The Mirror says there is a strong feeling within the Merseyside club that the owners are now waiting for the best moment to get rid of Benitez.

If that happens, then as many as five first-choice players could leave, ripping the spine out of the team, and leaving the next manager with yet another major rebuilding job.

If Benitez goes, the new man could be in a depressingly familiar position, because Jose Reina will walk away and the likes of Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and even Fernando Torres would seriously examine their positions.

Even more worrying for the Anfield board is that Steven Gerrard would also ask himself whether, at the age of 28, he could again sacrifice his immediate ambition in the service of the club starting over. He did that when Benitez arrived three and a half years ago, after twice turning down Chelsea.