Benitez denies problems with Liverpool's owners
Rafael Benitez provided a sense of the unrepaired damage which still exists in his relationship with Liverpool's American owners yesterday as he revealed that their much-heralded meeting this weekend will be their first contact since his public show of indignation about his status at Anfield.
Benitez refuses to be drawn into open discussion of his relationship with George Gillett and Tom Hicks – he batted away questions yesterday with a joke about the standard of his English and talked of Manchester United's arrival on Sunday. But Benitez, who considers himself the club's "manager" rather than "coach" – presumably with the the responsibility for transfer policy which that entails – spoke several times about returning to the way things were before the row, sparked by the Americans' insistence that chief executive Rick Parry be the man they work with on new signings.
"I'm not worried about the meeting," Benitez announced yesterday. "It's clear we were trying to do the best for our club and they were trying to do the same. We just need to find an answer to the misunderstanding. Working as we were before, we were winning. It will be more or less the same situation."
Benitez said he has not been told whether the meeting will take place on Sunday evening or next week – though he suggested it will be after, rather than before, the United match which will provide the Americans with a sense of how realistic their Premier League title hopes really are.
Though Gillett was in Marseilles on Tuesday night to see Liverpool get the Champions League victory they needed to progress, Benitez's only link with the owners has been through the owner's son, Foster, whose return to Liverpool has eased tensions. "With Foster we know more or less what the situation is," Benitez reiterated yesterday.
Though Liverpool's midweek victory leaves them buoyant ahead of United's arrival, the club were consulting security specialists yesterday after it emerged Steven Gerrard had become the sixth player from the club in the past 18 months to be the victim of burglary. Gerrard's wife, Alex Curran, was confronted by four burglars at the couple's mansion while Gerrard played in Marseilles. Merseyside police said four men, wearing dark clothing, hoods and balaclavas, entered the property and stole jewellery.