ROY HODGSON today warned Barcelona that Liverpool will not be bullied into giving Javier Mascherano the move he desperately craves.
The Argentine midfielder enraged his colleagues when he told Hodgson that he would not play in last night’s game against Manchester City.
Mascherano is angling for a move to the Nou Camp and his decision to effectively go on strike in some ways contributed to Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat at the City Of Manchester Stadium.
With Christian Poulsen not fit for duty, Hodgson was forced to play two men up front and City were able to exploit the gaps in the Reds’ engine room.
Barcelona have had an opening offer of £16m emphatically rebuffed by Liverpool and suggestions that a deal could be done for former Arsenal winger Aleksander Hleb are nonsense.
Clearly, though, Mascherano is trying to force Liverpool’s hand but Hodgson has re-iterated his tough stance that he would rather the 26-year-old leave Anfield on a free than on the cheap.
“Javier Mascherano is not in the right frame of mind at the moment to play a game because his head has been turned by the offer from Barcelona,” said Hodgson.
“The fee we are being offered and the fee we think is the correct fee are very, very far apart. Unless that can be resolved he might be unhappy here for a long time to come.”
Mascherano still has two years left on his current deal and cost Liverpool £18.6m when his loan from West Ham United was made permanent in January 2008.
“The discussions between Barcelona and the club are being held at high club level and I don’t want to start saying things that may or may not be true,” said Hodgson.
“I have no wish to create headlines over the Mascherano situation. It’s not the first time these things happen and there are quite a lot of clubs suffering at the moment from clubs being courted by other clubs and the players therefore being unhappy at being required to fulfil their contracts.
“It has happened to us now. This matter has developed over the last couple of days. We have only known about it for the last three days.”
Meanwhile, PSV Eindhoven have admitted the Reds are in discussions to sign Swedish forward Ola Toivonen.
A spokesman said: “Liverpool are in contact with us and they know what we think.”