At the end of what has been, on and off the pitch, a disastrous week in the city of Liverpool, both Rafael Benitez and David Moyes said that if they were to leave Anfield or Goodison Park they would have to be prised from their jobs. Neither man intends tomorrow's Merseyside derby to be their last.
Asked about his future in the wake of Liverpool's exit from the Champions League and a sequence of results that has left them 13 points off the pace domestically, Benitez listed the Real Madrid team that lost to Liverpool in the 1981 European Cup final. He had been part of that squad but never became close to joining the first team. But he had stuck it out at the Bernabeu and he would do the same at Anfield.
"I decided to stay at Madrid after years of receiving offers from top sides, offering more money, it is the same here," said the Liverpool manager. "I have had massive offers from different clubs but I wanted to stay and fight and to do my best in every single game. If we win two or three in a row, everything will change and I am 100 per cent convinced we will finish in the top four. At least the top four. I have a five-year contract because of my commitment to the club, fans, staff, players and all the other people at Liverpool. Hopefully, in five years we can talk about another contract extension."
Comments by the former Liverpool captain, Jamie Redknapp, that Benitez "manipulates" the club's supporters and has created a team "that is not going anywhere" caused Benitez to question where his loyalties lay. "I am surprised people so close to Liverpool are working hard to keep Tottenham [Redknapp's father Harry's club] in the top four."
Just as in May, when Liverpool had finished with their highest points total since they glided to the title in 1988, it would seem impossible that Benitez would have to make this statement, the turnaround in Everton's fortunes has been equally perplexing and at Goodison demoralising. This week a club that has lost to Burnley, Bolton and Hull saw its long-term financial future imperilled with the rejection of a proposed new stadium at Kirkby. Yesterday, Moyes' accent may have differed from Benitez's but his message was the same.
"That is complete nonsense," he said when asked if the collapse of the Kirkby project had triggered thoughts of resignation. "I've been here seven and a half years and worked really hard to get here. We are in a bad moment just now but I'll carry on trying to get through this. Why would I stay? Because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to get on with it."
Moyes added that after the failure of the "Goodison on the Water" project, which would have given Everton a home on the city's iconic waterfront, and now Kirkby, it was time for the city council to approach the club, rather than the other way round.
"The [Kirkby] stadium might have made us bigger, better known in Europe and attracted bigger players. It might have enhanced our identity. All I know is that we need a stadium. What stadium did they go down to London with for the World Cup bid? I am a football manager, not a CEO, but I am looking at it and thinking they should now show us their goods."
Of all the goods Benitez has bought in his five years on Merseyside, few have raised more question marks than the £21m he paid Roma for Alberto Aquilani; a midfielder who was supposed to replace Xavi Alonso, but who will make his full league debut after Liverpool have been eliminated from the Champions League, the Carling Cup and, realistically, the seemingly endless quest for the Premier League.
"People ask why I don't play him." Benitez said. "The games have been so close that if you put someone on the pitch who isn't ready, maybe he cannot settle. If you are playing Lucas [Leiva], [Javier] Mascherano and [Steven] Gerrard and play Aquilani, maybe you make a mistake and lose control. If we were winning every game 3-0, then it would be easy to bring him on and allow him to settle.
"The problem we have with him is that when I talked to the surgeon who was doing his [ankle] operation, he said he would be available in August. We did our tests and it was two months instead of one and then there were problems and it was three months. But we have signed him for five years, not one season. And, if we had signed him when he was fully fit, the price may have been up to £30m."Reuse content