Rafa Benitez resigns as Valencia coach

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Rafael Benitez announced his resignation from the coaching position at Spanish champions Valencia on Tuesday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Rafael Benitez announced his resignation from the coaching position at Spanish champions Valencia on Tuesday. At an emotional press conference, the 44 year-old former Tenerife coach, who has led 'Los Che' to two Primera Liga titles in three years and added the UEFA Cup last month, revealed he had turned down a two-year extension to his current deal and was leaving the club with immediate effect. Speculation has grown in recent weeks that Benitez will now join Liverpool of the English Premiership, but Turkish outfit Besiktas and Serie A giants Inter Milan are also rumoured to be interested in his signature. Soccer fans and media from across Spain descended on Valencia's Paterna training ground on Tuesday. Rafael Benitez, the former Valladolid, Osasuna and Tenerife coach, told a press conference that he would be leaving his post with immediate effect. Benitez joined Valencia in the close season of 2001 and led 'Los Che' to their first La Liga title in 31 years in his first season. This year Valencia won the title again and beat Olympique Marseilles 2-0 in the final of the UEFA Cup last month. Benitez was close to tears as he read out a prepared statement and left the press conference before he could complete it. "This is possibly one of the most difficult decisions of my sporting career. As you all know, I am not going to continue at Valencia next season. I value the club's offer as positive but the physical and mental effort I made during the season has made me reconsider whether I should stay. I will now take a few days off to analyze the offers I have and choose the most suitable. I would like to thank the players, employees of the club, the media and the fans. Especially the fans," Rafael Benitez said. Where Benitez will go next has been the subject of speculation for some weeks. Besiktas of Turkey are rumoured to have expressed an interest, as have Italian giants Inter Milan. But English Premiership side Liverpool are regarded as the favourites to secure his signature. Following the departure of Frenchman Gerard Hoillier in May, the Anfield club had been linked with the former Porto coach Jose Mourinho. However, since Mourinho is now expected to join Chelsea, speculation has increased that Benitez will fill the position. Spanish media have suggested a five-year deal is on the table at Liverpool, but as yet both club and coach have made no comment. (AP)