Rafa Benitez leaves Liverpool
• Jolly: An inevitable departure
• Manager profile: Rafael Benitez
Benitez, who took over from Gerard Houllier in 2004, found his position untenable after a disappointing season which saw Liverpool finish seventh in the Premier League, just 12 months after being runners-up to Manchester United.
Rafael Benitez told the club's official website: "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts.
"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager.
"Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."
After a poor start to the campaign, which included an exit from the Champions League in the group stage, Benitez guaranteed he would qualify for the competition in 2010-11. But Benitez failed to deliver on that guarantee and only booked a place in the Europa League due to Portsmouth's perilous financial state, with Liverpool losing 19 matches in all competitions.
Failure to qualify for Europe's elite competition has ramifications for Liverpool's own finances, leading to speculation that star names such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres could be sold off to balance the books.
|"||Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone. "|
The Liverpool board feels that the club needs a new direction to stand any chance of finishing in the top four next season.
Liverpool released the following statement: "Liverpool FC today confirmed that Rafael Benitez is to leave the club by mutual consent. Mr Benitez relinquishes his position as team manager after six years and the board of directors would like to place on record their grateful thanks for his services and wish him all the best in his future career.
"The board has now asked managing director Christian Purslow, with the assistance of club ambassador Kenny Dalglish, to begin a formal search to identify and assess potential candidates for the managerial position. No timescale has been placed on the process and Liverpool FC will make no further statement until a new manager is appointed."
Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton said: "Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned.''
Benitez, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 and also reached the final 2007, is now the favourite to take over at Inter Milan following Jose Mourinho's exit for Real Madrid and Fabio Capello's decision to stay with England.
"We really like Rafa Benitez and he is in our favour since the Champions League final in Istanbul [when Liverpool beat rivals AC Milan in 2005]," Inter director Gabriele Oriali told Corriere dello Sport.