Hodgson wants stars to stay, stars remain silent

Liverpool fans should be forgiven for being cynical about comments from Roy Hodgson today in which he stated Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard weren’t for sale.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of tomorrow’s opening pre-season friendly with Al Hilal the new manager explained that he’d now held conversations with both players, but was yet to speak to the club’s Argentine captain Javier Mascherano.

Reds wait to see who's stayingMascherano has made no secret of his desire to leave, and it seems has also made no effort to talk to his new boss. Hodgson isn’t ready to condemn him yet, but hasn’t said a word about wanting him to stay: “I have tried to contact Javier. I have left him voice messages and sent him texts but had no reply. To be fair to him, that’s not unusual because he’s had a tough World Cup and I believe he’s gone back to Argentina. It’s not always easy to get in touch with people. I have tried to reach him to make clear I am happy to talk with him at his convenience.”

Hodgson had more luck speaking to Gerrard, who he met at Melwood before the club captain went on his holidays. A new manager at any club will want to speak to the club captain as soon as possible, but there is little doubt about what one of the main topics of conversation would have been.

A disillusioned Gerrard, feeling unwanted by his club, almost left for Chelsea in 2005 in the wake of that legendary night in Istanbul. Jose Mourinho was Chelsea’s manager at the time and as the new boss of Real Madrid has been linked with a fresh move for a player who is still waiting for investment in the club that has been repeatedly promised but never delivered for most of his professional career. Real Madrid would be the most likely destination should the captain leave, but a number of clubs would be interested should there be any sign from Anfield that the player could leave. Roy Hodgson wants him to stay.

“I’ve met with Steven,” he said, “and I thought the talks were positive.” He is obviously aware of the speculation but says there haven’t been any offers: “We’re in a situation where we hear our players are being courted by other teams but it’s all just rumours. What we haven’t had is a club wanting to buy Steven Gerrard.”

Hodgson says he told the captain exactly how he saw his future: “Steven Gerrard is not for sale – I made that clear to him.”

The new boss also referred to what he has been told is the “club’s policy” on players and said he told Gerrard he supports it, and that “we don’t want to sell our best players and have to start building again. We want to build our team around these players.”

One big difference between 2005 and 2010 is that Gerrard isn’t looking for reassurances about how much the club want him, he’s looking for reassurances about where the club is going. The club’s official ‘charter’ still claims that the new stadium is “scheduled to be completed in time for the opening game of the 2011/2012 season” – but of course the construction hasn’t even started, the finance isn’t even in place, for a project that was supposed to be the main reason for the club’s takeover in 2007. Even if the club is taken over tomorrow the earliest we can expect that new stadium to be open is 2013, and it’s going to take some work to convince Gerrard and other key players that the club is going to be taken over any time soon. At this rate Gerrard may never play a first team match in that stadium.

And that’s why Gerrard and other players would seriously entertain the idea of moving away. Certainly for Gerrard it wouldn’t be an easy decision to make, not by any means, but the best hope for fans who want the captain to stay is if he sees it as his duty to take the owners and senior management to task, to help in the fight for an end to the last few years of hell and to forget about the diplomacy.

The Club are fighting hard this summer to dispel rumours, something that seems more than a little ironic given the number of rumours that seemed to originate from the boardroom last season.  But did Hodgson let something slip about Gerrard, was there a suggestion he’s already had informal contact with other clubs? “Clubs can get into players’ ears and make promises,” said Hodgson. “It destabilises the club and the players and we can’t do anything about it.”

That is exactly how it worked last summer with Xabi Alonso; even before the season had ended he is believed to have been given the terms of his potential contract with Real, terms that varied depending on the ultimate transfer fee to be paid. Real’s initial valuation was much lower than Liverpool’s – and Liverpool did give Real a price – meaning a game was played out all through the summer before the Spanish side finally followed Xabi’s formal transfer request with a bid that Liverpool would accept for a fee that largely disappeared.

Gerrard is more likely to stay than go, but clearly isn’t happy with the state of play at the club.

What must also be taken into consideration are comments from a man often used to broker deals between clubs in Serie A and La Liga. Billed as “Real Madrid’s transfer consultant”, Ernesto Bronzetti was quoted in the media earlier in the week talking about the chances of Real making a move for Gerrard. After claiming the Real president felt Gerrard was too old for his club, Bronzetti went on to state quite categorically what Real had been told by Liverpool: “The president does not agree with Gerrard because he is 30 and Perez doesn’t want to know. Plus Liverpool asked for €70m(£60m).”

If the player really isn’t for sale, why are Liverpool letting Real know how much he’d cost them?

Liverpool can’t respond to every claim made in the media, but when someone working for Real Madrid claims Liverpool have named their price for the captain surely it’s worthy of a swift and unambiguous denial – unless it’s true of course.

This applies all the more when certain members of the club’s hierarchy are believed to have discussed transfer targets with Real Madrid officials before the end of last season (independently and without the knowledge of the former manager). Recent revelations that suggest the club were negotiating player sales before the appointment of Roy Hodgson was made, despite claims to the contrary, add more weight to fears that the hierarchy are choosing which players can come and go.

The last manager left after dropping rather strong hints that he felt he couldn’t trust the club’s senior management; it remains to be seen how strong the new manager’s trust of them is.

Hodgson also discussed the future of Fernando Torres, someone he’d managed a brief chat with before heading to Bad Ragaz: “I have met with Fernando. I found him to be a very pleasant man and we had a nice conversation. My conversation with him was only short because I had to leave to come to the training camp in Switzerland. We spoke about football, the World Cup, his injury, and I told him how much I am looking forward to working with him.”

Hodgson seems to be sincere when expressing his desire for the striker to stay: “As far as we are concerned he is a Liverpool player and we want him to remain a Liverpool player. He is not for sale and we don’t welcome any offers for him. We want to keep him.”

But will Hodgson get the final say in what happens with Torres? His words about Torres sound like a paraphrased version of these comments: “We want him to stay and he’s under contract to stay.” That was Martin Broughton speaking about Rafa, around six weeks before the club released him from that contract to make way for Hodgson.

It’s how clubs speak about employees under contract, and without the players themselves standing alongside Hodgson and stating their desire and commitment to stay the words are always going to seem hollow.

Hodgson himself might be showing early signs that he won’t be the puppet many fans feared he might be. He didn’t need to mention what happened after he left the meeting with Torres or who else was there with him, but it was wise to do so should developments get taken out of his hands at any point. Hodgson said: “Christian Purslow was also at the meeting and chatted to Fernando for a lot longer after I left but my chat with him was only about football matters.”

We can all speculate on what Purslow said to Torres, but Torres like Gerrard will be desperate to see some action instead of words, some actual changes for the better rather than more promises to add to the ever-expanding pile of broken ones

11 thoughts on “Hodgson wants stars to stay, stars remain silent”

  1. That’s a good point about Hodgson mentioning Purslow actually. Didn’t think of that intially.

    As far as Torres & Gerrard are concerned, looking beyond the short term, I can’t see either staying without our finances being fixed and then some. They will need to see that we have genuine ambition, and only wealthy new owners are likely to bring that. I just hope that they don’t leave and this becomes a reality. Although I suppose that’s better than them leaving and it not becoming a reality.

  2. Jim – you really should move on and start writing Spy novels or conspiracy theories, “grassy nole”, “James Bond”, “missing pictures” and all that stuff. It’s getting pathetic now listening to this sort of crap from so called fans. Benitez destroyed moral in that club so much in the last 12 months that it’s a wonder there are any of our top players left at the club and of course like any of us in our jobs when we start considering our options it can take us down a certain path. It’s pathetic the way you try to link the club to any unease with the top players. For sure they were considering all their options last season with the crap that he was causing and I wouldn’t blam them. If any of them still want to go, then so be it, there is nothing we can do about it and if they are not committed then we’re probably better off without them because ultimately no one is bigger than the club. The Club have made some very positive moves in the last 3 months and will be sold sometime. Writing doom & gloom crap like most of the scumbag tabloids who would relish in the clubs demise only serves to divide our fans & break that spirit that made LFC the best club in the world and the club we support. I trust in Roy to get the best out of what he’s got. We must totally focus on the league this year above all other competitions – no silly slip ups by putting out weakened teams with players out of position etc. Keep your site relevant to LFC supporters, get back to football articles and leave all this negative nonsense to the Daily Mail.

  3. No Joe, what divides the fans is people who are just too idiotic to see whats in front of their faces, our club is being asset stripped by Hicks and Gillet and purslow and Boughton are helping them do it.
    For gods sake get your head out of your arse, look around and realise what is happening, their are no offers for the club, because no one wants to take on the debt, we are heading for a team of journeyman footballers and a decade of mid table mediocraty.
    They dont want to sell the club and unless we the fans get off our arses and force RBS into closing the loan we are going to turn into the new Newcastle with dillusional fans making soundbites like “no one is bigger than the club” and that other favourite “we are Liverpool”

    People like yourself are partly responsible for these people doing this, because you continue, despite all the obvious facts to believe every piece of guff that Purslow and Boughton and indeed Hicks feeds you.

    This constant harping on about Rafa being responsible is deluded, we replaced a world class manager, who the European Champions signed without hestitation and replaced him with a man who has won nothing, and under the present circumstances will continue to win nothing.

    Doom and gloom is where we are and the sooner you realise that, the sooner you can start to support your club instaed of the parasites that are feeding off it.

  4. a very interesting analysis of our situation and a good subtle hint on the type of board we are being run under. The changes to the board seems to be the final nail in the coffin of our club until we get rid of the Yanks and their cronies. Now I wait for the those apologists for the board and the yanks to make their view heard.

  5. @joe kellegher

    You sound just like a shill. First of all there is no evidence that our top players had their morale destroyed, yeah a couple of squad players mouthed off but that does not point in any way to morale being destroyed.

    In fact some of the top players did voice out the need to strengthen the squad so if anything they are saying the same thing Rafa did.

    If any one is causing any crap its the owners and the untrustworthy board. You’re having a laugh if you really think the club has made positive moves in the last few months. Don’t you even know the dire financial situation the club is in? You must be living under a rock if you think Hodgson is an improvement and that things are hunky dory fine. You’re either brain or a shill — maybe both.

  6. Jim, 

    Sometimes your mistrust and cynicism about the board appears to smear your judgement.

    You mention liverpool’s valuation of Gerrard in a negative context, but wouldn’t you take £60m for him and aren’t you thankful we aren’t asking for less? If we were so interested in selling him why would we put a £60m price tag on a player who COULD be past his best? This story may not be true, but you seem to assume it is, so for the sake of argument I will as well.

    As for Purslow’s conversation with Torres, Roy mentioned how his conversation was only based on footballing matters. So clearly, Torres wants to know about a potential takeover. That’s positive.

    I love reading your column Jim and respect your views -you clearly know things I don’t about the club so I feel reluctant to doubt you – but this constant ire directed at the owners seems a little misguided in my eyes.

    At lot of the negative points seem to be based on rumours and hearsay.
    What are the facts in all of this?

    – The club is for sale (Man United fans who want the Glazers out would be glad to be in our position, they have categorically stated that they’re going nowhere).

    – The club is for sale because the owners can’t afford to take the club forward. 

    Yes there have been broken promises with no stadium, but there were mitigating circumstances, there was a global credit crunch with a lack of essential funds from banks. 

    Do you think the owners had no intention of building the stadium and holding back investment? I don’t think that at all.

    I can almost feel the hatred from people reading this, but let me make this clear, I want them out just as much as everyone else. I don’t think they intentionally sacked the stadium off, but that doesn’t mean I trusted their long term objectives i.e. owning Liverpool was a 100% a money making exercise. 

    I know you think Purslow rejected the Rhone Group intentionally without listening to their offer properly, but a key question here, did you want ‘third party’ investment anyway? I never. I wanted a complete takeover, which looks like happening now.

    Who knows, he might have done us a massive favour? 

    If Torres and Gerrard stay as I expect, this team is the same (bar Alonso and Arbeloa who have been replaced by £37m worth of talent) that finished 2nd two years ago. 

    With a fresh face as manager, who has thus far been an absolute pleasure to listen to and read about, and with the club up for sale in as Broughton put it ‘an auction’, I feel very optimistic about the future.    

  7. @Joe

    You said: “Benitez destroyed moral in that club so much in the last 12 months that it’s a wonder there are any of our top players left at the club”

    So how will you explain Mascherano if he goes to Inter Milan?

    You’re entitled to your opinion and there is evidence that Benitez fell out with certain players but given Masch’s interest I don’t see how you can apply this to every player?

    Do you think Ferguson is a bad manager? What about Jaap Stam & David Beckham? Should Ferguson of been sacked?

  8. come on man!!liverpool will be doomed if stevie and torres leave the club….though liverpool r in huge debts i think a new player shld come in

  9. Antlfc – I agree with you. One must separate ownership issues from footballing matters. Man U has ownership issues as well (their debt is even greater than us) but Alex Ferguson never let these issues spill over to the pitch.

    And as you said, at least we now have an auction sale which gives fresh hope that there will be new owners finally.

    But the more important thing is what happens on the pitch. Leave the ownership issues to the board and SOS. There is no guarantee that everything will be fine when there are new owners.

    I hope it is time pro-Rafa sentiments subside and fans start to face the harsh reality that we are just not good enough on the pitch. I will always remember Rafa Benitez for the 2005 CL triumph but it is time to move on. Give Roy Hodgson all the support. We will know whether he is up to it after one full season.

  10. @AntLFC

    If Torres was wanting to talk to someone about any potential takeover, surely Broughton would have been to person to speak to?

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