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Liverpool confirm Rafael Benitez exit

Spanish coach Rafael Benitez has left Liverpool after six years in charge.
Spanish coach Rafael Benitez has left Liverpool after six years in charge.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rafael Benitez has left his post as manager of Liverpool
  • Benitez spent six years in charge of the English Premier League club
  • The Spaniard won the European Champions League in his first full season
  • Liverpool to begin the search for Benitez's replacement

(CNN) -- Liverpool have confirmed that manager Rafael Benitez is leaving the club after six years in charge at Anfield.

The Spaniard signed a five-year contract with the club in March 2009 but this season he missed out on qualification for the European Champions League.

Speculation had been rife that his position was under threat after Liverpool's run without a trophy extended to four years, with Inter Milan and Juventus rumored to be interested.

But on Thursday the club confirmed he was leaving in a statement on their official Web site: "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.

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.
--Rafael Benitez
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"No timescale has been placed on the process and Liverpool FC will make no further statement until a new manager is appointed."

Benitez was appointed in June 2004 and led the club to the European Champions League title in his first season in charge. He also won the FA Cup and European Super Cup during his reign but failed to deliver the Premier League title.

Liverpool came second behind Manchester United in the 2008/09 season but the pressure on him increased as Liverpool could only finish seventh this season, missing out on qualification for the money-spinning Champions League.

Benitez said: "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."

Liverpool's chairman Martin Broughton added: "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.''