Liverpool are all set for a busy day tomorrow with a press conference to bring the club’s new signings up-to-date to the press. Jose Reina, Mark Gonzales and Antonio Barragan have already been revealed as new signings, announced at the press conference on Monday to unveil Bolo Zenden. At that press conference Rafael Benitez mentioned "two or three" other players that were set to sign this week, all being well. As well as those, there’ll also be a lot of PR from Steven Gerrard as he puts pen to paper on his brand-new deal.
It’s unlikely that the full story about what went on behind the scenes will ever be publicly revealed. It’s certainly something that Gerrard wants to move on from, but it seems it was all down to misunderstandings. No bust-ups between Rafael Benitez and Gerrard took place, despite the press trying now to put that spin on it.
From what we can gather from various trustworthy sources, one of the problems was that Liverpool were happy for everyone concerned to go away and enjoy their holidays, short as they were, and to start discussions once everyone returned for pre-season trainings. The intention then was to sit down and chat about what Gerrard wanted from his new deal.
Unfortunately by the time this first meeting took place, Gerrard was already becoming anxious. Various rumours were filtering through to him – incorrectly – that Liverpool wanted to sell him, in order to fund more transfers. As the weeks were going by Gerrard was becoming increasingly worried that the rumours were true. Why weren’t Liverpool banging on his door with the new contract? So at this meeting Gerrard was dismayed that Liverpool didn’t arrive with their ideas on the format of the new deal. They didn’t have a contract to offer. Gerrard took this to mean they weren’t interested.
Struan Marshall told Liverpool what deal Gerrard wanted. Liverpool took it on board and went away to think about it. Again, Gerrard just did not feel that this showed enthusiasm, as if Liverpool were up to something. Why didn’t they agree to it straight away? Why didn’t they explain what was wrong with it. In fact there was just one issue that had Liverpool concerned at that stage – an escape clause in the contract.
This clause would have allowed Steven Gerrard to leave should Liverpool finish below a certain position – believed to be fourth – in the league at any time during the length of the contract. That’s not to say he would leave, just that he’d be able to talk to any club that made a sufficient bid for him under those circumstances.
Over the weekend and in the press on Monday morning, all the talk was of Gerrard breaking contract talks off, claiming it was because Gerrard had been in a bust-up with Rafael Benitez. The news of the contract talks being broken off was confirmed by Gerrard’s agent.
On Monday the press conference for Zenden took place, after which Liverpool stressed how they wanted to keep Gerrard. Later that evening they met with the player and his agent and offered him the contract he’d asked for. Liverpool left the meeting feeling it had gone well, that Gerrard would sign – after all, it was exactly what he’d asked for, with the escape clause built in.
Gerrard went home, still completely unconvinced about the deal and club’s attitude. After that he said he wanted to leave, still convinced that Liverpool were up to something behind the scenes.
The next day though all of this changed. Over the course of Tuesday he realised what he was going to lose. He realised he could achieve his aim at Anfield before the end of his career – to help bring the Premiership title to Liverpool – the only medal he hasn’t yet got.
To try and show his committment to Liverpool he requested that the escape clause be removed from the contract. He intends to give his all to Liverpool now, regrets what happened, and hopes that the fans will back him.
In terms of the leaks to the press, Struan Marshall himself wasn’t to blame – as we’ve said for the past few days, the press were being briefed by SFX management. Chelsea and Real Madrid have seemingly been involved in this from what we’ve been told – and nothing gives this away more clearly than the fact that every single sports page reported Chelsea making a £32million bid for Gerrard. No guess-work – every paper was informed of the exact amount of the bid.
So tomorrow Liverpool will show their captain signing his new deal, they’ll reveal Reina, Gonzales and Barraja, and at least two others. Sources now claim that a deal for Crouch is nearing agreement – Southampton seem to have accepted Liverpool’s latest offer – and another player about to sign is Luis Figo. Stories differ slightly, but it seems that the deal is almost tied up.