Rafa Benitez has revealed the role that one of Liverpool's passionate fans played in convincing him that he should commit himself to the club until 2014. The Spaniard signed his new deal yesterday, ending months of uncertainty over the outcome of difficult negotiations with the Reds' owners.
"It was a very easy decision for me to take because I only ever wanted to stay at this football club," Benitez said in his first interview since putting pen to paper.
The Reds boss told the Liverpool Echo that the desire of his wife, Montse, and two young daughters, to stay on Merseyside, and the backing he has received from the Anfield faithful, had been the key factors behind his decision to stay on.
"Last week I met with a supporter who carries a flag to every game," Benitez told the local newspaper. "The flag has a picture of me on it and the Spanish phrase siempre es possible and it is flown at all our home games. I saw it at the Bernabeu also when we played Real Madrid and I met the supporter who owns the flag at (Liverpool's training ground) Melwood last week.
"It was really funny because he was telling me 'you must sign' and saying 'I hope it is for ten years', but then he was changing his mind, 'no, no twenty years'. It was really funny but it also showed the incredible passion of the Liverpool fans and the support that they give to their manager."
Benitez was also moved last season, when supporters staged a protest at a UEFA Champions League game against Porto to demonstrate their backing for him in his dispute with the owners. "That is something I will never forget," Benitez said.
Tensions between Benitez and owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, became so acute that bookmakers stopped taking bets on the former Valencia coach leaving the club before the start of next season. He admitted he had feared that it would prove impossible to resolve the impasse in his contract negotiations, which had stalled over the degree of power the manager enjoyed over transfer policy and the development of the club's youth system.
"The conversations went on for a long time and because of that I was a bit worried," Benitez added. "But I never thought of leaving and in the end it has all been sorted out thanks to the hard work of everyone involved. From the very beginning everyone knew that I wanted to stay here."