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(photo credit: AP)
Yossi Benayoun is expected to complete his move to English giant Liverpool on Thursday. The Champions League runner-up confirmed on Wednesday that it has agreed to a fee, believed to be Â£5 million, with West Ham United for the transfer of the Israel captain.
"We've agreed the fee with West Ham for Yossi Benayoun," Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry said.
Benayoun is set for a medical at Anfield on Thursday, after which he will sign his new contract.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was full of complements for the midfielder, who turned down an improved offer from West Ham to move to Merseyside.
"Benayoun was offered a big new contract at West Ham and received offers from a lot of other clubs offering him more money," Benitez told the Liverpool Echo. "But Yossi's message was always the same. He said he was desperate to only join Liverpool because this was his dream. When you have quality players with his ability showing so much passion to play for your club, it's really good for the team."
Benitez compared Benayoun to Spanish forward Luis Garcia, who left Liverpool last week for Atletico Madrid.
"Like Luis, he is a very technical, clever player with a lot of game intelligence," he said. "Maybe Luis is a player who scores more goals and Benayoun tends to make more assists. He can also play in many positions, giving us a different option for the team."
Benayoun, 27, signed with West Ham from Spanish side Racing Santander for Â£2.5m. in July 2005. He played an important role in helping the Londoners escape relegation from the Premier League this season and was instrumental in the team's UEFA Cup qualification last year.
Just six weeks ago Benayoun seemed set for many more years at Upton Park, when he said: "The natural thing for me was to sign a new deal and I'm very happy because I want to stay at this club." But he stalled signing the new contract after learning of Benitez's interest.
"I first saw him play for Racing Santander in La Liga when he was a really good player," Benitez said. "But when he first came to England we were watching to be sure he could adapt to a different style of football.
"It's clear he's done this very well at West Ham. Liverpool fans will remember how he played in the FA Cup Final against us when he was outstanding. We thought then this was a player who is capable of stepping up to a higher level."