Benitez closing in on new deal

RAFAEL BENITEZ is “very close” to sealing a new contract extension with Liverpool, according to chief executive Rick Parry, The Spaniard — who missed yesterday’s meeting with Arsenal after having an operation to remove kidney stones — has 18 months of his current deal still to run and wants assurances over boardroom stability at Anfield.

“He is nearly there,” Parry said yesterday. “The owners have made a commitment and said they wanted to extend and keep him. Clearly he wants to stay, so yes it will be done.

“We have had a few hold-ups this week with his unfortunate illness. That has slightly got in the way, but it won’t be very long now. I cannot be specific, but it is very close now.”

Parry hinted there may be little movement in terms of new arrivals at Anfield when the transfer window opens again next month.

“It is difficult to do smart business in January,” he said. “Teams still in the Champions League certainly are not going to sell, and it takes time to settle players in.

“Ideally you do your business in the summer, so your players can have a whole pre-season with you rather than playing catch up. But we will see. I really do not think we will be doing a great deal of businessin January. We have got the squad.”

Parry also had reassuring words for Robbie Keane who scored yesterday against Arsenal.

“He is a great player with a fantastic track record,” he said. “Maybe it has taken him a little bit longer than both he and we would have anticipated for him to settle in, but I can still see that corner being turned. I can’t see it [Keane being sold]. You can never say never in football, but as I see it, he will not be going anywhere.”

Leeds, meanwhile, have sacked manager Gary McAllister after the club’s recent poor run of form which has seen them lose their last four league games and slip to ninth place in League One.

“The club would like to place on record its thanks for the loyal service given to Leeds United by Gary since joining the club as manager in January 2008, and wish him every success in the future,” the club said in a statement on their website.

“The club will make no further comment on a replacement until we are in a position to make an appointment, which we are committed to doing as quickly as possible.”

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