Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 March 2018

Ruffled Rafa vows to see out contract

Rory Smith

RAFAEL Benitez has given the clearest indication yet that he will not leave Liverpool this summer, stating his intention to see out his four-year contract at Anfield and insisting that he has no reason to believe Fernando Torres is planning to leave.

The Liverpool manager's position has been shrouded in doubt for more than a month after a disastrous campaign in which the club finished in their lowest league position in more than a decade ended with insistent suggestions he would draw an end to his spell on Merseyside to take over at Juventus.


That the Serie A side, who yesterday appointed Luigi Del Neri as their manager, cooled on Benitez as the Spaniard missed a succession of deadlines to declare his intention has done little to clarify his future.

His first remarks on the subject of his future since the end of the Premier League season, though, suggest his current intention is to fight on at Anfield. "My future is Liverpool," he said. "I have four more years of contract and I want to complete them. I have received no other offers (from rival clubs). I hope to make this team competitive again."

Benitez also launched a scathing attack at critics of his tenure at Liverpool, suggesting his initial success created false expectations and became a stick to beat him with.

"My critics in London say I am not a good manager and the experts with English accents here say the same but they forget that Liverpool, over the last 12 seasons, have had an average of 69 points," he added in response to Liverpool finishing the season just gone on just 63. Benitez has averaged 72 points over his six campaigns.

"I made a huge error, which was to start by winning four trophies. After that, people demand more of you, when in reality it is assumed at the start that coaches need time to adapt to the Premier League. It took (Alex) Ferguson seven years to win the league."

With the road to Juventus closed off and AC Milan believed to prefer a former player -- possibly Frank Rikjaard -- to replace Leonardo, Real Madrid no longer seems to have an appetite for Benitez as a successor to Manuel Pellegrini

Of Madrid, Benitez said: "I am from Madrid, I like this city and I have been attached to the club and it is a great entity, but there is nothing more I can say."

Liverpool do not possess the finances to sack Benitez under the terms of a contract signed last March and the Spaniard has no intention of quitting Anfield after six years.

While he has twice met the new Anfield chairman, Martin Broughton, to discuss the club's financial future and the level of boardroom support he enjoys, it remains unclear whether the British Airways chairman was able to offer him the reassurances he desires that Liverpool's temporary malaise is not a permanent decline.

Benitez's actions in recent weeks, signing the Charlton midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and the expected arrival of Ranger defender Danny Wilson, add further weight to the impression that he is planning for the coming campaign.

The Spaniard was also keen to illustrate that Torres forms a key part of those plans. "I have no evidence Torres wants to go," he said. "At the moment he is concentrating on his recuperation, winning the World Cup and after that he will think about his future. He has boosted the image of Liverpool in Asia because he drives the women crazy over there." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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