Blackburn defender Lucas Neill’s agent Peter Harrison made an announcement that will bring joy to a lot of Liverpool fans. His client is signing for West Ham.
Speaking to The Times, Harrison said: “Lucas has agreed terms on a two-and-a-half-year deal with West Ham and is looking to the challenge ahead.” Neill was said to have been undergoing a medical last night.
Reports vary as to how much West Ham are willing to pay him in wages, at least £50,000 per week, perhaps as much as £60,000 per week, clearly dwarfing Liverpool’s offer which was said to be closer to £25,000 per week. The reports also say there is a relegation release clause in the deal, but it does seem that Neill’s last chance to play for a “big” club has now passed.
Some fans may feel disappointed that Liverpool were unwilling to match lowly West Ham in this deal, but there is no way on earth that Rafa Benítez would want to pay that kind of wage to a player who may not even be first choice. At a push Neill may have been handed the left-back role ahead of John Arne Riise who has had a difficult season, but he was mainly being signed as cover for Steve Finnan. Rafa wants committed players, and Neill won’t be the first player the Spaniard has given up on over too-high personal demands. In fact Rafa’s words yesterday seem to have spurred Neill towards his decision to put money before medals: “If a player wants to come to play for Liverpool, he must say yes quickly,” warned Rafa. “We will not wait. If he thinks about it for too long, maybe it's a signal it's time for us to look for other players. We have alternatives.”
Liverpool fans have been uneasy about the signing of Neill since it was first revealed as being a possibility. Neill’s disgraceful tackle on Jamie Carragher in 2003 left the Liverpool defender out of action for six months with a broken leg, and these things aren’t easily forgotten. Carragher was a true pro and was said to have made it clear to Rafa Benítez that the incident was forgotten, but fans have been less understanding. And Neill has shown many more signs that this part of his game is still not eradicated.
Neill had said repeatedly that playing for Liverpool in the Champions League was a dream for him, and his decision to join West Ham suggests this was a lucky escape for the Reds.
The deal to bring him to Anfield would have included a move to Ewood Park for Stephen Warnock. It’s not clear yet whether Blackburn will now bid cash for Warnock or if the defender will instead be staying at the club. In many ways Liverpool are better off with Warnock, who can hopefully stay injury-free now and (if he does stay) perhaps force his way back into the team.