More and more about Steven Gerrard will hit the back pages over the coming days. A lot of it will be based on what is said off the record by various parties. This will be added to by speculation.
Last week’s Spanish press reported that Gerrard had told Rafa Benitez that he was "tempted" by a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid. After telling the world on May 25th that he would find it hard to leave Anfield after the glory of Istanbul, the captain was now saying he was having second thoughts. Or so the story went.
This week it’s turned round the other way. In stories that seem to have come from Stevie’s camp the player is reportedly disappointed that after stalling on starting talks, Liverpool came to the table without an offer for an extension to Gerrard’s contract. Added to this is a story that Gerrard and Benitez had a row at Melwood on Saturday.
What’s clear is that there are big differences between the two parties. And it seems that it is down to a number of factors.
In an interview before the Champions League final, Steven Gerrard was asked whether the result in Istanbul would make a difference to his decision about whether to stay at Anfield. He said it would. However you interpret that answer it basically said that even at that stage Gerrard didn’t know himself what he wanted to do. He wanted to be the captain of a successful Liverpool. With a defeat in that game he’d have been captain of an unsuccessful team. Would he have left if Liverpool had lost? He’d have had plenty of excuses, he’d have given fair warning and he’d have left without too much guilt.
This is all academic though. Liverpool are European Champions. Gerrard lifted the Champions League trophy. Gerrard wants to stay now.
It now seems that Rafael Benitez had given up on keeping Gerrard. Gerrard had given enough signals to Benitez that he was far from happy at the club. Benitez rates the player highly, but knows that without his full commitment he’s not as good a player.
Benitez had to make his plans, start making his initial enquiries for his summer dealings. He had to make these plans without knowing how much money he’d have to spend.
Liverpool won the Champions League, so that increased some of the funds available. However Milan Baros, all set for a move to Valencia, is not now leaving, meaning around £8million has been taken away. It now seems though that for whatever reason Rafael Benitez cannot get the players he’d planned to move for and keep Steven Gerrard. He can’t afford it.
It’s a difficult decision for Benitez to make it this is true. Gerrard has been indecisive all season. Benitez had to decide whether he’d still have Gerrard this season. His knowledge of the Spanish game means he could possibly have found a replacement for Gerrard in Spain, and have money left over for a new striker and a new defender. The manager now has to decide whether he wants to go for free transfers instead (like Bolo Zenden), or to sell Gerrard and buy players for higher fees (like Dirk Kuyt, for £10million).
According to sources close to the goings on at Anfield, Liverpool are extremely short of money. They want to build a new stadium – a long-term investment that would eventually see them make much more money out of every game. It costs money upfront though, and they are struggling to get this money. There’s not enough money for Benitez to fund the sort of changes at the club he feels are needed. Gerard Houllier wasted an extremely large amount of money during his reign at the club, and Benitez won’t get that kind of money – it just isn’t there.
Investment bids have been turned down, and the consultants called in by Liverpool to look at investment options have not come up with anything acceptable to David Moores.
The truth behind the Steven Gerrard stories is basically summed up as follows:
Gerrard wants to stay. Now. He didn’t before.
Benitez wanted Gerrard to stay. Now though he doesn’t – he got tired of waiting for some commitment from Gerrard.
Benitez has to choose between keeping Gerrard or getting £30million to spend on other players.
Liverpool are struggling for money, but David Moores is not willing to lose his controlling interest in the club.
In many ways Steven Gerrard (with the help of SFX) made his bed last summer when he "nearly" went to Chelsea. Liverpool wanted to keep him, and felt they could afford to. The problem is though, without investment, Liverpool can’t afford to keep him. Now it looks increasingly like Gerrard took a gamble and lost.
The stories that will follow in the coming days will be from all sides aiming to make themselves look the innocent party. In fact all sides are partly to blame.