Benitez resigned to losing his long-time assistant

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, is facing the break-up of the 11-year working relationship with his assistant manager, Paco Ayesteran, after his fellow Spaniard revealed to Benitez on Thursday that he wishes to leave Anfield.

Benitez and Ayesteran are understood to have had numerous differences of opinion in recent months, with the manager unhappy at constant speculation linking his right-hand man with various clubs in Spain.

Ayesteran had been lined up for the role of director of football at Athletic Bilbao last year, but the job did not materialise, with the presidential candidate who made the offer failing to win an election to gain power at the club. A return in a backroom capacity to Valencia, where he worked alongside Benitez as the club won two Spanish titles, has also been mooted.

A specialist in sports science and the fitness of players, Ayesteran is known to have grown unhappy with Benitez taking a greater role in the training regime, but the split remains a surprise due to the long-standing partnership forged by the two men.

While Ayesteran has yet to formally leave Anfield, Benitez admits that it is unlikely that he will be able to persuade him to stay.

Benitez said: "He said that he would like to leave the club, so we are now analysing the situation. It came as a surprise because we have worked together for 11 years, but I cannot say too much until we have analysed the situation. Do I think he will leave? I think so, but we need to wait. I don't know if he will be at the game against Derby, but I don't think he will be."