Rafael Benitez has overshadowed the preparations for Liverpool's vital Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid tonight by revealing that no senior figure at the club has sought reassurances from the manager that he wants to stay at Anfield.
Liverpool need to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg tonight as they attempt to retain their interest in the one competition where they can still win some silverware this season. However, with strong rumours linking Benitez with a move to Juventus, no one in the club's hierarchy has tried to talk the Spaniard into staying.
Asked if anyone in the senior management had urged him not to respond to any offer from Serie A, Benitez replied with a flat "no" and then hinted that he feels he should have been treated far better. "Everyone expects it will be like this," he said. "For one year I have been listening to stories about Martin O'Neill taking my job or [Jurgen] Klinsmann, [Frank] Rijkaard. [Jose] Mourinho, or Guus Hiddink – so I have to keep doing my job, focus on the next game."
Benitez is looking to his more experienced players, such as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard to carry the side through on what might be the last European night of his tenure at Anfield. "We have some players here now who don't know what it means to win a trophy of this value," he said. "The players with experience will be pushing them against Atletico, they will have to be leaders and be really positive."
Asked if tonight's game is more important to than Sunday's meeting with Premier League leaders Chelsea, Benitez said: "This game is the bigger game. The opportunity to be in a European final is massive."