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Rafa ready to walk alone

Benitez to issue funds ultimatum as Liverpool prepare for departure of manager and Torres

RAFAEL Benitez will tell Liverpool that only a cast-iron commitment allowing him to invest all of the proceeds from player sales this summer will tempt him to remain at Anfield.

Amid mounting concern that Fernando Torres will seek a move to a new club with genuine prospects of challenging for domestic and European titles, Benitez is weighing up the offer to become Juventus coach.

The Liverpool manager has been given until Monday to accept an offer of a four-year, €18.5million contract and he has consistently refused to rule himself out of the running for one of the leading jobs in Italian football.

But should Martin Broughton, the Liverpool chairman, offer him a guarantee that revenue from player sales will not be diverted to service the club's £237m debt, Benitez could be swayed from bringing his six-year tenure at Anfield to an end.

Benitez is due to convene with Broughton for the first time this week in a meeting that is sure to involve a full and frank exchange of views.

Liverpool officials remain unimpressed with Benitez's flirtation with a rival club, while the Spaniard is unhappy that he has not been given any pledges after requesting clarity about his position and Liverpool's transfer policy.

The situation regarding Torres is of particular concern, with Manchester City believed to be willing to pay in the region of £70m for the forward should he indicate a willingness to leave Liverpool.

Senior Anfield figures insist that the 26-year-old is not for sale at any price, but Torres is deeply concerned by Liverpool's deterioration over the past 12 months.


He could force the issue by asking for a transfer and Benitez wants to ensure that he will be given the proceeds of a sale should his record signing depart.

The Liverpool manager's attempts to force the issue on transfer policy are born of his frustration at events last summer, having claimed that promises regarding available funding, made before he signed a new five-year contract last March, were not kept.

That charge is disputed by Anfield officials who insist the club spent about £18m net, a figure that they claim was in keeping with the amount they had promised their manager.

This summer, Benitez's transfer pot would not exceed £15m unless it is enhanced by the proceeds of outgoing transfers.

The problem for Benitez is that the club have decided that there will be no great attempts to convince him to stay.

Given the £16m compensation package that would be due to him in the event of being dismissed, the offer from Juventus could suit all parties.

The uncertainty surrounding Benitez's position is having an impact on the Liverpool squad with several players admitting that they are unclear about what the future holds and whether Benitez and a number of the club's top stars will be at Anfield next season.

As well as questions about Torres, there are doubts over whether Steven Gerrard will remain and Javier Mascherano has yet to sign the contract that has been verbally agreed.

Yossi Benayoun has said he could depart, while Lucas Leiva has revealed how uncertainty is affecting the playing staff.

"It is difficult to speak about next season, as we don't know what changes there will be with the players or the staff," Benayoun said.

"I don't know whether I will be here or if I won't. In a few weeks we will know better."

Lucas said: "Everyone is aware of the doubts over Rafa's future. But we do not know what is going to happen."

© The Times, London