Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has spoken out again against Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, causing further turmoil and uncertainty just as the Reds embark on an important run of games.
Yesterday Hicks and his fellow owner George Gillett got their views across in what was termed a “joint statement”, and now today Hicks has spoken exclusively to the Liverpool Echo to have another go at the manager.
Hicks told the paper: “After the Champions League final in Athens, Rafa made certain demands of us and we responded to those demands in the summer. We brought in some good players and spent more money than has ever been spent before at this club.”
When Hicks says more money has been spent than ever before, he doesn’t qualify that with the amount of money that came in from sales, nor does he mention the increases in TV money and the fact that Liverpool’s prize money was better last season than it has been for most seasons.
Furthermore, it emerged today that Rafa isn’t just complaining about a lack of money – he’s complaining that he’s not allowed to broker deals for players going out so that he can raise funds with which to buy players. One of the pluses Rafa felt the Liverpool job had over his last job in Spain with Valencia was that he now had much more say in which players came into or went out of his squad. It now seems Hicks has taken that away from him.
The message to Rafa is clear: He can’t make any changes to his squad, he can’t make any enquiries with other clubs or players about making changes to his squad. That’s not his job!
Hicks said: “We now have some crucial games coming up in the Premier League and the Champions League and we want to see if we can win these games with the players we have.” That’s quite a bizarre statement from the Texan. The transfer window doesn’t open until the New Year, Rafa doesn’t expect to win these games with new players. What Rafa is hoping for is first stab at persuading his targets to come to the club, before other more organised clubs come along to entice them away.
Does Hicks even know that new players can’t be registered and used until the transfer window opens? Probably not: “This was the message we gave to Rafa recently and I think during the international break he must have grown a bit frustrated about this. We told him to concentrate on the games coming up and nothing else and I guess he didn’t like that.”
Mr Hicks – Rafa isn’t the only one that won’t like that. If the club lose the chance to buy Javier Mascherano because of this dithering it will take a long time to be forgotten. Other missed targets will perhaps be put down to experience – Liverpool fans have grown used to targets being missed in recent years – but to lose “The Chief” might be enough to end the days of Hicks and Gillett being able to sit in the Main Stand wearing scarves and pretending to be supporters as well as owners. Especially if the reason it falls through is because of a delay. If we can’t afford Mascherano, we’d rather be told – and it’s only fair he’s told too. But if we lose him because of Rafa being told he can’t negotiate transfer for players he no longer wants then there’s really no excuse that will wash.
There’s a feeling from some that Hicks is trying to push Gillett out of the club, and that might be why he’s going so hard for a new deal to fund the debt on the club, so that he can buy Gillett out. It’s hard to imagine Hicks would ever accept being told what to do by anyone, which makes the likelihood of him being able to work with Gillett very slim. For now though he does have to work with Gillett, who’ll be joining him for the Manchester United game next month: “George and I will be over in mid-December and that is the time to talk about other issues. It is really time for Rafa to quit talking about new players and to coach the players we have.”
The attitude of Hicks is making it more likely that Rafa will just quit. And if that happens, Hicks might as well give his scarf away.