Sunday, November 25, 2007

Benitez Out?

As a long time supporter of Liverpool F.C., I'm very sorry to see the present mess between the manager and the owners playing itself out in the press. From what Rafa Benitez has said--and reading a bit between the lines--he could be sacked by his American bosses: and he may even want to be sacked (which would be a sad comment on how quickly events at Liverpool have spiralled downwards since the summer). Benitez is a top manager and can walk into another job without any problems. Could the present row be making him consider the possibility of cutting his losses, taking his contractually guaranteed six million pounds (in the event of a sacking) and making himself available as the next England manager?

Sadly, it's all gone pear shaped since the summer. At that time, the Americans thought they had Superman as their coach and splurged out on Torres. Given that they don't know much about the game, but know only too well what it means to win and lose, they will not have been impressed by Benitez's feeble European campaign which even now can only be rescued by two outstanding performances in the weeks ahead. If Liverpool crash out at this stage then twenty million pounds will be lost. In spite of this Rafa has been asking for money to strengthen his squad in January. No doubt the Americans think they are being reasonable in saying to him effectively: "We gave you what you wanted in the summer; now let's wait and see if you qualify for the next stage of the European tournament before we discuss spending more money". The problem is that Benitez is right in saying the Americans should think about the transfer window now and that by doing so they'll save money in the long run.

The water has been muddied further by the fact (as rumour has it) that the Americans are finding it difficult to raise the five hundred million pounds they need to build the new 76000 seater stadium they promised. The money will be a loan and the present world credit squeeze is giving them problems. If they get the loan, it will be at a far higher rate of interest than they had planned on and, indeed, might make taking the loan unviable without raising ticket sales or selling players. In other words, Benitez is asking for more transfer money just at the time of greatest uncertainty for the American tycoons. Benitez's request has revealed a major fault line in the Americans' financing plans and naturally they are furious with Benitez for embarrassing them at a tough time. For his part, Rafa Benitez had thought a new era was beginning at Liverpool with the American takeover: at last, as he thought, he'd be able to compete financially with Manchester United and Chelsea. However, that idea is now proving to have been a costly illusion.

The probability is that Benitez will leave. His remarks may have been untimey for his American bosses, but it is unlikely that such a highly respected coach will accept a public reprimand that makes it sound like he's on trial. Furthermore, I guess that RB is particularly incensed by the point he keeps repeating: that Hicks has told him Rick Parry is now in charge of buying and selling players. Apparently, before Bill Shankly came, the directors used to pick the team, but that was another age. There is no way a top coach in the modern world is going to accept not being in charge of transfers. In these, circumstances, it is unlikely that Benitez will continue at Liverpool for much longer without a major and humbling climb down by Hicks in particular (which I don't think is going to happen).

In many ways all these present problems are the result of Parry and Moore's bad decision to sell the club to two Americans who are famous for juggling money which isn't their own. The alternative was the fabulously wealthy Dubai Holdings which, in my opinion, would have given the club the money it needed, without recourse to giant debts and refinancing. Furthermore, they would have left the running of the club in the manager's hands. As things have turned out, Gillette never had enough capital and Hicks is only interested in using loan capital on the Liverpool project, which is not particularly high on his priority list.

Unfortunately, Liverpool F.C. look like being the losers as this messy internecine war plays itself out to its predictable conclusion.


Anonymous The Gaffa said...

Interesting to see how it all works out.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous TexasRed said...

As a longtime Reds fan (70's) now living in US all professional sports here are purely financial enterprises - owners will up sticks and leave town for a better tax break, screw the paying punter. Selling our soul to yanks wasn't a great idea I'm afraid, for them business is business. That's one reason why college ball is so big in the US (attendance 100,000+), colleges don't move from town to town on a whim - because they can't.

10:33 AM  
Blogger ely said...

I hope Rafa stays!

12:16 PM  

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