Liverpool Chief Executive Rick Parry was a telephone guest on Five Live’s “Sportsweek” programme this morning. In the middle of the interview he mentioned quite casually that Rafa Benítez had been formally offered the Real Madrid job in the summer, but had turned it down after sitting for a few hours and discussing things with Parry and Chairman David Moores. He also pointed out that some of Rafa’s quotes in the past week have been misinterpreted and revealed he was very confident of the Dubai takeover being completed very soon.
First of all Parry was asked for his reaction to the 6-3 defeat in midweek: “Well it was obviously disappointing to lose both cup games to Arsenal, because at the end of the day what we want at Liverpool is silverware. But it happened, and the most important thing was to pick ourselves up and get back to winning ways in the league, which we did very successfully yesterday. So the week has ended well, and it’s also very gratifying that the youth team beat Chelsea 2-0 yesterday so the first step towards retaining the Youth Cup is going very well.”
The reporter then referred to Rafa’s quotes from Friday, when he told reporters he didn’t come to Anfield to win the Carling Cup, he came to win the league. The reporter claimed that the Carling Cup defeat ended Liverpool’s “last realistic chance” of winning silverware this season, and wondered if Rick would have preferred a stronger team to be put out for that game: “I think you have to remember that we had a very successful Christmas, nine points out of twelve, but four games in ten days takes its toll. We have a lot to play for still in the league, and a mouth-watering tie coming up against Barcelona.
“It’s always been clear from the day we appointed Rafa, in fact since before we appointed Rafa, that his philosophy was that he would use his whole squad. He’s done it every year, we’ve had criticism before and no doubt we’ll get it again. In his first season when we lost to Burnley there was a lot of discontent, but we went on to win the Champions League which more than made up for it, and at the end of the day Rafa never picks a team to lose a game, he picks a team which he believes, in the circumstances, can win. That’s what we’re here for, we’d love to win trophies, but it doesn’t always work and you have to pick yourself up and get on.”
The BBC reporter wouldn’t let the issue of fielding a weaker team drop and asked whether as a fan Parry sometimes wished the team had been stronger: “No not really. It hurts when we lose, it hurts us as much as it hurts any fan, but we’ve done well in the past with weaker teams in the cup competitions. Rafa said this week that one of the low points of 2005 was losing the Carling Cup final to Chelsea. Nobody remembers the team that comes second. On balance I don’t think anyone would have swapped what happened that year in Istanbul for anything else.
“Also sadly this season in the Carling Cup we’ve lost players to injury. We lost Momo Sissoko long term, and now for sure Luis Garcia is going to be out for the rest of the season, so sometimes you pay a price as well.”
The next question related to Rafa’s suggestions that the board had “dragged their feet over some of the players he wanted to sign” and how Rafa had said that as well as investing in first team players there was also a need to invest in younger players too. He asked Rick what he thought about the suggestion that the board were reluctant to invest in “unproven talent”: “Well I don’t think he quite said that. Rafa is impatient; he’s impatient for success as we all are. At the end of the day we have spent, by any analysis, a lot of money on players and you can’t do everything simultaneously. If the priority is first team players and you have a fixed budget then clearly the younger players have to wait.
“I think what Rafa also made very clear, quite explicitly, was that Arsenal have been doing this for ten years. We’re two years into a project, so we have some way to go. Arsene has been buying good young players for a long, long time and is starting to see the fruits of it. We are, as we all know, playing catch-up."
“You’ve got to remember in the summer that Rafa turned down the chance to move to Real Madrid, which was the big, big temptation for him. He believed in the direction we were taking, and he believed in the way that we’re going about it. We’re all passionate to win trophies; the one we’d really love to win of course is the Premier League.”
Next the reporter asked whether Rafa has a point that the club should splash out on younger players, or if that wasn’t possible financially: “Well we’ve signed three this week so it is certainly possible, but as I’ve said, you have to set priorities and the priority clearly has been to invest in the first team. We’ve invested very substantial sums in the first team over the last three years. You can’t do everything at once – it has to be one step at a time.”
He was then asked if Liverpool were likely to sign a player, or players, before the end of the transfer window: “We may well do – we’ll have to see what the next few days bring.”
Then he was asked how he would sum up the chances of a new player being signed: “I’d sum it up as we’re working on a few things at the moment, and the news will be revealed as and when we’re ready. We’re working hard on it.” Will there be any sold? “I think it’s very unlikely. Very unlikely indeed because we’ve got a lot of games still to play and as I say we’ve had a couple of key injuries so unlikely that anyone will be going out.”
The reporter then wanted to pick up on Parry’s mention of that Real Madrid offer for Rafa in the summer. Parry said: “Well it was pretty public at the time – it’s hardly a revelation.” He was asked how serious the offer was: “Oh I think it was pretty serious, and for Rafa it would have been a temptation. Real Madrid is his club, he’s been there as a player and as a coach, and it would always be an opportunity he would have to consider, but we sat down for a few hours and talked about the direction the club was taking. He enjoys being in Liverpool, his family enjoy being in Liverpool and the point being really that he believed in the direction we were taking and he believed our mutual ambitions still matched – that there was still everything to work for and that Liverpool was where he wanted to be.”
Next was a request to update the listeners on the latest regarding the DIC takeover: “A huge amount of work has been going on, on both parts, and I imagine we’ll have something concrete to say relatively soon on that.” Parry explained what the Dubai people were doing at the moment: “They’re just finalising all of the legal work, they’ve been examining the books and satisfying themselves that everything is fine on that score. There’s a lot of legal work to do, documents being drawn up, a lot of investigation going on into the funding of the new stadium which is a very important project for us – so no lack of effort on their part. It’s a case of finalising the due diligence and pulling everything together which we hope will be completed relatively quickly.”
Parry was asked to give an insight into how things have worked recently in terms of how much time Dubai’s people have spent at Anfield: “Over the last month or so they’ve had a team of people here, not quite all the time, but they’ve had several people with us for a significant period. They’re not with us at the moment, they’re back in Dubai, but they’ve literally been working around the clock. They’ve obviously been on a steep learning curve, because football is a little different to some of the traditional businesses. It helps that most of the key people we’ve been dealing with are genuinely Liverpool supporters, so they understand what we’re about. They were at the FA Cup game against Arsenal and shared our disappointment with that one, but there’s always a tremendous amount of work to do in these situations and it can’t be rushed.”
Next question for Parry to answer was whether he felt 100% sure this deal would go through: “It is looking positive and yes, I am confident.”
Parry reaffirmed that Liverpool weren’t going to be given money in the same way as Chelsea have been: “They’re certainly going to help take us to the next level; they’re not going to be profligate with spending. I think we’ve said all along that the club will have to be run on business-like lines; it’s not going to be a rich man’s plaything. We’re going to have to be sensible, but their whole business model, which involves the new stadium at the centre of it, is based on success. They recognise that success on the pitch leads to success off the pitch and that you have to invest to stay at the top. So it’s not a quick fix, it’s not about just rushing out and buying players to achieve something this season, next season, but it is about securing a model for long-term success.”
Finally, when asked about David Beckham’s reported £130m contract with LA Galaxy, Parry said: “Well I think that ruled us out of the running for him! I think it’s more Hollywood than football, but good luck to him.