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No. 50: Emre Can, Liverpool

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By ESPN Staff

Benitez planning clear-the-air talks with owners

Rafael Benitez hopes to have clear-the-air talks with Liverpool's American owners before the Premier League showdown with Manchester United next month.

The Anfield boss, with his position strengthened by the Champions League victory over Porto, experienced a week of acrimony with owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett that threatened his job.

Benitez had been told by the US sports moguls that they would not discuss transfers until they made their next trip to Merseyside for the clash with Sir Alex Ferguson's men on December 16.

That is after Liverpool's last group match in Marseille and would leave Benitez precious little time to plan ahead for the January transfer window.

But Benitez, while being careful not to upset the Americans with his transfer kitty demands, revealed today: 'I would hope to speak to the owners before the Manchester United game.

'I don't know if that is possible but we will try. But I don't know for sure.'

His answer to a question regarding whether he still had a January shopping list was met with the now familiar line: 'I am enjoying this result and concentrating on coaching and training my players.'

But Benitez, who has stopped short of apologising in public for his outbursts, was prepared to underline his own stance.

He added: 'My relationship with them was good before. Now we need to talk about what the problem was and move on.

'Maybe my English is not that good, maybe that was the problem. But it is clear we have to understand the situation and talk to each other.

'We must decide what is best for the future of the club, we can manage that. We will, I am sure, try to do that.

'I prefer only to say that as a manager you can only think about your squad. So January is nearly here and next summer is close also.

'So you must do your job, and I was trying to do this. Maybe we should talk now and analyse the situation. But I only want to talk, it is easier to talk face to face rather than to send e-mails or talk by phone.'

Benitez had received astonishing backing from the Liverpool fans before, during and after the 4-1 mauling of Porto, and they chanted 'Rafa's going nowhere' as they celebrated a victory that keeps alive the club's Champions League dreams.

But the row with the Americans, and how Benitez continues to handle the volatile situation, has become key to the club's immediate future.

Benitez added: 'We knew the fans were preparing something, I was being told about the petition on the internet. But all I wanted was for everyone to calm down, in particular the players.

'They had to prepare for the game properly. But you hear and see the support, but then I have always known that our fans are the best in the world.

'We have talked (with the owners) bout different issues, but we did not have the same opinion at this moment.

'But I am sure we will talk again, they will understand and I will also understand their ideas.

'But I was hearing it was all about my ego. That is not true, the team is my responsibility. I can stay around and at the end of the month just go to collect my wages.

'But I cannot be like that, I want to improve my team and my squad. That is what I was trying to do. But I can only repeat that I do not have any personal problems with the owners.'

Benitez has also received support from Fernando Torres, the Spanish international who produced two fine goals against Porto that went a long way towards lifting the pressure on his manager.

He said: 'The atmosphere was amazing. For many reasons, because all that was going on this week with Rafa, the people here really got behind the team when we needed their backing most.

'They really support you as much as they can and that is a gift for all of us.

'It was great for those that had never enjoyed a night like this before, and especially for Rafa because we have seen that the supporters are really behind him.

'I think Benitez is more than a manager. He is one of the greats in their history and people feel that way about him and they show it.

'We all had an idea that he is special here but, honestly, what I saw at Anfield was really impressive.

'I am really impressed at how much he is loved by the people, above anything else, even the players.

'I feel their affection, the support for my team-mates, and with each passing day I am feeling more a part of this and happier with everything. In the end those things are reflected on the pitch.'