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Benitez seals 20m swoop for Aquilani

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez yesterday moved quickly to fill the gap left by Xabi Alonso by agreeing a &pound;20m fee with Roma for Italy midfielder Alberto Aquilani.<br /><br />While Alonso was completing his protracted &pound;34m transfer to Real Madrid, Benitez wasted no time in replacing the Spaniard by confirming a deal for Aquilani. The 25-year-old is expected to travel to Merseyside to undergo a medical and sign a contract before the weekend, when the switch will be formally completed.<br /><br />And Benitez is confident that Aquilani, who has won 11 senior caps for Italy, has the pedigree to succeed fans&rsquo; favourite Alonso.<br /><br />&ldquo;Alberto is a very good player and I&rsquo;m delighted we&rsquo;ve reached agreement with Roma for his transfer. Alberto has a winning mentality and great experience in both Serie A and the Champions League,&rdquo; said Benitez.<br /><br />&ldquo;He has long been recognised as a top-class talent in Italy, captaining his country at both Under-19 and Under-21 levels before establishing himself in the senior national side.&rdquo;<br /><br />Liverpool lined up Aquilani while they were negotiating the sale of Alonso. Benitez had been reluctant to offload the Euro 2008 winner but conceded defeat when free-spending Real matched his asking price.<br /><br />Aquilani has been out of action since March with an ankle injury and underwent surgery in May.<br /><br />Benitez, who saw his team beat Norwegian side Lyn Oslo 2-0 last night, is now expected to turn his attention to bolstering his defence. Portsmouth centre-back Sylvain Distin is thought to be among his targets, but he is likely to face competition from Manchester City and Aston Villa for the experienced Frenchman.