By Merseyside correspondent Cam Downes
Liverpool have made contact with Rafael Benitez as he rejects an offer to become the new West Ham manager, Football Insider sources understand.
The Merseysiders have made a tentative approach for their former manager as they explore alternatives to Brendan Rodgers. As revealed by Football Insider, Liverpool have already had a meeting with Jurgen Klopp, who is their first choice to replace the northern Irishman if they decide to sack him.
Liverpool are considering Benitez as back-up to Klopp but they face strong competition from Real Madrid, who are in the market for a new manager amid the growing likelihood that Carlo Ancelotti will be sacked at the end of the season.
It is understood that discussions between Benitez and Real are at a more advanced stage and that Liverpool have recently contacted the Spaniard through third parties to assess his availability.
West Ham made Benitez an offer to return to the Premier League but the Napoli manager has rejected the opportunity to replace Sam Allardyce, who is expected to leave Upton Park when his contract expires next month.
Like Allardyce, Benitez is out of contract at the end of the season although he has been offered a new deal by the Serie A club that he has not yet signed.
Real, who are also likely to consider Klopp for the Bernabeu hotseat, will end the season trophyless after losing out to Barcelona in the La Liga title race and being knocked out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage.
Ancelotti, who is a target of Manchester City and AC Milan, is set to be dismissed by Real and Benitez is emerging as president Florentino Perez’s favourite to replace the Italian.
Liverpool know they have to act fast as they consider alternative managerial candidates to Rodgers, whose position is under growing threat.
Klopp already has an offer on the table from Wolfsburg and is also on the radar of Bayern Munich and Man City.
Football Insider revealed earlier this month that Liverpool had made an approach for the 47-year-old German, who has announced he will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season.
Liverpool will review Rodgers’ position at the end of the season as part of a thorough assessment of all areas of the club, including the first-team squad, the coaching staff and the much-debated transfer committee.
The spotlight has fallen on the manager in the wake of a season that will end trophy-less and without the team achieving their minimum objective of a top-four Premier League finish.
American owners Fenway Sports Group will assess Rodgers’ performance next week and could even take the step of sacking the Northern Irishman after three years at the helm.