EXCLUSIVE: Barca risk Rafa's wrath with bid for Liverpool's Benayoun
Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola is on collision course with Rafa Benitez after targeting a second Liverpool player in as many weeks. Benitez reacted angrily when Guardiola's interest in Javier Mascherano was leaked to a local Catalan radio station in a move that appears to have unsettled the Liverpool midfielder. Though stressing Mascherano will not be allowed to leave, and claiming the 25-year-old was happy at Anfield, Benitez was dismayed to hear claims from the Mascherano's agent that 'of course' he would be interested in a transfer to the Nou Camp. Yossi's giant move? Benayoun is said to be wanted by Barcelona (perhaps because he scored against Real Madrid in February) Now Liverpool could struggle to hang on to Yossi Benayoun after reports in Israel that he has been the subject of an approach from the newly crowned European champions. According to sources close to Benayoun, senior figures at Barcelona have contacted their Anfield counterparts and enquired about his availability and an asking price. Benayoun crowned an impressive season for Liverpool with a late Champions League winner against Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, and his form has been noted by Guardiola, who believes his touch and vision would make him a useful addition to his Nou Camp squad. But Benayoun's Liverpool future already appeared to be in the balance after he recently admitted receiving approaches from clubs at home and abroad. Manchester City and his former club West Ham have been monitoring his impact on Liverpool's hunt for honours, while Atletico Madrid and Villarreal have also declared an interest. It is understood that, at 29, he feels there is one more big pay day to come and that an offer of contract talks at Anfield would be enough to banish any thoughts of moving on. Benayoun is halfway through a four-year deal, and Benitez must decide whether to reward his improved form, and end uncertainty over his future, by presenting him with the long-term deal he is looking for. Speaking on Israeli radio last month, Benayoun said: 'This has been the best season of my career. I have played a lot of games and scored some important goals, and I am very happy with that. 'At the moment, I am a Liverpool player, and unless something surprising happens, I will remain one. But after such a good season, I have had some offers from England and Spain. You have to give that some consideration, so there will probably be some discussions with Liverpool. 'I have had a great two years at Anfield and enjoyed every minute. I have long since accepted that, with one or two notable exceptions, there is no such thing as an automatic choice at Liverpool. 'Unless you are Steven Gerrard, you are going to sit out one or two games, but that is no problem. Stevie is exceptional, and the rest of us accept that. 'The good thing is, I have been playing more, and I hope it continues that way. To be honest, it could be Real Madrid knocking on my door, and I would still rather stay at Liverpool four more years.'
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