Benitez assured job is secure

Liverpool have assured Rafa Benitez that his job is secure despite the club joining the Champions League also-rans.

While the five-times kings of Europe switched their focus to winning the second-string Europa League, managing director Christian Purslow gave the Spaniard a vote of confidence.

"This has absolutely no bearing on Rafa whatsoever," British newspapers quoted him as saying after the Premier League side beat Debrecen 1-0 in Hungary on Tuesday but failed to reach the last 16 after Italy's Fiorentina beat Olympique Lyon.

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"He signed a new five-year deal only months ago and in those terms he is four months into a five-year journey.

"You don't deviate from long-term plans for people and the way to take the club to the next level because of two late goals against Lyon, and that's what it boils down to," he added.

Purslow suggested the financial pain would be eased by a successful Europea League run - even if newspaper headlines derided the re-branded UEFA Cup as a "booby prize".

"We are prudent in what we budget," he said. "If we go into the Europa League and have three home games, we are financially equivalent on what we budgeted to achieve in the Champions League.

"I like to think that we'll be taking 40 or 50,000 to Hamburg in May (for the final) and if we get halfway to doing that, we will make more money than we would have from the next round of the Champions League."


Benitez, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 and was runner-up two years later, agreed with Purslow's assessment after the club failed to reach the last 16 for the first time since he became manager.

"If we progress two or three games in the Europa League, maybe in terms of money it will not be a big difference," the manager told the BBC.

"But the main thing for us is to finish in the top four (in the Premier League) and then to be sure that we will be again in the Champions League group stage next year."

The financial side is crucial to Liverpool, who have been eclipsed in the wealth stakes by Chelsea, Manchester United and City while having an estimated debt of around 245 million pounds to finance.

Liverpool are currently seventh in the Premier League and five points behind high-scoring Tottenham Hotspur in fourth.

They play at Everton, who lost 3-0 to champions Manchester United at the weekend, in the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Liverpool won the UEFA Cup in 2001 and captain Steven Gerrard said that offered a new target even if it was a disappointing one.

"You get what you deserve in this competition (the Champions League) and the two late goals we conceded against Lyon have been crucial," he told the club website. "But it's gone now, it's in the past and we've got to move on.

"We're in the Europa League and we'll go and try and win it.

"Now that we've got the majority of the squad b