Benitez's rebuff fuels unease at Liverpool

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The Independent Online

The absence of Rick Parry, the Liverpool chief executive, on a family holiday yesterday added to the sense of confusion around Anfield.

The absence of Rick Parry, the Liverpool chief executive, on a family holiday yesterday added to the sense of confusion around Anfield.

Parry is in Barbados while his club remain coy over conflicting reports surrounding Gérard Houllier's successor and the projected Thai government investment in the club.

Local media reported that the Valencia coach, Rafael Benitez, was on the verge of signing a contract to replace the Frenchman. At the same time, Benitez was saying on Spanish radio that he intended to stay with the Spanish champions. "I want to stay at Valencia," he said. "It is already a big club."

Liverpool refused to comment, except to say that any announcements would wait until Parry's return in 11 days. A spokesman said: "We are making no comment. Rick Parry is out of the country and no decision on the managerial side will be made until he is back."

Benitez's apparent rejection would represent a blow to the Liverpool board who had reportedly chosen him to succeed Houllier. The Porto coach, Jose Mourinho, is also in the frame having publicly admitted his interest in the job, while Martin O'Neill, Alan Curbishley and Gordon Strachan have also been linked with the vacancy.

By the time Parry returns to Anfield, there may also have been further developments in the Thai investment saga. A Thai government spokesman insisted that a $115m (£66m) deal had been struck to take just under a 50 per cent share in the club, subject to completion of the due diligence process.

But as unease grew in Thailand over the government's plans to use a one-off state lottery to raise sufficient funds, a group of leading academics called for the proposed investment to be declared illegal. Human rights organisations had already expressed their concerns over the plans and questionable priorities of the billionaire Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

A senior group of Thammasat University lawyers claimed in a letter to the Bangkok Post that the move defied the Thai constitution, which they said "did not permit the government to run any enterprise for profit", and they said the government's bid for the club was effectively profit-driven.

They warned that any deal would constitute a clear break of Thai law and criticised the government for attempting to finalise the arrangement by "questionable means".

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