Is it too much to ask?

Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez does not want to leave Liverpool. If Liverpool want him to leave they’ve not told him so directly. And he’s not agreed a deal with Juventus.

The only reason he’s not denied the speculation about his future being elsewhere is because he wants one perfectly reasonable assurance from the club first.

Any money that comes in from player sales, he wants to be able to use on new signings.

Is that too much to ask?

Last year it was. Last season the club brought far more in from sales than it spent on adding new players.

And this is where the arguments about Rafa’s future start to become far more trivial than what it all says about the bigger picture.

What a great way to distract fans from that bigger picture. Spend a whole season with the attention on the manager, making sure that one story is given out in public, then a range of other stories are given out in private dependent on the audience.

Liverpool Football Club have been involved in the Champions League for every one of Rafa’s six seasons so far. The money coming in from TV rights deals has gone up by a massive amount in recent years. The commercial side of the club has been improved dramatically, certainly in monetary terms. In 2009 Liverpool should have had money to spend on transfers over and above what came in from player sales.

From the beginning of February 2009 until the end of August 2009 players sales earned Liverpool somewhere in the region of £52.5m. In the same six months the club committed to paying out transfer fees of £36m.

So Liverpool made a profit of £16.5m on player trading in those six months of 2009. Since then they’ve continued to bring more in that they’ve laid out for transfers.

Yet Christian Purslow told The Times, last August, that the club had actually spent £20m: “We’ve spent pretty much the same as we’ve spent every year over the past four or five years. We’ve spent about £20 million more than we’ve generated, which is what we expected. We’ve bought players the manager wanted to buy and sold players the manager wanted to sell and it has cost us almost to the penny what we expected it to cost.”

How? How on earth did Purslow arrive at that figure? That figure represents a difference of £36.5m on what any supporter can see was spent.

Where did that £36.5m go?

Of course all of that could be checked in the club’s accounts. But they were due in on Friday and are now overdue. By the time they come out the manager will be gone, and not for the right reasons.

More evidence that something was amiss with the transfer funding for last year comes when looking back at what the manager said after signing Glen Johnson. He kept quiet about the fact the deal was part-funded by money Portsmouth still owed the club for the transfer of Peter Crouch and the loan of Jermaine Pennant. He was happy to just stick to the script put in front of him by the new temporary MD. But after being pressed on whether there would be any more signings he didn’t see a problem in saying that there might be, that he had funds in place.

Benítez said: “We have a plan. We can sign one more player if necessary, but that’s without any players leaving.”

At that point in time the club still hadn’t sold Xabi Alonso, Álvaro Arbeloa or Sebastian Leto; players who would eventually be sold for a total of £36.5m.

The club only bought two more players, £17m Alberto Aquilani and £2m Sotirios Kyrgiakos, at a total of £19m.

So that’s £14.5m left over, plus the money Rafa had already said was available for another signing. Except the £14.5m didn’t get handed over, and the extra funds Rafa had spoken about disappeared. So again, how on earth could the temporary MD make the claim that the club had spent £20m on players?

Before Purslow’s £20m claim, on August 18th, a message came out from a ‘source close to Rafa Benítez’.  The unnamed source said: “The figures have changed since Rafa signed his contract. He has sold several players and raised a lot of money, but is not being allowed to spend it.” This quote came after Rafa himself felt he couldn’t talk about the missing funds at a regular press conference, his only response being “I do not want to discuss money.”

Soon after this it became common knowledge amongst the press that whenever Rafa attended any kind of meeting with the press Purslow would be there to shadow him, it was as if Purslow was frightened that Rafa might not stick to the Purslow version of events, the Purslow version of how things were going behind the scenes.

It stuck out like a sore thumb to many of those who witnessed it.

In that interview with the times Purslow also showed ignorance about why the owners even got the chance to take over our club. The need for the stadium, the one that still isn’t started, was basically to provide transfer funds to allow the club to compete with its rivals. David Moores felt he had no way of bringing that new stadium to fruition, hence the search for investment. But Purslow tried –when making that doubtful £20m transfer spending claim – to make out that transfer spending wasn’t all that important anyway: “Spending isn’t the panacea everyone thinks it is, but we’ve spent £20 million and that’s real money.”

But despite that attempt to play down the importance of the transfer budget, Purslow has had to keep trying to explain it. In September he tried to, telling the Liverpool Echo: “We reinvest over half of our profits in transfer spending. We always have done and we will continue to do so.” Of course the accounts are late, so we don’t know what half the profit would have been last summer, but we also know that if the club made a profit on transfers it certainly didn’t invest any of its operating profit into transfers.

And this summer Rafa isn’t even asking them to do that. He wants the assurance that he can spend whatever comes in from sales. If the club can’t assure him of that, where does it leave the club? What kind of future does the club have if it can’t even use what it gets from sales?

If Rafa leaves, having failed to get that simple assurance from the chairman, the board, the owners or whoever it is that is running this club, we’ve got far more to worry about than many fans seem to think.

22 thoughts on “Is it too much to ask?”

  1. So its the owners who are the problem Jim. They ultimately are the ones who are approving finance within the club.

    As long as the fans keep their sights trained on these two and dont get distracted by others within the club, such as Purslow and Broughton, who are glorified errand boys.

    Fire needs to be focused on the root problem within our club, Hicks and Gillett.

    Even the local media, Alan Jackson in particular seem to focus more on Benitez’s shortcomings than H &G. Massive debt and no new investment on players. Hick’s stated Liverpool would spend big this summer. Lets see if thats another lie. We know the answer already.

  2. Roger,

    Purslow acts annoyed with the owners himself, at least that was the indication from those minutes of the meeting with SoS, and by doing that some people seem to think he must be acting for the good of the club and of the fans.

    He acts like he is behind Rafa, yet someone, guess who, is briefing Henry Winter and David Bond with stories about Rafa that are there for no other reason than to discredit him. If the club want to sack Rafa then they should sack Rafa, not try to force him out by ganging up on him in the press. That’s a disgusting way to act.

    This is the chance for the owners, or one of the owners, to show they don’t approve of Purslow’s actions. If not, they confirm what all fans think anyway.

    And Broughton also has an opportunity to step in. If he doesn’t, and expects us to assume he’s trying to find a buyer who will be good for the club, he’s far more deluded than I would have expected him to be.

    Sooner or later the people so easily distracted by the smear campaign against Rafa will realise that this is about issues far more important than Rafa’s future.

  3. Its a sorry state of affairs. Our great club has descended into chaos.
    Even an honourable man like Benitez is close to throwing in his hat and leaving Liverpool’s fate to those mercenary Yanks, Hicks and Gillette.
    Good article by the way Jim.

  4. The time is coming to get hostile to the two errand boys Purslow and Broughton. They’re doing nothing!

  5. Did H & G buy and sell Keane ? Did they let Crouch go ? Did they annoy Alonso by openly trying to replace him ? Do they play negative 4-5-1 whatever the opposition ? Do they insist on playing Lucas ? Did they purchase Aquilani injured and then not play him when fit ?Did they pull off Torres against Birmingham ? Do they say Ngog is a good striker ? DO they purchase young ‘promising’ players who get sold (at a loss) after -3 years ?

    H & G are an easy excuse – Who has had the bigger budget ? Wenger or Benitez ?

  6. I do really worry about Purslow. Although Rick Parry was slow, was he as two faced?

    I would prefer Rafa to stay and be backed financially. We could have won the league this year with strong investment last year – it never happened.

    I worry who we would get were Rafa to go. Martin O’Neill or worse are being touted. Basically, we’re certain to get a manager of inferior quality who would have no money to spend.

    Worrying times indeed. And who started the downward trend – yes, Hicks and Gillet. Shame on them.

  7. Dumb, dumb dumb….
    Why are the owners the problem if LFC are up for sale??
    The club is up for sale, so why would Benitez leave because he has a problem with the owners? That doesn’t make sense.
    Benitez had driven a lousy season for LFC hoping he would be fired, producing a 15m Pound payout.
    He can complain all he likes about the owners not giving him money, but the owners don’t make weekly decisions on who plays…. Why is Ngog on the field when Aquilani is on the bench…. Why does Lucas get a spot each week… he doesn’t deserve a red shirt…
    Sorry, but with his transfer record sucks (Crouch, Aquilani, Belamy, Alonso, Keene) and on and on….. Would YOU give him a blank cheque book??? Please… Benitez is looking after Benitez…. Not LFC. Get rid of Benitez, and we might win again…

  8. “Sorry, but with his transfer record sucks (Crouch, Aquilani, Belamy, Alonso, Keene) and on and on…..”

    Reina, Alonso, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Benayoun, Mascherano, Torres and on and on….

    Less than £5 million net spend per year on transfers last two seasons. tell me who could win the title on that?

    You want Rafa out. Big mistake!

  9. Is it too much to ask that we stop all this cloak and dagger stuff and start pulling together in in true Liverpool fashion ? This is what made us great and it will work again. All efforts should be focused in getting the right new owners, everything else is secondary.
    What is past is past, stop throwing shite and close ranks !

  10. Tom – Since when is any issue ever absolute? Why do you and countless other ‘supporters’ have to reduce articles like this to a simple Rafa Vs Owners debate?

    I’m not going to sit here and say that Rafa hasn’t made mistakes, but this is missing the point entirely.

    The fact is it doesn’t matter who is managing us, we are fucked financially if the club cannot even give whoever is manager the proceeds from any sales.

    Do you think the fact that the club is ‘for sale’ means that we will have a swift resolution? History teaches us nothing if we choose to ignore it. The facts are that the sale of Hick’s other sporting ventures stateside have all be protracted and given the ridiculous sums being asked for do you see a swift resolution? Haven’t we all been here before, or have you forgotten that?

    Given that the number of ‘vanity’ owners are limited, do you expect that we will be owned by someone who isn’t here to make money out of us? As Broughton said himself in that interview, the new owner will be sought without bringing “too much leverage” on board. This says there will still be debt, and this debt has a definite correlation on our ability to compete in the league irrespective of who manages us. This is what this is really about, not just Rafa or just the owners.

  11. Jofrad – you do spout some complete shite.

    Stop the cloak and dagger stuff and start pulling together in a true Liverpool fashion? Isn’t this what these articles written lately are aimed at ? It’s Purslow and the club’s hierarchy who are doing the very thing you suggest that we shouldn’t be doing and yet you don’t care about it?

    All efforts should be focussed on getting the right new owners? Off you go Jim. Go on, get to work getting the right owners in would you mate. Or perhaps you have some way of influencing the new owners or the club Jofrad?

    What is past is past? I’m sorry – this pertains very much to our current situation doesn’t it?

    Stop spouting meaningless nonsense and close ranks, mate.

  12. Denny.
    You miss the entire point. I’m not saying that Rafa hasn’t made SOME good buys, all I am saying is that overall his transfer record is terrible, and if it where MY cheque book, I wouldn’t open it to someone with his history. Why should G&H??
    Even you quote Alsono. And where is HE now? Driven out by Rafa. What about Reira? Benayoun is the latest to say he is unsure of his future. Look at Babel, El Hazar, Lucas – Not ONE of them would have played for Shankly.
    The point is that if the club is up for sale, and Rafa has a problem with ownership. So why would he quit now instead of waiting for the new owners to see if they have any different policies? Because he wants to leave, but get a big payout to do so.
    Drive the team down, make bad decisions, get fired, get 15M Pounds…. Not a bad deal, huh!
    What has Rafa done? One Champions league with Houllier’s team, and an FA cup in five years. Please.
    But thats OK, just blame the owners… Remember when Man U were bought by the Glaziers? All the fans were out in force, the end of the world was happening. And what about their track record since then?
    Nobody in the top 4 have anything like the awful trade record of LFC. Nobody.
    It isn’t just about balancing books with buy vs. sell. It is about stability of the team. It makes me laugh every Saturday to look around and see the number of ex-Liverpool players who were dumped as ‘excess baggage’ doing wonderfully well elsewhere…..
    Why didn’t Crouch fit in. What was wrong with Bellamy. How about Keane. And Alonso?? Reira? – hero turned villan. The list is endless.
    Can it possibly be all those players who are to blame?? I don’t think so.
    You watch, next year it will be Gerrard and Torres. Nobody wants to stay with a manager who changes his mind every week…. If you were Alonso, would YOU stay at Anfield when Lucas gets a spot every week and you don’t????
    Wake up boys. I’m not saying the owners are good, but Rafa is the REAL problem.

  13. Tom, tom, tom…

    …where to start? Look at any of the other ‘top 4’ or top6 and you’ll see greater mistakes being made than Rafa’s. So why choose this stick to beat Rafa with when you could be deriding Slur Alex for Hargreaves or Berbatov?

    Perhaps you’re not a Red at all? Surely if you were you’d take the opportunity to have a go at rival managers as well.
    I hate so called fans who refuse to do this. Not saying that Benitez is perfect – far from it – but he’s the best for LFC at the moment. And with a proper transfer budget (that doesn’t include wage increases to hang on the existing players for example) Benitez can bring this club trophies – including League success.

  14. Rafa isn’t the real problem. The real problem is the ownership. But I don’t think Rafa has done himself many favours lately. I think Rafa has probably come to the end of the road as far as LFC are concerned – regardless of how good a manager he is, I think there might be too much bad water gone under the bridge now.

    But the real problem is the ownership, and the way the club was bought, and the debts placed on it. Now the owners are trying to sell the club for some ludicrous amount of money. So any sale, if they can find a buyer remotely interested, won’t happen quickly. It will take a long time to finalise.

    What we have to hope is that the owners see that a prolonged sale process coinciding with a sharp decline in LFC’s fortunes is not in their interests, as it will quickly erode any potential sale price. That may either force them to sell sooner for a more realistic amount (let’s hope so) or to somehow provide ongoing investment while still paying off the interest and debts.

    If the owners can’t get the sort of money they’re looking for quickly, then in the short term the owners may be tempted to asset strip the club. I think that’s why there’s no way Rafa will get guarantees about being able to use proceeds of transfers. What if LFC can get 100M for Torres out of Chelsea or City? And another 50M for Gerrard? Given the current situation, is it that unthinkable that the club wouldn’t take the money?

    So to me its almost irrelevant whether Rafa stays or goes, I don’t even want to get into the debate of whether he’s any good or not. The real crisis facing LFC is the ownership, and we can’t realistically hope for good times until its resolved once and for all.

  15. McrRed.
    I do tend to get weary of people who question others loyalty to the club just because of a differing opinion. I am a fan, not a fool, and have been a fan for 50 years, back when Shankly ruled.
    So, please, don’t question my qualifications.
    I would happily compare Rafa’s mistakes to Fergusson’s, however I don’t think there is any comparision. Tell me how many buy/sell decisions Fergusson/Wenger have made, and I will be happy to debate.
    The truth is that we currently have a mediocre team, and a mediocre manager. Yes we have a few stars (Torres, Carragher, Gerrard and a few more), but we have a whole pile of ‘middle of the table players’ that arrived, and continue to play, courtesy of our current manager. We shouldn’t have bought them, and cannot get rid of them.
    Frankly, if we can get 80M for Torres, that would be good for the club overall, if we bought 4x20M players to replace him…. Just think about how strong our bench would be – they could all sit on the sidelines with Aquilani while Lucas, Ngog and El Hazar get first team each week :)

  16. “The club only bought two more players, £17m Alberto Aquilani and £2m Sotirios Kyrgiakos, at a total of £19m.

    So that’s £14.5m left over, plus the money Rafa had already said was available for another signing. Except the £14.5m didn’t get handed over, and the extra funds Rafa had spoken about disappeared.”

    Have you never heard about signing on fees, and how are wages paid? Does that money just come from thin air? £17m Aquilani plus how much per week – £40k? That’s £2m of wages plus a million for agent’s fees and a signing on bonus, hence it costs £20m to sign Auilani in the 1st year, and £2m every subsequent year.

    Stop looking at just transfer fees, there’s more to the cost than just the headline figure.

  17. @Michael: So when Rafa said there was still money to buy another player, without selling anyone, he’d forgotten about the signing on fees and wages? And those players we did sell – are we still paying their wages? Do you want to add the wage savings onto the transfer fees we got for Xabi and the rest?

    I’ve no problem with everyone changing from talking just about transfer fees and starting talking about the overall cost of bringing a player in, just as long as it’s done consistently and some kind of effort is made to allow like-for-like comparisons with past years.

    @Wes, sorry the contact form had disappeared off the menus, I don’t know how or when that happened. The menu option is back, and the page it leads to – http://www.anfieldroad.com/contact-us/ – was there all along, you just had to guess the page’s address! We’ve had a few emails from the form this week too.

    Anyway, the form’s there now, any trouble let me know and I can always email you using the address you provide with your comment.

  18. Rafa is a god. He won the 05 European Cup all on his little onwio. We should sell all the deadwood like Gerrard, Torros, and Carragher and give the money to King Rafa to invest in real quality like Lucas & Ngog. King Rafa will guarentee that we will stay in the premier league next season because he is working really hard and doing his job perfectly, and if we do get reglated it will be the stupid fans fault for having expectations which were too high. Now let’s all stick our heads up our bums and say it at the same time
    ” In Rafa we trust”

  19. That was really constructive Joe, thanks for that. The bit about relegation was my favourite bit.

  20. to tom:
    i’m not questionning your qualifications or even your loyalty. i am questionning your focus though.

    fergie’s and wenger’s mistakes are legendary – you must know them? (hint hargreaves, berbatov – anderson cost more than aquilani…)

    what riles me is that they get swept under the carpet to perpetuate the myth that they’re great managers

    the two managers are not the same though, both have built on existing strong squads (yes, that they created)

    fergie’s had money and won stuff
    wenger’s had no money and won now’t

    benitez has had to build on a weak squad with little (NET) money – he has had to sell to buy. last summer he had to sell and then didn’t have funds to buy. we only got Kyrgiakos because of a crisis and then at a bargain basement price with the loan of nemeth thrown in.
    ‘appy ‘arry would have been celebrated with a national holiday for that one!

    if you can’t see the link between squad investment and club success then it’s a lost cause.

    what i question is why fans would have a go at our club/players/manager when other teams are out there doing the same thing but escape criticism.
    it’s like people can’t be bothered researching the truth so they trot out media regurgitations (remember jamie redknapp on alonso’s role in the utd match last season?)

    the truth is we’re a team of potentially good players (who can beat anyone on their day) who’ve just had a mediocre season.
    (though, frighteningly, related to squad costs and wage bill we’ve finished exactly where we should).

    your fear and mine is that we’ve got more seasons like this to come.

    where we differ is where we focus the blame…

  21. Hi McrRed.
    I tend to agree with your comments, and I have never said that Wenger/Ferguson etc don’t make mistakes. Letting Tevez go, in my opinion, cost Man U the Premiership last year. Dump Berbatov and keep Tevez would have been the best strategy in my opinion.
    And I agree it would be nice to have more cash to spend on transfers. However, I have three points:
    1) Based on his transfer record, I would not trust Rafa with my money, so I understand why G@H didn’t trust him with theirs
    2) It is the decisions made on the field that have amazed me (and cost us some serious points): a) Rotating players cost us at least one season – what was that about?? b) Zone marking on defence is an awful failure but he won’t budge from that strategy. c) His choice of players on the field defies belief – for example when we needed a goal he took off Torres and put on Ngog, and even Torres was shaking his head not understanding the decision.
    3) His ‘my way or the highway’ approach has cost us the dedication of excellent players. The way he irritated Alonso and Riera is absurd. I agree that the manager is boss, but he doesn’t seem to have the Ferguson ability to deal with petulance in a constructive manner (ie, the brilliannt handling of Ronaldo last season)
    It will be very interesting to see what happens at Inter. Remember when he came to LFC? He inherited the European Champions team from Houllier. He bought, sold and tinkered until we slowly moved down the table.
    Yes, I agree that you need money to compete. But you need more than money, and I am not sure that Rafa would ever win the Premiership, no matter how much cash he had to throw away.
    Anyway, he is gone. I am looking forward to next season, and win or lose, will be cheering on every game :)

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