2nd June 2010, 08:51 PM
Liverpool offer Rafael Benitez a way out of Anfield
Liverpool have attempted to pave the way for Rafael Benitez’s departure by offering their manager a compromise deal to leave the club this summer.
In what amounts to a vote of no confidence in Benitez, the Liverpool board approved a proposal to the Spaniard which would see him depart Anfield with a lucrative pay off worth in the region of £3 million up front.
According to the terms of the five-year contract he signed in March 2009, Benitez is entitled to a £16 million severance package but given their current financial predicament there is no possibility of Liverpool being able to come up with that kind of money, regardless of their desire to bring about a change of manager.
As such, the club’s hierarchy is hoping that Benitez will stand aside without demanding the windfall that he would otherwise due or else they will have no option but to allow him to continue in the role he has been in since the summer of 2004 in the knowledge that he is no longer wanted.
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Though Benitez is yet to accept the offer, the chances of a compromise being reached were raised by indications from the 50-year-old that he would not be able to take the club any further if, as expected, the current restrictions on transfer spending are extended into another summer. Despite claims by co-owner Tom Hicks last week that Liverpool are set to spend big in the coming months, the reality is that their transfer budget is currently limited to £15 million at most and there are yet to be any assurances that they will be able to re-invest the proceeds from player sales to any great extent.
Had Benitez received the guarantees he had been looking for during talks with Martin Broughton, Liverpool’s chairman, then the current situation would not have arisen but with both parties unable to envisage a way of working together for the good of the club a parting of the ways now looks increasingly inevitable.
Such is Liverpool’s palsied fiscal state, they recently posted record annual losses of £55 million and are saddled with debts totalling £351 million, Broughton was simply unable to offer Benitez the guarantees he was looking for and after a desperately disappointing campaign in which they finished seventh in the Barclays Premier League and failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League the club’s hierarchy would not have been keen to extend Benitez’s tenure anyway.
Inter Milan ready to offer Benitez an escape route to Italy should he show any willingness to follow in the footsteps of Jose Mourinho, his managerial arch rival, although Benitez’s agent, Manuel Garcia Quillon, has insisted that the reigning European and Italian champions have not made any contact with his client.
“I don’t know anything about Inter,” Quillon said. “No one has contacted me, it’s just transfer speculation.”
Massimo Moratti, the Inter president, is a confirmed admirer of Benitez and is monitoring his position. On Monday, he made his admiration and his interest public when he told reporters that “I have always thought Benitez is a good coach, but he is linked with Liverpool” and he will be encouraged by the fact that those links now appear to be loosening.
It would be problematic for Liverpool to find a top class replacement given that they cannot offer managerial candidates either a squad that is equipped for a title challenge or a substantial transfer package to tempt them. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the club is up for sale and the Liverpool board may not feel able to offer Benitez’s successor a long-term contract in case potential investors are not impressed by their choice. That could mean a temporary manger is the only viable solution, at least until a buyer is found.
It is against this backdrop of managerial intrigue and endemic uncertainty at Anfield that Real Madrid have raised the stakes in their bid to sign Steven Gerrard. The front page of yesterday’s Marca, the newspaper that is most associated with Real, carried a picture of the Liverpool captain and a story revealing that he is Jose Mourinho’s number one transfer target.
Though adamant that Gerrard is not for sale, Liverpool are bracing themselves for an offer, probably in the region of €30 million, from Real and Pepe Reina is hoping that both club and player will resist the overtures from the Spanish giants.
“I hope Gerrard will not go to Real Madrid and that he will stay with Liverpool for a long time, that he will be with us for the rest of his career,” the goalkeeper said. “I understand that something will happen, that Real Madrid are interested in Gerrard because Mourinho knows him very well and he is a footballer who can play in any team in the world.”