Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez has signed a new contract with Liverpool, keeping him at the club until 2014.
Rafa’s existing contract had one more season to run after this summer, helping to feed speculation for most of the season that he was going to be managing elsewhere next season.
That speculation reached its peak just before Liverpool’s first-leg win over Real Madrid in the Champions League, with major media outlets reporting Rafa was to leave following that game. But the week ended with a different name on the way out – Rick Parry’s departure at the end of the season was announced on the Friday.
The news was announced officially on the club’s own website at 9pm, allowing just enough time for tomorrow’s back pages to reflect the news.
Rafa told LiverpoolFC.tv that he was delighted: “My heart is with Liverpool Football Club, so I’m delighted to sign this new deal. I love the club, the fans and the city and with a club like this and supporters like this, I could never say no to staying. I always made clear I wanted to be here for a long time and when I complete my new contract it will mean I have spent over a decade in Liverpool.
“The club is greatly respected around the world due to its incredible history and tremendous heritage. It is my aim to uphold those values and help create a new chapter in our history.”
Rafa’s quotes included an acknowledgement to the club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, for their part in giving him the deal he’d wanted: “Throughout this process, I would like to thank the owners for their hard work in finalising the deal. All of us at the club want the same thing, which is to be successful by winning major trophies.”
Tom Hicks said: “It is wonderful news that Rafa has made a long-term commitment to the football club. Since he became Manager in 2004, he has been responsible for the great progress we have made. I know he will continue to build on his achievements as he has a tremendous hunger and desire to bring more success to the club – success our fans and everyone connected with the club deserves.” Hicks had said at the height of the club’s civil war, last season, that he wanted to give Rafa a new deal.
George Gillett has never made too much of a secret of his true feelings about Rafa, but he still had some good things to say in the official announcement: “With Rafa continuing to manage the team, we can look forward to more great football and success on the pitch. He has special abilities and qualities which are admired here at the club and around the world. Coming after our excellent wins over Real Madrid and Manchester United, this gives us great momentum going into the final stages of the season.”
It also makes Liverpool a more attractive prospect to potential investors, and Rafa’s decision to sign such a long-term deal suggests he felt reassured the turmoil of the past 18 months would soon be resolved.
Another reassurance will have come when Rick Parry’s end-of-season departure was announced, paving the way for Rafa’s contract to include the terms giving him more responsibility that he felt were so important.
Stories this morning suggested Rafa was refusing to sign his contract having already decided to leave for Real Madrid. But the authors of those stories will now be perhaps be questioning how reliable those particular sources were.