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Benitez puts pen to pay

LIVERPOOL, March 19 – Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has ended months of speculation by signing a contract extension that will keep him at Anfield until 2014, the English Premier League club confirmed Wednesday.

RAFA_BENITEZThe Spaniard, whose current deal ran until the end of next season, told Liverpool’s official website: "My heart is with Liverpool Football Club, so I’m delighted to sign this new deal.

"I love the club, the fans and the city and with a club like this and supporters like this, I could never say no to staying. I always made clear I wanted to be here for a long time and when I complete my new contract it will mean I have spent over a decade in Liverpool."

The former Valencia manager had been unhappy with what what he perceived as a lack of control over transfer policy, a situation not helped by the ongoing feud between Liverpool’s American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Benitez had rejected five offers of a new contract but the announcement last month that Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry will leave at the end of the season was seen as a sign that the manager would stay with the Merseysiders.

Benitez, who fell out with Parry over the latter’s failure to close several transfer deals, added Wednesday: "The club is greatly respected around the world due to its incredible history and tremendous heritage. It is my aim to uphold those values and help create a new chapter in our history.

"Throughout this process, I would like to thank the owners for their hard work in finalizing the deal. All of us at the club want the same thing, which is to be successful by winning major trophies."

The news that Benitez was staying on at Liverpool came just the week after the team enjoyed two of their most impressive results of recent times.

They overwhelmed Spanish giants Real Madrid to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League and then won 4-1 away to Premier League leaders and reigning champions Manchester United to inject fresh life into a title race that threatened to become a procession for Liverpool’s arch-rivals.

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Both Hicks and Gillett insisted they were delighted by Benitez’s decision.

"It is wonderful news that Rafa has made a long-term commitment to the football club," said Hicks.

"I know he will continue to build on his achievements as he has a tremendous hunger and desire to bring more success to the club."

Gillett added: "With Rafa continuing to manage the team, we can look forward to more great football and success on the pitch… Coming after our excellent wins over Real Madrid and Manchester United, this gives us great momentum going into the final stages of the season."

Benitez joined Liverpool in 2004 after guiding Spanish side Valencia to two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup triumph.

In 2005, Liverpool won the Champions League after an astonishing come-from-behind success against AC Milan in the 2005 final in Istanbul and were also the runners-up two years later.

Benitez also oversaw Liverpool’s 2006 FA Cup success but he has been repeatedly criticised for not treating the Premier League with the seriousness it deserves.

Although the Reds have won a record 18 English league titles – a mark United will equal if they top the table at the end of this season – none have come in the Premier League era, with 1990 marking the last time that Liverpool could call themselves champions of England.

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