As Internazionale announced his appointment as their manager, a visibly emotional Rafael Benitez was meeting families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, to whom he donated £96,000.
Benitez had let it be known at the weekend that he wanted to make a donation to the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) but the size of his contribution took members by surprise when he arrived and handed them a cheque yesterday. Benitez appeared at the group's offices in Lower Breck Road in the city at around midday, clearly emotional as he hugged members of its committee. Though he had asked for no publicity, the group wanted to let the size of his donation be known last night in the knowledge that fans would want it that way. The meeting lasted around 15 minutes and ended with Benitez asking to be kept in touch with developments in the HFSG's ongoing campaign to to establish the truth about the events of 15 April, 1989.
While some had expected Benitez to be present in Milan this week, his decision to be in Liverpool instead reflects his undeniable affinity with the city. It also puts into some perspective the cynicism from some quarters that has greeted his departure from Merseyside with a £6m pay off and his arrival at San Siro on a two-year contract. Benitez spoke often, during his six year career at Liverpool, of the lasting impression that the annual Hillsborough memorial service had made on him. "You can see the people and all the feelings," he said in April.
As Benitez prepared to take leave of the city, Inter announced his appointment without ceremony. "Inter welcome Rafael Benitez," the club said in a statement, adding that the coach would hold a news conference on Tuesday.
Inter are said to have made the first steps in convincing Javier Mascherano to follow Benitez to Italy, with suggestions that officials from the European champions made contact with the midfielder's representatives on Wednesday. There is also an incentive to move for Valencia's David Silva with urgency because Manchester City have opened talks for the Spain international. Reports in Italy suggest that Dirk Kuyt is another in Inter's sights.