Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rafa Benitez Anxious To Sign a New Deal As the Sale of the Club Stalls

In a move that all Liverpool fans have been longing to hear, Rafael Benitez has signalled his intentions to see out the job he has started at Liverpool by saying he is ready and willing to sign a new contract whenever the club gets around to begin negotiations with his advisers.

He is anxious to secure his long-term future with the club as early as possible, and he spoke of his desire to tie things up as quickly as is practicable.

"I want the contract done quickly because the team is playing well" said Benitez. "I do not want to be talking about this for weeks and months. The team is very strong—you can see the progress. There could be a new stadium soon, and I want to be a part of the future of Liverpool

"The length of the contract is important to me. We have been improving the squad for five years—so clearly we know that we can be contenders and we can win more trophies," he added after being asked if Liverpool could be long term title contenders.

With his contract almost up, Benitez showed what a shrewd customer he is when it comes to dealing with the club as he searches for a long-term deal, "We must do it quickly, I do not want to keep talking about my contract. It is not good for the team and it is not good for the club. We are in a good position now and that could be good for the future.

"Stability is the key to winning trophies and being contenders for the title. The owners have to speak to my agent about the conditions of the deal, but clearly the length of the contract is crucial [to me]," Benitez added as he begins to ratchet up the pressure on the clubs owners.

Rafa has overseen Liverpool's best ever start to a Premiership campaign that has seen them come from outsiders to genuine contenders as they sit on the summit of the league with a third of the season gone.

Early indications from the board are that they are willing to meet Benitez's demands, but they will insist on certain conditions being part of his contract. The details of these conditions are unlikely to become public knowledge, but a condition forbidding Rafa to talk in public about the owners and the board is expected to be part of the contract.

On the minus side for fans, negotiations with a group of Middle Eastern business men who wanted to take the club over have broken down.

Two weeks ago, a Middle Eastern investment group came very close to buying the club for £500M. But they pulled out after they had inspected the company accounts, without giving a reason for the breaking off negotiations.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., the current owners and American businessmen, continue to deny they are looking to sell the club but it is believed they were negotiating with a Middle Eastern group unrelated to D.I.C., who recently let their interest in the club cool.

Recently, there has been interest in the club from a group in Kuwait, although it still has yet to be confirmed if this was the group who pulled out of the recent deal.

It is an open secret within the football world that Hicks and Gillett are looking to sell the club. Last month, they contacted Merrill Lynch, the world famous investment bank, to look for potential buyers.

The board issued another denial after this undertaking, but Gillett all but confirmed the initial contact on Canadian radio last week. When pushed on the subject, Gillett squirmed out of any definite answers but was obviously uncomfortable under the line of questioning, eventually he issued a "no comment" which the radio presenter took as a yes to his line of questions about the club being up for sale.

In the same interview, he admitted to being embarrassed about not having the finances in place for a new stadium after initial promises to build a 60,000 seater at Stanley Park.

With Everton also looking to build a new stadium, a shared option has taken a small step forward. And although it would be the Toffee's preferred option, Liverpool are still some way to agreeing to such a move.

Reports have recently emerged that the Americans are under pressure to sell the club before Jan. 25, the date the conditional terms of their £350M loan with the Royal Bank of Scotland comes to an end.

The bank that has recently fallen into public hands after the collapse of the financial system in Britain are unlikely to agree to the same favourable conditions of the loan when Liverpool come to re-finance the package.

Knowing that their pleas could fall on deaf ears, the Americans are looking to offload the club before they are crippled with increasing interest rates from the under-pressure financial institution.

And with pressure growing from supporter groups and now the manager, the Americans are expected to sell the club sooner rather than later.

twitter / WillieGannon