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I won’t quit Reds for Italy, insists Benitez

LIVERPOOL boss Rafael Benitez last night issued a statement quashing growing speculation that he is set to quit Anfield for Juventus.

Reports in Italy suggested Benitez had agreed a deal to take charge of the Turin club in the summer, and that officials from the Serie A outfit would meet their Liverpool counterparts today to negotiate the Spaniard’s release.

Benitez has four years remaining on his contract, but has come under intense fire this season amid the Reds’ failure to challenge for trophies, and a summer move could suit both parties. However the former Valencia manager unequivocally refuted the reports last night.

“Contrary to reports in the Italian media this weekend, I want to make it absolutely clear I have no agreement with Juventus and have not and will not be meeting Juventus or their representatives or any other club,” Benitez said.

“I have a long-term contract with Liverpool and I’ll repeat what I said on Friday. I am happy here and my only focus is to do my job as well as I can to get the team back into to the top four, beginning with the derby against Everton.”

Having seen his side eliminated early from the Champions League and fail to mount a Premier League title challenge, Benitez came under even more pressure last month when Championship side Reading knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup at Anfield in the third round.

That prompted renewed speculation about his future, which grew last week as Juventus prepared to sack their coach Ciro Ferrara, who on Friday was replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni on a caretaker basis until the end of the season.

Rumours were further fuelled when Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks made an impromptu appearance at Saturday’s 2-0 win over Bolton.