Sunday, February 15, 2009

Liverpool's American owners set Benitez deadline on third offer

Liverpool's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are set to make Rafa Benitez a third contract offer this week - and they want it signed before next Sunday's game against Manchester City.

Having won major concessions about control over transfers, Benitez has sent back a second offer to the Americans, this time querying his role with the club's academy.

Now the owners are trying to rush through further amendments, believing any additional delay will hurt Liverpool as they battle for the Premier League title.

A senior source said last night: 'The major points have been agreed and we hope things will be finalised soon.' Benitez, who has been offered a four-and-a-half-year deal which will earn him £15million, has twice looked in detail at the offer.

Although his primary concern that he would have to report to chief executive Rick Parry on transfer targets has been satisfied, he wants it to be clear that he has overall responsibility for the club's youth policy, too.

He is now waiting for a response, although the owners know they will try to do that quickly.

Benitez originally set a deadline of November 30 to get a new contract offer but later turned down the deal. He has always said he wants full control of which players are bought and sold at Liverpool, although he understands he will be given a budget.

It follows a contentious summer at Anfield, when £20m striker Robbie Keane was signed but Benitez's No1 target Gareth Barry was not, because of Aston Villa's £18m asking price.

Hicks and Gillett met Benitez two weeks ago and agreed he would report to the board, rather than Parry, on transfers.

They also held informal talks with Aston Villa owner and fellow American Randy Lerner, finding out that Benitez is only after the powers that Martin O'Neill has at Villa Park.

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