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MARTIN O'NEILL IS NUMBER ONE FOR LIVERPOOL


LIVERPOOL have decided to go British in their search for a new manager - with Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill their No. 1.

Today's match at Hull is still expected to be Rafa Benitez's last in charge.

In fact, it would be a major shock if he didn't become manager of Juventus within the next few weeks.

Liverpool, therefore, have started the search for a new boss with Ulsterman O’Neill, 58, top of their wanted list.

O’Neill’s future at Villa is again in doubt as he prepares for crunch talks with the club’s American owner Randy Lerner.

And sources close to the Villa gaffer believe there is a genuine chance that he’ll leave – putting Liverpool on red alert.

The Daily Star Sunday can reveal that Liverpool have put contract negotiations on hold with at least one player until they know who will be manager next season.

But the thinking within Anfield, with managing director Christian Purslow in charge of the search for a new coach is that they would prefer to make a British appointment.

Their last two bosses have been Frenchman Gerard Houllier and Spain’s Benitez.

Also under consideration are Roy Hodgson, who has led Fulham to this week’s Europa League Final in Hamburg against Atletico Madrid, and Alex McLeish at Birmingham.

And they also have the option of asking Kenny Dalglish, now the club’s Academy Ambassador, to take charge.

But O’Neill has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Benitez if his protracted move to Juventus finally materialises.