Benitez secures contract victory
Rafael Benitez can now add a lucrative five-year contract and the increased control he craved at Liverpool to his two other landmark victories in the last seven days.
Benitez's stock could only have been higher as five months of protracted, complicated and occasionally fractious discussions entered their final phase on Wednesday afternoon if he had been able to bang down the Champions League and Premier League trophies on the negotiating table.
He may yet be able to do that come May - but the manner and scale of Liverpool's wins against Real Madrid in Europe and Manchester United at home made this the perfect time to underscore the mood of optimism currently coursing through Anfield.
After being granted greater influence over Liverpool's transfers, a source of irritation for several seasons, and the club's under-achieving youth academy at Kirkby, there was little reason for Benitez not to finally sign the deal that has been placed in front of him on several occasions.
The cards have started to stack up in Benitez's favour in recent weeks after he cast doubt on his future by publicly rejecting a revised contrast in January.
Benitez's professional relationship with chief executive Rick Parry had been strained and, despite protestations to the contrary, there is little doubt the announcement that the latter would be leaving Liverpool at the end of the season removed an obstacle in contract talks.
Throw in two results that added lustre to Benitez's reputation as a master strategist, in Europe if not the Premier League, and he was able to finish off negotiations in the strongest of positions.
The majority of Liverpool fans and former players will greet the decision with delight and a measure of relief at seeing another potential strand of instability removed by Benitez.
Benitez's position should Liverpool be sold on to new owners is unclear, but this is currently not part of any Anfield equation with no imminent buyer on the horizon - and the possibility of any newcomer arriving and instantly disposing of a manager so popular with the supporters an unlikely one.
There is a victory in this too for Liverpool's much-maligned current American hierarchy of George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Hicks, in particular, was adamant that Benitez would sign on the dotted line on his watch and he has delivered.
And there may just be an interesting sub-plot in the united messages of delight from the duo in reaction to Benitez's new deal. Word is that the relationship between Hicks and Gillett, cold at best not so long ago, has thawed somewhat in recent times - perhaps helped by the lack of potential new investors to replace them.
Gillett and Hicks will work together on the appointment of a successor to Parry, although it may be worth their while bringing in Benitez on the process as a man who will hand-in-glove with him.
Benitez, however, is the real winner. Now he must turn his attention to bigger battles ahead, namely the serious business of bringing silverware back to Anfield.
Football's two-faced nature makes it worth recalling that it was only on 28 February that many Liverpool fans took to the airwaves and elsewhere in highly-critical fashion against Benitez after a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, a result which appeared to put the title out of reach.
Since then a new mood has swept over Anfield with those dismissals of Real and Manchester United and Benitez's popularity has been restored.
No-one has ever doubted Benitez's mastery of the European game and the Real Madrid result merely emphasised what we already knew, but the win at Old Trafford was arguably even more remarkable - although final judgement on the season and Benitez's influence upon it must be reserved until the trophies are handed out.
I have been critical of Benitez on occasions this season, but he is a plotter par excellence in Europe and deserves huge credit for what he has achieved in the Champions League since his arrival at Anfield.
He now has five more years to bring the Premier League back to Liverpool, presuming he does not fashion a remarkable title triumph this season.
It is must be safely assumed that Benitez has been satisfied on the all the points troubling him - chain of command, transfer policy, influence over the academy, his position under new ownership - to have agreed to sign his deal.
So it is to be hoped he will now keep away from the politicking and stick to football. This is his area of expertise and there has been too much airing of Liverpool's dirty linen in public in recent times.
This, in many ways, is the perfect marriage. Liverpool are currently unlikely to secure a better manager than Benitez and he will not find a better club to showcase his talents than Liverpool - and I happily include Real Madrid, Inter Milan and others in that statement.
He may have been part of Real's family in the past, but it is a highly-dysfunctional and distant relative now and Benitez would never have the control he has at Anfield at the Bernabeu.
And if Jose Mourinho is struggling to rid Inter Milan of its demons, a club where seemingly only winning the Champions League will do, Benitez is much better off at Anfield, so the announcement of his new deal is a win for the manager and a win for Liverpool.
If the majority of Liverpool's supporters had been asked to script the last 10 days, their storyline would have contained the thrashing of Real Madrid and Manchester United followed by Benitez ending speculation he would leave Anfield.
Now it is up to Benitez to see if he can fashion the perfect season finale for them.