Wednesday 26th May 2004 


Rafael Benitez will be the next Liverpool manager, according to reports in today's Liverpool Echo.
Speculation about Gerard Houllier's replacement has been unrelenting since the role became vacant on Monday, with Porto's Jose Mourinho, Charlton's Alan Curbishley and Benitez, currently at Valencia, all in the frame.

The Echo is confident that a deal to bring Benitez from the newly-crowned Spanish champions has already been done.

"Benitez will jump at the chance to follow Gerard Houllier into the Anfield hot-seat. He has already told associates he is relishing the prospect," they report.

"There are still negotiations to take place and technicalities to overcome, but the Kop will see Benitez take charge for Liverpool's first Premiership game in August.

"It would now take a monumental u-turn from the man himself to stop a deal going through over the next few weeks."

The club, however, refused to be drawn on the subject: "We are making no comment. Rick Parry is out of the country and no decision on the managerial side will be made until he is back."

But Benitez himself is not ruling out the move, saying earlier this week: "I have a contract, but football makes many turns and anything can happen.

"I am very happy here, but one day they are shouting your name and the next they are booing you."

Valencia president Jaime Orti has always maintained that the coach is going nowhere: "He will coach Valencia next season," he said.

"He has one more year left on his contract with Valencia and our intention is to extend our relationship with him even further."

Indeed, Benitez is the most successful coach Valencia have ever had, and by his own admission would like to secure a Champions League title before he looks to move on from Spain, where he is a big favourite with the fans.