Barca target Benfica-bound
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Argentine striker Maxi Lopez is set to leave River Plate and join Benfica.Argentine striker Maxi Lopez is set to leave River Plate and join Portuguese giants Benfica.
Lopez, a target for Barcelona, has been bought by British sports investment company, MSI (Media Sports Investments), who have links with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
MSI are understood to have purchased the transfer rights of Lopez, and his River team-mates Lucho Gonzalez and Javier Mascherano for a combined total of é¼27 million.
Both Gonzalez and Mascherano are expected to stay with River for the time being, but Lopez - who has also attracted interest from The Premiership - is being lined up for a loan move to Benfica as part of the deal between River and MSI.
The London-based company are also interested in buying a number of Benfica players including Simao Sabrosa and Luisao, and will thus allow the Lisbon giants the services of Lopez to try and ease future dealings.
It is understood Barca made a last-ditch attempt to try and persuade River to loan them Lopez with the promise of a permanent deal in the summer, but the Argentines opted to conclude a deal with MSI to secure an immediate cash boost.
Benfica have yet to confirm the arrival of Lopez, although sources insist the deal is '99 percent certain'.
It is not yet clear how long Lopez will spend on loan in Lisbon, but due to MSI's links with Abramovich there is already speculation that the highly-rated 20-year-old is being lined up for a move to Stamford Bridge once he has adapted to European football.