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.