Benitez future still in the balance

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The conclusion to Rafael Benitez's contract negotiations will now take centre stage in the wake of chief executive Rick Parry's confirmed departure from the club at the end of the season.

But the Liverpool boss on Friday claimed there had been no new talks since the Champions League win against Real Madrid on Wednesday and it could be a fortnight before more negotiations resume, which could set alarm bells ringing at Anfield.

Those worries will be fuelled by fears raised by City financiers involved in the possible sale of the club that Benitez may be stalling and will not sign a new deal until he knows who possible new owners could be. One source said: "He is in a strong position. The owners will get a better price if he stays as manager, that has been confirmed to them by advisors to a Middle East group interested in buying."

Benitez wants the financial muscle to compete with Manchester United in the transfer market and, if he discovers potential new owners are not in the super-rich bracket, he may consider the change of power is no better than the current owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Benitez will now put Champions League progress and a defiant bid for the Barclays Premier league title above all other considerations.

It would not be inconceivable Benitez could delay signing a new deal until the summer when Hicks and Gillett have to refinance loans.

If they fail to get more finance, the club's ownership would be thrown into crisis, and Benitez may well want an exit plan.

He said on Firday: "There are always rumours in Liverpool. While we were in Madrid it was about me, now it is this. But we will always do the right things for the club.

"It is important to finalise my contract but we have been working for months on this so let's see where we go from here.

"In terms about my contract, we will have new talks maybe next week or the week after. We will see whether we can progress, it is not about who is there (Anfield) or not at the moment, it is about the future."

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