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Liverpool's Benitez emerges as big winner
by Paul Kennedy, March 19th, 2009 7AM
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[ENGLAND] On the heels of two of the biggest wins in Liverpool history, Reds manager Rafael Benitez won another battle when he earned a new five-year contract valued at $6 million a year. Just as important, the Spaniard won greater control over personnel matters, ending a prolonged battle with Liverpool's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The announcement of the deal coincidentally follows Liverpool wins last week over Real Madrid (4-0) in the Champions League and Manchester United (4-1) at Old Trafford in the English Premier League.

Benitez publicly fought with Hicks and Gillett over decisions involving player transfers and blasted them for their ignorance of European soccer.

The decision to give Benitez more control follows the departure of chief executive Rick Parry, who was responsible for handling day-to-day business affairs. Benitez's increased power appears to have been a calculated decision by Hicks and Gillett to keep Benitez at Liverpool while they attempt to sell the club or refinance the huge loans they took out when they bought the club in February 2007 -- 19 months before the global economic collapse.

Benitez desires to take a hands-on approach to transfers in the tradition of the English manager, who is responsible for both on-field and off-field moves. He earned his reputation for aggressively working the transfer market during his tenure in Spain, first at Extremadura and then Valencia.

Upset at Valencia management's poor results on the transfer market, Benitez once famously exclaimed, "I asked for a table and they brought me a lampshade."

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