Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy has effectively accused BBC Wales reporter Malcolm Allen of being a liar.
Allen spoke on live TV in Wales about a conversation he claimed he’d had with Bellamy, where he told viewers that Bellamy had hated his year at Anfield and hardly spoke to boss Rafael Benítez.
Allen said, on the “Wales on Saturday” programme, “I spoke to him before the game here on the pitch and he told me it has been a very disappointing year for him, that he hasn’t got a working relationship with Rafa Benítez, that they hardly speak to each other at the moment and that the situation has become clear that for the sake of his own career he wants to play consistently, he wants to play in the first team week in week out and he hasn’t been getting those opportunities at Liverpool.”
Bellamy has refuted these claims, telling the official LFC website: “A journalist working for BBC Radio Wales has told people I have problems with Rafa and haven't even got a working relationship with him. That's complete garbage.”
According to the Welsh international he actually considers Rafa to be in many ways the best coach he’s worked for: “I have gone on record recently and I will say it again now that I have learnt more from Rafael Benitez than any other coach I have worked with. I am a much better player for the time I've spent working with him and if I do go on to manage at some point in the future he's the model I'll use in my career. I can't make my respect for him any clearer than that.”
As well as unhappiness about not playing in every game, Allen claimed Bellamy had been having a good moan about exactly how Rafa had chosen to use him on the pitch: “Many times this season the manager’s just told him to be ready to run. He doesn’t want to him link play up and come short for the ball and Craig’s got a lot more to his game than just running behind defenders. We know that’s a strength of his and he can always be a threat but he likes to come short for the ball and bring other players into the game and suck defenders onto him and then create the space behind to use his pace and he hasn’t been able to do that at Liverpool.”
The last time Bellamy got negative press was on the weekend prior to the first leg Champions League game against Barcelona, when the reports of the Portugal bust-up with John Arne Riise hit the headlines. The allegations made against Bellamy that weekend weren’t completely unfounded, but were greatly exaggerated. Bellamy accepted a huge fine from the club for his own part in the incidents – some of which was donated to Welsh side Wrexham to help their fight for survival – and actually scored one and set up the other of Liverpool’s two goals in the Nou Camp fixture.
It seemed Bellamy had done enough for fans to give him the benefit of the doubt, but now this latest story has once again come out at a vital time. Bellamy acknowledges this, saying: “I am even more disappointed that we are approaching a massive game on Tuesday against Chelsea and I am having to waste time responding to this nonsense.”
It’s highly unlikely that Craig Bellamy will be a Liverpool player next season, despite his efforts to try and smooth things out. Liverpool are looking to improve the quality of the squad and will be listening to offers for Bellamy, who will probably be glad to make another attempt to get his career back on track, even if it does mean leaving the club he supported as a boy. Allen said yesterday: “It’s going to be a sad day for Craig because he’s always been a Liverpool supporter but for the furthering of his own career I do feel he’s got to move on, and that’s the way he’s feeling as well.”
With two such conflicting stories it’s certainly the case that one party isn’t being honest. Bellamy’s reputation as a moaner suggests he was still feeling downhearted at the big hint he wouldn’t be starting on Tuesday and wanted to get that disappointment off his chest. Rafa had rested most of his squad for yesterday’s game against Portsmouth, a meaningless game for the Reds who had already guaranteed a place in the Champions League qualifiers. Crouch wasn’t included in the 16 and Kuyt was on the bench, a big hint towards Rafa’s plans for Tuesday. When the Welsh reporter had a chat to him Bellamy probably considered himself to be speaking off the record, but the Welsh reporter had different ideas. A two minute moan later and the reporter has a story, but no direct quotes.
Although he’s not likely to start, Bellamy will be on the bench on Tuesday night and could yet have an important part to play in Liverpool’s quest to overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first leg. He responded on the field in the best way after the Portugal incident, if he’s given the chance on Tuesday let’s hope he does the same again.
Until something changes, he’s still a Liverpool player and he should be supported on the field. If his last kick of the ball as a Liverpool player is to score the winner in Athens he’ll be long-remembered for the right reasons and these incidents will soon be forgotten.