Hicks: Benitez will sign contract
Liverpool co-owner is confident manager will sign new deal despite grumblings.
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2009 17:38 GMT

Benitez is reportedly enjoying a better relationship with Liverpool's American owners [GALLO/GETTY]
Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks expects Rafa Benitez to remain manager for the next five years despite having rejected a new contract because it did not guarantee enough control over the club's transfer policy.

The Spaniard has accepted the length of the deal and salary offered by American co-owners Hicks and George Gillett Jr., but refused to commit to the English Premier League leaders because he was not given enough power to sign new players.

Hicks, though, said on Friday that the owners will meet with Benitez at the end of January and expect to resolve any differences with the Spaniard - suggesting that they could be about to comply with his demands.

Meeting demands

Benitez is apparently keen to avoid a repeat of the situation before the start of this season, when Liverpool refused to meet Aston Villa's valuation for England midfielder Gareth Barry.

"Rafa's been frustrated for a long time about the length of time it takes for certain things to happen,'' Hicks said in an interview with British broadcaster Sky Sports.

"He's just trying to position himself to do the job better.

"There are balances that need to be done in English football and we'll work through these. We can fix this."

Hicks said he and Gillett will meet with Benitez on January 30 or 31 to talk over the detail of the manager's demands, which also include more input into how the youth academy is run.

Hicks, who also owns baseball's Texas Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars, said fans should be confident of a positive outcome.

"Rafa wants to be the manager and will be the manager," Hicks said.

"George and I will be working with the lawyers so this can be resolved and I'm just not worried at all.

"They should relax.

"Rafa's going to be at Liverpool for the next five years and we're going to work through all the little lawyer issues.''

George Gillett, left, and Tom Hicks have no concerns over Benitez's future [GALLO/GETTY]
Turnover rate

Benitez has presided over a large turnover of players during his tenure at Anfield with only captain Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia remaining from his first game in charge in August 2004.

But he expressed publicly his frustration that the owners were unwilling to sanction a fee of about then $36 million for Barry.

Hicks and Gillett viewed that as twice his value but agreed to pay Tottenham even more for striker Robbie Keane, who has scored just seven goals in 26 matches.

Hicks spoke publicly about the negotiations after Benitez told the Liverpool Echo newspaper that he had turned down a contract offer because the club wanted chief executive Rick Parry to approve all transfers.

"The owners feel that the manager's decisions need to be subject to the chief executive," Benitez said.

"But I know that I am subject to results and to our fans and they are the best judges I will ever have.''

Manager rights

The Spaniard wants to make decisions on how the club should spend its transfer budget in response to what he sees as the team's most pressing needs.

"I have a lot of experience in football at different clubs, and if you do not have a technical director and you are the manager you have to have control of the football decisions," Benitez said.

"But always within the confines of a budget which is controlled by the owners and the club.

"The only person who can decide the value of a player to his squad is the manager because he knows what elements are needed to improve the squad."

Benitez, who won the Spanish league with Valencia, was offered a one-year extension by Hicks in April during a power struggle between the owners.

Hicks had sounded out Juergen Klinsmann as a replacement months earlier.

"I've got a great relationship with Rafa this past year," Hicks said on Friday.

"We talk often and e-mail even more often.

"I've watched him do a great job this year.

"There's certainly no issues between the Rafa and owners in any way.

"There are issues he wants to work out to make it work better for the club."

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