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Rafael Benítez on the brink of leaving Liverpool over Anfield rift

Rafael Benítez could bid an emotional farewell to Anfield tomorrow after a breakdown of trust between the Liverpool manager and the board.

The club’s hierarchy believe Benítez is “playing games” as he weighs up an offer to take over at Juventus.

Sources at Anfield said last night that the situation looks increasingly untenable for both parties, but the mechanics of Benítez’s departure remain unclear because of two factors: the extraordinary sum of £16 million that he would be due as compensation if relieved of his duties and the uncertainty over the future ownership of the club.

The board insists that Benítez’s potential payoff will not stop it acting decisively. However, the Spaniard believes he has a watertight five-year contract, agreed only last year, which entitles him to be paid within 24 hours of having his contract terminated.

With at least two groups expressing serious interest in buying Liverpool from Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, the uncertainty may be prolonged until a takeover has been finalised, but the club’s hierarchy are prepared to discuss the matter with potential investors if they fear Benítez has become a “lame duck” manager after a wretched season in which they lie seventh in the Barclays Premier League with two matches remaining, the first against Chelsea in a potential title decider tomorrow.

Benítez has an arrangement with Christian Purslow, the managing director, to sit down at the end of the season, after the final Premier League fixture away to Hull City a week tomorrow, to discuss the future. Having not yet spoken to Martin Broughton, who was appointed as chairman a fortnight ago, Benítez fears the worst, but a swift resolution looks unlikely. The Liverpool board will not stand in Benítez’s way if he wants to join Juventus or any other club, which would at least spare it the payout.

Benítez said yesterday: “I decided to stay last year because of the fans and for one year I have been working hard, trying to do my best. We will see what happens in the future.”.