Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez looks set to hit the News of the World journalist Rob Beasley hard by taking legal action against him in response to his latest piece in Sunday’s paper. The Liverpool Echo are reporting that Rafa has appointed a local solicitor to inform both the journalist and his paper that he is intending to make a claim against both Beasley and his paper.
Beasley’s article on Sunday was labelled “exclusive” and sat under the headline “It’s Your Fault: Rafa In New Blast At Owners”. Rafa has been careful not to publicly criticise the owners in public since the showdown in December after the Manchester United game. Even when Hicks admitted he had offered Klinsmann Rafa’s job the Spaniard remained tight-lipped. Whether he means it or not, Hicks has since described Rafa as a “gentleman” for his willingness not to speak out in public against him.
With this in mind the headlines and the story that went with it would raise suspicion regardless of who wrote it and which newspaper it was in. But this was written by Rob Beasley, the man who said of Benítez on national television: “He behaves at times like a petulant spoilt brat.” He said that on one of his Sky Sports “Sunday Supplement” appearances, also saying on the same programme: “I’m not a fan of Benitez the manager and Benitez the person because I think he’s a bit snide and secretive.” The whole rant was lengthy and full of bile.
Would you give an exclusive interview to a journalist who had launched such a blistering attack on you? An interview which would needlessly re-open the wounds from your earlier battles with your employers? Of course not.
It soon became apparent on Sunday morning that in fact Rafa’s interview with El Mundo had been taken and twisted by the journalist who still seems to be struggling to come to terms with Luis Garcia’s goal in the Champions League final of 2005. Various translations of that interview, by journalist Inma Lidon and originally in Spanish, have circulated since it was first published. One of those is now – say the Echo – in the hands of Rafa’s solicitor Richard Green of Hill Dickinson. None of the various translations differ materially from each other, and the one The Echo say is in the hands of Mr Green reads as follows:
Lidon: “The owners were lacking faith in your work a couple of months ago when the team was six points behind the leaders with a game in hand. Has this issue influenced the progress of the team?”
Benítez: “As a coach you could say yes. It would be the perfect excuse, but I don’t want to use it. What is clear is that at that time we were in a good position and the team was at the point of winning many of the matches that we have drawn and that is what brought us down.”
Rafa clearly avoids blaming the owners for the way the team dropped down the table, regardless of what he may or may not think privately. Dropping two points at a time in games they should have won is what Rafa blamed the descent on.
But Beasley’s article was adapted from the El Mundo article purely to suit the agenda of a journalist who once claimed to have been sent texts by Jose Mourinho confirming he wanted the England job, yet seemed to only find out Mourinho had ruled himself out of the said job when he read it somewhere else. His use of the El Mundo quotes differ materially from the original headline, and seem to include what can only be fictitious additional quotes. The headline set the tone, the “Exclusive” claim a lie as Rafa later confirmed, the use of block capitals emphasising the aims of the author.
It’s your fault – Benitez in new blast at owners
EXCLUSIVE By Rob Beasley
RAFA BENITEZ has again risked the wrath of Liverpool’s American owners by blaming them for RUINING his team’s title hopes.
The Anfield boss says their bid to replace him with Jurgen Klinsmann late last year de-stabilised the club and undermined all hopes of winning the Premier League.
Benitez, whose side take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge today, chose his words carefully – hardly surprising after receiving a rap from Tom Hicks and George Gillett for earlier outbursts.
But he said: “What is evident is that back at that time we were in a great position and the team was in shape to win many of the games which we eventually drew.
“So the entire process is what allowed the gap to open between us and the leaders.
“If I wanted, I have the perfect excuse.
The only solution I have is to try to bury myself in my work. And it is vital we win today to enable us to fight at least for that fourth-place spot.”
In the original interview Rafa said, “It would be the perfect excuse, but I don’t want to use it.” Beasley omitted those very important words: “but I don’t want to use it.” And in doing so he twisted Rafa words to enough of a degree that the News of the World now has to get its lawyers to find a way out of the mess made by their bitter reporter. The final paragraph, starting “The only solution…”, seems to have been made up. It’s not from the El Mundo interview, and of course Rafa hasn’t spoken to Beasley.
Rafa confirmed that he’d not spoken to Beasley when he was interviewed by Sky on Sunday afternoon. Of course he hadn’t – he’d not give Beasley the steam off his, erm, coffee let alone an exclusive interview! Sky showed images of the back page, with Rafa saying: “It’s no surprise. Everybody in Liverpool knows that there are two newspapers that you cannot trust, this is one of them. He talks of it being an exclusive; but the journalist is lying. I was talking with the Spanish press – he was manipulating everything. So he’s lying.” Rafa added: “I have contact with them, especially with Mr Hicks, because he was talking about Mr Hicks and I think he is lying – well clearly he is lying, because I did not talk with him.”
Beasley’s heart must have sunk when he heard about Rafa’s response on Sunday. Rather than it upsetting preparations as Beasley must have surely been hoping it would, it seemed to add more fire to Rafa’s belly, and although the final score was 0-0 it was the best Liverpool performance of the year, Chelsea barely threatening for the whole ninety minutes. Beasley will know his beloved Chelsea got off the hook.
But it’s not quite so certain that Beasley himself will get off the hook. The Echo say that solicitor Green has studied both the articles and is satisfied enough that there are grounds for a claim against both the journalist and his paper that he was going to send them both a “letter before claim” setting out their grounds for complaint. The Echo say that the claim would be based on two separate grounds. Firstly the potential of Rafael Benítez having been libelled by the article and secondly “false attribution”. This means that quotes were used that had not actually been spoken by the quoted party, in this case Rafa, or that “were taken so far out of context that they distorted the whole article”.
Transfer gossip is irritating, but unless it happens on the eve of a big game it’s rarely anything more than just a minor distraction to supporters, almost certainly ignored by the players. But Beasley knows that had his article been taken seriously by the owners that Rafa could well have been out of a job with quite some speed. Hicks actually claimed that his approach to Klinsmann was made on the back of newspaper rumours (ones we’ve still not found) linking Rafa to the Real Madrid job. This fiction and manipulation is potentially damaging, and it’s hoped that the News of the World’s editor accepts his member of staff stepped out of line, letting his obvious hatred of Rafa cloud his judgement to such an extent that his paper now stands on the verge of costly and embarrassing litigation.
I emailed Beasley, and his editor Colin Myler, yesterday to ask for an apology. Myler certainly got the email, and although the Beasley one bounced back with an error message, further investigation showed that Beasley almost certainly got his too. Neither party have had the decency to reply, but today’s action may interrupt any ogling of photos sent in as part of the latest potential kiss-and-tell stories for their publication.
* If you’re wondering what Beasley said about Rafa on the Sky Sports Sunday Supplement, here’s an extract from an earlier Anfield Road article which details Beasley’s bitter rant:
Back in January Beasley was on the more-often-than-not nauseous Sunday Supplement when he had a dig at Rafa. Again the News of the World had run an article attacking Rafa, again it didn’t have Chris Bascombe’s name against it. It was headlined “Rafa: I’m a dead man walking”. This was the article carrying quotes allegedly from “a close friend of Benitez”, but which could be seen easily to be untrue by the way the referenced Mascherano refusing to sign, when in reality there was no deal on the table for him to sign. All the Sundays covered the story, but it was the News of the World that carried the quotes, designed to sound as if they’d come from the man himself. Rafa strongly denied the following day that they had come from him, or from any friend of his.
It didn’t stop Beasley from taking the opportunity to attack Rafa on the Sky programme. “I think this is classic Benitez,” Beasley sneered, “he behaves at times like a petulant spoilt brat. One of his favourite ploys is to give these secret little briefings where he asks journalists to turn off their microphones and he then gives them a bit of inside information.” And of course Rafa is the only manager to do that is he Beasley?
He went on, clearly enjoying the chance to attack the manager that twice sent his beloved Chelsea and Mourinho crashing out of the Champions League: “He’s certainly got a problem with the new owners, he’s spent a lot of money and now he wants more. The thing about Benitez that annoys me is not just his petulance, but nothing is ever his fault.” This coming from Mourinho’s friend! He went on: “But when things go well it’s always to his credit and nobody else’s and I don’t like that in a manager.”
He wasn’t stopping there: “He’s made a classic mistake of believing his own publicity. He’s had a degree of success at Liverpool – nothing in the Premier League – they haven’t won the championship since 1989-90 and that’s a long time for Liverpool not to be the dominant force in English football.”
His hatred dripping from his mouth, he carried on sticking that knife in: “Yes he’s had Champions League success once and they won the FA Cup under Benitez, but that’s not the success that is expected at Liverpool.”
And then: “People try and make him out to be some sort of tactical magician, well he wasn’t a tactical magician in the 2005 Champions League final because they were being trounced by Milan and so his tactics were quite clearly wrong. And if anybody says ‘well he was a tactical genius because he turned it around’ well when you’re in that sort of a mess it doesn’t take much tactics to say ‘we’re in a mess, let’s just go and attack and try and get back and turn it around’.”
But that wasn’t enough, so on he went, the bloodlust getting the better of him: “And again against West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup final, they were out thought, out manoeuvred and trailing. It was the last throw of the dice – ‘let’s pile forward’ and Steven Gerrard got them out of jail in that one as well. Both finals they won on penalties.”
Who did Liverpool knock out on the way to that FA Cup win? Chelsea of course.
Unbelievably, he thought he’d better point something out: “I’m not a fan of Benitez the manager and Benitez the person.” Really? Gosh Rob, you hid it so well, we’d never have guessed. Why? “Because I think he’s a bit snide and secretive. He tries to use the press to then ignite the fans – who adore him at Liverpool – to try and put pressure on the owners.” Again, Mourinho’s mate comes out with this!
Although this programme was on before Hicks admitted he’d lined up Klinsmann to replace Rafa in readiness for sacking him, Beasley will have known well enough that the plan had been there to sack him. He’ll have known why Rafa was so upset at the infamous press conference. But facts shouldn’t get in the way of a gutter journalist on the attack. Beasley went on: “He’s made the classic mistake, he’s called it on with the owners and they’ve said ‘no, we’re in charge, not you, get your head down’. If you remember not that long ago there was that classic press conference when Benitez showed his petulance and stupidity to the extreme where he’d had a tiff, they’d rapped him across the knuckles and said ‘keep your head down, focus on coaching and training the players – that’s your job’. And in the press conference Benitez was asked 25 different questions. 25 times he said ‘my job is to focus on the coaching and training of the players’.
“Now after you’ve been rapped across the knuckles by your boss and you go and do that, you are effectively saying ‘sod you’ and the owners have come back to him and said ‘no, sod you!'”
Well sod you Beasley – you say all this about Rafa and then weeks later expect us to believe he’s given you an exclusive? Something doesn’t add up – I’d guess that either you’ve twisted words spoken off the record (and to someone else not you), or you’ve made all of this up.
Well done to Rafa for standing up to a journalist who clearly needs to take some time off and spend it getting counselling to help him overcome such deep-seated bitterness.
Most Liverpool fans are intelligent enough to realise that every newspaper story has to be read carefully and its content weighed up, with the reputation of both the paper and the article’s author added to the mix before deciding how much of it to believe. Not everything in the press is a lie, despite what a certain Texan millionaire may try and have us believe. But not everything is true either. Some papers are automatically going to struggle for credibility, based on past performance, as are some journalists. Rob Beasley and the News of the World is not a combination that suggests to any Red that the story needs much credence, but with actual quotes in the story, it started alarm bells ringing even with the most cynical anti-tabloid of Liverpool supporters.
Let’s hope Rafa’s action brings to an end this vendetta against him, he’s got enough enemies as it is without some supposed friend of Jose Mourinho joining in.
* Extra reading: