Juve 'agree terms with Rafa to take over'

Turin club's lawyers due in England today for talks to have Liverpool manager in charge for next season

Juventus have agreed terms with Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez for him to manage the Serie A club next season, according to authoritative reports from Italy last night.

La Repubblica newspaper reported that the club's lawyers will arrive in England today for talks tomorrow about the release of the manager this summer. Benitez's current contract at Anfield runs until 2014.

Juventus president Jean-Claude Blanc is reported to have "already fixed everything with Benitez and has in his drawer a detailed agreement of his terms and length of contract". Juve are keen to reach an agreement and begin making plans for next season.

The Turin club are also keen to minimise any payment they will have to make to Liverpool, and will be aware of the Premier League club's poor form and rumours that the Spaniard's deal makes him "too expensive to sack".

Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport last night confirmed the arrival of Juve's representatives but insisted that it remains uncertain whether Benitez actually wants to leave Anfield.

Juve dismissed Ciro Ferrara as coach and appointed Alberto Zaccheroni on Friday as caretaker manager until the end of the season.

Benitez has come under fire for a spluttering season and doubts over his future intensified with Ferrara's sacking. Benitez signed a new deal in March 2009, intended to keep him at the Merseyside club until 2014, but an early exit in the Champions' League and FA Cup, along with poor Premier League form, has not helped to quash reports of a premature departure.

On Friday, 50-year-old Benitez rejected talk of an imminent move to Juve, saying he was "proud" to be linked with the Old Lady as they are a "top side in Europe" but adding: "I'm happy here and want to do a job as best I can."

Benitez, whose team defeated Bolton 2-0 at Anfield yesterday, said: "I am not here to talk about speculation because people talk too much. I know they [Juventus] were interested, that is part of the game now in football, but I am not ready to talk too much because I don't want to lose my focus."

Former Milan manager Zaccheroni was revealed as Ferrara's replacement until the end of the Serie A campaign, on the back of Juve losing nine of their last 12 games in all competitions.

Their 2-1 defeat by Roma last weekend was their fifth loss in six league games and left them 16 points adrift of leaders Inter. A 2-1 loss to Inter in the Italian Cup on Thursday proved to be Ferrara's last game in charge.

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