JUVENTUS ENTICE RAFA BENITEZ
DUBAI International Capital are closing in on a £500million buy-out of Liverpool as manager Rafa Benitez prepares to join Juventus.
It will be all change at Anfield over the coming weeks with unpopular American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks relinquishing control and the club being forced to find a new boss.
In fact, the search for a new manager is already under way, with high-ranking Liverpool officials aware that Benitez has verbally agreed to join Serie A side Juventus at the end of the season on a £4.5m four-year deal.
Now it’s just a case of the Italians agreeing compensation with Liverpool for Benitez to end his six-year reign on Merseyside. There will also be a major upheaval in the boardroom with DIC, the investment arm of Dubai’s ruling family led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the front runner in the process to agree a deal with Gillett and Hicks.
DIC attempted to purchase the club in 2007 when major shareholder David Moores declared he was open to offers but then former chief executive Rick Parry recommended a sale to the Americans.
They were also in negotiations a year later to buy Gillett’s 50 per cent shareholding only for talks to break down. Now it could be third time lucky for Sheikh Mohammed, a regular visitor to this country through his passion for horse racing. DIC will also commit funds to build the much-anticipated new ground and make a considerable sum of money available for transfers. Prominent in the discussions is DIC chief and self-confessed Liverpool fan Sameer Al Ansari.
Whatever the outcome of the delicate negotiations, Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow knows he has to prepare for a future without Benitez. He is compiling a list of likely candidates which include Inter Milan’s Jose Mourinho, Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill, Ajax’s Martin Jol and former Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard.
But the eventual answer could lie closer to home with former manager Kenny Dalglish.
The Scot, who returned to Anfield under Benitez to assume a role in the academy and is also a Liverpool ambassador, would bring unity and the old boot room spirit back to the club. Benitez has become increasingly frustrated with life under Gillett and Hicks, believing that history is repeating itself. He left Valencia, where he won two Spanish titles and the UEFA Cup, famously stating: “I asked for a table and they bought me a lampshade” – a reference to players he wanted to sign.
Before facing Chelsea today at Anfield in what will almost certainly be his last home game as Liverpool manager, admitted: “I left Valencia because the conditions changed.” On his current situation at Liverpool he added: “I decided to sign a contract extension last summer because the squad was good and the money could be there. At the end the conditions have changed. “The season has not been good. That is clear.”