Hodgson shrugs off talk of Rafa return to Liverpool
Published 23/12/2010 | 05:00
Roy Hodgson has insisted that Rafael Benitez 's imminent departure as Inter Milan manager does not put his position at Liverpool under any threat, despite calls from a section of the club's fans for his predecessor to return.
Though Benitez was informed by email that his tenure as Inter manager was over at 9pm on Monday, Inter had last night still not made any official comment on his departure.
The club's owner, Massimo Moratti, insisted that the Spaniard was "in charge for now" but admitted that the decision on his future had turned into "an unexpected mess".
Benitez, who had clashed with the oil magnate over his failure to deliver promised transfer funds, and the power and proficiency of the club's medical staff, returned to his home in Liverpool after helping Inter win the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.
He will have awoken yesterday to news that the wrought-iron fence outside Anfield's Kop end had been festooned with banners calling on Liverpool owner John W Henry to eject Hodgson in favour of the Spaniard, but Benitez's successor insists he does not feel under any extra pressure.
"It would be surprising because if he was the right man for the job then it would have been wiser not to let him go six months ago and then bring him back," said Hodgson.
"This job will always have lots of people linked to it. When you occupy one of the top jobs in the country, it would be very strange if other people were not linked with your job. I am sure there are people who are very envious of my position and would very much like to take my place."
A return to Anfield for Benitez, in truth, remains a distant prospect, not least because the terms of his departure are likely to include a clause forbidding him from managing another club in the next six months. The Spaniard is also likely to earn a pay-off of up to £6m once talks between Inter's lawyers and Benitez's representatives reach a conclusion.
Former AC Milan manager Leonardo is expected to replace him until the end of the season with the brief of taking Inter into a top-four league finish -- they lie seventh in Serie A -- and ensuring their progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Longer-term, Moratti is hopeful that he can tempt Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola -- with the ambitious dual aim of signing Lionel Messi.
Benitez, meanwhile, is believed to prefer a return to the Premier League, should an opportunity become available, with chances limited on the Continent. (© Daily Telegraph, London)