Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry is leaving at the end of the season in another sign of the off-field power struggles within the club, and his departure could give manager Rafa Benitez more control of the team.
|Rick Parry had reportedly fallen out with manager Rafa Benitez [GALLO/GETTY]
Benitez recently turned down a new deal to stay at the English Premier League because he wanted more influence over transfers and the development of young players.
Parry's surprise announcement Friday that he was leaving after 12 years at the club opens that door for the Spanish coach, depending on who replaces Parry.
On field focus?
Benitez said he hoped Parry and feuding American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. would help him concentrate on success on the field in the Premier League and Champions League.
"We have three months now of very, very important games so we must concentrate on that,'' Benitez said.
"We must be positive, work together and do what is best for the club.''
Benitez was unhappy when the club paid more than expected for striker Robbie Keane, who later was sold back to Tottenham, but did not give him the money to buy Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.
Despite their differences, Benitez described his relations with Parry as good and professional.
"In terms of the personal relationship it has been good, because we both want the best for the club,'' Benitez said.
"I do not see the situation as a power battle. The owners have decided to do this, now we both have to work together. I am sure that Rick, myself and the owners will do this until the end of the season.
"Clearly we want to work together, we want to win and we want to do well in the title race and in the Champions League. Those things are my main concern. I am sure we can work together to improve our chances and to win.''
Benitez claims innocence
Benitez said he has always tried to avoid the backroom discord at the club, although he recently turned down a five-year contract with the club he guided to a Champions League title in 2005.
That led to strong speculation that he would quit or be fired.
"I have always been talking about football operations, although people keep talking about power battles, but it is not about power,'' Benitez said.
"It is about the normal things that are football issues and the normal things that a manager does in a club.''
The club announced Parry's departure Friday without saying why he was leaving, but the move appeared to be linked to his tense relations with Hicks.
The 54-year-old Parry has been at Liverpool since 1997. His tenure reached a high point in 2005 when Liverpool won the Champions League for its fifth European Cup trophy.
The club said he agreed to stay until the end of the season to ensure a smooth transition.
"I have had 12 very exciting years at Liverpool and am extremely proud of what has been achieved by the club over that period,'' Parry said in a statement.
"The (Champions League) victory ... was a wonderful reminder of the many high points we have experienced. ...
"It has been a privilege to serve the club and as a lifelong supporter I wish the owners, Rafa, the players and the wonderful staff all the very best for the future.''
Parry was caught in the middle of the strained relationship between co-owners Hicks and Gillett.
Last April, Hicks asked Parry to resign, a move Parry branded "offensive.''
Parry sided with Gillett, but his position has remained unstable.
"Rick's commitment to Liverpool Football Club is epitomized by his desire to ensure that this transitional period is managed efficiently and we are grateful to him for his help. He will always remain a friend of the football club,'' Hicks said in the club statement.
Gillett added: "I would like to thank Rick for his significant service to the club and the assistance he has given us since we joined Liverpool. He has been integral to the club's success over the past decade and leaves with our best wishes for the future.''
Speculation grew earlier this week that Benitez was set to resign or be fired. British bookmakers even suspended betting on Benitez's future on Wednesday after being swamped with bets that he would go.
After Friday's announcement of Parry's departure, the bookmakers made Benitez odds-on to still be manager next season.
Liverpool is second in the Premier League, seven points behind leader Manchester United.