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Benitez rejects new Liverpool contract
London, Jan 16 (Agencies):
Published on 16 Jan. 2009 11:16 PM IST
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Rafael Benitez has thrown his future at Liverpool into doubt by rejecting the club’s offer of a new contract. Benitez agreed personal terms with the Premier League leaders in December, but he announced today that he has rejected the contract and will only sign if the club’s American owners grant him more control over transfer policy. Benitez has rarely seen eye to eye with Rick Parry, the chief executive, during his four-and-a-half years in charge at Anfield and, when contract negotiations began. However, Benitez’s proposal has been rejected by Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, the club’s deeply unpopular owners, who are refusing to give the manager more power than he already has. Announcing his decision to the Liverpool Echo newspaper, Benitez said: “The owners feel that the manager’s decisions need to be subject to the chief executive. But I know that I am subject to results and to our fans and they are the best judges I will ever have.” Benitez is speaking from a position of strength, with Liverpool top of the Premier League table and with Hicks and Gillett still the subject of profound dissatisfaction among the club’s supporters. However, the owners, with whom he has a cold relationship after their well-documented fall-out last season, will not welcome his decision to make the news public at a time when he is recovering from a kidney stones operation and indeed at a time when his team are battling to stay on course for their first league title since 1990. The Spaniard has often struggled to contain his frustrations at the club’s transfer policy, suggesting that the board have moved too slowly to land his principal targets, such as Nemanja Vidic, whom he wished to sign from Spartak Moscow in December 2005 before Manchester United intervened. Since Hicks and Gillett bought the club in February 2007, he has accused them of not understanding football’s transfer market and of failing to offer him enough financial support. Most recently he was infuriated by the board’s decision to veto his proposed £18 million signing of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa after a three-month pursuit. Benitez maintains privately that his team would be in an even more stronger position in the Premier League table had he been allowed to sign Barry. Benitez’s subsequent comments to the Echo today illustrated his desire to tread carefully without infuriating the owners further. “My relationship with the owners is better than people think,” he insisted. “I have regular contact with them and especially with Tom Hicks who has always been very supportive. The talks between my agent and the advisers of the owners have been very positive and friendly and our differences are about my responsibilities. “I have a lot of experience in football at different clubs and if you do not have a technical director and you are the manager you have to have control of the football decisions – but always within the confines of a budget which is controlled by the owners and the club. In this scenario the manager knows the amount money he has available to him and can decide how much he should spend on each player according to the needs of the team. “The only person who can decide the value of a player to his squad is the manager because he knows what elements are needed to improve the squad.”

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