Benitez remains in dark over Liverpool's future

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez has still not met Liverpool's new non-executive chairman Martin Broughton, in whose hands the club's financial destiny now lies, though the Spaniard was relaxed yesterday about Manchester City's belief that their great financial muscle can lure Fernando Torres to Eastlands.

Benitez – whose future at the club remains shrouded in uncertainly amid reports in Italy last night that a deal with Juventus was close and should be sealed this coming week – expressed frustration two weeks ago about the absence of an explanation why Liverpool's owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, had rejected a £100m investment from Rhône Group, which would have helped pay down a hefty chunk of the club's £237m debt. Rhône's offer was turned down by the Americans in favour of bringing in Broughton to sell the club.

But though the British Airways chairman was at Monday night's 3-0 win over West Ham, he is yet to meet the manager to offer any personal assurances about the club's future. "I haven't spoken to the chairman yet, hopefully next week," Benitez said yesterday. "At the end of the day I have to prepare for games, so it's not a big thing for me."

He seemed unconcerned about Torres' future and did not respond to the City manager Roberto Mancini's declaration of intent on Thursday, which left little grounds for doubt that a £60m bid will be made this summer. "There are some things in football that you cannot change. I wasn't happy about it but when you talk to Fernando – I think he's happy, so hopefully everything will be OK. It does happen at times but I'd prefer to focus on my team because we have some important games to play."

Benitez said that Torres' 21-year-old replacement David Ngog, who laboured in the dismal display which saw Liverpool lose 1-0 away to Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon on Thursday night, had been carrying a calf strain which had prompted medical advice at half-time that he could not play on.

Benitez may be tempted to rest some players, including Ngog, for tomorrow's Premier League visit to Burnley, with a top four place a near impossible aim now and Europe the main issue. "We will see after they have rested, and must talk with each one before we decide, but we don't have too many options," Benitez said. "We'll work hard to give them as much time to recover as possible."

Steven Gerrard, one of very few Liverpool heroes on Thursday, seems more motivated for the Europa League than any Liverpool player. "These are the stages you want to play on, these are the nights when heroes are made," he said, demanding a stellar effort in next Thursday's return.

The private agony for Benitez will surely be how his side's desultory away form – just seven wins in 27 away games – can be put right if Liverpool do progress to a Hamburg final. "Our record suggests we have not been good enough away from home and have to improve, it's true," he said. "We have to be more solid."

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