Rafael Benitez twice cancels Liverpool showdown talks
By David Bond
BBC Sports Editor
Benitez had promised to get Liverpool back into the Champions League
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has cancelled two scheduled face-to-face meetings with the club's new chairman, Martin Broughton.
Benitez claimed on Monday that he was anxious to "meet with the chairman sooner rather than later".
But it is understood that he pulled out of talks with Broughton last week and another the week before.
A further meeting is scheduled for this week amid speculation about Benitez's future with the club.
Liverpool went out of the Europa League last week and have failed to qualify for next season's Champions League.
It is not clear why Benitez cancelled the meetings with Broughton, although the last two weeks have been affected by preparations for Liverpool's Europa League semi-final meetings with Atletico Madrid.
The first week in particular was heavily disrupted as Benitez's team were forced to make the long journey to the Spanish capital by road and rail after flights were grounded by ash from the Icelandic volcano.
But, even allowing for that, there is some surprise inside the Anfield boardroom at the timing of Benitez's call on Tuesday for an urgent meeting with Broughton to discuss the future.
That plus the Spanish manager's request for assurances over his summer transfer kitty would seem to suggest that Benitez is stalling for time, with a possible £3.5m-a-year offer to quit Liverpool for Juventus thought to be on the table.
Benitez, who could receive somewhere between £10m and £15m in compensation were he to be sacked by Liverpool, was unavailable for comment but was quoted on Tuesday as saying: "I would like to meet with the chairman sooner rather than later to know his idea about the future.
"Still, we are working hard and planning for the future. Liverpool is a massive name in England and again in Europe. Everybody knows about the history of the club and the fans, so we can still attract players to improve the squad."
Liverpool have refused to comment on the cancelled meetings.
With the five-time European champions failing to qualify for the Champions League, attracting new players and keeping stars such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard will be much harder for Benitez.
The sale of the club, which is being conducted by British Airways chairman Broughton and investment bank Barclays Capital, could take months, meaning even more uncertainty over how much money will be available to strengthen Liverpool's squad during the close season.
Despite the constant swirl of rumours over Benitez's future, his agent has insisted that Juventus have not been in touch.
"We have not received any offers from any club," said Manuel Garcia Quilon.
"Benitez's aim is to remain at Liverpool and try to help the team improve with new owners.
"He is under contract and his wish is to remain at Liverpool."
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