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Birmingham seal Benitez signing

Christian Benitez and Lee Bowyer
Benitez and Bowyer will play key roles in Birmingham's campaign next season

Birmingham have completed their club record capture of Christian Benitez from Mexican side Santos Laguna.

A fee rising to £9m for the Ecuadorian striker was agreed early in June, but the deal was held up after the medical indicated a problem with his knee.

However, the 23-year-old has now signed for around £8m and he said: "It is the right time for me to make this move."

Midfielder Lee Bowyer, meanwhile, is expected to complete his free transfer from West Ham by the end of the week.

The 32-year-old enjoyed a loan spell with Blues last season, and his willingness to accept a cut in wages is believed to have aided the completion of the deal.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish said: I don't know if the Is and Ts have been formally dotted and crossed but Lee has pledged his allegiance to Birmingham.

"He will become a permanent Birmingham player and a worthy addition to our squad. He did well for us last season."

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Meanwhile, Benitez, who has submitted his application for UK entry clearance and completed all his required immigration documentation, is well above the required level to obtain a work permit having played in 86% of Ecuador's competitive games over two years.

"I am looking forward to playing for the Blues," he added on the club website.

"I will be giving everything to score as many goals as possible and share good times with this club."

McLeish hailed his arrival, saying: "Christian is a tremendous prospect who has lit up the South American international scene.

"The signing is really exciting for everyone at the club and I'm really looking forward to working with him. I look forward to seeing him in a Blues jersey.

The board deserve credit for the ongoing investment in the playing staff

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish

Birmingham's players return to training this week after the summer break and it is believed Benitez will join up with the first-team squad shortly, along with prospective new arrival Bowyer.

The former England midfielder has long been a target of McLeish's - and the Scot has heaped praise on his board for their support.

Benitez joins Stephen Carr, Scott Dann, Roger Johnson, Joe Hart - a season-long loanee from Manchester City - and Giovanny Espinoza in signing on the dotted line.

And with Bowyer expected to join soon and Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton also linked with a move to St Andrew's, McLeish said: "The board deserve credit for the ongoing investment in the playing staff and have pledged further support to strengthen our challenge.

"I have several names in mind for the crucial midfield positions. I know what I'm looking for in the team and the board have pledged their support to back me in this."



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see also
Birmingham boss denies rift talk
28 Jun 09 |  Birmingham
Birmingham sign Hart and Espinoza
24 Jun 09 |  Birmingham
Johnson completes Birmingham move
25 Jun 09 |  Birmingham
Birmingham to seal Benitez deal
03 Jun 09 |  Birmingham


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