Rafa uncertainty overshadows derbies

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Football News

Liverpool's players face going into the most crucial point of their season so far with uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of manager Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard has turned down a new contract after the owners refused his demands for complete control of transfers.

Co-owner Tom Hicks is trying to smooth over the cracks, but the timing of the row could not be worse - Liverpool face two derby matches with Everton, in the league on Monday and then in the FA Cup next weekend.

The results could determine the success or failure of their season, with Manchester United poised to take over at the top of the Premier League.

Hicks however has promised the Spaniard would be with the club for years to come.

He said: "I will be working with Rafa to get this resolved - and I am just not worried about it at all. Rafa is going to be coach of Liverpool for the next five years, and we will work through all this.

"Rafa has been frustrated for a long time at the length of time it has taken certain things to happen. We understand that and are committed to working with him. We can fix it - and we will. Rafa wants to be the manager and will be the manager."

But unless Hicks and co-owner George Gillett cave in to his demands then Benitez could walk away - just as he did at previous club Valencia over exactly the same dispute.

Benitez is still furious the club failed to secure Gareth Barry from Aston Villa in the summer after they refused to match Villa's asking price.

Club insiders say as a result the Spaniard is demanding the sort of control over spending, wages and terms and conditions that would make him the most powerful manager in the world - considerably more powerful even than the control Sir Alex Ferguson exerts at Manchester United.

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Gareth Barry
Premier League
Manchester United
Aston Villa
FA Cup

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