The Daily Mail says the Liverpool players have joined the fans standing behind Benitez in his uneasy relationship with Tom Hicks and George Gillett - with Javier Mascherano declaring that he will leave if the 46-year-old Spaniard is axed.

Benitez held lengthy talks with Mascherano on Thursday and it is believed the on-loan midfielder was adamant he would walk away from Anfield in the event of a sanction that has been hanging over his boss for months.

It is thought Hicks and Gillett are loathe to meet the £17m asking price for turning Mascherano's loan into a permanent move.

Both Milan clubs, AC and Inter, have been sounded out about signing him at the end of the season, but they also feel the fee is too high.

Benitez's dismissal could also lead to the departure of Arvalo Arbeloa, Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso, Lucas and some of the young Spaniards pushing for first-team opportunities.

Fernando Torres, though, seems sure to stay.