Roy Hodgson has passed comment on reports linking Pepe Reina to Manchester United. He said Liverpool don’t need the money and don’t want to sell, a situation that he says also applies with Fernando Torres.
What he failed to discuss were the claims that have grown in recent days – that Torres and Reina are disillusioned with their manager, his coaching and his tactics. That the likelihood of them leaving hinges more on their own personal satisfaction with the club’s future direction than on any interest from other clubs or on Liverpool’s financial situation.
Despite a far better performance on Sunday against Blackburn, Hodgson is still some way short of meeting the expectations of most supporters. He’s only managed to get two wins out of the first quarter of the league season, Liverpool are languishing in the relegation places with negative goal difference and Roy is acting like it’s a minor setback.
Everyone has their own opinion and their own perceptions, but short of quoting another clause from the unwritten “Liverpool Way”, the one where Liverpool always give their managers time and patience, it’s difficult to find anyone amongst the support who can put a good case forward for him to stay.
A clause of another kind has got fans talking today after a story in the Daily Mirror claimed two of the club’s most important players had “secret” clauses added to their contracts last summer to help reassure them about the club’s future.
For many fans the story seems to be, to put it politely, stretching things a little. As a result many fans are dismissing every word. But is it right to sit back and relax? Or does that overused saying about there being no smoke without fire ring true?
Rumours are becoming tiresome for many, but they’re an unavoidable part of life for a football supporter these days. Under normal circumstances they’re a bit of fun – being linked to players that you know your club will never buy is part of the fun of the quiet months over summer. Except when it’s an awful player you hope they won’t buy but get that awful feeling they will.
It’s also not much fun when the rumours are about our best players going elsewhere. It used to be Barnes or Fowler on the day of a big game, and we all laughed at the predictability of the timing.
Maybe we should be laughing now, but when Reina and Torres are yet again linked with possible departures – and we’ve no big game in sight – we should at least pay attention to the underlying theme.
There was a lot of noise early last week about Torres being fed up with Roy’s tactics and Reina being tired of new coaching methods. This noise was coming from far too many directions to not have some foundation to it. It wasn’t only coming out of the media.
Most fans know full well that for Fernando Torres or Pepe Reina to move to Manchester United a lot more has to be overcome than LFC wanting to sell and Manchester United finding the funds. Neither player is likely to entertain any interest from the club’s most-hated rivals.
Reina got attention from Arsenal in the summer, the London side bidding a massive amount for him according to reports. He’s arguably the most vital signing former manager Rafael Benítez made whilst manager of the club; good goalkeepers capable of living with the slightly different level of protection afforded by Premier League referees are hard to find.
Reina is worth more to Liverpool than any transfer fee. And a fully-firing Fernando Torres isn’t far off priceless either.
Last week Hodgson said he’d “have to cross that bridge when we come to it” when asked about rumours Manchester United were interested in buying Torres. It hardly sent out any kind of warning to Hodgson’s old friend Alex Ferguson.
Now he has been asked about the story Reina could be going to United: “It was just one of those stories that seems to occur. It’s just disappointing and annoying.”
And he had plenty of praise for the keeper: “Pepe is fantastic here. He is a life-blood of this team.
“Everything he does around the club is excellent – he is always lively in the dressing room, he is always first class in training and he always wants to do more to improve.” Perhaps Hodgson was acknowledging the gripes Reina was said to have had about the methods being used by the goalkeeping coach brought to the club by Hodgson.
“He demands better from those around him, he is always pushing people on. He is a player who we hold in the highest esteem.”
As for the rumours about joining one of the club’s biggest rivals: “We have heard nothing from Manchester United and, more to the point, we don’t want to hear anything from Manchester United.
“If Ferguson is looking around at the end of the season and he has got lots of money to replace van der Sar he might very well want Pepe Reina because he is the best around. But we do not want to sell him.”
Hodgson inherited a squad that had few changes from the one that finished second in 2009, but he has been defended by his allies as having inherited a squad bad enough to make the club’s current predicament seem almost reasonable. Since Roy arrived as manager expectations of a league challenge are all but forgotten.
Liverpool fans want the club to be successful again, and for that to happen the key players must stay. At least Roy sees that: “I would like to think that we are going to become a successful club once again and Pepe is crucial to that.”
But supporters, on the whole, do not see Roy Hodgson as the man to take them back to the heights they feel their club should be at. It was the desire to see the club hit those heights that, many years ago, led to the club being put up for sale in the first place. The owners who came here under false pretences are gone, but fans have the same desire.
Hodgson seems to be a long way short of understanding that desire from supporters. And it’s not just the fans, it’s most of the players.
And what Roy also seems unable to grasp is that nobody thinks it’s Liverpool looking to sell: “We want to promise the players we have got here that we are going to be up there fighting once again and we are absolutely not looking to sell any of our better players.”
And what Roy also seems unable to grasp is nobody would be surprised if other clubs were interested in our players: “But, equally, I would also be disappointed if teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and all the teams with money were not looking at our players.”
We know this – it’s stories that our players are fed up and looking to leave that we’re reading about. And we’re still reading it despite the end of the financial problems the club faced when Hodgson arrived.
And during those problems many of our best players made it clear time and time again that they want to win things. The fact Liverpool don’t need the money or that other clubs might come looking is not something the players want to hear about. They want to hear the club has some ambition, that the club wants to bring the good days back.
“If I was Fernando Torres,” Roy continued, “I would expect every top club in Europe to be chasing me. That’s good as it means he’s doing his job. But we don’t need the money and we don’t want to sell.”
Why the focus on finances from Roy? Surely we’ve moved on now, we’ve got new owners who will work out a plan to fund improvements in the squad in a way that suits the financial abilities of the club.
What Roy needs to focus on now is the other reasons that we’re even discussing the chances of those key players leaving. Because it’s got nothing to do with money.
And if Roy can’t see it, we can only hope that the new owners NESV can.