Liverpool move to keep Benitez
Rafael Benitez has been rewarded for Liverpool's best start to a Premier League campaign with a move by the club to extend his contract as manager beyond 2010.
The Spaniard, who has been in charge at Anfield since 2004, will next week begin talks with the club's American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, on a new deal, Benitez revealed on Friday.
Benitez is hugely popular with the Liverpool fans but has had a troubled relationship with Gillett and Hicks. It emerged last year that the Americans had made an approach to Jurgen Klinsmann about possibly taking over from the Spaniard while Benitez has been publicly critical of their transfer policy and is regularly linked with other jobs, most notably at Real Madrid.
Differences between the manager and the boardroom have become less acute in recent months as Liverpool have shown signs that they are equipped to mount a serious bid to claim the club's first English title since 1990.
Benitez revealed that contract talks were planned on Liverpool's official website. "I received a phone call from Tom Hicks on behalf of George Gillett also," Benitez said. "They are talking about a meeting with my advisors and a contract extension. This is very positive news.
"We decided to meet in the next week and now my advisors are in contact with them. We haven't spoken about the length of the contract but we talked and we all want to find a solution as soon as possible."
Benitez has a young family who are settled in the Liverpool area and he added: "For me it's easy. I want to stay here - . 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."
Benitez, who joined Liverpool after guiding Valencia to back-to-back Spanish titles, signed a new four-year deal in 2006 after leading the Merseyside club to their fifth European Cup triumph in his first season in charge.
Liverpool's plans for a new 60,000-plus stadium to replace Anfield are currently on hold as Gillett and Hicks grapple with the fallout from the global economic downturn.
But Benitez is clearly confident that the £400m development will eventually go ahead, allowing Liverpool to rival the likes of Manchester United in terms of match day revenues.
"I want to stay here for a long time," Benitez added. "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 also hopes that an end to speculation over his future will ensure there is no repeat of the behind-the-scenes turmoil which undermined Liverpool's campaign last season.
"The team is in a very good position, so if I do not have to talk about my contract from now on it will be perfect," he said. "The last two or three press conferences I have been asked and asked, so the stability is really important.
"The owners know we are doing well. The atmosphere is really good, we are at the top of the league and our Champions League group. The team is playing well."
Gillett and Hicks released a statement underlining their pleasure at the way things are going for Liverpool on the pitch. "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 advisors about extending his contract," it read.