“Benitez made too many mistakes with too many players… The only light at the end of the tunnel for Liverpool at the moment is that they still have Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres” – Alan Hansen

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “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.” – Rafa Benitez.

Runner-up: “We were tired from the intensive fitness work. It’s not an alibi, but the difference in fitness levels does transform this from a bad result to a good training session. We must improve and we will improve for our opener with Paraguay.  You’ll see that on June 14, we’ll be ready. There is always criticism of the Italy squad and in a way they even help us.” – Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro.

Today’s overview: Bye bye Benitez, hello uncertainty. The seemingly never-ending downward spiral of woe on Merseyside plunged even deeper depths on Thursday after manager Rafa Benitez walked out of Anfield (with £6m stuffed in his back-pocket) and today’s main question in the backpages is who’ll take over at Liverpool.

The Next Liverpool Boss: In short, there is a sense that it will take some time for the Scousers to replace Benitez.

Andy Hunter sets the scene in the Guardian scrawling “Kenny Dalglish is to lead the search for Rafael Benítez’s successor as Liverpool manager, with Roy Hodgson and Martin O’Neill among the frontrunners… Dalglish himself has also been mooted as a possible interim appointment… but it is understood moves for Hodgson and O’Neill take precedence over what would be a remarkable return for the Scot.”

The band-wagon for King Kenny is struck up by Tony Evans. “The only sensible option is to make Dalglish manager, at least until new ownership arrives. He knows the game inside out and, while giving the job to a man with more than a decade out of management is clearly not ideal, Dalglish’s greatness always lifted those around him and produced the unexpected.” Terry Venables also throws his voice behind Dalglish chugging “what’s the point of asking Kenny Dalglish to select their next manager – when he should be the next manager himself!”

The tabloid spin, provided by serial hack Alan Nixon, is that “Harry Redknapp is a shock contender to become the next Liverpool manager… Redknapp could be tempted away from Tottenham, with friends revealing he is upset that White Hart Lane supremo Daniel Levy has not approached him about a longer and improved contract.”

Rory Smith spread the potential-next-Liverpool-manager net wider adding the Mark Hughes name while also noting that “the leading continental candidates, the likes of Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard and the former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini, are likely to be put off by the ongoing uncertainty behind the scenes at Anfield. [Nevertheless] Sven-Goran Eriksson is known to be keen on the job.”

Phil Thomas adds more names to the mix in The Sun. “Zenit St Petersburg’s highly-rated Luciano Spalletti, Galatasaray boss Frank Rijkaard, Slaven Bilic, Mark Hughes, Bayern chief Louis Van Gaal and Benfica’s Jorge Jesus are all in the frame.”

The campaign for Guus Hiddink to move to Anfield is lead by James Lawton. “Of the candidates mooted so far, Guus Hiddink would bring the most vital authority. His brief tenure at Chelsea, admittedly blessed with far greater playing resources than he would inherit at Anfield, was marked above all by an ability to impose a new purpose and unity on players who had become fragmented and disenchanted under Luiz Felipe Scolari.”

Staying with continental options, Ian Herbert claims “the sacked Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini would turn his back on a lucrative contract with Fenerbahce to take over. The Chilean coach, who was replaced by Mourinho earlier this week, speaks perfect English and sources close to him have indicated he would be tempted despite the Istanbul offer.”

Fleshing out the time-frame for finding a new boss was Tony Barrett. “Liverpool are confident that a new manager with a proven pedigree will be in place for the start of next month to coincide with the players’ return for pre-season training and they are looking to use the breathing space afforded by the World Cup finals to ensure they appoint the right man for the job.”

Bunch of Yankers: So what were Liverpool’s hated American owners, Hicks and Gillett, thinking when they pushed Benitez out the door?

For Kevin McCarra, “one theory would be that they are clearing the ground for the next proprietor, who will have a completely fresh start… A conspiracy theorist might imagine that his departure is one condition of an imminent takeover. That, all the same, sounds unduly tidy and there have been no credible whispers of a sale being on the verge of completion. Some scheme surely exists but its nature and timing are obscure. The short-term effect is one of distress and not even the glorious memories of Istanbul will ease it.”

Tooting a similar line downplaying thoughts of a future takeover at Anfield was Paul Kelso. “As Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow and Kenny Dalglish begin the search for a new manager they can expect to face the same opening question from every serious candidate: who am I going to be working for?  For now the answer will be, “Don’t know”. Liverpool is for sale, but if there is one thing that Rafael Benítez’s abrupt ejection this week tells us it is that a deal is not imminent.”

Taking a different angle, Andy Hunter’s analysis of Rafa’s departure fell under the headline “Anfield politics, not results caused Rafael Benítez’s Liverpool downfall.” “Benítez’s motivations were to improve Liverpool but, having won the battle to oust Rick Parry as chief executive and also secured a lucrative five-year contract with no release clause that also ceded to him control of an unproductive youth academy, he consolidated his own authority in the process. That left him exposed should Liverpool falter, and the Americans’ financial problems combined with several expensive transfer mistakes made for a fatal concoction last season.”

With his claws out and sharpened Alan Hansen turns the tables and lays into the departed Benitez. “Forget the squabbling owners, the failure to build a new stadium and injuries to key players. Rafael Benítez only needs to look at the squad he is leaving behind to realise why his time is up at Liverpool. The painful truth for Liverpool  and their supporters is that the new manager at Anfield, whoever he turns out to be, will find a worse squad at his disposal than that which Benítez inherited from Gerard Houllier in 2004. And you could even argue that Liverpool are in their worst state since Bill Shankly arrived at the club more than 50 years ago… Benítez made too many mistakes with too many players… The only light at the end of the tunnel for Liverpool at the moment is that they still have Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.”

Adding to the doom and gloom, Martin Samuel argues that Liverpool’s next appointment is a watershed moment which the club cannot afford to screw up. “When Shankly arrived at Liverpool in December 1959, Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan were already there. This time it is all change. Benitez’s men are likely to need replacing, just as Benitez cleared out the remnants of the Gerard Houllier regime. So this is a spectacular project, made all the more daunting by its limited resources and the grim consequences of failure. For if Liverpool get it wrong now, the spirit of Shankly will not just be the name of a supporters group, but all that is left. It is his achievement, his legacy, the future of the great club he built that is in the balance now.”

World Cup Watch: Starting with the Three Lions, a confused Jason Burt tries to understand what David Beckham’s role is with the England squad this summer concluding Goldenballs is a right-hand man to Capello’s right-hand man. “Fabio Capello has further defined David Beckham’s role as part of England’s backroom staff by asking him to act as a liaison between players and management… In essence Beckham will be the right-hand man to England general manager Franco Baldini, who is Capello’s key lieutenant… Beckham will also help to reduce Baldini’s workload. In effect, Beckham will become a middleman, a link between the players and the management.”

Confused, Sam Wallace also attempts to define Beckham’s job in South Africa. “What is clear is that Beckham has crossed the line from player to coaching staff and that his opinion will have some effect on how his erstwhile team-mates are viewed by Capello.”

Looking at England’s forward, Andy Cole puts a comforting arm around Darren Bent. “Personally, had I been the England manager, I would have taken Bent, who has been uniquely unlucky in not getting selected, the unluckiest striker in Europe. Why? Because he was the only striker in any of the big European leagues who scored 20 or more league goals in 2009-10 and isn’t going to the World Cup (who play for those nations going to South Africa, of course). The only one.”

Switching tracks, the Telegraph tears shreds of Italy’s forward line in South Africa. “For a team who have in the past called on the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero to lead their front line, the current squad is a horribly poor shadow of teams past… The likes of Alberto Gilardino, Antonio Di Natale, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Giampaolo Pazzini and Fabio Quagliarella would barely be fit to lace up the boots of their illustrious predecessors.”

The Guardian quote Holland’s playmaker Wesley Sneijder who assures the Dutch that he won’t be tired at World Cup 2010 after his long season with Inter Milan.

Hammer Time: A new page in West Ham’s history has begun, Jamie Jackson announcing that “Avram Grant has signed a four-year deal to become West Ham manager.”

Darren Lewis then spins all the transfer lies surrounding the cash-strapped Eastenders. “Avram Grant is battling an attempt by Fulham to hijack West Ham’s move for striker Freddie Piquionne… Grant is keen to pair Piquionne with Everton striker Yakubu… One other striker on the Hammers’ shortlist is 20-year-old former Chelsea youngster Ben Sahar… He is also said to be keen on taking England keeper David James to east London on a free, with the club ready to listen for offers for Robert Green. And he is also bidding to rescue midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng from Championship football next season. The club could also revisit a move for the highly-rated West Brom midfielder Graham Dorrans, having already had a bid of £4million turned down.”

The Transfers: Barcelona’s intense tapping-up of Cesc Fabregaas continues unabated this Friday with will play a waiting game over Cesc Fàbregas in the hope that the Arsenal captain’s frustration at being denied a transfer works to their advantage.”

The Guardian report how Wolves have sealed the £6.5m capture of Steven Fletcher from Burnley, while the Daily Mail also announce a done-deal reporting “Wigan have agreed a £7.5m deal for Argentina striker Mauro Boselli.”

Bad news for the Citizens comes in the Telegraph where it’s announced “Manchester City are bracing themselves for Real Madrid to beat them to the signing of Valencia forward David Silva.” In more positive news, spun by the Daily Mail’s infamous no-name reporter, we learn “Yaya Toure’s agent will hold a meeting with Barcelona dealmaker Txiki Begiristain on Friday and is hoping to pave the way for a £20m move to Manchester City.”

The Times inject a dose of speculation linking Aston Villa with a £8.3m move for Anderlecht’s Mbark Boussoufa, while Shaun Custis bleats in The Sun that “Birmingham want to sign Palermo’s tiny striker Fabrizio Miccoli.”

The Mirror then continue to spice things up naming a host of so-called stars and aces in never-gonna-happen stories.

The lamely titled EuroSpy hurls “Barcelona may be set to enrage Arsenal further by bidding for Gael Clichy. Mundo Deportivo claim that in addition to Cesc Fabregas, Barca have their eye on landing a couple of defensive recruits including Clichy, or Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.” The EuroSpy continues to spout crap adding “Manchester City have enquired about the possibility of taking Dani Alves to Eastlands.”

Alan Nixon farts “Bolton boss Owen Coyle is facing a fight with Portuguese giants Benfica for Real Madrid’s brilliant young left-back Marcos Alonso.” Elsewhere we are spoonfed the news that “Stoke star [Liam Lawrence] begs to be allowed to join Celtic,” and that “Blackpool line up shock move for Preston star” Richard Chaplow.

The Star claim that “Tottenham are ready to splash out £20m on Uruguay striker Diego Forlan.”

Lastly, wrapping up the news from the foreign press we learn that Benitez’s Liverpool departure is said to have sped up Steven Gerrard’s Real Madrid move and both Arsenal and Manchester City are linked to Barcelona starlet Gai Assulin.