LIVERPOOL midfielder Javier Mascherano looks set to shatter the fragile optimism surrounding Roy Hodgson’s reign by quitting Anfield.
The Argentina midfielder is thought to have been told he can leave after holding talks with Hodgson upon his return form holiday yesterday.
Mascherano is wanted by Inter Milan, where Rafael Benitez, the man who signed him for Liverpool, is now in charge.
Hodgson succeeded in lifting the gloom over Anfield within weeks of replacing Benitez by signing Joe Cole on a free transfer and persuading captain Steven Gerrard to stay.
But he appears to have been unable to retain Mascherano, 26, and has admitted star striker Fernando Torres still has “issues” with the club.
Brazilian former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva has been mooted as a possible replacement, but his agent yesterday dismissed a move to Liverpool. Portuguese ex-Chelsea man Tiago, who is unsettled at Juventus, has also been linked with the Reds.
Hodgson, meanwhile, faces a dilemma over whether to use his biggest names in Thursday’s Europa League qualifier against Rabotnicki, despite fitness concerns.