Liverpool FC finally released a statement tonight following their long-awaited meeting with Rafa Benitez. The statement said very little.
The club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, had recently been reported as having made plans to sack manager Rafael Benitez. They did not deny this, but did confirm they wouldn’t even consider allowing any transfer negotiations to take place before they arrived in the UK this weekend. News also broke this weekend in the national press about them dumbing-down the new stadium to a rehashed version of the plans they’d ridiculed when taking the club over, news that Rick Parry tried to deflect with carefully chosen words.
What Rafa wanted out of tonight’s meeting was an explanation about why things had changed, why he was no longer allowed to negotiate transfers as far as he’d done in the past. Also no doubt he needed assurances about his own future – was the reduction in the duties he was allowed to carry out part of the plan to sack him, or was it for other reasons?
The post-meeting statement read:
“A meeting was held this evening involving Tom Hicks, George Gillett, Foster Gillett, Rick Parry and Rafa Benitez which was wide ranging and positive.
The discussions were amicable and constructive. All those present are united in their desire to bring further success to the club.”
Foster Gillett is the son of George Gillett, and is meant to be the US owners’ representative in the UK whilst they are dealing with their other money-making franchises in the US. He’s working alongside Rick Parry, but left the country for a month after the Arsenal game. It was during his absence that relationships between Rafa and those above him in the hierarchy broke down.
The statement gives very little away, and although it claims the meeting was positive it doesn’t explain from whose point of view it was positive.
Despite today’s defeat against Manchester United the vast majority of Liverpool supporters are still behind Rafael Benitez, and have spoken of boycotting the club should he be sacked for non-footballing reasons.
The owners have been looking at ways of going back on their word regarding the funding of their purchase of the club, with them now planning to put debt on the club rather than have loans secured against their own assets. They also went back on their promises to add extra money to Rafa’s transfer budget, instead making him stick to the kitty he’d have had even in if the club had been sold. It remains to be seen why they wanted to risk Liverpool losing out on transfer deals by making Rafa wait a month or more before allowing him to close those deals. It isn’t even clear yet whether the manager will get any funds for much-needed transfers in the upcoming window.
More details will no doubt emerge as each of the attendees briefs their own contacts about what was said.