Torres was at Athletico.

I've just been watching a special on espn about all the strikers who have left spain to join the premiership and it wasnt to encouraging with the likes of Kluivert , Baptista , Morientes , Luque and Pandiani all maror flops :o .

Lets just hope that Rafa has landed a gem this time :D , we dont want another Cisse thats for sure :D ( though he was a Houiler not a Rafa signing ).

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Torres is due for medical today and will be unveiled tomorrow was the last I've heard.

The SKY tape said that he's passed medical.

Not sure about this boy though. It's not like he was that good in Spain.

We'd need some wingers I reckon, or someone who can cross better than Finnan. (BOOM TISH)

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Yep El Nino has passed the medical at Melwood today and will be unveiled tomorrow.

I am also not sure about this guy, although he is very highly rated throughout the footballing world, time will tell. Plus now the real story will come out regarding him being photo'd with YNWA under his Althletico captains armband heheheh.

I still think we are way off Man Utd and Chelsea at the mo, as above we desperatly need two good wingers????? Alves would do and maybe SWP? Can not see Heinze stepping down the east lancs...now way will Fergie let him go.

Its also good to see Rafa strengthening the accademy, some class buy's he has brought in....hopefully we will see the rewards in a couple of seasons.

Here's to 07/8 season.

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TORRES SIGNS SIX-YEAR DEAL FOR REDS

Jimmy Rice 04 July 2007

Fernando Torres has today completed his move from Atletico Madrid to Liverpool after putting pen to paper on a six-year deal.

The 23-year-old striker will be unveiled to the media in the number nine shirt vacated by Robbie Fowler just after 3pm.

Torres passed a medical at Melwood yesterday before briefly flying back to his homeland to say an emotional goodbye to fans in Madrid.

The Spaniard leaves the La Liga side with a record of 82 goals in 214 league games.

He spent 12 years at the Vicente Calderon Stadium after being snapped up at the age of 11.

Torres made his debut aged 17 before becoming Atletico's youngest ever captain two years later.

The striker was top scorer and best player at both the 2001 European Under-16 Championships and 2002 European Under-19 Championships. He made his full international debut in September 2003, and has so far scored 14 goals in 40 caps.

Nicknamed El Nino (The Kid) because of his youthful appearance, he was selected for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where he scored three goals.

In May 2007 Torres hit the headlines when he revealed the words 'You'll Never Walk Alone' on the inside of his captain's armband during a match against Real Sociedad. Two months later he is a Liverpool player.

Here's to our number 9! I would go mad if I see him and Kuyt "work hard" on the wings.

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Interview with EL Nino

You've just put pen to paper Fernando, how does it feel?

I am very, very happy. This was the biggest decision of my footballing life but I've come to a winning club. This is a club of champions - one of the biggest there is. I now want to play my part in that and be a champion too and help the club progress.

How much do you know about Liverpool Football Club?

Obviously growing up in Spain you are aware of all the big clubs there, but you also keep an eye on Europe, and Liverpool always catches the eye. It always did for me. I had older brothers who'd tell me about the likes of Keegan and Rush, but the first players I remember seeing as a fan are players like Robbie Fowler. My main memory is seeing Liverpool's incredible record in Europe, and I certainly followed that closely.

When did you first hear of Liverpool's interest in you?

It was just a couple of weeks ago, it's all happened very quickly. I was aware of offers from other clubs but as soon as I knew Liverpool were interested I said to Atletico: "Look, please listen to this offer." There were many clubs being banded around. Offers go directly to Atletico, so I wouldn't necessarily know about them, but as soon as I heard about Liverpool, I told them that Anfield was the only place I was interested in.

Why did Liverpool stand out for you?

I'm aware of the history and how special this club is. The tragedies that have happened have made the bond between the fans and the club so strong. Liverpool just ticks all the boxes for me. There's team spirit and a desire to win instilled by Rafa, and then there's my new teammates like Pepe and Xabi. They, as well as Luis, have always spoken very positively about life here in Liverpool. I didn't speak to them directly before signing because it all happened so quickly. I've been getting planes here, there and everywhere. My other half has spoken to Pepe's other half though. She said: "We're here for you. Let us know if there is anything you need."

Tell me about the captain's armband you displayed during a game against Real Sociedad last season, with You'll Never Walk Alone written on the inside?

There is a group of my mates, about five or six of us, and we've all grown up supporting Liverpool. Because they are all so committed to Liverpool, they've had We'll Never Walk Alone tattooed on their arms. It's changed slightly because it's a symbol of our friendship as well as our support for the club. Obviously I couldn't have that tattooed on my arm playing for Atletico, but they gave me this armband as a present for my last birthday.

Why have you decided to leave Atletico now?

The time is right because Liverpool have come in for me.

Was it a difficult decision to make?

You have certain chances in life. You can't afford to miss them because they only come around once. I've been with Atletico since I was 10, I've grown up as a person and a player there. But we haven't been getting the opportunities to play in Europe and I think I now need to take that step up.

How big a factor was Rafa Benitez in your decision to come to Merseyside?

The first time I spoke to him, I was convinced. Just to know Rafa has confidence in me and trusts me is massive. I feel honoured because Liverpool are such a big club, they could have signed anyone. I am very pleased they have chosen me!

What do you know about the fans here in Liverpool, and how much are you looking forward to playing in front of the Kop?

I've spoken to many people about it and watched many DVDs, but you can't possibly know what it feels like to play at Anfield until you have experienced it. I am dying to play in front of the Kop.

Have you set yourself a goals target for your first season?

Not really, but I suppose the first target is to beat what I got in Spain. My average there was 15.

Finally, what message would you like to send to Liverpool fans?

I just want to say thank-you, because from today, day one, people have been trying to meet me at Melwood. I've also seen some at the airport. They all seem to be behind me, so I want to say thank-you very much.

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'El Nino' to warm up Anfield

video_text.gifNews conference: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez

By John May 999999.gif

_42463010_rafatorres203.jpg Torres (right) becomes Benitez's 18th signing from Spain

Fernando Torres and the Premier League are made for each other, according to former Atletico Madrid coach Radomir Antic.

Liverpool will just be hoping the 23-year-old who shoulders the burden of a reported £26.5m price tag and is known as El Nino, can finally bring about a sea-change to their title hopes.

Torres has been touted as the final missing piece in the Anfield jigsaw, the striker who can provide the sort of golden goal touch Liverpool have lacked since the heady days of Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush or Robie Fowler and Michael Owen in more recent times.

His record of 75 goals in five seasons in the Spanish top flight suggest a natural goalscoring instinct and Spain's national coach Luis Aragones hinted at his range of skills by once saying: "Torres never scores the same goal twice"

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has not been slow to visit the Primera Liga, and Torres becomes the 18th import from Spain to pitch up at Anfield.

Reds' fans may point to the likes of Fernando Morientes among the misses, but Antic - who was Atletico coach while Torres was forging his way through the youth team - is sure Torres will be a hit.

He told BBC Sport: "Liverpool have done a very good job in getting him because Torres is such a good player.

o.gif606: DEBATE Getting Torres will bring us closer to Man Utd and Chelsea, but we need a winger

CM

"I'm surprised Atletico have sold their captain. Since he started to play for them he's been a regular player and important for the team."

Born in the Madrid neighbourhood of Fuenlabrada, Torres first caught the eye of The Mattresses when he scored 55 goals in a season for an under-10 team.

In the Madrid social order, Atletico have always been the horny-handed sons of soil compared to the aristocrats of Real.

But after making his first-team debut in May 2001 and guiding Atletico back to the top flight the follwing season, Torres has been a prince among strikers.

If he was initially a well-kept secret outside of the spotlight that surrounds Real in Madrid, the world at large sat up and took notice when he scored a stunning volley to round off Spain's 4-0 win over Ukraine in last summer's World Cup.

The fresh-faced Torres looks like easy pickings for bully-boy defenders but Antic is also sure he will answer the physical demands set by what is reputed to be the world's most physically demanding league.

_42463008_atleticofans203.jpg Atletico fans were not happy at Torres' departure

"England is a good place for his qualities. He has a strong personality, but he's also quick and strong physically," he said.

Antic also hinted that Torres' qualities could be a sign of Benitez changing Liverpool's style.

He said: "He's also a very skilful player, especially in one-on-one situations, which will be something different for Liverpool up front.

"They have not had a striker who can take the ball and beat opponents.

"In the last few years at Atletico, he was a striker without any support from midfield. Atletico played that way because his movement meant he could run on to forward passes."

But if the move holds out rich promise for Liverpool, Antic also feels it does the same for Torres.

o.gifHe's one of the best players I have come up against in Spain

Former Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham

The former Atletico boss said: "He needs a new challenge to improve his game, and I think Torres has done a good thing to come to England."

The former Atletico coach is not the only one to sing Torres' praises.

Abraham Garcia, who coached his junior team, said: "He'll probably become world famous.

"Directness, pace, power, excellent in the air and the mindset of a born winner make Fernando an extraordinary player."

Of course, such praise has to be placed in the context. Torres is undoubtedly erratic, a player capable of missing goals almost as spectacularly as he scores them.

And as impressive as his goalscoring record is, it must be remembered he was Atletico's penalty taker during the past few years - which has put a positive sheen on his statistics.

Plus, the pundits could be wrong. Morientes was expected to be a huge star in the Premier League but it did not happen. And it was only 12 months ago that many were salivating over the prospect of Andriy Shevchenko in English football.

Nevertheless, he has the potential to be a star as a certain player from Madrid - who knows a thing or two about stardom - says.

During his time at Real, former England skipper David Beckham said of Torres: "He's one of the best players I have come up against in Spain and one of the best forwards in Europe."

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Benitez hints at exit for Bellamy

Good riddance :o:D:D:D:D:bah::bah::o

_42463726_benitez_bellamy203.jpg Benitez looks set to offload BellamyLiverpool boss Rafael Benitez has placed a major doubt over Wales striker Craig Bellamy's future at the club.

Benitez has added Fernando Torres to his squad and now has five strikers with Bellamy, Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt and fellow new signing Andriy Voronin.

Asked, at the unveiling of Torres, if he was happy the player was at the club and part of his plans, Benitez said: "Are you talking about Torres?"

Told Bellamy was the subject, he said: "I'm really happy with Torres here."

He added: "We have some clubs asking about Bellamy and it's a possibility.

"He knows my idea. He is our player at the moment and we will see what happens in the future.

o.gifWe have some names. We are especially looking for wingers

Reds boss Rafael Benitez

"It is clear we have new players here and then it could be more difficult for some of the players.

"The only thing I can say is that Crouch will be staying with us. I have said to Crouch that he must fight for his position and he will stay with us."

Striker Djibril Cisse is already close to the exit door as he is set to be sold to Marseille.

Benitez played down a move for Manchester United left-back Gabriel Heinze and instead insisted he was trying to sign new wingers.

The Reds boss believes he needs to add to the signing of Torres to help his side challenge for the Premiership title.

"It is clear we need to improve to be contenders. You will ask if we can fight for the title with Torres. I think we need something more," he said.

"It is clear we will improve with Fernando but if we can find other players good enough I think we will have better balance.

"When you talk about the Premier League you talk about nine months and you need a big squad.

"We have some names. We are especially looking for wingers."

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