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Benitez shrugs off rumours of Juve deal

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez last night dismissed claims he has already agreed a deal to take over at Juventus at the end of the season and repeated his long-term commitment to the Reds.

Speculation in Italy claimed the Turin club had already agreed personal terms with the Spaniard and a delegation were flying to Merseyside later today to thrash out an agreement with Liverpool to release Benitez from his contract at the end of the season. However, the manager has rejected in the strongest terms suggestions he is ready to walk away from Anfield.

"Contrary to reports in the Italian media this weekend, I want to make it absolutely clear I have no agreement with Juventus and have not and will not be meeting Juventus or their representatives or any other club," he said. "I have a long-term contract with Liverpool and I'll repeat what I said on Friday. I am happy here and my only focus is to do my job as well as I can to get the team back into to the top four, beginning with the derby against Everton."

The Italian media had claimed there was already a verbal agreement between the Spaniard and his would-be new employers and a meeting had taken place yesterday with Benitez's lawyers to finalise details of the contract. There were even reports Benitez would make Liverpool trio Dirk Kuyt, Martin Skrtel and, somewhat oddly considering their relationship, Ryan Babel his first signings.

However, similar sources had suggested on Thursday a Juve delegation was in Liverpool only for that to prove to be false.

Co-owner Tom Hicks' surprise visit to watch the weekend's 2-0 victory over Bolton also posed a few questions as to why he had attended a relatively low-key fixture when there was a Merseyside derby next weekend.