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Shocked Benitez "not thinking of resigning"

After steering Liverpool to a memorable 1-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Real Madrid, Rafael Benitez dismissed reports that he is planning to resign and insists he remains confident of progress in prolonged contract negotiations.

The build-up to Wednesday night's victory in the Bernabeu, sealed by a late Yossi Benayoun header to put the Reds in pole position to progress to the last eight, was marred by widespread reports that Benitez was poised to quit.

However, the Spaniard insists: ''I was very surprised to hear rumours that I was going to resign. I can assure you that I have not been considering such a move, and it was a shock to hear such suggestions.

''It needs to be clear that I was not thinking of resigning. My aim is to keep working and winning and to tell the owners that on the pitch.''

Benitez has been locked in talks with owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks over a new four-year deal for several weeks. And he strenuously refuted claims he was considering his position, reiterating he is happy at the club.

''My lawyers and advisors have been talking to the club's owners over the past few days about the contract and I believe that problems we have can be overcome. I expect talks to continue between my lawyers, my advisors, myself and the owners,'' added Benitez.

''I am really pleased with my position at the club, I have not been thinking about resigning. My aim is to win every game that is possible for this club, and my advisors will continue to talk. We will see what happens then. We are still talking, so we will see what happens in the future.

''I was not thinking about resigning, obviously I cannot control other things that I could be fired, but I was just concentrating on the game. The club has made it clear this rumour was not true. That is important for everyone.

''Stability is the key if you want to be successful. And the players were able to do their talking on the pitch, not beforehand.''

It is believed that Benitez is hoping to gain more autonomy over club business, particularly transfers, from chief executive Ricky Parry and this has led to fractious relationship between the two.

Problems between manager and chief executive have been exacerbated by each taking a different side in the civil war between Liverpool's US co-owners; Parry is aligned with Gillett and Benitez has sided with Hicks.

Hicks and Gillett have clashed over the running of the club and the current economic climate is thought to have added further strain, but at present an uncomfortable truce appears to have taken hold as they try to steady the club.

Benitez was thrilled with the victory which gives him the opportunity to lead Liverpool to the Champions League quarter-finals for the fourth time in five seasons.

''This was a very important victory,'' he said. ''Particularly as we did not have Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres was troubled by an ankle injury from the first minute.

''But we were able to play them on the counter-attack. We knew how Real play and we were able to organise our tactics accordingly.''

Benitez expects Torres to miss Saturday's trip to Middlesbrough with his ankle injury, but believes Gerrard could start the game following the hamstring injury that restricted his involvement against Real to the last few minutes.

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