The answer, from Rick Parry, was “I can say that this is absolute rubbish.”
But what was the question?
The above quote was reproduced on the BBC website by Phil McNulty, the corporation’s Chief Football Writer, and having worked for the Echo in the past Rick Parry knows he can use him to help get certain messages out. For the record he’s a blue, not a Red.
The question wasn’t printed. But McNulty preceded the answer by saying Parry had “dismissed claims boss Rafael Benitez has been told he cannot do any transfer deals in January,” and spoke of reports “Liverpool’s American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks had placed Benitez under a transfer embargo on moves in and out of Anfield.”
So from reading that, the existence of a “transfer embargo” is “absolute rubbish”.
It’s important we hear the wording of any questions answered by Parry at this time because he’s not exactly shown himself of late to be someone who answers questions openly and honestly. He chooses his words carefully, in a way designed to deflect readers away from the truth. We saw this is his statement on Saturday over the stadium, one which the duty write for the Liverpool fell for as meaning the fancy stadium unveiled in the summer was still to go ahead. Two days later and Parry admitted that this wasn’t actually the case after all.
Spiralling costs, according to Parry, were to blame for the change of heart – not the “credit crunch”. But the price of steel isn’t actually going up at the rate it used to be any more. What unforeseen “spiralling costs” can have arisen in the four months since the plans were unveiled? Even in October Hicks said he wasn’t worried that the cost had gone up since the unveiling of the plans, as he started to try and get some different finance in place to cover both the cost of the stadium and the purchase costs of the club – debt he said he’d not put on the club. Some stories, and a mounting number of them, claim that due to the “credit crunch” the owners were told they’d need to, in effect, put a deposit down to get that amount of a loan without having to pay massive repayments. They didn’t want to put their own money down though – after all part of their reason for getting a loan was to take away their own liability for that money. So the “downgrading” – as Parry called it originally – is because they can’t get a loan for the amount they need for the fancy stadium, not without taking a risk themselves.
So today we can only assume that Parry was asked by McNulty if the owners had said that all transfers in January were to be blocked. That’s what the “absolute rubbish” response was to. Of course that means very little – the answer would work if the club had decided to consider any offers for players, or if they’d agreed to consider small purchases on an individual basis.
The next question should have been – can Rafa have the players he’d identified just before the owners got all angry about things. Which was just after they’d realised they probably couldn’t have the loan they wanted after all.
Rafa wanted to sell a couple of players, and bring some players in. Two were Bosmans, another was AC Milan’s defender Kakha Kaladze, who Rafa had reportedly negotiated a fee of around £4m for. Finally he’d agreed a deal with Kia Joorabchian for the services of Javier Mascherano in a permanent deal.
Mascherano’s deal was believed to have come in at a rate of £17m, but this wasn’t to be paid all in one go.
That’s why another statement from McNulty is quite concerning: “Liverpool, however, are likely to wait until the summer to complete a proposed £17m move for Javier Mascherano.”
Why wait? Are they waiting until the end of the season because they’re planning to sack Rafa, as was reported, and if not, what’s the issue with signing the player now, ensuring he’s not going to be tempted by offers from other clubs?
The report also says: “The meeting [on Sunday evening] was described as ‘amicable’ – although BBC Sport understands the American duo made it clear to Benitez that any further debate on club policy must not be made public.” When the BBC use the word “understands” it means they’ve been told something, something they can’t repeat as a quote. In other words, for example, Rick Parry might tell them something, but he doesn’t want his name next to it.
So it’s acceptable for Rafa to be warned publicly, through the BBC, not to debate club policy in public? Is that not a touch hypocritical?
The details of the latest bungle in the stadium plans are being admitted a little more each day. Speaking to the Echo, Parry said today: “The objective on day one in building the new stadium was to generate more cash to fund the team and we must never get away from that objective. We remain confident we can achieve that and still produce a very impressive solution.”
That solution will either come from the original designers of “The Parry Bowl” (the original stadium ridiculed as “obsolete” by Tom Hicks), Manchester-based AFL, or it will come from the Dallas architects HKS, who produced the plans that were revealed in the summer which are now classed as too expensive.
In October 2003 Parry was promising the stadium would be opened in 2006, well before the Capital of Culture title hit the city in 2008. He said: “If we sit around now, this new stadium won’t be ready for 2006 and that would have a lot of knock-on effects for the Capital of Culture year in 2008. We have to carry on.” The statement is still on the official site (click here). In the same interview Parry says of selling the naming rights for the stadium: “At the risk of hanging myself in the future, we’ve said from the beginning that we’re not interested in selling our soul and that remains true today.”
This summer the club said the stadium would open in 2010, now they’re saying 2011. And they’ve not even applied for planning permission for whichever version they settle on.
It seems a little unfair that Rafa Benitez is living with pressures of having the threat of the sack hanging over him, despite still performing pretty well under less favourable conditions than he expected, yet Parry can continue to do his job so, quite frankly, poorly. Perhaps Parry’s not at fault; perhaps he’s always just been the messenger. Certainly at the moment it seems he’s not empowered to be anything more.