The 25-year-old was told yesterday that he is free to leave and can start talking to other clubs, joining the likes of Andriy Voronin, Peter Crouch and Scott Carson on Rafa’s scrapheap.
The former Arsenal man is a long-term target of both Newcastle and West Ham, and they may have to fork out in the region of ₤7 million as Benitez seeks to recoup what he paid Birmingham City for the player in 2006.
Pennant has impressed in spurts during his time on Merseyside, an excellent run of form during the second half of the 2006-07 season culminating in a brilliant showing during the Champions League in Athens, where the Reds lost 2-1 to AC Milan.
But injuries have ravaged Pennant’s season, as he suffered dual stress-fractures in his shins earlier in the term and has struggled to regain his place since due to the all-action efforts of Dirk Kuyt on the right side of attack.
The former Notts County youth did impress recently in Liverpool’s lame-duck league fixtures, putting in a match-winning performance against Fulham and a match-saving turn against his old club at St Andrew’s.
But he was absent from the squad for the final two games of the season against Manchester City and Tottenham, signalling the almost-certain demise of his Anfield career.
Pennant has been offered as a makeweight in Benitez's bid to bring Gareth Barry to Anfield, but his exit could also facilitate a move for fellow Arsenal product David Bentley, who has long been linked with Liverpool.
Blackburn Rovers boss Mark Hughes remains steadfast in his desire to keep hold of his star winger, and Benitez may have to devote a hefty portion of his transfer budget to secure the England international, ₤15 million being touted as the going rate.