Liverpool’s managing director Christian Purslow and ambassador Kenny Dalglish will now lead the search for a new manager, but the club has set no timescale for a replacement to be found.
Benitez’s departure comes after the Anfield board and chairman Martin Broughton lost faith in his ability to deliver Champions League football, and with no sale imminent they decided to act before the start of the new season.
In a statement the club said: “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.”
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 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.”
His departure will also increase concern that Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will follow him this summer. Spanish daily Marca reported on Wednesday that new Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho intends to bid for Gerrard, a move Liverpool may struggle to resist given the uncertainty in the dugout and boardroom.
The club’s vulnerability may also prompt offers for Torres, perhaps the most prized striker in world football, though his injury-ridden season was a factor in the club’s underperformance. Chelsea and Manchester City have expressed interest in the Spaniard.
Liverpool’s declining performance, combined with Benítez’s unwillingness to acknowledge failings on his part, was at the heart of the board’s loss of faith.
Having guided the club to second in the league in 2008-09, expectations grew that Benítez could end a 20-year wait for the league title in 2010, but those hopes faded after a poor start. In fact the club regressed, and his exit will end a volatile six-year tenure notable for European success and political intrigue, but not the title the Kop craved.
Liverpool won the European Cup, the FA Cup and also reached a second Champions League final. But Benítez failed to challenge Chelsea and Manchester United’s dominance of the league and appeared increasingly distracted by Anfield’s politics.
He took advantage of the rift between Hicks and Gillett to oust chief executive Rick Parry, and secured unprecedented control of the club’s academy and football operations, as well as an enhanced contract in 2009. – Telegraph.