Thursday, June 10, 2010

Benitez Signs 2-year Deal to Coach Inter Milan

MILAN (AP) -Rafa Benitez signed a two-year contract to become Inter Milan's new coach on Thursday, taking over a club that won three titles this year under Jose Mourinho.

Benitez, who left Liverpool last Thursday after six years at the English club, will be presented in Milan next Tuesday after agreeing to a contract with Inter until June 30, 2012.

"That's great - I hadn't heard that so I'm happy,'' midfielder Sulley Muntari told The Associated Press after being informed of the news while at the World Cup with Ghana.

"He is a top manager, he did a great job with Liverpool and I look forward to meeting him. We are very happy to have him.''

Mourinho left Inter to join Real Madrid last month after guiding the San Siro club to the Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup titles this year.

"Mourinho is hard to follow - he did his thing and I wish him all the best,'' Muntari said. "We have a new manager now so we will follow him and do whatever he wants.''

Having started well at Liverpool by winning the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup, Benitez came under increasing pressure as the club failed to break its run without winning the domestic championship.

"It's most definitely important (he is a Champions League winner),'' Muntari said. "We will work hard with him to achieve our aims.''

Liverpool last won the English title in 1990 and in recent years has seen rival Manchester United equal its record of 18 championships.

Benitez also clashed with American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. over a perceived lack of transfer funds. Having led Liverpool to second place in the league in 2009, the team finished seventh this season, spelling the end of his tenure.

Before joining Liverpool, Benitez won two Spanish titles and the 2004 UEFA Cup with Valencia.

AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in Sun City, South Africa contributed to this report.