The farcical running of Liverpool FC by the current owners shows no signs of improving, and one example of that comes in the shape of midfielder Javier Mascherano who is looking increasingly likely to be lost from the squad at the end of this season.
The Argentinean international star is currently on an 18-month loan deal with the club. This was first negotiated a year ago, when Liverpool were still looking likely to be taken over by DIC. Mascherano had been a part of the West Ham squad at the time, but their deal to make use of his services had fallen foul of the Premier League’s third-party ownership rules. He had rarely been played. Liverpool’s deal was designed to allow him to play for the club within the league’s rules.
It took time for FIFA then the Premier League to confirm the loan deal was acceptable and within the rules, but eventually he was given clearance to play. There was also an issue of him already having played for two clubs in a year. After a little time taken to regain some match fitness he was soon wowing Liverpool fans with some excellent performances. He’s a top-class player, and at just 23 years old has plenty of time to become world-class. He’s at his best against the top sides, and when he plays with Gerrard his presence allows the captain to play his own game to his strengths.
Rafa Benitez obviously does not want to lose the player, a player coveted by top sides throughout Europe, and so he made efforts to negotiate a permanent move for the player. This was a deal in the region of £17m, and that fee was to be paid over the lifetime of what was a five-year deal, to include the player’s wages. In today’s market that represents a very reasonable fee for a player who will be starring in World Cups, with a realistic chance of picking up a winner’s medal, for years to come. However the owners blocked it during their November clampdown on the manager, and they now stand to lose him.
Owned by a company headed by his agent Kia Joorabchian, a situation not uncommon with overseas players, Mascherano knows that he has little choice in where he goes in the future. Joorabchian will be keeping other clubs informed as to whether a deal has been agreed with Liverpool, and will of course be putting pressure on his client to consider the offers from other clubs.
Mascherano himself wants some certainty in his life. The five-year deal would have given him that, and would have allowed him to stay and play for a team and in a country where he feels he really fits in. But with that deal taken off the table, he’s got to decide whether to abandon hope of staying a Red, or to take a chance that a deal will be done in the summer. Expect the club to respond to criticism of their inaction on this deal with claims that Mascherano would be happy to ‘sit tight’ if he was as happy at Liverpool as he claims. That would further underline how out-of-touch the current regime are, and would rely on a player who has pressure from his family as well as his agent to make a decision.
Nicknamed ‘El Jefecito’, The Little Chief, Mascherano spoke to the Liverpool Echo in what they described as an “emotional plea” about his desire to stay. He knows that time is pressing, and that offers are on the table – although not from Anfield. The owners can act now and keep him: “It’s simple. With the time that has passed it will now be more difficult for me to stay here because I need to do something about my future. It is a really difficult situation because I have been talking a lot about how I want to stay here but, now, it doesn’t depend on me.”
They are worrying words: “It doesn’t depend on me.” He clearly sees it now as being out of his hands. If he was a fully-contracted Liverpool player with six months left on his contract he would from today be able to negotiate with other clubs to move on in the summer, regardless of his club’s wishes. There’s absolutely no reason why that doesn’t now apply in his current situation. Joorabchian will already have set up talks with other clubs, and is perfectly entitled under any football rules to agree deals with other clubs. Mascherano daren’t burn his bridges with other interested clubs, so there’s a limit to how much he can resist moving elsewhere.
After proving in the summer that their literal flashing of cash before Athens was all show, and that they have no intention of boosting the transfer kitty to allow the club to catch up to its rivals, this transfer window represents a chance for them to show that they are at least happy for the club to do transfer deals in a self-sufficient way. Rafa is prepared to sell before he buys, but the owners put a block to those ideas in November.
That was before the meeting that they and Rick Parry claim went well and at which everyone there found they all wanted the same thing. Well Rafa wants Mascherano. Will he get him?
Mascherano knows it’s not in the hands of himself or the manager. He said: “I have done everything to stay but now the owners have to decide if they want to buy me or not. They have to decide.”
He loves it Anfield. When he first moved to England and was left pretty much as an outcast in a foreign land at West Ham he must have felt deep despair. At Anfield he feels part of the club, sees his team mates as friends and knows his family like it here. He says: “I have to say thank you to everyone at Liverpool because I feel like this is my home. It is difficult for me because I have gone from being at West Ham, where it wasn’t good for me, to Liverpool, where I am really happy.”
Despite that, he’s got to make a big decision. Does he ‘sit tight’ and hope that the owners finally do show some ambition and some interest in making Liverpool the success they claimed they wanted to, or does he look at starting again with the likes of Barcelona? His words suggest that unless the club act now, he’s going to have to agree to a summer move: “I want to stay but it doesn’t depend on me and it will be difficult because of the amount of time that has passed and I need to do something about my future.”
Liverpool need some cover in central defence, although the chances are that by the end of the month both Agger and Hyypia will both be fit and well again, meaning the needs are less desperate for that cover. There is clearly a need for improvement up-front, because Fernando Torres cannot be expected to do all the work himself, every game. However Rafa is not going to be given the funds to buy another Torres, and unless he can find a bargain there is little chance of another striker appearing at the club this winter. Rafa himself admits that getting quality signings in the January window isn’t always easy, and so if this is a quiet transfer window then that in itself does not necessarily prove the owners’ lack ambition for the club.
However if the owners do let Javier Mascherano slip through their fingers then that makes it quite clear that despite their carefully-chosen words that they do not share the same visions for the club that the supporters and the manager share. Rafa Benitez wants to buy a top-class, potentially world-class, defensive central midfielder, for a deal that will cost the club around £3.4m per season for the next five years. He is prepared to sell players to raise funds for transfers. Never mind them going back on their hints of adding their own money to the transfer kitty, if they won’t even allow the manager to use the money he raised himself through sales and prize money then their visions don’t even come close to ours. And if that is the case then they really ought to move on and find a club more suited to those ambitions. The leagues of Europe are full of clubs purely happy with the taking part. Liverpool want to win too.