Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez says that despite working hard to sign Lucas Neill, Blackburn were demanding far too much for a player that will be available free of charge by the end of the season.
Liverpool had earlier sold Jan Kromkamp to PSV Eindhoven for a fee believed to be around £1.75m and so Rafa wanted cover for the right-back position. Jamie Carragher had already made it clear that there were no problems between him and the player who broke his leg, but Blackburn’s demands have ultimately cost them £2m. They even tried to persuade Liverpool to part with Stephen Warnock as part of the deal, but Rafa refused to let a player he rates so highly to move on in such circumstances.
The talks went on until the last possible moment, but in the end Liverpool find themselves without a direct cover for Steven Finnan as Rafa explained today: “It was disappointing. We tried but in the end the situation was impossible. Blackburn wanted to sign Warnock, but we made it clear we wanted to keep the player. They asked to sign Warnock and receive a fee, so we had to say forget it.”
Warnock is at a stage in his career where he either makes it as a Red or moves on, in fact this is probably the make or break season for him. Rafa wants to give him the chance to make it: “Warnock is a good 24-year-old player who was in the England squad last year. The conversations I had with Blackburn were friendly and they are good people, but in the end we had to say ‘okay, we can not do it’.”
The sad thing for Blackburn in their decision to turn down £2m is that they could actually end up losing Neill for much less. He is eligible under new FIFA rules to buy out his remaining contract and thus free himself up for a move to another side. It’s believed that his contract would cost less than £2m to buy out, and if he does do this, he’s entitled to move to another club even outside of the transfer window. It will be interesting to see if Neill decides to take this option, if he does then Liverpool will still get their right-back well before the next transfer window.
Meanwhile, Rafa Benítez explained how he’d been having to take risks the whole time over both allowing Jan Kromkamp to leave and trying to by Neill on the last day of the window: “e had to wait until the last minute with Lucas Neill because we needed the money from the Kromkamp deal, although we made our first approach before Kromkamp was sold. We knew there was a small risk doing this, but maybe we can do more business with a right-back in January. I know Lucas Neill really wanted to come here, and maybe there will be a possibility in the future, but we must also analyse the market in January.”
As Rafa explained, having a direct replacement for Kromkamp would have been the most desirable option, but there are still choices open to him should Finnan suffer any injuries or face any suspensions: “We can manage with Carra and Paletta if we have a problem at right-back, but the situation is going to be more difficult for four months.”