Co-chairman Tom Hicks spoke to Liverpoolfc.tv this afternoon to give his reaction to Rafa Benitez's new contract. We've transcribed the chat for you to read in full below.
Firstly, just how pleased are you that Rafa has committed his future to the club?
Well, I'm very pleased. I've never really worried about it because I knew Rafa wanted to be here, and we wanted Rafa. The economic considerations were sorted out to a certain extent a long while ago. I am glad it's done and I think it's particularly great news for our supporters on the heels of the two great victories we had last week.
The reaction to the news amongst Liverpool supporters everywhere has been one of sheer delight. The bond between Liverpool supporters and their managers is quite unique. Has that surprised you at all?
We all want the same thing, which is to win major trophies. I think Rafa gives us that unique ability. He's already done it once in the Champions League, he nearly did it a second time in Athens and we got to the semi-finals last season. Who knows how far we'll go this year? I think to have him for the next five years, and to know we have that stability, gives us the chance to do something really unique.
A lot of fans were a little bit worried Rafa wouldn't sign, but in January you did reassure supporters you would work with the manager to resolve the issues. Were you always confident he would stay?
I never worried about it. I've looked him in the eyes, talked with him man to man, and I know what is in his heart. He has good lawyers, we have good lawyers, and these are complicated contracts, but I was never worried.
In the talks you had with Rafa, did his passion for the club, the fans and Liverpool in general show through?
Absolutely. Rafa's obviously had his frustrations in the past and we've made changes I think we needed to make anyway to relieve some of the issues he's had. Going forward, I think we will be able to work together much more closely. He will make the recommendations, but the final decision on transfers will be made by the board of directors and the CEO.
Would you say following the period of negotiations your relationship with Rafa has been strengthened?
Rafa and I have developed a growing, strengthening relationship for well over the past year now. I think the little blip we had two falls ago was really down to communication. But we've learned to communicate. We talk by email, by phone and when I come over we always have a good face-to-face.
Hicks on Man Utd
I had so much fun last Saturday. I was in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico for my son Alex's wedding. He had proposed to his now-wife Porscha on the pitch at Anfield about a year and a half ago. So, after partying until late in the evening, I got up at 5:45am local time to watch the match and there were about ten Scousers in hotel. They hadn't been to bed but we had a great time watching the game on TV and one of the guys actually hurt his hamstring when he jumped up to celebrate!
So now the big question the fans want to know - is there a definite long-term strategy for strengthening the squad and moving forward, on and off the pitch?
Absolutely. Rafa knows to win championships you need depth and to bring through good, young players. He will be in charge of the Academy, where he will do a much better job we think in bringing through young players. We will spend money on transfers, as we've done since we've been involved - players like Torres, Benayoun, Babel, Skrtel, Mascherano and Dossena. Things didn't work out with Keane. These things have to be done, but you also have to develop your young players, and Rafa's got a real talent for that. With all the tradition of Liverpool, the reputation around the world and the incredible fan base, young players are going to want to come to Liverpool.
You said yourself that this news caps off a great week for Liverpool fans. How much did you enjoy the last two victories against Real Madrid and Manchester United?
I had so much fun last Saturday. I was in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico for my son Alex's wedding. He had proposed to his now-wife Porscha on the pitch at Anfield about a year and a half ago. So, after partying until late in the evening, I got up at 5.45am local time to watch the match and there were about 10 Scousers in hotel. They hadn't been to bed but we had a great time watching the game on TV and one of the guys actually hurt his hamstring when he jumped up to celebrate!
Could you quite believe the scoreline at the final whistle?
It was very poignant watching the Man Utd fans start deserting the stadium when they knew we were going to win. We're such a great team, particularly when we have Torres and Gerrard fit because they take us to another level.
The trophy everyone wants most is the Premier League title. If not this season, then next - is that a realistic ambition?
Sure it is. We had a bad patch where we had several draws and injuries. I'm involved in several sports in the US and injuries can play a part, you have to accept that. Playing 38 games in the Premier League means that maybe one day you will break stride, but we still have some way to go this season.
Liverpool have recently been named the number one team in Europe by UEFA. Is that a position we can maintain?
Absolutely. I think European football matches play to our strengths. I was very fortunate that within three months of buying the club we were in Athens watching the Champions League final. We had an unfortunate result then, but I'm ready to go to Rome!
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