1006: Benitez pens two-year Inter contract
1006: Paul Dalglish backs father Kenny
          to land Liverpool FC manager's job

0906: Dalglish drawn by love for Liverpool
0806: Inter reach agreement with Benitez
0806: Redknapp not interested in Liverpool job
0806: Dalglish could be key
          for concerned Anfield stars
0706: Liverpool legend calls for British manager
0706: Rafa 'close' to three-year Inter deal
0606: Benitez set for Inter Milan talks
0606: Gerrard faces decision day on Liverpool future
0506: Tom Hicks and George Gillett are impeding
           the 'fresh start' Liverpool badly needs

0506: Dalglish the perfect man to lead
          Liverpool's search for new manager

0506: Masch future in doubt
0506: Hiddink unlikely to join Liverpool as manager
0506: Eriksson reveals dream to manage Reds
0506: Liverpool FC must now show Gerrard
          and Torres proof of their ambition

0506: Barnes says Liverpool
          should sell Torres, Gerrard

0406: Kenny Dalglish's return to Liverpool
          signifies a reassertion of Boot Room values
0406: Benitez loses out in Anfield’s civil war
0406: Grobbelaar: Reds should pick Dalglish
0406: Hansen: It will take years to rebuild Liverpool
0406: Is Liverpool FC manager’s job
          a cherished title or a poisoned chalice?
0306: Hodgson tops Liverpool's list
          after Benítez agrees exit

0306: Liverpool fans burn
          US flags in demonstration

0306: The Rafa Years
0306: Evans: It was time for a change
0306: Anfield politics, not results caused
          Rafael Benítez's Liverpool downfall

0306: Where it went wrong for Rafa
0306: Rafa's Liverpool love affair ends in tears
0306: Fairclough: Change was necessary
0306: Benitez leaves Liverpool
0306: Liverpool will replace Benitez within a week
0306: "Player power sealed Benitez's fate..."
0306: Another 48 hours for Rafa
0306: Benítez conquered Europe with Liverpool
          but is now victim of owners' reign


"I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that
I was your manager. Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

Rafa Benitez - 3.6.10

Rafa Benitez pens
a two-year contract
with Inter Milan


Benitez pens two-year Inter contract


Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has been confirmed as the new Inter Milan coach, signing a two-year deal with the Serie A giants.

Italian and European champions Inter moved swiftly to snap up Benitez, who left Liverpool last week, as they sought a replacement for Jose Mourinho who left for Real Madrid earlier this summer.

Benitez is to be introduced at a San Siro press conference next Tuesday.

Paul Dalglish backs father Kenny
to land Liverpool FC manager's job

By James Pearce - Liverpool Echo

Kenny Dalglish is desperate to be named as Liverpool's new manager, according to his son Paul.

The former Liverpool Reserves striker has revealed his father's burning ambition to succeed Rafa Benitez in the Anfield hot seat.

And Paul believes the Reds legend, who managed the club between 1985 and 1991, is the ideal man to transform the club's fortunes and provide unity after a dismal campaign.

“I just think that hopefully he does get it because I know how much he wants it,” Paul said.

“To be honest with you it would be an unbelievable story for my dad to be going back.

“Some people say, well what happens if it doesn’t work? He’s been out of the game for 10 years.

“My question is, what if it does work? What person loves Liverpool more than my dad?

“Who would Liverpool fans love to see have success more than my dad? Nothing could make my family more proud. I’d love to see it happen.”

Paul, who lives in America and is head coach of Tampa Bay Rowdies, believes Dalglish and Reds assistant boss Sammy Lee would be the perfect double act.

“Sammy Lee is a great coach and very passionate about Liverpool,” he added.

“He’s the best man for that job. I don’t think they’d sleep at night until they were successful.”

When Benitez left last week, Liverpool announced that Dalglish, who returned to the club as an ambassador last year, would be assisting managing director Christian Purslow in the search for the Spaniard's successor in the Reds hot seat.

Dalglish has been out of management for over a decade since he parted company with Celtic.

However, the 59-year-old, who achieved legendary status at Anfield during a 14-year stay between 1977 and 1991 as first player then manager, would be a popular selection among the majority of the club’s supporters.

And the highly-respected figure could be crucial in helping to convince key players like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to stay at the club after the World Cup this summer.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is currently the bookies' favourite for the job but Paul insists Kenny would be a much better bet.

“I think my dad is the best person to do the job, I know he wants the job,” Paul said.

“If you look at my dad’s record, he’s had one bad year as a manager, and that was his second year at Newcastle. And he would admit he made some mistakes.

“Even in that terrible year, Newcastle still made it to the FA Cup final. He’s a born winner. He’s an inspiration to everyone connected to Liverpool Football Club. No one can inspire the whole club in these difficult times like my father.

“As for Roy Hodgson, he’s a very good man and he did a very good job taking Fulham to the UEFA Cup final.

“I’m sure given the opportunity, he would do a tremendous job. But I’m biased. I want my dad.”

Dalglish drawn by love for Liverpool

Comment by Henry Winter - The Daily Telegraph

Kenny Dalglish's passion for Liverpool Football Club runs so deep that he would do anything to help the club and I am convinced he would take the vacant manager’s job if the board wanted. Having been asked by the club to lead the search for Rafael Benitez’s successor, Dalglish would surely be interested himself.

Having spent the season assisting Dalglish in writing a book about his love affair with the club he joined in 1977, I know how much he cares for this famous footballing institution. Liverpool’s board must now decide whether they should sound out Dalglish over whether he would take on the job or continue with their shortlist believed to include the likes of Roy Hodgson, Fulham’s manager.

Leaving aside the emotion stirred by even the thought of Dalglish returning to the dugout, the board would have to weigh up dispassionately the pros and cons of reappointing their former manager.

Dalglish gets on well with current players such as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and is revered by the supporters, following his golden playing feats and also as the last man to lead Liverpool to the title, but the board cannot make a decision on sentiment alone.

They must consider whether Dalglish, if he were interested, has the strengths to lead the team forward. His last two jobs, at Newcastle United and Celtic, were hardly the greatest successes, although his knowledge of the modern game, commitment to the club and ability to motivate remain undeniable.

What is certain is that Liverpool fans will today be feverishly debating the possibility of Dalglish back in the dugout that he quit so dramatically in 1991. What is also certain is that it would be complicated for Dalglish to continue as kingmaker, helping find Benitez’s replacement, if the board believe that he could well be a candidate himself. What conclusion is reached, Dalglish will always do the right thing by Liverpool.

Liverpool have been through troubled times recently with the American co-owners being heavily criticised by fans and the team struggling on the pitch. Dalglish, who has been working as an ambassador for the club and also helping the youngsters at the academy in Kirkby, has watched events unfold with increasing concern at the club he loves.

When the call came to assist the board in their hunt for a successor for Benítez, who has joined Inter Milan, Dalglish readily offered his services. Although he has been out of English football for almost a decade, Dalglish knows many of the current managers. He would also expect Liverpool to appoint someone only of the very highest calibre as he feels the fans deserve the very best.

Anybody who has stepped inside Dalglish’s office at Kirkby is immediately struck by two large photographs of fans on the Kop, waving their banners and holding their scarves aloft. Anybody who has spent any time in Dalglish’s company is immediately acquainted with his desire to serve the Liverpool fans, to re-pay them for the endless support they gave him on his arrival from Celtic.

Dalglish became manager in 1985, succeeding Joe Fagan in the grim aftermath of the Heysel disaster. Liverpool were near pariahs at the time following events in Brussels but Dalglish rebuilt their reputation, winning the Double in his first season.

His six-year reign brought triumph and tragedy. He constructed one of the finest attacking teams ever seen in English football, the 1987-88 side of John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge that mesmerised Anfield. The bond between Dalglish and Liverpool intensified further during the Hillsborough tragedy.

Dalglish comforted a grieving community, attending funeral after funeral, including four in one day. He then had the difficult task of motivating the players to take the field again, as the families of the Hillsborough victims soon requested, and complete the season’s fixtures.

He led Liverpool to an emotional FA Cup final victory over Everton but resigned less than two years later when the stress caught up with him.

He worked elsewhere, notably at Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle and Celtic, but his real love affair has always been with Liverpool.

Inter reach agreement with Benitez


Inter Milan have reached an agreement with Rafa Benitez to become their new manager, club president Massimo Moratti has revealed.

The Serie A giants have been looking for a replacement coach since Jose Mourinho opted to take on a fresh challenge at Spanish giants Real Madrid.

The Portuguese coach departed Giuseppe Meazza at the end of the 2009/10 campaign after guiding Inter to an unprecedented Treble, which saw them land the Serie A title, Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League.

Once it became apparent that Mourinho was looking to move on, rumours began circulating as to who his possible replacement might be.

Spanish coach Benitez was considered to be a leading candidate and his departure from Liverpool last week opened the door for a switch to Italy.

Inter quickly identified him as their number one choice for the role and have pressed ahead with formal negotiations.

Talks have now reached a conclusion and Moratti confirmed that Benitez has agreed to become Inter's new coach.

"We've got an agreement, we finalised the last details that in any case weren't important," he told the club's official website.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will say when Rafa Benitez will be presented.

"All we need is a counter-signature. In any case I think Benitez is not in Italy and will arrive here for the presentation."

Benitez will arrive at Inter fresh from a six-year stint at Liverpool which saw him land the Champions League crown in 2005 and the 2006 FA Cup.

He also enjoyed considerable success in his homeland with Valencia prior to moving to Anfield, winning two Primera Liga titles and the UEFA Cup.

Redknapp not interested
in Liverpool job

By Harry Harris - ESPN.co.uk - Football

Harry Redknapp has spoken for the first time about the Liverpool job, and told Soccernet that he is totally committed to Tottenham Hotspur.

Redknapp has been linked with the job vacated by Rafael Benitez, but he is focused on matters at White Hart Lane, where he feels settled, even though he only has one more year left on his contract.

Instead of putting himself in the frame for the Liverpool job, Redknapp believes that Kenny Dalglish is the best man to revive the Reds' fortunes and galvanise the players.

In an exclusive interview with Soccernet, Redknapp, who was named Barclays Manger of the Year having guided Spurs into the Champions League for the first time, says: "I am not being presumptuous turning down Liverpool, because I haven't been offered the job and haven't spoken to anyone about it.

"There is no need, as I have one year left on my contract at Tottenham and I am not thinking about anything other than being at White Hart Lane next season. I can tell you that I have not been offered a new contract, but that doesn't mean I am looking to move on - far from it.

"I am loyal to Spurs, I want to stay at Spurs and I have a contract with Spurs, and I'd be happy to sign a new contract at Spurs if I was offered one, but in any case I have one year on my contract."

On who would be the best man for the vacant Liverpool job, Redknapp added: "Why not give it to Kenny Dalglish? I am sure he would want it, and why not? He is Liverpool through and through. He would be a good man for the job.

"He has experience, he knows exactly what is needed at Liverpool and the players would love it, especially someone like Steven Gerrard who would, I am sure, respond to the appointment of Dalglish as manager there."

Dalglish could be key
for concerned Anfield stars

Comment by Mark Lawrenson - Liverpool Daily Post

As soon as the season finished and talk began about Rafael Benitez’s exit, I suggested Kenny Dalglish would be the best man to step in and fill in the void.

I still believe that to be the case. Although Kenny has been given the job of helping the board find a new manager, I don’t believe he needs to rush into it.

In fact, with Sammy Lee still at the club, I think that’s a perfect duo to help the club through a period of instability.

And it could be the key to persuading some of the club’s star names to stay at Anfield.

He is the most revered of Liverpool’s former players and has the influence to pull everyone at the club together.

He has a special bond with the fans – now it’s time to get that with the players.

I think Kenny showing such a willingness to work hard and try to get the club back on track could prove quite inspirational to the likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano.

With no sign to the end of the off-field turmoil, convincing that duo their futures lie at Anfield will take some doing.

But with Kenny at the helm it sends out exactly the right message. One of ‘we’re all in this together and we can come through it instead of abandoning ship’.

And, whoever ends up following Benitez through the exit door from the backroom staff, as long as Sammy is in that camp, then at least some of the old Anfield values are very much secure.

There might be an argument that Kenny only doing the job on a temporary basis wouldn’t persuade a player that there is any longevity in the arrangement.

But you don’t get ay guarantee of that in the game anyway any more. I don’t think a permanent appointment would influence a player’s mindset ay more than a temporary one.

So Liverpool have to look at the best way of ensuring that there isn’t a mass exodus. The club is at a major crossroads and nobody is sure of the best way to turn.

So they have to make sure that they pick the right man to steer them through it in the right direction – and there’s none better than Kenny.

Whether he wants that responsibility is another matter but I know his feelings for the club would make it very hard for him to resist helping them in their hour of need.

Liverpool is still a major attraction for players and having the man many believe to be their greatest player and ambassador at the helm, however long it lasts, could buy the club some valuable time and prevent the on-field set-up going the same way as everything else.

It will be difficult with a lack of investment – but if Kenny can’t do it nobody can.

Liverpool legend calls
for British manager

BBC Sport Online

Liverpool legend Ian St John is calling on the Anfield board to appoint a British manager.

The ex-Scotland international believes it is time for the Reds to look closer to home after six-year spells for Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez.

St John told BBC Radio Merseyside: "Personally I hope we get a British manager. We've had over 10 years of foreign managers.

"Take away the night in Istanbul and the whole club seems to have changed."

St John, 71, was signed by legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly in 1961.

He went on to spend 10 seasons on Merseyside, scoring the winning goal in the 1965 FA Cup final.

The Scot believes it is time for change of culture at Anfield: "The way the team had been playing in the last couple of seasons I just felt we had hit the buffers.

"The football that we always went to Anfield to watch was mundane.

"You would get Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres adding a little bit of glamour to it, but other than that it just wasn't enjoyable."

After a successful career at Anfield, St John went on to become a household name to a new generation of football supporters, co-presenting the Saint & Greavsie programme on ITV with former Tottenham striker Jimmy Greaves.

He says it was right for the Liverpool board to call time on Benitez's tenure at Anfield: "Rafa can't really complain - he had six years and spent a lot of money, despite what everybody says.

"At the end of the six years he didn't have a squad strong enough to win the Premier League or to finish in the top four."

Rafa 'close' to
three-year Inter deal


Inter president Massimo Moratti has indicated a deal is imminent to make Rafael Benitez the Serie A club's new head coach.

The Spaniard, who left his post at Liverpool by mutual consent last Thursday, has been strongly linked with the post after Jose Mourinho's departure for Real Madrid.

And Moratti told reporters in Italy: "The next few hours could be decisive. But we must ask (technical director Marco) Branca."

Benitez appears set to take his Anfield assistant Mauricio Pellegrino, goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero and fitness coach Paco de Miguel with him to the San Siro, with Italian Amedeo Carboni - who played under Benitez as a midfielder at Valencia - also likely to be added to his backroom staff.

Reports in Italy suggest Benitez will sign a three-year deal worth five million euros per season.

Benitez earned a place in Anfield folklore by guiding Liverpool to 2005 Champions League glory in his first season.

He followed that with FA Cup success in 2006 and another Champions League final appearance 12 months later. After finishing runners-up in the Premier League in 2009, many expected a serious title tilt this year but it failed to materialise.

Early elimination from the Champions League was followed by a failure to finish in the top four and to re-qualify for Europe's elite event.

The 50-year-old had four years remaining on his contract but paid the price for that seventh-placed finish.

He had previously been linked with both Real and Juventus, who last month appointed former Sampdoria boss Luigi del Neri as Alberto Zaccheroni's successor.

Benitez set for
Inter Milan talks

BBC Sport Online

Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is poised to hold talks with Champions League winners Inter Milan next week.

Inter are looking for a new manager after Jose Mourinho, who also won Serie A and the Italian Cup last season, left to take over at Real Madrid.

Benitez left Liverpool by mutual consent on Thursday after six years at the helm at Anfield.

"That is the direction and in the next few days we will see and decide," said Inter president Massimo Moratti.

"I can only speak well of him because he is very good.

"It's also important that he has always done well in Europe: to continue to get joy from the Champions League is our aim," Moratti added in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.

The 50-year-old has a strong track record in European football, having won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 and the Uefa Cup with Valencia in 2004.

But he would have big shoes to fill at Inter, with Mourinho winning the league in both seasons he was at the club, not to mention securing the Champions League and Italian Cup last season.

And before Mourinho's spell at the club, Inter won three consecutive titles under Roberto Mancini.

Benitez was strongly linked with a move to Juventus, but since his departure from Anfield he has become the subject of speculation suggesting a move to the San Siro is imminent.

Gerrard faces decision day
on Liverpool future

Comment by Paul Wilson - The Observer

It looks like Steven Gerrard is going to have another
World Cup ruined.

No sooner had the Liverpool captain spoken of his distress at being tapped up by Chelsea four years ago in Germany, and two years before that at the European Championship in Portugal, than events at Anfield took a turn to defy all his best efforts to put club matters out of his mind and concentrate on England for the duration of the tournament.

When Gerrard said last month he was going to shut himself off totally from events on Merseyside, and had told all his family and friends that he did not wish to discuss any "club stuff" until he returned from South Africa, he could hardly have imagined that might involve turning his back on conversations with Kenny Dalglish.

It was a good plan, though not one that ever had much chance of standing up to developments such as José Mourinho taking over at Real Madrid or Dalglish being installed as kingmaker at Anfield. Not to mention Sven-Goran Eriksson coming out as a lifelong Liverpool fan. Gerrard found out four years ago how persuasive Mourinho could be, and that was when he only had Stamford Bridge to offer and not the glamour of the Bernabéu. Gerrard came close to leaving Anfield in the early years of Rafa Benítez's reign, but eventually decided to stay. Now he probably wants to go, he would find one final chance to link up with Mourinho hard to resist, yet in Dalglish Liverpool have astutely appointed the one man to whom Gerrard has no option but to listen.

Gerrard will have the best coach in the world in one ear this summer, offering him an escape route from the ongoing turmoil at Liverpool and the chance to end his career among the really big prizes instead of striving for little reward in the Europa League, and his lifelong friend, mentor and role model in the other urging him to stay. If Liverpool have asked Dalglish to identify their next manager, it is not because they needed someone with a phone number for Roy Hodgson or Martin O'Neill, it is because they know that Dalglish will act as a conduit for whatever Gerrard wants to happen.

There is a school of thought that insists Liverpool would be better off selling Gerrard while they can – he has just turned 30 and will not always command a sizeable fee – though by bringing Dalglish into the process the club have done everything in their power to persuade their captain to stay on. For all his good intentions, it would hardly be surprising if Gerrard is once again a little distracted during the World Cup. Fabio Capello has just admitted the possibility of Dalglish turning up in person at England's training camp in the next few days, seeking permission to speak to Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

Christian Purslow, the Liverpool managing director, made a smart decision in bringing Dalglish onside, not least because such a populist move will keep complaint over the treatment of Benítez to a minumum. The problem for any incoming manager, however, whether it be Hodgson or O'Neill or one of the more ambitious targets such as Guus Hiddink or Louis van Gaal, is that the club remains in poor shape off the pitch. The owners are distant, in both senses of the word, and want to sell up. There are no buyers at the price they are demanding, plans for a new stadium have stalled and the future is unclear. The club may need to buy time with a temporary managerial appointment.

Benítez has left Liverpool with three extremely good players, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Pepe Reina, who could either form the basis for a new team – should funds unexpectedly become available – or be sold on quickly for a tidy profit. There are rather more players who also need to be sold and will not yield a tidy profit, and with Carragher not getting any younger the defence is going to have to be rebuilt. Liverpool have not won a title in 20 years, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all more secure at the top of the league and Manchester City awash with money, so this is not a particularly auspicious time for any manager to be taking over at Anfield.

More or less the same thing could have been said in December 1959, the month Bill Shankly walked into Anfield, but those were different days. The maximum wage was still in operation, which meant that though Liverpool were in the Second Division they were able to rise extremely quickly under a well-organised manager who had spotted the club's potential to be the heartbeat of a great city. The maximum wage, for all its manifest unfairness, did at least have the redeeming feature of spreading talent fairly evenly throughout the top two divisions. With all clubs offering a broadly similar rate, players would happily countenance dropping down the table, or even dropping a division, as long as first-team football could be guaranteed.

The opposite applies now, with top players gravitating inexorably to clubs in the Champions League bracket, even if they cannot always play every week. The new way to compete is to find owners with deep pockets, and Liverpool have been left behind in a race they should possibly never have entered in the first place. The city does football better than it does finance, and not for nothing does the most prominent anti-American protest group call itself Spirit of Shankly.

Dalglish, as a graduate of the boot-room culture that produced every Liverpool manager between Shankly and Gérard Houllier, retains much of that spirit. Already there are calls for him to take the job himself, and resume his managerial career after 10 years away from the front line. Terry Venables thinks he should do it, Mark Lawrenson thinks he should do it. "I'd like to see Kenny – if not manager – at least involved in the set-up," the former Liverpool defender said. Bruce Grobbelaar agrees. "There is only one man for the job and that is Kenny Dalglish," the goalkeeper said. "He's respected, he'll be a stabilising influence and if he didn't have the appetite for the game he wouldn't be at Anfield every week."

As Houllier once complained, the list of ex-Liverpool players with media platforms to express their opinions is extensive, and it is no surprise to find them backing Dalglish because to a man they would all be in favour of Liverpool returning to the pattern Shankly established and promoting from within. That may be an unrealistic hope, and there is no indication at the moment that Liverpool intend to turn the clock back with Dalglish, yet to an extent they already have and if the Scot's mission is to get Gerrard to stay he will need to promise him more than Hodgson and a limited transfer budget.

The opinion that matters most about what happens next at Liverpool belongs to someone who is not an ex-player yet, someone who is vainly trying to shut out the siren calls from Merseyside in his hotel room in South Africa. A fortnight ago Gerrard was hoping to get away with a quiet World Cup. Fat chance. Not only is he now the England captain, he faces a choice between the Bernabéu and the boot room.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett are impeding
the 'fresh start' Liverpool badly needs

Comment by Rory Smith - Telegraph.co.uk

Even before the paperwork had been signed, the mobile phones of a number of senior figures at Liverpool had started to trill.

As lawyers at Anfield were agreeing the final details of the £6 million severance package which would end Rafael Benítez’s six-year reign as manager, the vultures had started to circle.

Each call brought notification from the agent of another manager eager to throw his hat into the ring as a contender to succeed the Spaniard, each conversation designed to help each client gain a crucial advantage in the race for the most high-profile job likely to come on the domestic market this summer.

To those conducting the search – Christian Purslow, the club’s managing director, and Kenny Dalglish, the Academy ambassador whose name still echoes from the Kop — such enthusiasm, such interest even before the die was cast is evidence that Liverpool remains the sort of job no ambitious, self-confident manager can turn down.

It is not hard to see why. Benítez lost his job because he guided the club to 19 defeats last season on their way to a seventh-place league finish.

They were eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage, knocked out of the FA Cup by Reading. The Spaniard is no tough act to follow.

In such circumstances, the breed of man who turns their hand to management will see only the tantalising prospect of glory. A manager who rebuilds Liverpool will see his reputation buffed, his prospects improved and his place in history at a club with a longer memory than most secured. To the victor, the spoils.

The outstanding favourite, of course, will not have instructed his agent to make such a phone-call. Roy Hodgson has no need to advertise his wares. His achievements — most recently at Fulham, but at various stages on his nomadic journey through the game — speak for themselves, as do his contacts.

He has already been spoken of inside Anfield as the sort of statesmanlike, reserved, respected figure who can return a club which has lost its path to the 'Liverpool Way', that undefinable set of values which once made it great.

His style is diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor, on and off the pitch, his taste for politicking absent, just what is required at a crucial, sensitive juncture in Liverpool’s history.

Hodgson seems an ideal candidate to offer Liverpool the “fresh start” which Martin Broughton, the club’s chairman, insisted was required in the statement which confirmed Benítez’s exit.

Yet, regardless of who should follow in the Spaniard’s footsteps, there can be no fresh start for the club while Tom Hicks and George Gillett remain in situ at Anfield.

There will be no end to the concerns of the Royal Bank of Scotland, increasingly frustrated with the Americans’ apparent unrealistic asking price of an asset they have vowed to sell, and there will be no end to the concerns of the club’s most valuable assets, the faces of its quest for worldwide monetisation that the £237 million debt the Americans have laden onto Liverpool precludes competing in the transfer market and thus on the pitch.

Whoever the new manager should be, Steven Gerrard, the new England captain, remains undecided on his future, while Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun and Javier Mascherano are similarly unsettled. They will decide whether they stick or twist not because of who is sitting in the dugout but because of how much money the new manager is granted to spend to bring in more players of their own class.

Should they leave, the club’s supporters will watch with interest how much of the £130 million or so their sales may raise is pumped back into the squad.

It was that issue which proved particularly thorny in the discussions between Benítez and his board which convinced the club to offer him a severance deal. It may be that his insistence that he be granted all funds raised cost him a job he desperately hoped to retain.

There can be no guarantees, at this stage, that a new manager will be offered different rules of engagement to his predecessor.

Benítez’s reign has already been written off in some quarters as an anticlimax — or worse — which endured for so long only by virtue of the lingering gratitude felt by supporters for the miracle of Istanbul.

Should there be no change in the root cause of Liverpool’s decline, though, in two, five or 10 years’ time, it may have started to look like the dying breaths of a golden age.

No manager, no matter how talented, will be able to reverse the decline which seems inexorable under the club’s current ownership. Should Dalglish and Purslow, too, endure, they may find that when it comes to replace the replacement, their phones lie silent.

Dalglish the perfect man to lead
Liverpool's search for new manager

By Henry Winter - Telegraph.co.uk

Liverpool could not have chosen a better person to scout the next Liverpool manager than Kenny Dalglish.

Those who claim he has been out of the game too long ignore that this is a man obsessed with football, who watches countless televised matches and was a fixture in the Anfield directors' box last season. Doing what is best for Liverpool comes as naturally to Dalglish as breathing.

Having played under three giants of the dugout in Jock Stein, Bob Paisley and Alex Ferguson, Dalglish knows the art and science of management.

Having steered Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers to the title, Dalglish is perfectly attuned to the qualities required to make a good manager, although the modern era demands a sharper media savviness than the Scot has always shown.

As he ponders how to reinvigorate this distinguished club's immediate fortunes, Dalglish should also consider putting in place deep foundations, almost sanctioning a return to the old Boot Room philosophy of nurturing from within.

One candidate immediately presents himself, a leader without armband in the dressing room whom respected people within Anfield believe has the potential to manage there one day.

Jamie Carragher is getting "badged up'', in dressing room parlance, having completed the Uefa B work and aiming for his A licence next summer.

He willingly admits that one of the reasons why he returned from self-imposed England exile was to absorb lessons from Fabio Capello, "the standout manager in world football over the past 10 years''.

Talking before England flew out to South Africa, Carragher added: "Of course I will pick things up from Mr Capello.''

He has worked under Rafa Benítez and Gerard Houllier, has seen at close hand the pressure that England managers suffer and yet he is undaunted by the myriad challenges of management. Some observers will argue that Carragher needs to move away, to learn the ropes at a smaller club but there is another route.

If Liverpool appointed somebody like Roy Hodgson, bringing some welcome calm, then at some point Carragher could become involved on the coaching staff.

He's 32, having his testimonial on September 4 and probably has two seasons left at Premier League level. Simply by being in close proximity to Hodgson, even Martin O'Neill or some such experienced successor to Benítez, Carragher would inevitably accelerate his journey from pupil to master.

Whatever road he takes into management, Carragher's life will always be intertwined with Liverpool. "I'm just so emotionally involved in it,'' Carragher added. Just like Dalglish, Liverpool's managerial kingmaker who must also nurture a prince.

Masch future in doubt

Sky Sports

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has admitted his future is in doubt following the departure of Rafa Benitez from Anfield.

Benitez's six-year spell on Merseyside came to an end on Thursday afternoon after a reported £6million severance package was agreed with the club's board.

Now Argentina international Mascherano, who was strongly linked with a move to Barcelona last summer, admits he is unsure over his next move.

The combative midfielder, who was brought to Anfield from West Ham in January 2007, has seen discussions over a new deal stall with contract negotiations put on hold.

"Would I follow Benitez? I don't know," he said, with a shrug. "At the moment I really know little about my future.

"But of course with Benitez at Liverpool I experienced three incredible years. His football is my football."

Mascherano believes the former Reds manager would be the ideal man to replace Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.

Reports suggest Inter president Massimo Moratti is set to meet Benitez in Sardinia and a deal could be sealed in the next 48 hours.

It will be daunting to step into Mourinho's shoes after the former Chelsea manager steered the Nerazzurri to the UEFA Champions League crown before leaving for Real Madrid, but Mascherano believes his former boss has the perfect credentials.

"Only Benitez could take the place of a coach like Mourinho," said the Argentina international. "He is a great coach. He has charisma, personality, a winning mentality.

"Moreover, he will find himself brilliantly in Italy because of the tactical game. Rafa studies everything on the table and directs the team from the bench like an orchestra conductor.

"Inter have made a good choice. After Mourinho, he is the only man capable of continuing Inter's winning run."

Hiddink unlikely to join
Liverpool as manager

By Nabil Hassan - BBC Sport Online

New Turkey boss Guus Hiddink is unlikely to become Liverpool's next manager, according to the Dutchman's agent, Cees van Nieuwenhuizen.

Liverpool are searching for a new boss after Rafael Benitez's exit on Thursday with former boss Kenny Dalglish charged with finding his replacement.

"Guus has shown over the years that he is loyal to agreements that he signed," van Nieuwenhuizen told BBC Sport.

"There is no reason today why he would change such behaviour."

Benitez left Anfield by mutual consent on Thursday after six years in charge, paying the price for a season that saw the club make an early exit from the Champions League and finish seventh in the Premier League.

Dalglish, along with managing director Christian Purslow, has drawn up a shortlist of names to replace the Spaniard.

It is reported that Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Bayern Munich boss Louis van Gaal are among the front runners, but Hiddink, Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill, former Manchester City chief Mark Hughes, Croatia's Slaven Bilic and Galatasary's Frank Rijkaard have also been touted as potential successors to Benitez.

However, Hiddink has only just joined Turkey as their national coach having left his post as manager or Russia.

And according to his agent, the 63-year-old former Chelsea manager has also turned down an offer to replace Jose Mourinho as manager of European champions Inter Milan.

"Guus just started two weeks ago in Turkey and as much as he likes the Premier League and as much as he respects Liverpool as a legendary club with a great future ahead, a switch would be hardly doable," added van Nieuwenhuizen.

"Two weeks ago for the same reason he refused the position at Inter Milan post Jose Mourinho.

"I know, never say never and especially in football this is true, but for me this is an impossible thought."

Dalglish, who won three league titles as manager of Liverpool, has himself been backed to take over the Anfield reins by several former players including keeper Bruce Grobbelaar and midfielder Jamie Redknapp.

Hughes, 46, would provide Liverpool with an attractive, compensation-free alternative, with the former Wales boss a free agent following his departure from Manchester City in December 2009.

Benitez is reported to have received a multi-million pound severance deal to leave Anfield and with Liverpool £351m in debt the club will be hoping to avoid paying out more money in compensation.

A source close to Hughes declined to comment on speculation linking him to the post, but one man ruling himself in is former England and Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The 62-year-old Swede, who is currently in charge of the Ivory Coast at the World Cup, said: "I have been a Liverpool fan all of my life.

"I never mentioned it when I was in charge of England because I didn't think it was fair. It is every manager's dream to manage Liverpool."

Eriksson has told how he used to watch Liverpool games on television at home in Sweden and how he also visited Anfield when he was learning his way as a coach.

"My father was also a Liverpool supporter and every Saturday we would watch an English match on television. It was the highlight of the week.

"Liverpool matches were televised quite regularly and we would cheer them on. They have always been my team and nothing has changed."

Former West Ham defender Bilic has two years left on his contract as national boss of Croatia, but has openly talked of his desire to one day manage in England.

The 41-year-old's brother and agent, Domagoj, told BBC Sport: "It is true that one day Slaven would like to manage in the Premier League and there are not many clubs bigger than Liverpool.

"It is always an honour to be linked to a big club but at this moment in time to discuss Slaven joining Liverpool is frivolous.

"An offer has not come - not yet anyway - so we will not discuss it. But if any offer does come we will of course discuss it."

Former Holland and Barcelona manager Rijkaard is another who is believed be on Liverpool's shortlist but his agent, Perry Overmeers, has moved to distance his client from the speculation.

"Rumours linking Frank to Liverpool are just that, rumours," Overmeers told BBC Sport. "Frank is the type of person who likes to fulfil his obligations and he has one year left on his contract with Galatasaray.

"There has been no contact from Liverpool."

And according to reports in Spain, sources close to former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini suggest the Chilean would be interested in becoming Liverpool's new boss.

Eriksson reveals dream to manage Reds


Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has revealed he grew up supporting Liverpool and has a "dream" to manage the Premier League side.

The Swede was shocked Rafael Benitez left the club but he hopes to be in contention to take over at Anfield once his short stint in charge of the Ivory Coast comes to an end after the World Cup.

Eriksson told The Sun: "I have been a Liverpool fan all of my life. I never mentioned it when I was in charge of England because I didn't think it was fair.

"I was shocked when I discovered Rafa Benitez had left. Would I want to be the manager of Liverpool? It is every manager's dream to manage Liverpool."

Eriksson has told how he used to watch Liverpool games on TV at home in Sweden and how he also visited Anfield when he was learning his way as a coach.

"My father was also a Liverpool supporter and every Saturday we would watch an English match on television. It was the highlight of the week.

"Liverpool matches were televised quite regularly and we would cheer them on. They have always been my team and nothing has changed.

"When I was starting out in coaching I was invited to Liverpool to see how they did things. Joe Fagan was the manager at the time.

"I remember him showing me around Anfield and taking me into their legendary boot room.

"It was such a privilege and an honour for me to be invited in there. I will never forget that moment.

"Liverpool will always hold a special place in my heart."

Liverpool FC must now show Gerrard
and Torres proof of their ambition

Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo

So where do Liverpool go from here?

Perhaps, more importantly, where do the club’s players go?

While Rafael Benitez’s departure will at least remove one sizeable thorn from the sides of owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool are far from out of the woods.

In fact, it could be about to get a lot pricklier.

With debts totalling a staggering £351m and little sign of new investment any time soon, Benitez may be slightly relieved with the escape route offered to him this week.

Departure by mutual consent is so often the Liverpool Way and gives all concerned the chance to maintain a level of dignity.

The Liverpool Way has also been to try and keep hold of the club’s best players.

There have been notable exceptions, of course.

While more recently Steve McManaman and Michael Owen had differing fortunes at Real Madrid after opting to leave Anfield, it was Kevin Keegan’s decision to join Hamburg at the peak of his powers having just won the European Cup, whereas Ian Rush joined Juventus to ‘better myself and secure the financial future of my family.’

In the meantime, the arrival of a certain Kenny Dalglish and John Aldridge meant mssrs Keegan and Rush weren’t missed for too long.

Now ponder the unthinkable prospect of either Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres following Benitez out of the door this summer.

What are the chances of their absences going unnoticed for too long?

And what are the prospects of unearthing a couple of replacements in the Dalglish/Aldridge mould, assuming replacements would be sought?

Bearing in mind the dire financial situation at Anfield, how much of the money raised by the potential sale of either player would be reinvested on squad strengthening?

Indeed, it was Torres’ absence last season that contributed to the mess Liverpool found itself in as they desperately tried to cling on to the Champions League place that was effectively forfeited before Christmas.

Not that you can blame Torres for one second for Benitez’s departure this week, but it is worth asking would the Spaniard still have his name on the manager’s door had his star striker been fit more often?

The counter-argument to that is would Benitez have fallen on his sword if he’d ensured he had more ample cover for Torres than David Ngog.

As has become the norm at Liverpool these days, the ifs, buts and maybes will continue long into the summer. And so will the stories surrounding the club’s two star attractions.

With Chelsea apparently circling around Torres, some faith was restored by the words of the player’s agent recently who pledged his client’s intention to help Liverpool try and reclaim their Champions League status.

“For the moment, I can assure fans that Fernando will continue at Liverpool next season,” said Jose Antonio Peton.

“Everything is down to Liverpool’s attitude but for the time being Fernando is happy at the club and has a good contract.”

While the pessimists – and Carlo Ancelotti – might dwell on Peton’s carefully chosen words ‘for the moment’ and ‘for the time being’, failure to finish in the top four next year would surely hasten his departure.

And who could blame him?

Perish the thought, but who could blame Gerrard if he is assessing his position right now?

With the Liverpool captain insisting ‘I won't think about my future or think about what is going to happen to me at Liverpool until after the World Cup,’ his words have given Real Madrid mouthpiece Marca the green light to link Gerrard with a move to the Bernabeu.

New Real boss, Jose Mourinho has long been and admirer.

The former Chelsea manager will also know Gerrard’s current situation is wholly different to when he first tried to tempt the midfielder to Stamford Bridge five years ago.

Back then, Liverpool were on the crest of a wave with the promise of going places after winning the Champions League in Benitez’s first season.

Now managerless and rudderless, as things stand today, the club, the team and therefore Gerrard and Torres, are years away from revisiting such glory.

Texan Hicks has said the club’s prized pair are not for sale.

They won’t be kicking off the 2010/11 season in the new stadium that was promised either.

The best way to encourage Gerrard and Torres that their futures lie at Anfield is to match their ambitions on the pitch.

But generous investment has not been a theme of the Hicks and Gillett regime.

If the likes of Yossi Benayoun, even Javier Mascherano, wish to leave, they can be replaced.

Gerrard and Torres can’t.

Neither player’s future was ever tied to Benitez remaining at the club. Far from it.

However, both are known to harbour similar concerns about the direction of the club to those held by their now former manager. And look what happened to him.

Barnes says Liverpool
should sell Torres, Gerrard


Liverpool icon John Barnes says the club should sell Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres if they're unsettled.

Anfield legend Barnes says anyone who wants to go should be allowed to - even if it means losing one of the Kop idols.

Barnes said: "Liverpool don't want Gerrard and Torres to go - but if they don't want to be there, let them move on.

"The fans would have to understand that and still get behind the club.

"Any player who doesn't want to be at Liverpool should go... no matter who they are.

"Look at this history of the club, Kevin Keegan went and people were worried but they got stronger. Kenny Dalglish was a legend but he retired and left and they've gone on and won trophies since then.

"I think there has been too much focus on Gerrard and Torres. They are important players but that affected a lot of the others in the team.

"The more we focus on them, the more we believe we can't compete without them."

Kenny Dalglish's return to Liverpool
signifies a reassertion of Boot Room values

Comment by Kevin Garside - Telegraph.co.uk

The return to the Anfield frontline of Kenny Dalglish is the instinctive response of a club seeking a return to traditional values. In a sense it represents the end of the cultural flirtation with continental methods and the reassertion of the Boot Room.

It is not that the foreign model has exhausted its appeal per se, only that it is no longer de rigeur, no longer the default option. The burning of the Stars and Stripes at the gates of Anfield more obviously demonstrates the Kop’s disaffection with the club’s debt-ridden American ownership. It can be seen also as an attempt to reclaim its identity.

Somewhere along the line in the rush to establish itself as a global force in the new world of football brands something of Liverpool’s essence has been lost. This was always a club that represented a community, the Liverpool family, a unique port city in the north west of England with a strong sense of self, the Scouse nation.

The arrival of a perceptive coach from Spain was initially no threat to the institution. Indeed the club appealed to Rafa Benitez precisely because of the footballing traditions built over a century and developed into a European powerhouse by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. Touchingly Mrs Benitez would always join the chorus of the club’s anthem before kick-off. Montse will never walk alone as a result.

The arrival of American speculators in the shape of George Gillett and Tom Hicks was the prime mover in shifting the landscape and the resetting of the club along franchise lines. Liverpool is not a Disney construction, a dream conjured from the imagination, but a proud metropolis hewn from the efforts of the working man, a dynamic metropolis replete with grandeur and faults.

When Liverpool was chosen as a European city of culture is was a celebration of the unique contribution it has made to the arts and sport; a baramoter of the importance of the Beatles, of Keegan, Rush and Dalglish of Willy Russell, Linda la Plant and Alan Bleasdale and yes, of Jimmy Tarbuck and Cilla Black, for whom humour as always underpinned talent.

The uncertainties surrounding ownership and finances and the failure to qualify for the Champions League are likely to reduce the list of blue chip applicants queuing to replace Benitez. This means Liverpool might have to look beyond the marquee candidates like Guus Hiddink or fashionable appointments such as Jurgen Klinsmann. It might even force them to look at enterprising British coaches.

Martin O’Neill and Roy Hodgson have been mentioned. But what about an aspiring young coach like Alex McLeish, who has demonstrated the ability at Birmingham to mould a team around the sound footballing principles demanded at Anfield? And he speaks the language of Shankly and Dalglish.

A corrective brush is sweeping through the club. The expansive franchise model has failed. A new period of austerity beckons, but at least the club has a chance to recover its soul. And in Dalglish, the right man to start that process. Long term getting that right is more important than retaining the services of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Benitez loses out in
Anfield’s civil war

Liverpool Daily Post

In the end, it was the one fight Rafael Benitez couldn't win.

The Spaniard's rollercoaster reign at Liverpool, from the highs of Istanbul to the lows of the recent failure to qualify for the Champions League, drew to an inevitable close yesterday.

But don't be fooled by talk of the 50-year-old leaving “by mutual consent”, as was the official line from Anfield.

By all intents and purposes, Benitez was sacked – pushed out by a board that either couldn't or wouldn't give him the assurances he needed to move the club forward.

Similar to Liverpool supporters no longer trusting George Gillett and Tom Hicks, so the American owners – guided by managing director Christian Purslow – no longer trusted the Spaniard.

Perhaps Benitez was his own worst enemy, the stubborn streak that runs through his very core both a great strength and an ultimate weakness.

Don't forget, the reason Benitez joined Liverpool in the first place back in the summer of 2004 was after losing patience with Valencia over the recruitment of players.

And that obdurate nature meant the Spaniard was forever at loggerheads with people inside the corridors of power at Anfield, internal politics that started to consume his time and attention.

Battles became increasingly regular, with Benitez always winning. Paco Ayesteran and Steve Heighway both exited, while a long-term struggle with Rick Parry ended when the chief executive finally quit last year.

It meant Benitez got the power he craved over transfers and the Academy. So it was particularly poor timing that Liverpool responded with a fourth successive campaign without a trophy and their worst Premier League finish in 11 years.

For Hicks and Gillett, it was maybe the opportunity they had been waiting for. From the moment it emerged Jurgen Klinsmann had been approached as a possible replacement in November 2007, Benitez treated the Americans with great suspicion, the feeling mutual despite the Spaniard being handed a five-year contract less than 15 months ago.

Maybe the owners had grown tired of Benitez's flirtations with other clubs, from Real Madrid to Juventus, whose interest earlier this year set the wheels in motion for the Spaniard's departure.

And maybe it was a natural conclusion. Benitez's distant nature with players meant he was always open to criticism over his man-management style, but while rumours of outright dressing-room unrest miss the mark, there is some truth there was growing resistance among the squad to the Spaniard's unconventional methods.

Already the great bugbears of Benitez's reign are being trotted out. The rotation policy. The zonal marking. The strange team selections. The tendency to substitute Fernando Torres every other week. An endless stream of under-par signings.

There is an element of truth to them all, most notably the last point with players shipped in and out by Benitez at an alarming rate.

At the start of this season, just Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard remained from the Champions League triumph only five years earlier, while the likes of Robbie Keane and Craig Bellamy didn't hang around long for varying reasons.

For every Torres, there was an Andriy Voronin. For every Javier Mascherano, a Damien Plessis. For every Daniel Agger, a Josemi.

Yet their respective values are not comparable. You only get what you pay for, and Benitez was not slow to move on players who do the intended job.

It proves quality costs money – and at no point was the Spaniard able to realistically compete with Manchester United and Chelsea in the transfer market, with even Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City eclipsing his spending power in recent years.

And while Arsenal didn't have the same cash to splash, they had the stability of an already established winning team and a brand new stadium – something that never happened for Benitez, despite promises to the contrary.

His successes came early on, a Carling Cup final appearance in his first season followed by the memorable European Cup triumph in Istanbul. The next season came the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Cup, with another Champions League final in 2007.

But Liverpool's Holy Grail, the Premier League title, remained out of reach. They came closest when runners-up in 2009, which made this season's abject failure even harder to take.

Nevertheless, Benitez enjoyed almost universal support from the match-going Liverpool followers. One curious aspect of his tenure, though, is the further from Anfield you travelled, the more vociferous and numerous the critics were.

Benitez embraced the culture of both the city and the club, speaking for the fans with his amusing feuds involving Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce, happy to expose the disconcerting chumminess between a certain faction of Premier League managers.

Sure, while Benitez was entitled to a £16million severance fee, that he settled on a figure nearer £6m suggests he is hardly walking away from Anfield a pauper.

But Liverpool will certainly be a poorer place without him, the main dissenting voice to the current calamitous ownership now silenced.

Indeed, that Inter Milan – the reigning European Champions – is his most likely next destination suggests Benitez might know something about this management lark.

So what happens now?

Liverpool say they are in no hurry to name a replacement, but that's hardly a surprise given the snail's pace at which the hierarchy appear to move these days.

Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish, who along with Purslow will head the search for a new manager, has been mentioned as an interim replacement. But Dalglish hasn't managed in more than a decade, a time during which the game's landscape has hugely changed.

The rest of the names will hardly appeal to supporters, even allowing for Roy Hodgson's impressive success at Fulham this season. Mark Hughes is too Mancunian while Martin O'Neill's credentials crumble under the gentlest of probings.

Guus Hiddink has already performed one impressive fire-fighting role at Chelsea, but such is the state of flux at Anfield at present, why on earth would any established manager risk tarnishing his reputation by inheriting such a mess?

Perhaps the most telling revelation during the past few days is the understanding Benitez does not believe the club can recover from its precarious position while under the controversial ownership of Hicks and Gillett.

He is right. But Benitez is now gone. Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres would not be forgiven for following suit. Yet Hicks and Gillett remain.

Benitez will always have Istanbul, and for that the club and supporters should be eternally grateful.

But anyone who believes Liverpool's problems are now easing is sorely, sorely mistaken.

Grobbelaar: Reds should pick Dalglish


Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish has been backed to succeed Rafael Benitez as manager by former Reds goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar.

Dalglish has been tasked with finding a successor to Benitez, who left by mutual consent, alongside managing director Christian Purslow.

But the Scot - the last Liverpool manager to deliver a league title to Anfield in 1990 - is among the bookmakers' favourites for the job.

And Grobbelaar believes Dalglish could be the stabilising influence Liverpool now require.

"I think there is only one man for the job and that is Kenny Dalglish," Grobbelaar told BBC Radio Five Live.

"I believe if he didn't have the appetite for the game, he wouldn't be at Anfield every week, week-in, week-out.

"I think maybe now is the time he can turn the tide and take the club, stabilise it, with the fans, make sure everything gets on track and take the club where it should be.

"We were in seventh position last season, this season he's got to stabilise it and put it back on track."

Dalglish was installed as player-boss in 1985 and delivered three league titles and two FA Cup triumphs.

He also presided over a difficult period surrounding the Hillsborough disaster, the emotional toll of which contributed to his departure in 1991.

Grobbelaar believes Dalglish has the kudos required to take the role once more.

"As a manager he'll be respected and if fresh players come in, he'll be able to lead them," added Grobbelaar.

Alan Hansen:
It will take years
to rebuild Liverpool

London Evening Standard

Alan Hansen has warned the new Liverpool manager faces years of rebuilding following Rafael Benitez's departure.

Benitez's six-year stay at Anfield ended by mutual consent yesterday, with managing director Christian Purslow and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish - the manager when they last won the league title in 1990 - leading the search for the new man.

But Hansen, who won eight league titles and three European Cups during his 13 years on Merseyside, believes the Reds are arguably in their worst state for over 50 years and the squad is weaker than when Benitez succeeded Gerard Houllier as boss six years ago.

Writing in his column in the Daily Telegraph, Hansen said: "I would imagine that the board will have a good idea who they want to bring in, but I don't have a preference, other than wanting somebody who will buy well and who will take the job under no illusions about the challenge he faces.

"Whoever comes in faces a mammoth task. You could be looking at three to four years before Liverpool get to where the club should be."

Benitez's most costly moves were in the transfer market, according to Hansen.

The Scot added: "Benitez made too many mistakes with too many players. In recent seasons, he hasn't got any right beyond Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and, possibly, Glen Johnson.

"He has spent too much money on average players and we are now seeing the fruits of that."

Is Liverpool FC manager’s job
a cherished title or a poisoned chalice?

Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

The Liverpool manager’s job used to be passed down like a cherished family heirloom. Shankly, to Paisley. Paisley to Fagan. Fagan to Dalglish.

Even when Dalglish’s departure took the club by surprise in 1991, there was still a trusted family member ready to step into the breach in the shape of Graeme Souness.

And Roy Evans’ accession after Souness’ failed regime simply restored the promotion from within policy.

Even when Gerard Houllier departed it was a sacking conducted with class and dignity.

The Frenchman posed for pictures on the Anfield pitch before speaking with as much pride as pathos about his exit.

That family feel changed when the Reds looked abroad to appoint a manager in 2004.

And six years on the Liverpool manager’s job is now treated with all the reverence of a tatty old hand-me-down.

See how the current custodians of the club value the role of Reds boss.

While chief executive Rick Parry exited Anfield with a £4m pay-off, Rafa Benitez has been reportedly offered a million pounds less.

At least he was offered a pay-off this time.

In November 2007 his job was hawked around to an unemployed German back-packing his way around the USA.

These are testing times for all Liverpool fans, even those who wanted Benitez out.

For fans who remember the seamless transitions from manager to manager, it’s deeply distressing.

But Liverpool do have it within their remit to restore some semblance of sanity.

They can turn the clock back for the future – temporarily at least.

A Kenny Dalglish and Sammy Lee double act may raise some eyebrows.

After all both were sacked from their last managerial posts – at Celtic and Bolton respectively, while Dalglish’s last managerial experience was a full decade ago and ended in ignominy at Celtic.

But both know the club.

Both know its traditions – and both would be accepted instantly by fans disgusted by the administration of the club under its American ownership.

With the club currently undergoing a takeover, it would also offer a convenient temporary solution, allowing new owners – whenever they may materialise – to make their own appointment without another multi-million pay-off of another unwanted manager burdening the club with even more debt.

Few men can boast the experience and worldly wisdom of Dalglish, few coaches have the enthusiasm and passion for his club of Sammy Lee.

And there may even be an unexpected bonus in their appointment.

If Steven Gerrard’s head is being turned by Real Madrid, perhaps an opportunity to work with a man for whom he has huge regard – arguably the only man ahead of him in Anfield’s pantheon of all-time greats – may turn it back again.

Judging by the noises coming out of Madrid that could be a long shot.

But even more crucially, Liverpool needs to go back to its roots.

There is divisive disharmony between the Reds and its fans at present.

Witness last night’s protest at Anfield, the website message boards and the angry phone-ins.

Kenny and Sammy could be the bridge to bring them back on board again.

Hodgson tops Liverpool's list
after Benítez agrees exit

By Andy Hunter - guardian.co.uk

Kenny Dalglish is to lead the search for Rafael Benítez's successor as Liverpool manager, with Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill among the frontrunners.

Benítez accepted a severance payoff worth a maximum £6m from Liverpool's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, today, to end a six-year reign that polarised opinion at Anfield.

Dalglish, the revered former Liverpool player and manager and now club ambassador, will assist the managing director, Christian Purslow, in the pursuit of a manager who can restore Liverpool's Champions League status on a limited budget and convince leading players such as Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano not to quit Anfield.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Liverpool over players and the future ownership of the club, with Hicks and Gillett struggling to find a buyer willing to meet their £600m-£800m price, Anfield officials insist they will not rush a decision and can install a long-term appointment.

The leading candidate at present is Hodgson, who has many admirers at Anfield with his European pedigree and recent success at Fulham. The 62-year-old former Internazionale, Switzerland and Blackburn Rovers manager is on a 12-month rolling contract at Craven Cottage and Liverpool are confident he would be receptive to their advances, despite insisting he was fully committed to Fulham after last month's Europa League final defeat to Atlético Madrid.

Another Premier League manager under consideration is O'Neill, although any approach to Aston Villa would be fraught with complications for Liverpool. The Villa owner, Randy Lerner, recently announced the 58-year-old would not be leaving the club for Anfield or any other destination this summer and the Midlanders' stance has not altered. The Villa board is also believed to be confident that problems on and off the field at Liverpool would dissuade O'Neill from starting anew on Merseyside.

Dalglish himself has also been mooted as a possible interim appointment, 19 years after the stresses of the job prompted his departure as Liverpool manager, but it is understood moves for Hodgson and O'Neill take precedence over what would be a remarkable return for the Scot.

Benítez's departure was confirmed this afternoon following a further round of talks between Liverpool directors and the Spaniard's agent, Manuel García Quilón. The position of the former Valencia and now Liverpool manager was made untenable yesterday when, following negotiations between Benítez and the new club chairman, Martin Broughton, the Anfield board offered him a compromise fee of £3m to leave with immediate effect.

Under the terms of the five-year contract signed only last March, Benítez would have been entitled to £16m if sacked by Liverpool this summer. Instead, he agreed to go with an initial £3m severance payment plus the guarantee of a further £3m spread over future dates. It is unknown whether the outspoken critic of the financial restrictions in place at Anfield has signed a confidentiality clause as part of the deal, but Benítez is now free to take a job without Liverpool demanding a compensation fee.

Benítez, an adversary of José Mourinho during their time in the Premier League, could replace the new Real Madrid coach at Internazionale. The president of the reigning European champions, Massimo Moratti, today insisted: "There is nothing new to add at this stage." An Inter director, Gabriele Oriali, however, admitted Benítez is under consideration. "Benítez has a certain affinity with Inter fans. He is very appealing to us," Oriali said. "He has already given us great joy, namely the 2005 Champions League win against Milan. Who does not remember Istanbul? We like him a lot. But the decision will be made by our president, Massimo Moratti."

Liverpool insist there is no timescale on the process to install a replacement for Benítez, and chairman Broughton claimed the decision to dispense with the European Cup winning coach stemmed from the disappointments of last season. "Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul," he said, "but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned."

News of Benítez's departure, officially "by mutual consent", provoked an angry protest outside Anfield tonight, where hundreds of Liverpool supporters voiced their support for their former manager and outrage at the ownership of Hicks and Gillett.

Benítez, who is on holiday in Sardinia, said: "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts. I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager. Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

Liverpool fans burn
US flags in demonstration

By Rory Smith - Telegraph.co.uk

Liverpool supporters turned their ire on the club’s managing director Christian Purslow on Thursday night as more than 500 demonstrated at Anfield, calling for his dismissal and burning American flags, a direct message to his employers Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The spontaneous demonstration, organised through internet forums, Facebook and Twitter in the aftermath of reports on Wednesday that manager Rafael Benitez was close to leaving the club “by mutual consent,” began outside the Kop at 6pm.

Organisers insisted the aim of the protest was not to safeguard Benitez’s job, but to indicate to Hicks and Gillett, who have laden Liverpool with £351 million of debt, that no decision of theirs as the club’s owners will be welcomed.

The roles of both Purslow and chairman Martin Broughton in the dismissal of Benitez has concerned Liverpool fans.

Both men were ostensibly brought in to secure investment in the club, but Purslow remains in situ almost a year on, while Broughton’s initial remit was a non-executive one, and he has made it clear he is not involved in the day-to-day running of the club, yet it was his name which appeared on the statement which confirmed the Spaniard’s departure.

The Rafa Years

By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website

He was hailed as our Spanish messiah, a genial tactician who restored our reputation as one of Europe's biggest clubs and led us to one of the greatest triumphs in our history.

But after a six-year reign of cup glory, league frustration and rotation, Rafael Benitez Maudes' hopes of leading Liverpool to a record-breaking 19th League Championship were brought to an end following a disappointing 2009-10 campaign in which the team lost a total of 19 matches.

The Spaniard's first year in England had climaxed like a fairytale, one that was capped by a European achievement that will ensure his tenure will be immortalised and cherished in the annals of Anfield history.

For while even the late, great Bill Shankly took time to establish Liverpool as a force, Benitez made an almost immediate impact, shrugging off the disappointment of a fifth-place finish in the Premiership to defy the odds and lead the Reds to a fifth European Cup success.

To say his legend can be summed up in six minutes would be to belittle his other achievements, but those few precious moments that followed half-time on Wednesday, May 25, 2005, were undoubtedly the most important.

A wave of optimism carried Liverpool into Rafa's second season and although the Reds secured a Super Cup win over CSKA Moscow, a fixture pile-up as a result of a series of Champions League qualifiers and poor Premiership performances saw them struggle early on.

A run of one defeat in 18 matches, in which they set a new club record of 11 consecutive clean sheets, got the Reds back on track, culminating in a third-place finish which at the time saw us notch up our highest points tally since the inauguration of the Premier League.

There was also another final to look forward to. With more than a little sense of déjà vu, the Reds overcame West Ham on penalties to claim the FA Cup and a third trophy under Rafa in just two seasons.

The Spaniard had certainly shown he had the Midas touch, following on from his success at Valencia where he had a developed a reputation as one of Europe's finest coaches.

However, there were still doubts over his understanding of the English game overall, with many supporters and pundits suggesting his rotation policy would continue to hinder Liverpool's bid to end their long wait for the League Championship.

This concern was perhaps enhanced by our start to the 2006-07 season, with the frustration of yet another disappointing Premiership campaign providing a stark contrast to the confident swagger the side had begun to display in the Champions League.

European Champions Barcelona stood in the way in the knockout stage, but Rafa and co produced one the performances of the season to clinch a famous 2-1 win in the Nou Camp and lay the foundations for progress to the next round.

After overcoming PSV and Chelsea respectively, the final in Athens would be another repeat, with AC Milan gaining revenge for 2005.

The arrival of Fernando Torres for a record fee was a firm statement of intent ahead of 2007-08, and with his strongest group of players since taking charge, Benitez made his best ever start in the Barclays Premier League.

The Reds marched to a run of 14 league matches unbeaten but saw their title hopes derailed by a series of disappointing draws.

A shock FA Cup defeat at home to Barnsley heaped further pressure on the Reds boss and a parting of the ways seemed likely before an impressive Champions League victory over Inter Milan proved the catalyst for an end of season surge.

A 4-2 triumph in an all-English quarter-final second-leg at home to Arsenal had supporters dreaming of a third European final in four seasons, but this time it would be Chelsea's turn to advance to Moscow.

A second year without a trophy had raised the heat on Benitez heading into the 2008-09 campaign, but if it hadn't been for injuries to Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, a partnership that had terrorised defences home and abroad, the Reds could easily have finished the season as champions after losing just two league matches.

Highlights would include league doubles over both Manchester United and Chelsea, with the 4-1 mauling of Alex Ferguson's men at Old Trafford a particularly sweet moment for fans, players and coaching staff alike.

The Red Devils would go on to close out the championship but Liverpool kept winning right until the end with 10 victories from our last 11 league matches. It ensured we finished the campaign by setting a new personal Barclays Premier League best of 86 points.

Expectation was higher than ever heading into 2009-10, but all was not well in the Liverpool camp.

Xabi Alonso's on-off transfer to Real Madrid was the major theme of a disappointing pre-season schedule and when the Spaniard did finally make the move to the Bernabeu, Benitez's decision to fill the void with Roma's injured midfielder, Alberto Aquilani left many puzzled.

The opening day defeat at Tottenham had proved to be a sign of things to come and once again the injuries to Torres and Gerrard would have a huge bearing on results.

By November any thoughts of a title challenge were over and a group stage exit from the Champions League threatened to completely derail the season.

Rumours of disharmony within the squad and speculation over his own future did little to raise the team's morale and a shock FA Cup replay defeat at home to Championship strugglers Reading left Benitez on the brink.

All hopes of ending the season with a trophy were ended by Diego Forlan's crucial away goal in the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, while a 2-0 reversal against Chelsea in the final home match of the season quashed a top four hope that Benitez had 'guaranteed' back in December.

The goalless draw at relegated Hull City would not only prove to be the final game of a disappointing campaign, but would also be Rafa's swansong as the club opted to part ways with the Spaniard less than four weeks later after a season that saw his side lose 19 games.

Evans: It was time for a change

By James Carroll - LFC Official Website

Roy Evans today paid tribute to Rafael Benitez's Liverpool tenure - but accepted the time was right for change at the Anfield helm.

The Reds confirmed on Thursday that Benitez is to leave the club by mutual consent, bringing his six-year reign to an end.

And former Anfield boss Evans told Liverpoolfc.tv: "It's always sad when a manager leaves.

"Rafa was a good servant to the club over his six years and obviously successful. Unfortunately last season wasn't so good and there's been a lot of criticism.

"Sometimes as a football club you have to make a decision to take the club forward and that seems to be what has happened today."

During his stewardship, Benitez guided Liverpool to success in the Champions League and FA Cup, while also lifting the European Super Cup and Community Shield.

The Premier League title remained elusive, however, although the 50-year-old helped the Reds mount their strongest championship challenge since 1990 in 2008-09, with the team ending the campaign in second place having amassed 86 points.

Evans said: "The fans will always be grateful to Rafa. If you win the Champions League, the fans will always endear to you, and there was the FA Cup, Super Cup and Community Shield too.

"Fans will look back on Rafa's reign and say it was a great period, but unfortunately one year you can do poorly and that's the way football is today."

Anfield politics, not results caused
Rafael Benítez's Liverpool downfall

Comment by Andy Hunter - guardian.co.uk

Benítez was the victim of Liverpool's financial problems but flawed signings made him partly responsible for his exit.

Were it simply a football decision, a detached analysis of where Liverpool should be in the midst of a debt-ridden power vacuum, then Rafael Benítez, for the many faults, facts and suspect full-backs, would not be leaving Anfield with a lucrative pay-off. But it is not simply football that has done for Benítez.

It is the politicking that is as much a feature of the Spaniard's managerial career as European expertise and the misfortune to fall into the employ of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The leverage buy-out experts promised a spade in the ground for a new stadium within 60 days of their arrival in February 2007 but have only dug the hole into which Benítez has now fallen. He moved closer to the exit with every refinancing deal the Americans secured while his reputation inevitably suffered with every transfer window without additional funds. Not that Benítez walks away blameless.

In announcing the end of the manager's six-year reign Martin Broughton, the chairman parachuted into Liverpool from British Airways to lend gravitas to the sale of the club, and who could not attend the final home game of last season due to his Chelsea allegiances, stresses that football was behind the departure. No one would dispute Broughton's analysis of the "disappointing season" just gone but this was one dreadful campaign following five seasons of steady progress. The man who delivered Liverpool's fifth European Cup in such miraculous style in 2005 and the FA Cup a year later had enough goodwill left on the Kop to be allowed a shot at redemption. Circumstances inside the club, many Benítez-created, however, ensured that could never happen.

It was only November 2007 when confirmation of an approach to Jürgen Klinsmann from Hicks and Gillett brought Liverpool supporters on to the streets in support of the former Valencia coach. On the back of two Champions League finals in three seasons, FA Cup success and the astute purchases of Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and José Reina, Benítez was untouchable in Anfield eyes. An Indian sign over José Mourinho's Chelsea in Europe didn't damage his cause either. His own discontent with the inner-workings of a club without the stadiums or resources of their main Premier League rivals was already surfacing, however.

The morning after defeat to Milan in the 2007 Champions League final brought the first evidence of Benítez the agitator in Liverpool colours. He left Valencia owing to boardroom interference and transfer restrictions, famously stating: "I asked for a table and they brought me a lampshade." He had earlier fallen out with Jorge Valdano at Real Madrid over his input into the youth team. Now he was voicing frustrations inside Anfield. Prevarication on transfers, an underachieving commercial operation, lack of progress with a new stadium and being pressured to keep pace with clubs who could afford to make £20m mistakes on players; his protests were set to repeat until today's exit.

Benítez's motivations were to improve Liverpool but, having won the battle to oust Rick Parry as chief executive and also secured a lucrative five-year contract with no release clause that also ceded to him control of an unproductive youth academy, he consolidated his own authority in the process. That left him exposed should Liverpool falter, and the Americans' financial problems combined with several expensive transfer mistakes made for a fatal concoction last season.

The now former Liverpool manager justifiably raged against having to sell players before he could buy in recent windows, particularly with his squad finally emerging as genuine title contenders in 2009. In that restricted climate, however, he erred badly in marginalising Xabi Alonso and compounded the problem by replacing him with Alberto Aquilani, a talented midfielder no doubt but not, as he recovered from ankle surgery, the player needed to enhance Liverpool's title credentials.

Starved of funds but not, until now, the will to fight, Benítez refused to be silenced on the financial problems, and relationships with the boardroom continued to fracture until the point where he had little support above him. Liverpool could not start next season with the same dysfunctional power structure in place and, with no sign of Hicks and Gillett selling up, the manager became increasingly isolated.

The value of today's Liverpool squad is vastly superior to the one Benítez inherited in 2004 and may be the commodity that has prevented the Royal Bank of Scotland taking more drastic action against Hicks and Gillett. Perversely, however, Benítez inherited a Champions League team from Gérard Houllier and a ticket to his finest hour, the victory that guarantees allegiance among many supporters to this day, in Istanbul the following May. His successor is bequeathed a pass to the Europa League and a team that could struggle to emulate last season's seventh place finish should Steven Gerrard and Torres decide they have witnessed enough false promises and turn the Anfield exit into a revolving door.

Before Benítez bit the bullet there were reports the Liverpool board were forced to act by a threatened dressing-room revolt should the manager stay. Gerrard, Torres and others, so the line goes, have questioned Benítez's management following the last, miserable season. Who hasn't? What is more pertinent to the futures of Liverpool's finest players – many of whom are aggrieved their names have been dragged into the argument – is the direction the club is taking and its ability to strengthen the squad to compete for the top honours once again.

These were the very same assurances that Benítez wanted to hear in his recent meetings with Broughton. Unable to grant them, due to the on-going uncertainty at the top of the club, the Liverpool chairman was left facing a manager disillusioned with financial constraints, in dispute with most of the Anfield hierarchy and accepting that something had to give. That it was him, and not the American co-owners who are the root cause of Liverpool's implosion, will be a source of immense pain for Benítez.

Where it went wrong for Rafa

ITV Football

Here we look at some of the factors which have led to the downfall of the Spaniard in his failed attempt to bring the glory days back to Anfield.

Liverpool made a serious challenge for the title in 2008-09 and it appeared as though they had matured from annual pretenders to realistic contenders for the coveted crown back in August.

When the former Valencia boss took over the helm vacated by Gerard Houllier in June 2004, the main part of his job description was clear: bring much-craved championship success and glory days back to Merseyside. Despite the famous Champions League victory of 2005, and FA Cup success the following year, Benitez's trophy haul was not up to the heady standards set in eras gone by.

The much-heralded dominance on all fronts of the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 1980s has left many in the Kop with a feeling of superiority and dreaming of better times. With no title success in 20 barren years, and no sign of any immediate change in these fortunes, the natives became restless.

In Benitez's defence, his time in the Anfield hotseat was littered by boardroom unrest and constant media speculation of rifts between the manager and American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

The ambitious Gillett/Hicks partnership took control in early 2007 with big promises and an apparent mountain of cash to spend on the team. Amidst stories of fall-outs between the pair, and rumblings of money shortages that left Benitez's transfer kitty severely reduced, the manager was severely hampered in his pursuit of glory for the club.

The Spaniard has had his detractors since making the move to England, and draws constant unavoidable comparisons to the leaders of previous glorious Liverpool sides, including legends Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

With the added pressure of title-winning boss Kenny Dalglish hanging around in the Anfield shadows as club ambassador, and frequent calls for the Scot to return to the manager's role, Benitez had to constantly deal with the ghosts of the past and memories of the expectations he ultimately failed to meet.

With the added media analysis and opinion from ex-players into each and every decision he made, it showed the stringent belief the 49-year-old had in his unique methods - not to mention a strength of character - to stick to them.

Throughout his time as boss, Benitez was time and time again criticised for his unpredictable and sometimes puzzling team selections and dependency on a squad rotation policy.

Although it can be argued that such systems have been deployed successfully at Manchester United and Chelsea in particular, Liverpool's over-reliance on star players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and lack of squad depth was widely condemned.

At times it seemed that when his match-winning duo were injured or not on top form, Benitez's sides were devoid of creativity and showed a distinct lack of the guile and quality needed to break teams down.

Benitez had a mixed record in the transfer market in his time at Anfield. The most expensive flop appeared to be the ill-fated signing of Robbie Keane from Tottenham for £19million, as without gaining a regular opportunity at Anfield the Republic of Ireland captain was shipped out again after just six months.

The much-maligned trio of Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena and Lucas Leiva's cumulative transfer fees equal £25.5million and they have added little more than inadequate cover for the Reds' top performers, while Italian Alberto Aquilani has been another big-money letdown so far since joining from Roma and has failed to provide the coherence in midfield supplied by Xabi Alonso, who left for Real Madrid.

Rafa's Liverpool love
affair ends in tears


TEAMtalk takes a look back at Rafael Benitez's six-year reign as Liverpool manager following Thursday's confirmation of his Anfield departure.

Benitez had a warmth for Liverpool that extended beyond the boundaries of Anfield and the club's state-of-the-art Melwood training complex.

The Spanish manager embraced the city, warts and all, during a six-season stay in England's top flight.

When he put pen-to-paper a new four-year contract extension in March 2009, Benitez said: "My heart is with Liverpool.

"I'm delighted to sign this new deal. I love the club, the fans and the city. With a club and supporters like this, I could never say no to staying.

"The club is greatly respected around the world due to its incredible history and tremendous heritage. It is my aim to uphold those values and help create a new chapter in our history."

Now only 15 months on, Benitez himself is history after a dreadful season. His team finished only seventh in the Premier League and suffered early exits from the Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup.

Given how much time he has invested in Liverpool tactically, not to mention emotionally, he will be going through a process of self-analysis.

Apart from his family, football is Benitez's life, although he does enjoy chess.

He did seem to try to bring the game to life on the pitch with certain tactics and certain selections that baffled supporters and pundits alike.

Co-owner Tom Hicks recently said Benitez would have a "substantial" transfer budget this summer despite he and George Gillett trying to sell the club.

It has been reported that the funds available to Benitez could be as little as £5million, before selling players, and the futures of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano are unclear.

In fact, virtually from the day he walked through the Anfield door he has known his spending power is on a different level to his main rivals.

Benitez arrived at Anfield as successor to Gerard Houllier in the summer of 2004 and led Liverpool to two major trophies in his first two seasons - an achievement unmatched by any of his predecessors.

Born in Madrid in April 1960, his playing days were spent largely in the Spanish lower leagues, though he did enjoy a spell at the Real but never made a senior appearance.

Benitez took control of Real Madrid's youth team in 1986. His managerial career began at Valladolid in 1995. Spells at Osasuna, Extremadura and Tenerife followed before he established himself with Valencia.

In just three years at the Mestalla, Benitez managed to break the stranglehold Real Madrid and Barcelona had on Spanish football, winning two Primera Division titles and a UEFA Cup to boot.

He then carved himself into Liverpool folklore in 2005 when they lifted the European Cup with a dramatic victory against AC Milan in Istanbul. That was followed three months later by the UEFA Super Cup.

Benitez's second season on Merseyside saw the FA Cup secured, this time after a penalty shoot-out victory over West Ham in Cardiff.

He reaffirmed his commitment to the club by signing a new four-year deal in June 2006 despite widely publicised interest from abroad.

Benitez again led Liverpool to the Champions League final in May 2007, though this time they went down to AC Milan.

Liverpool have not been able to reach those heights again and it has also been 20 years since they have been crowned kings of England.

Now Benitez is moving on and looking for the next challenge. Could it be Italy and Inter Milan?

Fairclough: Change was necessary


David Fairclough believes the club had to change their manager to retain the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

The end of Rafael Benitez's six-year reign at Anfield has been confirmed after the Spaniard agreed a severance deal with the club.

Benitez's future had been the subject of recurring speculation throughout a difficult past season, which Liverpool ended in a disappointing seventh place in the Premier League.

That represents an alarming slide from their runners-up spot last year and, with no Champions League football next season and club debts of £351million, Fairclough feels the team needs fresh impetus.

Star players Gerrard and Torres, as well as Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun, have all been linked with moves elsewhere and the change at the helm could now help persuade them to stay.

Fairclough, who made 155 appearances for the Reds from 1974-83, told Sky Sports News: "I am not totally surprised. There has been so much speculation surrounding the club - ownership-wise and the future of Rafa Benitez.

"Liverpool under-performed last season and there were clear signs of disharmony.

"I think Rafa found it hard to galvanise the team in the way he had in seasons previous.

"With big decisions coming up for Torres and Gerrard to commit their futures, and to show Liverpool have a real future, they need to keep hold of their best players.

"I think a strong decision needed to be taken and with the World Cup coming up, Liverpool couldn't afford to wait too long."

Roy Hodgson, Martin O'Neill and Guus Hiddink are among the favourites to succeed Benitez, as is former Reds boss Kenny Dalglish.

And the Scot, who guided Liverpool to three league titles in his first spell as manager between 1985 and 1991 and is currently working with the club's youth players, has the backing of former Reds midfielder Jamie Redknapp.

The 59-year-old's last managerial spell came 10 years ago at Celtic but Redknapp believes he can bring the glory days back to Anfield.

"I have absolutely no doubt that Kenny would be a huge success if he took over," said Redknapp, who spent 10 years at the club.

"The argument would be that he has been out of football for a long time but Kenny watches football every day, he doesn't miss a thing.

"The players will respect him from his previous experience so Kenny Dalglish would be a very good idea.

"People are talking about him as a temporary solution but he can be the permanent manager for me.

"The man was a genius as a player. From just being around him his enthusiasm rubs off on you. Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres need someone that they enjoy working with and that man should be Kenny Dalglish."

Benitez leaves Liverpool

By Rob Parrish - Sky Sports

Liverpool have confirmed that manager Rafa Benitez is to leave the club by mutual consent after six years
at the helm.

The Spaniard had found his position under severe scrutiny after a miserable season which saw the Anfield outfit finish seventh in the Premier League, missing out on UEFA Champions League football next term.

Benitez's relationship with American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett had become increasingly strained and rumours began circulating that he was to be shown the door on Wednesday evening.

It emerged negotiations were under way behind the scenes to agree a severance package, which is believed to be £6million, with the former Valencia boss having only recently signed a lucrative new long-term contract.

And Liverpool finally broke their silence over the issue shortly before 4pm on Thursday with confirmation that the man who secured the Champions League trophy in 2005 and the FA Cup the following season was heading for the exit.

Very sad
Benitez told the club's official website: "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts.

"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool.

"I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager.

"Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

The club will now begin their search for a new boss, with managing director Christian Purslow and club ambassador Kenny Dalglish charged with selecting potential candidates for the role.

Fresh start
Several names have already been linked with the post, including Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill, Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Guus Hiddink, who recently signed a deal to manage the Turkey national side.

Benitez's departure leaves the club in an even greater state of flux, with Hicks and Gillett keen to sell their stake to new owners and doubts persisting over the future of star players such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Reds chairman Martin Broughton saluted their outgoing manager but claimed that a change at the top was necessary after a miserable season on the field.

He said: "Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned.''

John Aldridge:
Liverpool will replace
Benitez within a week

By Zack Wilson - Goal.com

Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge is sure that the the Reds' hierarchy will replace Rafael Benitez as manager within a week.

But it is not the Spaniard who should be carrying the can for the club's recent disappointments, according to the former Republic of Ireland international.

Rather, it is time that the owners accepted their share of the blame and came to a swift resolution of the ongoing and often confusing situation regarding the club's sale.

"Nothing surprises me about Liverpool any more," Aldridge told The Liverpool Echo.

"The ones who should be getting out of the club are the owners, Hicks and Gillett. They should be going before anyone else but Rafa is going first.

"It’s a bold move as it’s always a gamble to change the manager. A lot of supporters haven’t been happy with what Rafa has done this year and the way the team fell away.

"He had a lot of injuries to contend with but some of our football away from home was really poor. It went stale last season and it could be time for a change.

"I just hope it is all sorted out in the right manner. That the two parties get together amicably and agree it’s the end of the road and go their separate ways.

"The last thing we want is any more rows. We’ve already hung enough of our dirty laundry out in public."

There have been reports in recent days that a lack of cash being made available for summer transfers is one of the issues behind Benitez's likely departure.

Even if that is the case, Aldridge believes that the Reds will have no problem attracting a high-quality successor to the Spaniard.

"Liverpool is still a massive club with a massive history – we won’t struggle to attract a big name," he added.

"Okay, we don’t have a lot of money but what a challenge it is to come in at this time and try to turn it around.

"I can’t for the life of me believe they are going to let Rafa go without having someone else lined up.

"You don’t make a decision like that without knowing who you are going to get in his place. When Gerard Houllier went, Liverpool had Rafa lined up.

"Some people will say give the job to Kenny Dalglish in the short term. Of course Kenny knows his stuff but we need a permanent boss in place within a week.

"This is a crucial time for making signings and deciding who to get rid of. The new man has to sit down with the players and tell them where he sees Liverpool going.

"Of course Jose Mourinho is out after he went to Real Madrid but there are plenty of good coaches out there like Martin O’Neill, Guus Hiddink and Louis Van Gaal."

Aldridge does feel it is important that Reds fans remember the success that Benitez has brought to Anfield during his six years in charge, but now also acknowledges that it is time for a new era at the club.

"We mustn’t forget what Rafa’s done for the club and it’s been so much better than Houllier’s reign," he said.

"He’s taken us to two European Cup finals, including that amazing night in Istanbul, and has always done his best for the club.

"It’s a pity that he wasn’t backed in the transfer market as much as he should have been. If he had been backed a bit more we might have won the league title.

"Things just didn’t work out last season and we went backwards, big time.

"No-one is bigger than the club and Liverpool have to move on now. We have to put the foundations down for a new era."

"Player power sealed
Benitez's fate..."

Football 365

The imminent departure of Rafa Benitez from Liverpool is being seen as a positive, and inevitable move
on Fleet Street.

The Times' Tony Barrett claims this is a crucial moment for the club.

He writes: 'The beginning of what appears to be the end for Rafael Benítez also marks the start of a summer that threatens to be one of the most painful - and will undoubtedly be the most pivotal - in the modern history of Britain's most successful football club...

'For the past 20 years Liverpool have gone into each and every summer desperate to reclaim their status as English champions and each and every time they have failed in their mission.

'This time around the situation they are facing is much more extreme and the challenge confronting them even more critical as they bid to reclaim both their soul and their sense of direction. Failure on these fronts does not even bear thinking about.'

Andy Hunter writes in The Guardian that Benitez may not be the only departure from Anfield this summer.

'Liverpool's best two players have both said they will consider their futures after the World Cup, and Marca, the Spanish sports paper with close ties to Real Madrid, yesterday announced that Gerrard is the principal target of Real Madrid's new manager, José Mourinho.'

And it was the loss of support from those key players that made Benitez's departure a matter of time, according to Phil Thomas in The Sun.

'It is a decision that will officially have come from those at the top. In truth it is one for which the foundations were most definitely laid on the shop floor. Or, to be more precise, the dressing room itself...

'Men like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun, Jamie Carragher... the list of those with shrinking faith in the manager seemed to grow by the game.'

Indeed, The Daily Mirror's David Maddock goes one further, saying of the senior players: 'Some had even stated privately that they would leave if Benitez stayed.'

And so attention turns to Benitez's potential successor.

The Mirror reports: 'Liverpool have already drawn up a short-list of possible replacements for Benitez, with the highly respected Roy Hodgson and Louis Van Gaal topping the candidates, along with Benfica manager Jorge Jesus, and - before he accepted the Italy job - Cesare Prandelli of Fiorentina.'

The names Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill are mentioned elsewhere, while The Daily Mail suggests Guus Hiddink and Mark Hughes, but The Daily Telegraph suggests an old favourite might step in.

'They (the board) will be banking on Liverpool's stature and potential to attract a successor, with Kenny Dalglish a potential interim coach.'

Another 48 hours for Rafa

Sky Sports

Sky Sports sources understand Rafa Benitez is to leave Liverpool in the next 48 hours as the two parties continue to negotiate a severance package.

News broke of Benitez's likely departure on Wednesday night, with the Spaniard believed to be on the cusp of leaving Anfield after a hugely disappointing past campaign.

Liverpool were expected to mount a serious title tilt after finishing second in the previous season but instead an early exit from the UEFA Champions League was followed by a failure to qualify for next term's premier club competition, after finishing seventh in the Premier League.

Reports emanating from the Merseyside outfit have suggested Benitez has lost the support of senior figures within the dressing room, with key duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard linked with summer departures.

Sky Sports has learnt that Benitez will likely confirm his exit within the next 48 hours, although his agent is refusing to comment on the speculation.

Manuel Garcia Quilon said: "We don't know anything more than what's being said. We're not saying anything."

Various figures have been mooted with regards how much it will take to pay-off the Spanish tactician, with the club now looking to thrash out terms that suit both parties.

Sky Bet have installed Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill as the 6/4 favourite to take over at Liverpool on a permanent basis should Benitez depart.

Guus Hiddink, who is set to take the reins of the Turkish national team, is 3/1 and Roy Hodgson, who guided Fulham to their first European final last season, is 4/1.

Fans' favourite Kenny Dalglish, who has been tipped for a temporary role, is 6/1 and Oswaldo de Oliveira, who has steered J League side Kashima Antlers to three league titles, one Emperor's Cup and one Japanese Super Cup since 2007, is 12/1 to take over.

Benítez conquered Europe with Liverpool
but is now victim of owners' reign

By Rory Smith Telegraph.co.uk

Approached by a newspaper hoping to engage him as a columnist for this summer’s World Cup, Rafael Benítez politely refused, explaining that such a task would be too much work for a man hoping to enjoy a summer with his family.

“For example,” he said. With him, there is always an example. “When I did commentary for Spanish TV on a Real Betis match, I spoke to players from both teams to find out how they’d line up, how they expected to play. Only then could I say how well they’d executed their plans. It has to be right. I cannot just do it in 20 minutes, like some pundits.” Obsessive, meticulous, perfectionist.

Given that he would put such effort into a newspaper column, it is easy to imagine the diligence with which he attacked his day job. He returned to his Melwood office after another of the emotional, intense European nights which became his speciality in six years at Anfield to watch reruns of the game, highlighting areas for improvement.

Such traits are highly prized at Liverpool, even now, even when the club has lost sight of the path it followed under Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish.

Little wonder that when Benítez arrived, fresh from La Liga and Uefa Cup triumphs at Valencia, that the coach who had seemed restive in his early years looked to have found a club where he fitted.

The Kop took to him immediately, any doubts as to his ability engendered by a mediocre first league campaign washed away in the fevered fantasy of Istanbul in 2005; any fears over his character dismissed by his appearance in a German pub thronged with Liverpool fans prior to victory in the last-16.

The breathless FA Cup triumph which followed in Cardiff in 2006 cemented his place in Liverpool’s folklore. Even defeat in Athens, AC Milan’s revenge, in 2007 and the barbs of opposing fans could not shake Anfield’s faith. Benítez was the conqueror of Europe, Jose Mourinho’s nemesis and Shankly’s heir, protector of the Liverpool way.

Anfield was a very different place, though. David Moores had sold the club for £218.9 million to Tom Hicks and George Gillett in February 2007, the new “custodians” vowing to take Liverpool to the Promised Land, the league title. The Americans, their promises and their wallets empty, would serve only to deepen the club’s purgatory.

They had scarcely been in charge for six months when details emerged of their conversations with Jurgen Klinsmann over the possibility ofhim succeeding Benítez, should he decide to go.

The Spaniard bit back, repeating the mantra that he was “focused on preparing and coaching his team”, the dismissive, arrogant phrase his absentee landlords had directed at him as they sharpened the knife to plunge in his back. In hindsight, that was the breaking point.

Since then, Benítez has found himself doing anything but focusing on preparing and coaching his team. To borrow one of the terms he deploys most to describe the players he tries to bring to his sides, the Spaniard was condemned to operate between the lines.

He has played politician, forging shifting alliances with Liverpool’s power-brokers and eventually learning to thrive amid the backbiting and infighting as the relationship between Hicks, Gillett and Rick Parry, the erstwhile chief executive, deteriorated.

And he played bank manager, too, as the debt mountain placed on the club by Hicks and Gillett soared, wheeling and dealing to balance the books. In Benítez’s own words, Liverpool have, for two years, been a company, not a football team.

He enjoyed only limited success in the role of the Spanish Harry Redknapp. Many of his buys have been ill-judged, his failure to leave Liverpool with a squad imbued with quality in depth the most damning indictment of his tenure.

That did not stop him mounting Liverpool’s first genuine title challenge for almost a decade, though, even as chaos threatened to engulf the club. That success, though, could never last in such a flawed environment.

Benítez’s magic touch deserted him, his five-year, £20 million contract signed in March 2009 – the final act in his struggle for power with Parry – left looking like a monument to the club’s folly. Liverpool, in the space of a few months, lost their Champions League status not twice, and found themselves cut adrift from the Premier League elite.

Anfield has been afforded a glimpse of the obscurity which awaits England’s most decorated club in any future in which Hicks and Gillett remain.

Whatever his faults, whatever his mistakes, whatever his spend, Benítez’s exit should not be seen as proof that he is the man to blame. Liverpool’s imperfect perfectionist is simply the first victim.

Thor Zakariassen ©