Liverpool are anticipating making big savings on wages following Rafael Benitez's £6m pay-off, with the club expecting that the Spaniard will take four well-paid coaching staff with him if, as seems increasingly likely, he takes over from Jose Mourinho at Internazionale.
Inter president Massimo Moratti has now indicated that a deal is imminent to make Benitez the club's new head coach, after the Spaniard's departure from Anfield by mutual consent last Thursday. "The next few hours could be decisive. But we must ask [technical director Marco] Branca," was all Moratti would say yesterday. Liverpool felt last week that a Benitez move to Inter would help reduce their wage bill and it is anticipated Benitez will take with him his Anfield assistant Mauricio Pellegrino, goalkeeping coach Xavi Valero and fitness coach Paco de Miguel. Italian Amedeo Carboni – who played under Benitez at Valencia – is also likely to be added to his backroom staff at San Siro.
Reports in Italy suggest Benitez will sign a three-year deal worth €5m per season. There is no concern at the club about an exodus of coaching staff, with Sammy Lee holding the fort. Liverpool feel the timing of Benitez's departure has been ideal, giving them five weeks to secure a successor while the World Cup unfolds.
Though Sven Goran Eriksson put himself forward as a possible successor to Benitez after the World Cup, Roy Hodgson appears the more likely candidate with Liverpool looking for someone who could, in the words of one well informed source, bring calm where "madness" has preceded at Anfield.
Though Eriksson's positive comments about Liverpool at the weekend might be viewed as opportunism in some quarters, his affection for Liverpool is long-standing. He met and observed the late Bob Paisley at work and then formed a relationship with the late Joe Fagan after former Liverpool scout Tom Saunders has given a warm welcome at Eriksson's Gothenburg side in the early 1980s. "[Fagan] became a friend and we met many times," Eriksson said two years ago. "But it went back further. I suppose I shouldn't say it today maybe but when I was young and growing up we could see English football at three o'clock on Saturday, Liverpool was my great favourite."
Martin O'Neill and Mark Hughes are both respected at Anfield, though one fear is that O'Neill would be less willing to accept probable limits on his transfer budget than Hodgson and Hughes's links with United and Chelsea could make him a difficult sell to fans.