Benitez rejects new Liverpool contract

Manager angrily demands complete control over transfer deals at Anfield

Liverpool face the prospect of Rafael Benitez's contract dispute seriously undermining their title push after he publicly rejected the deal being offered to him yesterday and demanded complete control of transfers.

Although the club's co-owner Tom Hicks (below) later attempted to defuse the issue with public words of support for Benitez, there is astonishment among some at the club that Benitez has aired his rejection so publicly – and just three days before a crucial Merseyside derby. Hicks and co-owner George Gillett are understood to have been united, during the contract talks to date, in their view that the corporate structure of every Premier League club, in which the manager answers to a chief executive, should apply in Liverpool's case.

Though Benitez's involvement in transfer negotiations is welcomed, his demands that he should have even greater control than that enjoyed at Manchester United by Sir Alex Ferguson – who puts his transfer requests to the chief executive, David Gill – do not fit with the Americans' idea of how a business should be run. Hicks, who has the better relationship with Benitez, suggested he was prepared to tolerate a period of discussion on the subject. "Rafa is going to be coach of Liverpool for the next five years, and we will work through all this," he said.

But Benitez does not appear to be ready for compromise and unless Hicks is prepared to rewrite the Liverpool business model, the prospect of him walking out on the club this summer appears to be a real one. The Real Madrid manager's seat may be in the back of his mind, if Juande Ramos falters as many believe he will.

Currently, Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, has control over spending, his being the final call on the requests for players that Benitez gives him. But Benitez, whose deal runs out in 18 months, took issue with that. "The owners feel the manager's decisions need to be subject to the chief executive," Benitez said. "But I know that I am subject to results and to our fans and they are the best judges I will ever have." But when Benitez was urging Hicks and Gillett to pay £18m for Gareth Barry last summer, the fans told him precisely what the owners were at the time: that he was not worth the price Aston Villa were asking.

The owners refused to grant Benitez the money to buy Barry because his original estimate of the player's value had been £10m to £12m and they felt they were being asked to pay over the odds. The Barry saga continues to be a cloud over Benitez's credibility with the Americans – one of several pieces of evidence to their mind that the current corporate structure is correct. The Aston Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, was unhappy with the way Benitez was seen to be unsettling his captain and his club's American owner, Randy Lerner, is a friend of Gillett.

Gillett held lengthy talks with the Spaniard on two visits to England late last year. But another concern within the Anfield hierarchy is the large turnover of players since Benitez's arrival in 2004. The other contractual sticking point is Benitez's desire for control over Liverpool's academy, though this is a side issue. The owners are of the view that, while the incumbent first-team manager's coaching philosophy should inform the academy's, continuity, as managers come and go, dictates that Benitez should not control it.

Benitez is hardly a frequent visitor to the academy. The number of overseas players in the academy, an issue the vice-captain Jamie Carragher said in his biography troubles him, is also something of which the owners are aware.

Hicks' decision to make a public response, as much out of keeping with the so-called Liverpool Way as Benitez's statement, is puzzling, to judge by the fact he and Gillett have shared the same stance during negotiations.

It is seen by some as part of the American's continuing attempts to curry favour with fans. If Benitez's time at Valencia is anything to go by, then this dispute may see him leave. In 2004, after taking the club to two league titles, he resigned after falling out with the club's director of sport over the failure to buy the players he had singled out.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015