Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rafa on the brink on Juve move

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez looks to be on the verge of confirming his switch to Juventus.

Benitez has been under heavy pressure this season and, following the Europa League exit to Atletico Madrid on Thursday, he refused to answer questions over his future.

"At the moment I can't talk about the future long-term," Benitez said on Friday. "I know the future clearly and it is Chelsea on Sunday.

"I decided to stay last year because of the fans and for one year I have been working hard, trying to do my best. We will see what happens in the future."

Asked if he would be at the club next season, Benitez said: "I want win against Chelsea and then Hull, and that is all. I am here now, and hopefully I will still be here on Sunday against Chelsea."

Widespread reports in England and Italy now suggest the move is on the verge of completion and Soccernet spoke to its Italian contact in Turin, who confirmed: "Here in Turin, it is more or less accepted that the deal has been done.

"The reality is that it is actually the same strength as a month ago when I last told you that Juve believe they have got their man. They still do. In fact, here they are just waiting for Liverpool to come out and confirm it. Certainly there is no one at Liverpool who is in a position to say they want Benitez to stay.

"There is one last sticking point and that is that Benitez is seeking a golden handshake, compensation for going. He is expecting compensation. The Italian media are heading off today to Liverpool for what we believe will be the final chapter at Anfield for Benitez."

Following the news that owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr were ready to sell Liverpool, Benitez spoke enthusiastically about a potential takeover from China that would release funds for new players that might tempt him to stay.

However, Benitez does not trust the owners to sell, and there have been indications that prospective new investors or owners have been scared off because of the price being quoted.

Benitez would be due £16 million in compensation if he were to be sacked and, as such, may be eager to delay confirmation of his departure. Sources at Anfield have suggested he will threaten to stay on if he is not paid off.

Benitez plans to sit down with Christian Purslow, the managing director, after the final Premier League fixture away to Hull City to discuss his future, but in Italy they are sure he is heading to Turin.

A report in Gazzetta dello Sport stated Benitez would be allowed to work with a budget of around €80 million at Juventus, with Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Javier Mascherano apparently targeted. That budget would be dependent, however, on off-loading a number of players.

Corriere dello Sport has said Benitez has lined up Simon Kjaer of Palermo and Juan Manuel Vargas of Fiorentina.

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