Benitez determined to be finally heard at Inter

(AFP files) Rafael Benitez
(AFP files) Rafael Benitez

MILAN, June 10, 2010 (AFP) - When Rafael Benitez left Valencia in 2004 he made no attempt to hide his disgust at the lack of support given to him by the Spanish club's directors.

Benitez's colourful claim that "I asked for a table and they bought me a lampshade" was meant to convey his frustration at meddling in his transfer plans by Valencia's director of football.

In hindsight the poetic image did rather more than that; it revealed Benitez's determination to defend his own agenda even if it might be wiser to opt for a more diplomatic course.

Fast forward six years and Benitez is on his way to European champions Inter Milan a week after having once again packed his bags under a cloud following his departure from Liverpool by "mutual consent".

Benitez has signed a two-year deal until mid-2012 with the Italian outfit where he is finally hoping his voice will be heard by club bosses.

Once more the 50-year-old felt he has been hard done by after failing to persuade the Reds' hierarchy to back him in the transfer market following a season of woeful underachievement.

When he met with Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton and managing director Christian Purslow this month, Benitez was hoping to hear he would be given 50 million pounds (60 million euros) or more to transform a squad that finished seventh in the Premier League -- the club's worst final position for 11 years.

Instead he was offered a fraction of that and, with Inter Milan making it clear they are keen to lure him to the San Siro, the Spaniard decided it was better to cut his losses, rather than limp on with the team and club's future far from certain.

On the pitch, Benitez quickly became a legend with Liverpool fans as he inspired a relatively weak squad to win the Champions League in his first season.

Heroic displays against Juventus, Chelsea and then AC Milan in the final earned Benitez a place in Anfield folklore forever.

Fans still talk in hushed tones about the comeback from 3-0 down at half-time to beat Milan on penalties in Istanbul, and Benitez seemed to have cemented his powerbase when he won the FA Cup, again on penalties, against West Ham in 2006.

But a return to the Champions League final in 2007 ended in disappointment as AC Milan gained revenge for Istanbul with a 2-1 win in Athens.

Benitez chose the immediate aftermath of that defeat to make a public plea to Liverpool's owners for a major transfer kitty.

That run-in with the board was just the latest in a long line of disagreements with Liverpool's powerbrokers that undermined his six-year reign at Anfield.

Benitez's relationship with chief executive Rick Parry became tense as he bemoaned the failure to tie up signings quickly.

Parry's departure, when it eventually came, was inevitable. But American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, who bought the club in 2007, fared little better as Benitez complained about the amount of cash available to him.

Just months after they arrived, Hicks told Benitez to "concentrate on coaching" after the latest in a long line of barbs from the Spaniard towards his employers.

The Americans responded with a reported enquiry to Jurgen Klinsmann to see if the former Germany manager would be willing to replace Benitez.

That was enough to ensure Benitez would never have a stable relationship with Hicks and Gillett.

Yet despite his complaints, Benitez was still allowed to spend millions on the likes of Fernando Torres, Robbie Keane, Ryan Babel, Peter Crouch and Alberto Aquilani, with varying degrees of success.

It seemed he had found the formula to win the title for the first time in 20 years after Liverpool finished just behind Manchester United in 2009.

But within months that dream had evaporated as the Reds tumbled out of the Champions League in the group stage before finishing 23 points behind champions Chelsea in the Premier League.

And, with several of Liverpool's key players reportedly unhappy with their leader's style of management, time had finally run out for Benitez as the board decided he was expendable after all.

At Inter he will have a hard act to follow as he takes over from Jose Mourinho, who joined Real Madrid after leading the nerazzurri to a unique treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League titles last month.

Inter won their fifth successive Italian title last term, but Benitez has been targeted to ensure they remain competitive in continental competition.

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