at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Brendan Rodgers has confirmed he will sign a new long-term deal this summer as he prepares to lock horns with the man who advised him to join Liverpool.
Rodgers has put all discussions about his future on hold to prevent distractions during Liverpool’s title charge, but he said it is now simply a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ he puts pen to paper.
It has long been the intention of Liverpool’s owners to reward Rodgers, who has 12 months plus the option for another year on his current contract, but the manager’s first priority is stopping Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. The Liverpool boss and Mourinho remain close friends since Rodgers’ time as a Chelsea youth coach, but nothing is going to disturb his focus for Liverpool’s biggest domestic fixture for 25 years.
‘There is nothing really (planned) until the end of the season,’ said Rodgers, discussing his future. ‘But there is no doubt that, at some point, we will agree another deal. I am sure of that.’
Liverpool’s decision to recruit Rodgers in 2012 has looked increasingly shrewd as they have been transformed from underachievers to potential champions. And for that Fenway Sports Group owe Mourinho a small debt of gratitude.
Rodgers was also being courted by Tottenham but, after an exchange of texts, Mourinho steered his protege in the direction of Anfield.
‘Jose told me to take the job, and what a great club Liverpool was,’ Rodgers revealed.
‘He encouraged me about the sheer scale of the club. We have kept in contact. He has been supportive of me wherever I have been, even in my time here.
‘We might be considered a rival but I know that if they didn’t win the league, he would want us to.’
Is their relationship strong enough to withstand the rivalry? Liverpool and Chelsea antagonise each other and the rise in tension stems from Mourinho’s first spell in England, when the clubs played each other 15 times in three years.
‘I understand the history because I was on the opposite side,’ said Rodgers. ‘In that period maybe it was made to be the managers (Mourinho and Rafa Benitez) and that was the rivalry, but I am a different person and man.
‘I am sure it will be a brilliant atmosphere because of the past, but, more important, how we are doing now.’
Liverpool have not been this close to the title since 1990 and the locals are trying to lift them over the line.
Defender Glen Johnson, who was on the Chelsea bench in 2005 during the fabled Champions League semi-final, explained the Anfield effect.
‘I’ve seen it from both sides and I remember the atmosphere that night,’ he said. ‘It definitely takes a bit out of you when you are the away team. When the atmosphere is that intense, it does give you that extra 10 per cent.’ – Daily Mail