09 September 2007

Crouch plays waiting game over Anfield future

Peter Crouch has put a question-mark over his long-term future at Liverpool by stalling on a new contract.
Crouch, who will be available for England against Russia on Wednesday after being suspended for last night's qualifier with Israel, has been offered a new three-year deal by Rafa Benitez.
But he will wait until January before committing himself after being frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities this season. The 6ft 7in striker has been relegated to fourth-choice striker and been left out of the first-team squad in three of their four Premier League matches.
If Liverpool managed to win their first title since 1990 but his shortage of games continued, he could miss out on a championship medal. He also fears that his place in the England set-up would be in jeopardy if he continues to be frozen out of the majority of big games for his club.
Benitez has a good relationship with the striker he signed for £7 million in 2005 and still sees him as a valuable stand-in. He also knows that a long-term deal would push up the transfer price if Liverpool ever decided to sell.
But Crouch, 26, who has 18 months of his current deal to run, is prepared to play a waiting game, with a number of clubs such as Manchester City and Juventus monitoring the situation. Ideally, the striker would like to win back a regular place at Anfield but that has become harder since the arrivals of Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin.
Ironically, when Crouch's autobiography is published later this month, it is full of praise for Benitez — but that personal respect for the Spaniard will not force him to sign a new deal.
Crouch has scored 17 goals in 46 Premiership starts for the Anfield club and helped them to win the FA Cup in 2006. He has also scored 12 times in 19 games for England.
Benitez and Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry put an offer on the table for him after tying up their priority players, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

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