Friday’s Papers: Rafa did not win over club

Finally! After a two week absence, football we actually care about is back this weekend. The Reds don’t play until Sunday, at home to Mark Hughes’ Manchester City, and could potentially be eight points behind league leaders Manchester United, should Alex Ferguson’s men beat Blackburn at home on Saturday. So this Sunday’s match is a must-win game, and vital in Liverpool maintaining the pressure at the top of the Premier League.

There’s not much mention of team news however in this morning’s back pages, but there is a few more questions raised over Rafa Benitez’s new contract.

Earlier this week it was reported that the Spaniard is all set to put pen to paper on a new deal to stay at the club, after convincing the club to give him more power regarding transfers. However, this morning’s broadsheets suggest this may not be the case.

Ian Herbert of The Independent says Benitez will remain in the shadows regarding transfer policy, much to his frustration.

Hicks and Gillett apparently insistent that they will expect to take each request for a player on merit, this summer. It was the Americans’ decision that £18m was too much to lay out on Gareth Barry which has been a source of such rancour to Benitez, though the Spaniard’s original estimate of the Aston Villa midfielder’s value ‘“ at least £6m less ‘“ contributed to a belief shared by both owners that the Midlands club’s demands were unrealistic as the process drew out.

There’s also contrasting rumours from Anfield on whether Benitez will have more of a say in the club’s youth system and academy, thought to be high on his agenda when negotiating a new contract. Herbert continues:

There are conflicting views on whether control over Liverpool’s youth academy is the outstanding issue to be resolved before Benitez signs his new deal. Sources within the club suggest that control over the academy has never been realistic and is not an issue, though others suggest that the Spaniard is intent on being allowed to oversee that side of the club’s overall development.

The Times report that Benitez still has a couple of issues to iron out before signing the new contract. One being the assurance that his coaching staff will be offered new contracts as well, and that negotiations on new deals with several top players will progress faster.

All parties hope that the contract saga will be resolved imminently, but Benítez has asked the board to guarantee job security for his various assistants, most of whom have only months to run on their contracts at Anfield.

Benítez also remains concerned about the lack of progress in negotiations over new contracts for Daniel Agger, Álvaro Arbeloa and Dirk Kuyt, whose deals expire at the end of next season.

Liverpool vs Manchester City kicks off at Anfield at 3pm on Sunday, 22nd February.