contract impasse

Benitez remains non-committal over Reds future

January 17, 2009

Rafael Benitez's power struggle with the Liverpool hierarchy looks set to rumble on for some time after the Reds boss expressed his unhappiness with negotiations.

The Spaniard, who has 18 months left on his contract, has turned down a new deal after co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett rejected his demands for complete control of transfers.

Despite having already agreed the length of contract and salary, the considerable stumbling block remains over Benitez having the final say on detailed financial issues like spending, wages and terms and conditions.

The final decision on such matters currently rests with chief executive Rick Parry but Benitez is still angry at the club's failure to secure the transfer of midfielder Gareth Barry from Aston Villa in the summer.

That, and the fact the club have emerged as genuine Barclays Premier League title contenders this season, persuaded the manager to push for a more far-reaching role.

He feels he is now in a position of strength in which to force the change through but his attempts have so far been rebuffed by the American owners.

They remain confident Benitez will extend his stay at Anfield but the Spaniard is not happy with the way negotiations have gone.

"The first time they told me they wanted to talk about an extension I told them I wanted to do it in one week,'' said the Liverpool manager.

"To do it for two months was not my idea and I don't want to do this so now I will finish and we will concentrate on football.

"I was in contact with the owners with what was my idea and I explained why. I don't have any problems with the owners.''

Benitez has walked away from a club before, memorably at Valencia in 2004 when, after taking them to two league titles, he fell out with the club's director of sport, Jesus Garcia Pitarch, over the failure to buy the players he had singled out and he resigned.

The Spaniard has been continually linked with a return to Real Madrid, where he played in the academy and then coached the youth and reserve teams early in his career.

He does not want to leave Liverpool, where he and his family are settled, but will not be happy until he has a set-up that suits him.

And the threat remains he could see out the remainder of his contract and walk away.

"I can say that I already have an agreement with one club and it is with Liverpool Football Club for one and a half years,'' he said when asked about his contract.

"I will be here against Everton (on Monday) and hopefully for a lot of years.''

Hicks expects to meet Benitez at the end of this month to discuss any outstanding issues but when asked today the manager declined to say whether contract negotiations were still ongoing.

The row threatens to overshadow Monday's increasingly-important Merseyside derby but Benitez said it was business as usual for him and the players.

"Yesterday we had a day off so we didn't have any problem. Today we will train, tomorrow we will train,'' he said.

"I will get with my staff and we will prepare for the game as always.''

On the transfer front, Benitez revealed he expects Jermaine Pennant to complete a move to Portsmouth even though the player wants to stay at Anfield.

"We have agreed with Portsmouth and we are waiting for the latest news but I think the player will say yes and everything will be sorted,'' he said.

However, Benitez has spoken to defender Daniel Agger, who has been linked with AC Milan, and is confident the player will stay.

"I had a conversation with Daniel Agger two days ago. He wants to stay, he is not thinking about money but I can guarantee his commitment to the club is 100%,'' the Spaniard added.

"I was talking with his agent and they are waiting for us. The player is really happy here. He knows we have a strong team and he wants to stay.''