Liverpool’s owners are still happy to let speculation about Rafael Benitez’s future dominate the headlines, when a simple denial would prove their intentions towards him didn’t include a plan to sack him dating back to the morning after Athens. They’re even struggling to deny some of the negative press they’re receiving themselves about their financial problems.
And all of this is hitting moral at the club, from the manager downwards.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s new bosses at Bayern Munich claim he was offered the Liverpool manager’s job before accepting the chance to manage the German side. Liverpool refused to comment when asked, a contrast to their unprompted denial of claims they’d approached Fabio Capello for the job.
The owners have a loan with RBS coming to an end of its one-year term next month, and need to get it refinanced in some way. They are refusing to put any of their own money in to improve the terms of the loan, and as such are still to receive terms they feel they can afford. Not that they are the ones who need to afford it, their plans being to put that new debt onto the club, despite promises they made when taking over. As a result the speculation is intensifying that they will be selling out to DIC, and although “sources close to the club” have denied the rumours, those sources are not willing to be quoted. The Daily Post say the duo refused to comment last night, again a contrast to earlier denials of the two owners not seeing eye-to-eye and Hicks wishing to sell his shares.
Their selective denials have fed the speculation, so perhaps there’s now an intention to keep quiet on everything. But it won’t stop Liverpool being the main target of gossip on the back pages for the foreseeable future. Sam Allardyce was the ninth Premiership manager to be sacked this season, leaving Rafa as the main target of the constant “sack race” stories in the media. But he’s the main target because his future genuinely is in question.
All this speculation is clearly upsetting defender Sami Hyypia. Hyypia has been forced to play virtually every game for much of the season, first of all after an injury to Jamie Carragher, and then because of Danny Agger’s long-term metatarsal problem. During that time he’s shown his class despite his age, and his commitment to the cause. And he’s tired of reading more negative stories in the press, no doubt knowing more than most about just how much truth they contain.
He told the Mirror: “We seem to be becoming like Newcastle. Every time we pick up a paper, there seems to be something new, but our job is to concentrate on the games.” That’s easier said than done though. Sami just wants it all sorting out as soon as possible, like most of us he feels the uncertainty is having a terrible effect on the club: “In the football world there are some things that happen very quickly and you can’t do anything about them. The players hope that if there are arguments, they can be sorted out.”
Whether they like it or not, Newcastle’s reputation is of fans who hail the Messiah whenever a new manager arrives, but when he fails to deliver instant silverware he’s soon turned on. Managers are not given enough time to deliver, before being sacked to the relief of the supporters, who are hailing their next Messiah a few days later. It’s not all down to the supporters, former chairman Freddy Shepherd has been responsible for most of those changes, and was criticised at the weekend by former boss Graeme Souness as not being someone “you’d like alongside you in the trenches.” The current owners of Newcastle sacked Sam Allardyce after just over half a season, suggesting things might actually be getting worse. Sami Hyypia isn’t the only person suggesting Liverpool are heading that way.
Liverpool’s three draws from the last three league games has seen them drop six points. They were the better team against a very defensive Manchester City, were victims of a lapse of concentration against Wigan, and came close to a Hyypia winner against Boro yesterday. Those six points, added to the potential three from their game in hand, mean Liverpool could very easily have been three points from the top this morning. Rafa may have made some odd judgements from time to time, but no other manager is subject to the microscopic scrutiny of every decision that Rafa is. No other manager is currently reading about his precarious future in the paper without backing from his board, and certainly not regardless of results.
Earlier in the season when stories first broke that Rafa was in line to be sacked, rumours starting to leak after the famous press conference ahead of the Newcastle game, and names of potential replacements started to be speculated about. The club were said to have drawn up a shortlist, which was later said to have Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at the top of it. He’s now no longer available, having turned down an alleged offer from the club, so the press are once again speculating on the next boss being the much-loathed former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. It was taken with a pinch of salt by many, given that he’d be expecting huge wages and a big budget, neither of which are likely to be on offer by owners that seem to be unable to even afford to keep the club. But the press felt it was worth running a story that he was trying to get onto that shortlist.
This was denied yesterday by a spokesperson for Mourinho. In a strangely-worded statement, no doubt made strange due to translation, claims that he was trying to get onto the shortlist by making leaks to the press were angrily denied. Eladio Parames said: “These are aberrant and heinous ideas. Some media have consistently linked Jose Mourinho’s name with various clubs without, as they are ethically bound to do, trying to determine the truth of these reports.”
Parames said that Mourinho had not been in contact with any club regarding a possible return to management. Neither had his agent, Jorge Mendes. This contradicts stories from supposed press confidantes of Mourinho after he had turned down the England job that he’d done so because of an offer from a top European club. However that was before the link between Liverpool and Klinsmann was first leaked, suggesting further that any offer was not from Liverpool. Or if it was, it was also turned down.
Parames also complained at the use of Mourinho’s name to beef up reports on the club’s difficulties: “It is unacceptable that the unscrupulous press uses the name of Mourinho when they try to create or profit from current controversial situations in different teams as has happened recently.”
The owners are now close to the point where they’ve got to accept the best offer for finance, or sell to someone else, and until that decision is made the speculation about the club’s future will continue. But Rafa’s future will be the subject of speculation until the owners finally admit their intentions, and they may not do that until the end of the season, even if they stay on at the club.
The difficulty for supporters will be sifting the allegations which have some foundation from the allegations created by reporters to fill their space in their paper.