What a truely wonderful Saturday – a superb performance resulting in a comfortable 3-0 win away from home, another clean sheet, 2 superb goals (each in a different way) and a defeat for the Mancs meaning we sit nicely placed, still unbeaten, and 3 points behind but with a game in hand. Beautiful.
So why does this Sunday not feel like such a beautiful day for Liverpool FC? If you’ve read the papers, turned on the news, browsed the internet or opened your eyes you’ll no doubt know why.
The rumour mill is certainly in overdrive at the moment and as much as you want to dismiss some of the speculation, it’s impossible when it is clear to see the relationship between Benitez and Hicks in particular, is far from ideal.
The question over what has started the disagreement remains to be seen – although it is clear it is over Rafa’s control of buying and selling players. The permanent signing of Javier Mascherano – and his â‚¤17m fee – certainly seems to be part of the cause, while it is also being said that Benitez is wanting to line up 2 Bosman transfers and seemed to be confirmed in Benitez’s post match interview on Saturday;
“It’s not a draft system. We have free players available now. I’m not talking about players that cost money.”
“We need to talk to the agents now, if not we will lose targets. In the summer, the players will be more expensive.
“I have not been talking about spending but doing the opposite. We have brought money back. We brought in Â£26million this year and you can see the value of the squad.”
Benitez quite rightly points out the Â£26m income this past summer – meaning the net spend for the club was far, far less than Man United‘s – and even Sunderland‘s! So when Hicks talks of ‘spending more money than this club has ever spent’ he is clearly only talking about the individual fee of one player only.
And it seems the selling of players is also a major factor in the whole row between Rafa and the owners, another quote attibuted to Benitez yesterday makes it clear:
“It (the phone call) was the opposite, to bring money back. I am trying to do the best as a manager for my club to bring money back to spend some money on better players, and you can see the value of the squad.”
It is widely believed John Arne Riise, Momo Sissoko and Peter Crouch are available at the right price and in order to raise funds for Benitez to bring in Mascherano permanently, a new left back and a midfielder or forward. Names linked most heavily being Brazilian striker Alfonso Alves from Heerenveen and defender Ezequiel Garay from Racing Santander.
The whole situation of Hicks and Gillett seemingly banning Benitez from selling players is bizarre and the Spaniard’s already strained relationship with Rick Parry was underlined when he said “They (Hicks and Gillett) say now Rick Parry is in charge of signing and selling players at this moment, so OK, we will see.”
Benitez clearly has little faith in Parry, who it is said is often too slow moving in the transfer market and a reason why we have lost previous targets when available.
Rafa also said on Saturday – in what is being reported by the pathetic media as an ‘attack on the owners’ when clearly it is not, it is just Benitez standing up for what he feels is best for the club;
“I think they don’t understand what the transfer window means in Europe.
“When you sign a player he needs to settle down. They don’t understand how difficult it is to sign players. When you have the possibility now that you are free, you must do it or lose players. I’m trying to explain it, so it’s OK.
“We will keep calm and I will try to keep focused on winning games for my supporters. I think it’s not serious. If they understand what the market means for football here in Europe, they will understand I am trying to do my best for the club.”
The heartening line there though is “I’m trying to explain it, so it’s OK.” Which hopefully means Benitez will be able to explain himself.
I whole heartedly support Benitez in the drama. How Hicks and Gillett can think that discussing things just two weeks prior to the transfer window opening is okay proves that Rafa is right that they don’t understand the European transfer system – especially with reference to tieing up transfers even for next summer now.
Evidence that Rafa is correct comes with Voronin’s arrival – which was announced last February but no doubt begun negotiating weeks or months prior to that – despite his arrival not being until this summer. Similarly, Lucas’ arrival was signed and sealed well before the summer window opened.
Further more, Benitez’s track record goes without saying. You only need to look at the squad he inherited and compare it with the squad he has built now and how close we are to having to a title winning team. I think the unanimous feeling amongst Liverpool fans – and seemingly shared by Benitez – is that we are 2 or 3 players short of the squad we want and need.
A perfect example to see how Benitez has improved the playing staff is with the 3 players named above and their quality compared to the players we had hanging around waiting to leave 3 years ago – the likes of Cheyrou, Diao, Biscan, Traore and Murphy.
The message to Hicks and Gillett: We’ve come a long, long way with Benitez – don’t let this be the end.
Message to those going to Porto on Wednesday: Rafa, Rafa-el, Rafa, , Rafa-el, Rafael Benitez – sing it.