Benitez free to pursue potential Juve move

The attitude of the Liverpool hierarchy towards Rafael Benitez is that they will not stand in his way if the well-trailed offer from Juventus is finally put to their Spanish manager, but both parties regard that situation as still a long way off.

The pressure has been building this week, with more leaks from Italy suggesting that Benitez, who has four years left to run on his Liverpool contract, will be the subject of a £16m, four-year deal from the Italian club. While the Italians are not yet near to putting a formal request to Liverpool there is the sense that the move will speed up over the next few weeks.

Senior figures at Liverpool have indicated that – unlike in the past when Benitez has parlayed his popularity with the fans into improved contracts and greater influence at the club – this will not be the case should Juventus's offer turn out to be genuine.

Benitez was in a much stronger position in March last year when he signed his existing deal at Liverpool – a four-year extension to 2014. With the club's American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks desperate to keep some semblance of stability to attract potential buyers, Benitez was regarded as untouchable 11 months ago.

His agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, is considered by the club as a prime mover in the attempts to broker an agreement with Juventus, although not everyone in English football is really convinced that they have the resources to complete the deal. It is likely that there will be some interest from Real Madrid in Benitez this summer, although the Juventus president, Jean-Claude Blanc, would push for a quick answer should the club put together an acceptable deal.

Benitez is still planning for next season with Liverpool, having expressed an interest in Rafael van der Vaart of Real Madrid. The 18-year-old Charlton midfielder Jonjo Shelvey also had a medical at the club yesterday before a possible £1.7m move to Anfield. Shelvey first came to prominence during the Addicks unsuccessful fight against relegation from the Championship last season and last summer was reported to have turned down a move to Chelsea.

Mersey Blues?

Liverpool fans are torn over the best way of approaching Sunday's potentially title-deciding visit of Chelsea.

*El Campeador (Red & White Kop)

"I cannot possibly summon up the inner strength to help put a medal round the necks of Neville, Ferguson and Rooney."

*Mkp187 (BBC 606)

"How can Rafa, Stevie or any Liverpool player seriously consider winning this game and handing United a historical 19th League title?"

*Andy@Allerton (Red & White Kop)

"I've never been to Anfield hoping to lose and am going on Sunday with the same attitude. It is a tricky one but we've got a duty as a football club and I hope we stuff Chelsea."

*LFCexiled (LFC Reds)

"Beat Chelsea. hope other scores favour us. If they get to 19 before us? We'll just have to get to 20 before them won't we?"

*Aggerdoo (Red and White Kop)

"I don't want to see United winning the league again and if that means losing one, what you could call, meaningless game in the course of history so be it."

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