Rafa is staying and the league is his target

Real Madrid’s attempts to lure Rafael Benítez back to the club he’s always supported have failed, with the Spaniard choosing instead to stay on at Anfield. Rafa is determined to bring league title number nineteen to the club and couldn’t make it any clearer yesterday that he is staying with the club he made European Champions last season.

Off the record, it was confirmed yesterday that the Spanish giants had made a serious attempt to take him back home. It seems Real actually made Rafa an offer and Rafa listened, but more out of politeness than anything. Despite the offer of a massive improvement on his own personal terms and funds to buy practically anyone he liked at Real, his loyalty to the Reds could not be compromised. He used the approach as an opportunity to make sure the Reds board were as determined as him to bring more success to Liverpool, and he was soon reassured. Liverpool’s new investment is tantalisingly close.

Speaking on the record, Rafa explained how pleased he was with the support he was receiving from all sides at Anfield, support that played the biggest part in his decision to turn Madrid down: “It’s clear that I’m staying at Liverpool. I want to thank the fans, the chief executive and the board for their support. I’m happy here and I’m staying. I am very happy here and I want to win a lot more trophies with Liverpool. My relationship with the fans and the people at the club is fantastic.”

Rafa’s aim for this season is still to finish second in the league, but
next season he wants the ultimate spot in the league: “We will try to
finish second this season then look to try and win the Premiership next
season. It won’t be easy but we will try to sign the best players and
continue to work hard with a clear idea of winning more trophies.”

Rafa spoke off the record after a recent press conference to say he
wanted to know the board were committed to bringing success to the
club. The press added their own twist to this and all of a sudden the
story going round was that Rafa had demanded between £25m and £40m this
summer for transfers. Benítez says he made no such demands: “The board
have the same ideas as me and I haven’t made any demands. They know we
need to improve and we will continue to work hard.” On whether
Liverpool can win the Premiership next time round, he said: “It depends
on Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and maybe Tottenham but we will
Rafa’s decision to leave Valencia was one that clearly upset him – he
was in tears at the press conference announcing his departure. He had
received poor support from the president at that club despite bringing
success. At Anfield he knew he was embarking on a challenge, and it’s
one he’s desperate to see through: “When I decided to come to Liverpool
I knew it was a big club, one of the biggest in the world that was
capable of fighting for trophies. As a manager, you must be proud that
a big club like Real Madrid talk about you and your future, but I will
be here next season and I hope for a very long time.”

Inter Milan have also shown interest, but that is something fans can
see as a positive about their boss. He’s coveted by the others and that
gives him pride, but not itchy feet: “I am proud that big clubs talk
about me but I have a responsibility here and I am grateful for the
support people have given to me. I like to do the things that I say. In
this case, I want to be careful with the people who are supporting us.
I will turn down a better offer and the main reason is the people here.”

Rafa is more than happy with his personal terms at the club; the
one-year extension to his contract is more of a symbolic gesture than
an attempt to make sure he stays. Those who assume that he’ll leave if
the likes of Inter and Real come calling don’t realise how happy he is
at Anfield, and how big the Reds are: “If I am happy here, I don’t need
to hear or read things about my future. My future will be here. In this
case, Real Madrid and Inter Milan are fantastic clubs, but so are
Liverpool. I have a responsibility and I must continue doing my job. I
cannot say I will go because I receive a good offer. I am grateful and
I want to give the fans and the board more trophies if it is possible.
If you are at a club where everything is right, the atmosphere is good,
there is no need to change.”

Rafa will work with whatever funds he is given, but says at a recent
meeting with chairman David Moore and chief executive Rick Parry they
were all in agreement that more money should make things easier: “I
want to improve and I want to see the club progressing, but I think we
are working in the right way. I never thumped my fist on the table with
demands. Always I say the same – if you have more money, it will be
easier. But we will continue working. I’ve spoken with the board and
they have told me they have the same idea. They want to win trophies
and they are working hard to improve. For me, that is enough.”

So the next big target is the Premiership: “This can be our target for
next season. This won’t be easy, but, in football, anything is
possible. This season we have a better team than last season and next
season we will have a better team than this season. We will continue to

Don’t expect the club to buy every player they are linked with this
summer, but unless something unexpected happens now the squad will be
strengthened extensively before the new season kicks off.