Sky Sports News seems to be having a strange day today as it winds itself up again over the information that certain sports betting agencies have suspended betting on Rafa Benitez leaving Liverpool after tonight’s match. Now whilst I’ve been highly critical of Benitez this season, this is another ludicrous situation developing at Anfield. Sure, the Premiership is gone, they’re out of the F.A. Cup, out of the Carling Cup but still in the Champions League. Whilst I don’t think they’ll win it, they’ve still got a slim chance of adding to their 5 European Cup triumphs.
Apparently, William Hill, amongst other notable British and Irish based based bookmakers have said the following. “We have been informed by a source that the deadline for Benitez to sign his new contract has passed and he will be removed from his post by the weekend. There have been too many calls to us for it to be just a rumour”
Benitez has certainly dragged his feet over the contract offer on the table, the major sticking point was believed to be having total control over transfers. Looking at his record over his time at Liverpool, I think he needs keeping well away from having total control over that part of the clubs business, or else Liverpool well end up with 17 defensive midfielders who run all day. Whilst Liverpool were top of the Premiership, The F.A. Cup and waiting for the Champions League knock out phase to begin, he was in a position of strength. Now, his position of strength has been reduced to hoping against form and praying for another miraculous run to the final to save face.
Yet to remove him now, or certainly allow the rumours of him leaving to destabilise his preparation for tonights match is disgusting. Hicks and Gillette have been down this road before when courting Jurgen Klinsmann a couple of years ago and the club is notably silent at the moment. Is their a campaign to make his position untenable so he walks away? Are the owners so frustrated over the throwing the League challenge away so early in the season and the unsigned contract still on the table that they’ve allowed this story to gather speed?The silence coming from Anfield is deafening.
The added incentive to tonight’s tie is that it could be seen as a job application for both managers to take over Real on a permanent basis, with Juande Ramos only under contract until Real’s final game on May 31st and Benitez has been constantly linked with a return to Bernabeu since leaving for Real Valladolid in the summer of 1995. Every time someone has vacated the Real Madrid hot seat, and that’s been quite a lot over the last 5 or 6 seasons, Benitez’s name has been linked to the job.
To allow him now could completely destabilise Liverpools season with tragic results. They are not too far ahead of Chelsea and Aston Villa, it’s not too far a push to imagine Arsenal hitting a run or Everton for that matter to put pressure on 4th place. Whether Benitez is Liverpool manager next season is open to conjecture, he surely has to stay for the remainder of the season, doesn’t he? Alex Ferguson must be wondering just how much more good news he can get this season.