LIVERPOOL // The Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has reportedly rejected the terms of a new contract offer because it does not guarantee him enough control over the club's transfer policy. The Spaniard has accepted the length of the deal and salary offered by the American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, but the Liverpool Echo reported that Benitez refused to sign it because he was not given enough power to sign new players.
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 the England midfielder Gareth Barry. "The owners feel that the manager's decisions need to be subject to the chief executive," the paper quoted Benitez as saying. "But I know that I am subject to results and to our fans and they are the best judges I will ever have."
Having won the 2005 Champions League at the end of his first season and returned to the final two years later, Benitez has guided Liverpool to the top of the Premier League this season. The Reds are in contention for their first English championship since 1990. 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.
"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 also wants more input into the running of the club's academy, which is supposed to supply players to Liverpool's first team. 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 Jurgen Klinsmann as a replacement months earlier. "My relationship with the owners is better than people think," Benitez said. "I have regular contact with them and especially with Tom Hicks who has always been very supportive. The talks between my agent and the advisers of the owners have been very positive and friendly and our differences are about my responsibilities."