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Benitez 'close to new Reds deal'

Rafael Benitez
Benitez succeeded Gerard Houllier as Liverpool manager in 2004

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry says Rafael Benitez is "very close" to signing a new contract at the club.

The Spaniard arrived at Anfield in 2004 and his current deal as manager is not set to expire until 2010, but he is keen to extend his stay.

Benitez's spell in hospital following an operation to remove kidney stones has held up negotiations.

However, Parry told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme that he expected Benitez to sign in the near future.

"He is nearly there," said Parry. "The owners have made a commitment and said they wanted to extend and keep him. Clearly he wants to stay, so yes it will be done.

"We have had a few hold-ups this week with his unfortunate illness.

"That has slightly got in the way, but it won't be very long now. I cannot be specific, but it is very close now."

Benitez has presided over a superb first half of the season for Liverpool, and his side currently lead the Premier League, a point ahead of Chelsea and four clear of third-placed Aston Villa.

Benitez wants long-term contract

Liverpool have also reached the knockout stages of the Champions League, with Benitez set to go up against former club Real Madrid.

The 48-year-old former Valencia manager agreed a new four-year deal in 2006 and Liverpool's American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, have moved to secure his long-term future.

"For me, it's easy. I want to stay here - I am where I want to be. It's very simple," said Benitez last month when negotiations began.

"My family and I know how good the fans have been with us. The club is going forward and we have the new stadium project. There are a lot of positive things.

606: DEBATE
Marmite_Man

"I want to stay here for a long time. Clearly I would like to be here when the new stadium opens. The other day I was joking that if they offered me a 20-year contract I'd be really pleased."

Benitez has not always seen to eye to eye with Liverpool's American owners over the club's transfer policy but they appear to have patched up their differences in recent months.

Matters came to a head in the summer after the board baulked at Aston Villa's 18m asking price for midfielder Gareth Barry, a player Benitez was keen to add to his squad.

However, they did sanction a 20.3m move for striker Robbie Keane and the previous summer they paid an undisclosed club record fee for Spain forward Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid.

The fractious relationship had resulted in Benitez being linked with moves to Italy, or back to his native Spain with Real Madrid.

BENITEZ AT LIVERPOOL
Jun 2004: Leaves Valencia to take over at Anfield
May 2005: Wins Champions League with dramatic win over AC Milan on penalties
May 2006: Liverpool win the FA Cup after another win on penalties over West Ham
Jun 2006: Agrees new four-year deal with Liverpool
May 2007: Milan exact revenge by beating Liverpool in the Champions League final
Jul 2007: Signs Fernando Torres for an undisclosed club record fee

Despite the Reds finishing fifth in his first campaign at Anfield, Benitez won the Champions League after a dramatic penalty shoot-out against AC Milan and also guided the club to the final of the Carling Cup.

The following season Liverpool won the FA Cup and a year later they were back in the final of the Champions League but were defeated by Milan.

In a statement released on their behalf in November, Gillett and Hicks said: "Rafa continues to do a great job, we are really pleased with the progress of the team and we look forward to talking to him and his advisers about extending his contract."

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see also
Rafa recovers from kidney surgery
16 Dec 08 |  Merseyside
Benitez anger at pay rise claims
08 Dec 08 |  Liverpool
Fans make Liverpool takeover plea
07 Nov 08 |  Liverpool
Benitez issues warning to rivals
26 Oct 08 |  Premier League
Benitez & Parry hold peace talks
21 Aug 08 |  Liverpool
Benitez keen to stay at Anfield
18 Apr 08 |  Liverpool
Benitez signs new four-year deal
02 Jun 06 |  Liverpool
Liverpool appoint Benitez
08 Jun 04 |  Liverpool


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