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Benitez insists Johnson deal right for Reds

RAFA Benitez said yesterday that Liverpool had to pay a premium to sign Glen Johnson because he is British.

The Reds will pay 17 million pounds (US$28 million) to sign Johnson, more than the manager expected a defender would cost. The England right back agreed to join Liverpool from Portsmouth on Monday despite interest from former club Chelsea.

"Sometimes you have to spend a little bit more," Benitez said. "You can't compete in the top four of the (English) Premier League unless you spend some money.

"We were looking for a player of quality and also somebody who is British because of the new Champions League rules. Glen Johnson fits both categories."

Benitez has criticized the UEFA rule that says clubs must have at least eight homegrown players in their squads for all Champions League games.

The rule specifies that clubs can have a maximum of 25 players and that eight of them must be homegrown - defined as someone who was trained by a club from the relevant national association between the ages of 15 and 21.

Benitez hopes Johnson isn't the last arrival at Anfield in the offseason as he looks to end the club's 20-year English league title drought.

"We have a plan," Benitez said. "We can sign one more player if necessary, but that's without any players leaving."

However, Real Madrid still hope to prise Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso away from Liverpool, its Director General Jorge Valdano was quoted as saying yesterday.

"We have possibilities there but I don't want to say anything that will make the negotiation more difficult," he told sports daily As.

Valdano said Real was also interested in another member of Liverpool's Spanish contingent, Alvaro Arbeloa, who came through Real's youth team.

"The lad only has a year left on his contract with Liverpool and this gives us more possibilities," Valdano said. "He can play in two or three positions and this versatility is good."

"Alvaro Arbeloa has had a very good season but he has one year left on his contract," said Benitez. "If he signs that will be good because we will have more competition, but if we get a good offer we will have to consider it."


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