There could be trouble brewing at Anfield.
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is rumoured to have had an argument with the new owners, who have – again according to rumours – told him that as the team coach he should concentrate on coaching.
Liverpool Echo journalist Tony Barratt described Rafa as being “clearly in a bad mood” at the ten-minute press-conference today, saying that the manager brushed questions off with “the same cryptic answer”. For example, regarding England’s performance last night, he said: “I prefer to concentrate on training and coaching my team.” Then when asked about Newcastle’s threat this weekend, in similar fashion Rafa responded: “I am focusing on coaching and training my team.”
Just a couple of days ago Rafa was saying that if Bayern Munich came asking if he would be interested in joining them, he’d turn them down stating how happy he was with everything at Anfield. Today, when asked if he’d be interested in the England job, his answer was: “You never know what might happen, maybe.”
It’s not just the Echo reporting this mood from the boss. So – why was Rafa so unhappy?
Shortly afterwards came a statement on the Liverpool FC official site. Credited as a “joint statement” from the co-owners, it read: “We made a significant investment in the playing squad during the summer and desperately want this team to succeed. There are some very important games coming up in the next couple of weeks and all of us need to focus on winning those games and getting the best out of the players we already have at the club. We will leave any talk of buying or selling players until we come across to Liverpool in December and sit down with the Manager then.”
It seems that this statement gets off to a bad footing with the word “we”. The word constantly coming out of the club is that although Liverpool FC invested in players this summer, Messrs Hicks and Gillett did not. All the funding for players came from revenue the club itself generated. So the first “we” refers, it would seem, to Liverpool FC. Then the use of the word “we” is used to describe the co-owners, who will be over again in December.
Rafa was angry after Athens, and at other times in the weeks that followed, as he found the level of investment he had been assured was on its ways was not actually forthcoming. Players he’d been interested in were now out of reach and he had to look at alternatives. Money this summer was higher than in previous years thanks to increases in media rights, thanks to good returns on sales. But Liverpool are still short of the squad Rafa felt he needed.
Then came rumours – denied by Rick Parry – that the new owners were unhappy with each other and had been finding working together very difficult. They disagreed with each other, according to the reports, over how much debt to put Liverpool into, and how to fund that debt.
Liverpool were still in limbo caused by David Moores’ dealings with DIC when the club first signed Javier Mascherano on loan. The deal included an option to buy him at a later date, but no fee was agreed at that time. Now, with a fee of £17m believed to be required, it seems that Liverpool might have to sell before they can buy, because the new owners are unwilling to improve the squad in the way it so clearly needed to be when they arrived. Money for players has to come from within the club – which means that the new owners aren’t as committed to winning the Premiership as they originally claimed. Even if Mascherano can be signed, Liverpool still need more players if they are to sustain a challenge for the league.
The days of George Gillett fooling around with wads of cash saying he’ll support Rafa as much as he wants seem such a long time ago now – but Gillett clearly meant us to think we’d be getting money thrown at us for players. We don’t like to be lied to or lied about. But the rumours from the club that seem to stem from Rafa Benitez, leaked from people who have close contact with him, are that the new owners are not investing in the team at all. Not one bit. Other rumours from similar sources say that the new owners no longer get along with each other. Yet the club make statements like these, from the new owners, or from Rick Parry speaking about the new owners. Someone somewhere is telling a lie.
There’s an argument that says Rafa should not be showing his annoyance with the owners – because clearly that’s what this is – in public. But if they’ve gone back on their word with him then he has to find some way of letting the fans know – it’s something you feel he would always want to do. Likewise the owners should not be making this statement – which you’ll notice doesn’t actually give any reasons for being made – because again it draws attention to negative aspects of the relationship between the owners and the manager. And if the owners haven’t gone back on their word, and have done everything they promised the supporters and – both privately and publicly – the manager, why are they making statements? If the manager is sulking for getting the support he was told he would get then they need to deal with him, in private, before taking any further action they feel they need to take against him.
The new owners need to cancel their plans for the weekend and find a flight over to the UK and get this mess sorted out. It’s time to come clean – if they don’t want to add money to the transfer kitty have the decency and the balls to tell the supporters that this is how things are going to be. If we can’t afford to buy Mascherano without selling Crouch, Carson and Riise – tell us.
These situations can blow over, but not when so much is aired in public. It’s time we were told what’s really going on.
The honeymoon period is over.