Rafa says contract not yet signed

After Liverpool’s 5-1 defeat of Fulham tonight reporters waiting to speak to Rafael Benítez had one burning question to ask the Spaniard. Reports from Spain before the match suggested that Rafa had put pen to paper on a twelve-month extension to his contract, including a pay-rise. The reports however were ever so slightly premature; Rafa had not actually signed his new deal yet. Rafa insisted there was no rush – he’s not planning to go anywhere yet – but admitted he was discussing an extension: “We are talking, but I’m happy here and they are happy with me. It is not a problem.”

The recent links with Real Madrid and Inter Milan, mixed Rafa’s off-the-record admission that he wants some decent transfer funds in the summer have seen doubt cast in the minds of some Reds about the coach’s future. After nearly helping Steven Gerrard go to Chelsea over the last two summers, the press were now getting their teeth into helping engineer a move away from Anfield for Rafa. Rick Parry doesn’t want to be caught out this time though, and a contract is now ready for Rafa to sign once his agent has had time to review it. So no signature, but Rafa is almost certainly going to sign it. For now though he maintains that there is no hurry: “We are talking about the future, I have three years left on my contract here so there is no hurry. I have not signed anything. We know that I am happy here and we are talking. It is not a problem because the relationship is really good. My relationship with the fans is excellent, as is my relationship with the board. We are happy, I am happy and there is not a problem at all with our relationships. But the only thing I have been signing tonight has been autographs.”

After putting that story straight Rafa moved on to the other hot topic
– Liverpool’s striker’s goal drought. It ended tonight for three of the
strikers, and the other striker was involved in two of the goals.
Robbie Fowler’s first goal for Liverpool since Gerard Houllier forced
him out was the highlight for most, but Rafa said he was happy for all
the goalscorers: “They were all waiting to score and it was important
for their confidence that they did. Everybody will want to talk about
Robbie’s first goal since he returned here, but I was equally pleased
with the goals from the other strikers too. I can understand you
wanting to talk about Robbie’s goal and it is important for him to
score, but it is also important for Morientes and Crouch. Perhaps this
will end all this talk about our strikers not scoring and it gives me a
selection problem for our next match against Newcastle.”

Robbie himself was pleased too: “It’s been a long time and people have
pointed that out. It’s so pleasing to get off the mark again. Another
pleasing thing is that our other strikers have scored as well so that
should take the heat off us a bit.”

For Fulham manager Chris Coleman the biggest disappointment was the
scoreline. He felt it didn’t reflect the performance his team had put
in and that they might have even deserved a point: “The scoreline looks
as if something is terribly wrong, but we played some lovely stuff out
there and at 2-1 there was a lull in the crowd because Liverpool were
starting to get nervous. It looked as if we had been battered after
those last few minutes, but I cannot criticise the players after that.”

Coleman felt tonight’s his side had showed improvement: “I was not
happy with the way we played at Everton on Saturday and told them that,
but we played some very good stuff – it is never easy when you come to
Anfield. We have been smashed by Arsenal, beaten at Everton, but did
not think we deserved to lose by five after the way we played.”

At the end a few Fulham players were remonstrating angrily with referee
Alan Wiley, but Coleman said this was a sign of unhappiness after the
defeat: “It was pure frustration, we had just lost 5-1 and some of the
lads were very upset by some of the decisions that had gone against us.”