BENITEZ PENS EXTENDED REDS DEAL
Posted 18/03/09 21:09
Rafael Benitez crowned one of the best weeks in Liverpool's history by signing his long-awaited new contract.
The Spaniard will now be in control at Anfield - and control is exactly the right word - until 2014, having finally signed his new deal.
He had little more than a year of his current contract to run, and negotiations with joint owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks had been going on since well before Christmas.
It is believed that there had been eight different drafts of the contract on offer, with Benitez sticking out for the near absolute control of the Merseysiders he wanted.
And it is no surprise that he has finally put pen to paper within a couple of weeks of chief executive Rick Parry's announcement that he would be leaving the club in the summer.
The two have had a sometimes strained relationship, with Benitez angry that many of his transfer negotiations seemed subject to the chief executive's opinion.
He had criticised the slowness of some deals, in which players he wanted were lost, with the key issue being the failure to sign Gareth Barry last summer, when the club refused to match Aston Villa's reported £18million asking price.
At first Hicks and Gillett rejected Benitez's demands, and it is believed they even asked Villa's American owner Randy Learner for advice and confirmation that the sort of deal Benitez wanted was similar to Martin O'Neill's.
Benitez did not want Parry overseeing his decisions, but may well have to report to the board on some issues of transfer policy.
But just days after seeing his side beat Real Madrid in the Champions League and Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League, Benitez seems to have got his way.
Only last week Benitez let it be known that United tried desperately to sign the Brazilian youngster Lucas, with the Liverpool manager insisting that Parry signed a fax confirming the deal while an agent working for United was in the air flying to Brazil to do the deal himself.
Benitez has continually been linked with Real Madrid, who will probably have a vacancy in the summer when Juande Ramos' short-term contract ends.
Benitez told the Liverpool website: "My heart is with Liverpool, so I'm delighted to sign this new deal.
"I love the club, the fans and the city and with a club like this and supporters like this, I could never say no to staying.
"I always made it clear I wanted to be here for a long time and when I complete my new contract it will mean I have spent over a decade in Liverpool.
"The club is greatly respected around the world due to its incredible history and tremendous heritage. It is my aim to uphold those values and help create a new chapter in our history.
"Throughout this process, I would like to thank the owners for their hard work in finalising the deal. All of us at the club want the same thing, which is to be successful by winning major trophies."
Hicks said: "It is wonderful news that Rafa has made a long-term commitment to the club. Since he became manager in 2004, he has been responsible for the great progress we have made.
"I know he will continue to build on his achievements as he has a tremendous hunger and desire to bring more success to the club - success our fans and everyone connected with the club deserves."
Gillett added: "With Rafa continuing to manage the team, we can look forward to more great football and success on the pitch.
"He has special abilities and qualities which are admired here at the club and around the world.
"Coming after our excellent wins over Real Madrid and Manchester United, this gives us great momentum going into the final stages of the season."
Rafael Benitez Factfile
1960: Born Madrid, April 4.
1974: Joins Real Madrid as youngster, making slow progress through the ranks.
1981: Leaves Real Madrid without ever playing for the first team and joins Third Division Parla.
1983: Part of the Parla side which gains promotion to the Spanish Segunda B.
1985: Joins Segunda B side Linares. Spends almost the entire season injured and retires as a player in 1986.
1986: Appointed to Real Madrid's coaching staff, starting off with their juniors and working up through to the under-19s.
1994: Leads Real Madrid's B team to seventh in Spain's Second Division and ends the season as assistant to first-team coach Vicente del Bosque.
1995: Appointed coach of Valladolid but sacked after 23 games with the team bottom of the Primera Liga table.
1996: Takes over at Osasuna in Second Division, but lasts just nine games after recording one win.
1997: Joins Second Division outfit Extremadura and leads them to promotion, finishing second in the table with 23 wins in 42 games.
1999: Extremadura relegated from top flight after a play-off defeat to Villarreal, earlier finishing the season 17th.
1999-2000: Quits Extremadura to take a year's sabbatical to study coaching in Italy and England.
2000: Appointed boss of Second Division Tenerife and leads them promotion.
2001: Named as surprise choice to replace Hector Cuper at Valencia. Decision questioned by the fans but he leads Valencia to their first Primera Liga title in 31 years in first campaign in charge.
2003: Valencia fade away to finish fifth in the table, although they do reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
2004: Benitez leads Valencia to their first ever double, lifting both the Primera Liga and the UEFA Cup.
June 1 - Valencia announce that Benitez and club have agreed to part by mutual consent.
June 16 - Benitez confirmed as Liverpool manager on five-year contract.
2005: May - Wins Champions League in his first season as Liverpool come from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul.
2007: February - American duo Tom Hicks and George Gillett buy the club from David Moores vowing to bring the Premier League title to Anfield.
May - Benitez's side reach the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons but lose to AC Milan in Athens.
2008: Relations between Benitez and the Anfield hierarchy sour suddenly with doubts over the Spaniard's long-term future, largely due to differences of opinion over transfer policy.
2009: March 18 - Benitez signs a new contract after months of uncertainty, keeping him at Anfield until 2014.