• Juventus want Liverpool manager to replace Ciro Ferrara
• 'In football you never know,' says Benítez's agentJuventus have identified Rafael Benítez as the man to replace Ciro Ferrara as manager and hope to capitalise on the Spaniard's frustration with financial constraints at Liverpool with an imminent approach for his services.
Ferrara is close to the sack following a run of six defeats in eight games, the latest courtesy of a stoppage-time winner by the former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise for Roma, and officials at the Turin club have drawn up a list of possible replacements for the inexperienced coach. Liverpool's manager is understood to head their list and will be formally invited to join Juventus once Ferrara has departed, although Benítez could delay his appointment until the summer should he choose to accept.
Benítez is aware of the Italians' interest and his agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, last night refused to rule out the possibility of a stunning departure from Anfield. "Benítez to Juventus? In football you never know," Quilon said. "I don't know what will happen in four to five months. In football everything changes quickly, but the basic principle is that Rafa still has a four-year contract with Liverpool." Benítez's agent insisted, however, that a move to Juventus is not a fait accompli. Quilon added: "Right now, that hypothesis is not correct, because he is a very important figure [at Anfield]. The idols of the fans are [Steven] Gerrard, [Fernando] Torres, and Benítez."
With the gamble on Ferrara yet to pay dividends Juventus want a more experienced, proven coach to take control at Stadio delle Alpi. The coveted Guus Hiddink, whose uncertain future as Russia coach has placed several Premier League clubs including Liverpool on alert, priced himself out of a move to Turin by demanding £3m to reprise his Chelsea fire-fighting role from last season and take charge until the end of this campaign, plus a £6m-a-year salary thereafter.
Benítez earns around £4m a year basic at Anfield under the terms of the five-year contract he signed last March. Juventus may struggle to match those terms but Benítez could earn more net in Italy on a reduced contract, given the 50% tax rate that comes into effect in Britain in April.
While Benítez, a fluent Italian speaker who cites the former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi as his tactical role-model, has been fiercely loyal to Liverpool he has become increasingly dismayed at the impact of the club's substantial debt on his squad. The 49-year-old is acutely aware that the problems caused by the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett will ultimately affect his reputation, indeed he has attracted fierce criticism for a poor season, and there is a sense a move to a club of Juventus' standing may suit all parties.
The Liverpool hierarchy intend to review Benítez's position at the end of this campaign, one that has brought an early exit from the Champions League, FA Cup, Carling Cup and no Premier League title challenge, but cannot afford the maximum £16m he could claim if sacked. Hicks and Gillett would not face such a crippling bill should their manager walk away, although they hope to improve the club's finances with new investment in the coming months.
With his job under pressure Benítez may view Juventus as a welcome release, even though the Italians' hierarchy is also beset by problems. Luciano Moggi, the former director general who was disgraced in the Calciopoli scandal, launched an outspoken attack on the club president Jean-Claude Blanc yesterday, saying: "Juventus are paying the price for the inadequacy and incompetence of their directors".
Several Italian newspapers are reporting that, should Benítez accept the Juventus offer, Hiddink would replace the Spaniard at Anfield. They include La Stampa, which is owned by the Exor investment company and whose chairman, John Elkann, is also vice-chairman of Juventus and the grandson of the club's late former owner, Gianni Agnelli. Last week Liverpool officials rejected claims by Hiddink's agent that they had made an approach for the Dutchman.
Benítez's transfer strategy has stalled in recent days with Ryan Babel remaining at the club despite earlier attempts to offload him, Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones priced out of his reach and no answer, as yet, on the pre-contract offers made to strikers Milan Jovanovic of Standard Liège and Bordeaux's Marouane Chamakh. On the eve of tonight's Premier League visit to Wolves, where Gerrard will return from a hamstring injury, Benítez admitted he does not expect to see any of the money Hicks will raise through the £350m Sale
of his Texas Rangers baseball franchise. He also confirmed the club's balancing act in the transfer market is an attempt to entice new investors to Anfield.
"I don't think so, no," Benítez said of Hicks's windfall. "We are now run like a company and they are another company. It is a different thing. The majority of clubs are now run like companies. You have to think about football and business, both things together. This year we have done a fantastic job trying to balance the books and to do the right job for the company. In football, we had to take some risks and we have to improve now on the pitch.
"This year we have had to sell if we want to buy and keep things level. That's part of the risk, and sometimes it has gone well and sometimes less well. If people can see the club is healthy, it'll be easier to bring in investors." -----source-----