Reds manager Rafael Benitez on verge of Liverpool exit

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is on the verge of leaving the club, BBC Sport understands. Benitez will be offered a multi-million pound severance deal to quit Anfield and could depart by the weekend. The 50-year-old signed a five-year contract in March 2009, but failed to deliver success last season as the club missed out a Champions League place. Liverpool are £351m in debt and were earlier this year placed up for sale by co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

The ownership of the club by the American pair has drawn protests from Liverpool fans and news of Benitez’s impending departure will also lead to question marks over the futures of several key players. Captain Steven Gerrard, star forward Fernando Torres and Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano have all recently being linked with summer moves elsewhere, BBC reports.

BBC sports news correspondent Dan Roan said: “The board are in discussions with the manager about him leaving immediately. He is now certain to leave,” added Roan.

“A severance deal has been offered to Benitez and it is worth significantly more than the £3m that has been reported – he is entitled to £16m as a result of the contract he signed last year.

“The club are concerned that details being leaked out could undermine the severance deal, but significantly no replacement for Benitez has so far been approached, but that process is sure to begin shortly.” Roan added: “Benitez is currently on holiday but if he decides to accept their offer he could be out by the weekend.” The manager’s agent Manuel Garcia Quilon said he would speaking to Benitez on Thursday, adding: “We don’t know anything more than what’s being said. We’re not saying anything.”

Benitez has been linked to Italian giants Inter Milan, who are looking for a coach following Jose Mourinho’s move to Real Madrid and Fabio Capello committing himself to England until 2012. Academy director Kenny Dalglish, who won three league titles as manager at Anfield between 1985 and 1991, is believed to have been lined up as an interim replacement. Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill mentioned as potential targets to take over in the long-term. Benitez replaced Gerard Houllier at Anfield in June 2004 and enjoyed a successful start to his tenure as Liverpool won the Champions League the following season.

But they could only finish seventh in the Premier League last term despite finishing as runners-up to Manchester United the previous season. As well as the Champions League triumph, Benitez also steered Liverpool to the European Super Cup in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006 but the inconsistency of last season, where they lost 11 times in the league and exited the Champions League in the group stages, seems to have been a turning point. Benitez had suggested he would require in excess of £50m to put the club back in contention for the Champions League places, let alone the Premier League title.

And co-owner Hicks recently said Benitez would have a “substantial” transfer budget this summer despite he and fellow owner Gillett trying to sell the club – a process which could take 18 months, BBC reports.

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