Benitez lashes out at critics

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has defended his reign at Anfield by pointing out his side's performances in the league are better than many of his recent predecessors.

The Spaniard is keen to remain on Merseyside but knows he is likely to face another summer recruitment programme hampered by financial restrictions until the club is sold by owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

But he feels constant speculation about his future - with Inter Milan the latest club he has been linked to - is part of a campaign to force him out.

And he has defended, in particular, his Barclays Premier League record in six seasons at Anfield after dismissing this campaign's seventh-place finish on 63 points - their worst in 11 years - as a blip.

"My critics in London say that I am not a good manager but they forget many details," said Benitez, who has returned to Madrid for a post-season break.

"Liverpool have averaged 69 points in the last 12 seasons."

Those 12 seasons are split equally between Benitez and Gerard Houllier, who famously won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001.

Benitez has averaged 72 league points in six years, peaking at 86 when they finished second last season, while Houllier averaged 66, with a best of 80.

And in comparison to other Liverpool managers, Benitez is below only the legendary duo of Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish when it comes to win ratios at the club.

Six seasons in charge saw Dalglish win 61% of his matches, Paisley 57% and Benitez 56%.

However, both Paisley (six) and Dalglish (three) won league titles while Benitez is still trying to end the club's 20-year championship drought.

The 50-year-old is a great defender of the club's history and traditions but he admits winning the Champions League, European Super Cup, FA Cup and Community Shield in his first two seasons in charge is starting to work against him.

And he feels running Manchester United a close second in the 2008/09 championship race - with a tally which in many years would have been enough to take the title - has already become a stick to beat him with.

"We made a huge mistake, as we won four titles at the start," said Benitez.

"Then people ask you for more, when in reality, in the Premier League it's assumed that at the start a coach needs time to adapt.

"(Sir Alex) Ferguson took seven years to win the Premier League."

Speculation about Liverpool's players seems to be linked to his own future but Benitez said he did not think star striker Fernando Torres would leave despite reported interest from Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City.

"I am not aware that Torres wants to leave," said the Reds boss.

"Now he is only focusing on recovering (from a knee operation) and going to the World Cup, only then will he think about his future."

Benitez has in the past been linked to the Real Madrid job and although he played down a return to the Bernabeu, where he was a youth coach, he did admit he wanted to coach his country at some point.

"Right now I have four years left in my contract with Liverpool and I am very happy there," he said.

"But, of course, in a few years, once (Spain coach Vicente) Del Bosque ends his work I would like to be Spain coach.

"All of the Spanish coaches would like in the future to become national team manager."

Current Inter manager Jose Mourinho is widely tipped to take over at Real this summer but Benitez, who has never seen eye to eye with the Portuguese, questioned such an appointment.

"I know that Mourinho's name has been linked to coach Real Madrid," Benitez told Spanish newspaper AS.

"I don't know if Mourinho is the right person to coach Madrid.

"I am from Madrid and I like the city. In the past I have been a member of the club and it's a great club, but that is all I have to say."