Friday 21st May 2004 


MourinhoLIVERPOOL have been bombarded with applications for the manager's post, even though a decision on Gerard Houllier's future won't be revealed until next week.

And emerging as an early front-runner to take over should Houllier depart is Valencia's Rafael Benitez.

No decision on Houllier is likely this weekend.

David Moores is currently on a break in Scotland.

It will be next week before a statement is made by the club either retaining his services or bringing Houllier's six-year reign to an end.

As speculation grows, representatives of several managers interested in the post have been trying to contact Liverpool officials.

The Reds are refusing to enter any such discussions. They have too much respect for the boss to openly court the attention of other managers while Houllier is still in charge.

But it has been an eyeopening few days for board members as potential successors manoeuvre into position.

Interested parties were pushing candidates' names forward in number even before it emerged Houllier's position was under review.

Benitez is believed to be desperate to meet Liverpool and discuss a possible move to Anfield.

Having led Valencia to a championship and UEFA Cup double this season, he's eyeing the chance to test himself in the Premiership.

Benitez began his coaching career with Real Madrid where he trained the 'B' side. He moved to Tenerife before success-fully moving to Valencia.

Whether Liverpool would recruit a European coach with a proven track record or go for someone with Premiership experience is another matter.

Charlton's Alan Curbishley is highly-rated, for example, but it would represent a risk to recruit someone who is unproven at such a huge club as Liverpool.

Porto's Jose Mourinho is also being touted by his representatives, but he's still favourite to join Chelsea when Claudio Ranieri is sacked.

With European knowledge, a track record and Premiership experience, it could be Ranieri who fits the bill at Anfield best of all should the board find itself in a position where they're seeking a new boss.

Liverpool Echo