Reports tonight suggest that Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez has
been given details of his budget by the club's new owners – and it doesn't make
pleasant reading. Rafa lost his cool the morning after the Champions League
final when he complained about a lack of urgency from the new owners and the
chief executive over both signing new players and getting his core players to
commit to new contracts.
He's now going to lose his cool again after being told by
the new owners that they are refusing to add any extra funds of their own to
the transfer kitty. Rafa's budget will be made up of money from selling
players, prize money from the Champions League, money from ticket sales and so
on. The same budget as every summer.
Last week we saw Carragher, Gerrard, Alonso and Reina all
sign new four and five year deals, and all four spoke of their excitement that
the club was moving forward. But Rafael Benítez has been confiding to some
about his unhappiness in relation to the way he's being spoken to. Promises of
support are all well and good, but Rafa wanted actions not words. He started to
get the impression that the likes of Samuel Eto'o and Carlos Tevez were out of
reach, and started to get a list together of players costing between £15m and
Eto'o and Tevez, at their quoted fees, are now definitely
out of reach. But even the players in the £15m category seem to be out of
reach.I t seems Rafa will have to sell before he can buy. There's no indication
of where the extra TV money has gone, nor any explanation as to why the owners
are now going against all their hints of supporting the manager in his plans by
supplying him with extra money.
The new owners are claiming privately that Rafa is happy
with the news he has no money to spend after all. That's quite untrue, Rafa is
said to be fuming to put it bluntly. Keep in mind that last summer's purchase
of Dirk Kuyt was made possible by David Moores lending the club the money to
pay the transfer fee. In effect Liverpool will have less money than last
summer, unless the new TV money is handed to Rafa.
These stories are leaking from various directions, all is
not well inside Anfield. What hasn't yet been revealed is the excuse that the
new owners will use for going back on all they said.
Meanwhile, back across the Atlantic, George Gillett has been
speaking to the Montreal Gazette about Liverpool FC. He talks about spending
money on the club, but not in the way he was talking about it earlier in the
year: "As far back as February, Rafa laid out a program for us," says Gillett. "Each
one of our sports businesses has a core concept. You can't just flop around
looking at opportunities here and there, go left, go right. It has to be part
of an integrated plan. We have one at Liverpool, as we have with the Canadiens,
one we understand 100 per cent, believe in and support. The plan involves us
spending money, but it will be part of a plan, not just spending like a drunken
Hang on – we didn't expect money to be spent "like a drunken
sailor". We expected Rafa to be supported in his plans – the way we were told
he would be during all those high-profile interviews with the US pair. Whatever
plans Rafa had, they included buying more players to strengthen the weaker
areas of the squad. That costs money, but now the tone is changing. Gillett says:
"Hockey and soccer are all about teamwork, and Rafa believes in that very
strongly. It's the same in almost all of life – it's about partnership,
teamwork and communication. It's not all about money."
From all the leaked reports, "communication" from the US has
been nothing short of pathetic. Rafa's patience has been tried repeatedly due
to an unwillingness from those above him to communicate. And the statement, "It's
not all about money," is indeed true, but for Liverpool fans success is
all-important. We've grown used to it ever since Bill Shankly shook the club up
in the sixties. The modern game is unfortunately pretty much ruled by money. If
it wasn't George and Tom wouldn't be here – they'd not have the same interest
to start with, but there wouldn't have been the same need to go looking for
investment. We expected investment to include a plan where Rafa, or whoever was
managing the club, would be able to invest in his squad every transfer window
to ensure we were always at least on a par with our rivals. To get on a par
with our rivals though we needed a boost, some extra money to gets us a few
steps closer to those ahead of us. Money, plus Rafa's expertise, could bring us
the league title we so desperately want. It now seems that the new owners have
lied about the money. And if there's one thing Liverpool fans do not like it's
being lied to or lied about. Rafa Benítez is much the same.
Liverpool fans were delighted to see the club reach the
Champions League final in Athens, but other than the Charity Shield won last
August, and the FA Youth Cup won by the youngsters, it's been a trophyless
season. Gillett considers it was a successful season: "In all candour, the
Gillett and Hicks families have to say we've been pretty lucky to arrive on the
scene and enjoy this first-season success," he said. "It's heady and a lot of
fun, but it sure would be a mistake for us to try to act like we had anything
to do with it. This is the work of David Moores and Rick Parry and Rafa and the
players. We were the fortunate beneficiaries of circumstance."
If the stories turn out to be true and the new owners have
mislead fans over the amounts of funds Rafa would be given, they might find
themselves beneficiaries of something they wouldn't class as fortunate. As they
saw in the semi-final of the Champions League at Chelsea, you don't want to get
on the wrong side of Liverpool fans.
Perhaps Tom and George would be so good to have a re-think
on their plans, or to at least have the decency to tell their new club's
supporters the truth. No carefully-chosen words, just honesty.