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Rafa exit

LIVERPOOL boss Rafael Benitez could bid an emotional farewell to Anfield tomorrow after a breakdown of trust between the club’s manager and the board.

The club’s hierarchy believe Benítez is “playing games” as he weighs up an offer to take over at Juventus.

Sources at Anfield said last night that the situation looks increasingly untenable for both parties, but the mechanics of Benítez’s departure remain unclear because of two factors: the extraordinary sum of £16m that he would be due as compensation if relieved of his duties and the uncertainty over the future ownership of the club.

The board insists that Benitez’s potential payoff will not stop it acting decisively. However, the Spaniard believes he has a watertight five-year contract, agreed only last year, which entitles him to be paid within 24 hours of having his contract terminated.

With at least two groups expressing serious interest in buying Liverpool from Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, the uncertainty may be prolonged until a takeover has been finalised, but the club’s hierarchy are prepared to discuss the matter with potential investors if they fear Benitez has become a “lame duck” manager after a wretched season in which they lie seventh in the Premier League with two matches remaining, the first against Chelsea in a potential title decider tomorrow.

Having not yet spoken to Martin Broughton, who was appointed as chairman a fortnight ago, Benitez fears the worst, but a swift resolution looks unlikely. Benitez said yesterday:

“I decided to stay last year because of the fans and for one year I have been working hard, trying to do my best. We will see what happens in the future.”