A profile of Rafael Benitez

Rafael 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?

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