Trouble at Anfield: the Battle of Benitez vs. Hicks/Gillett

It’s all going Pete Tong behind the scenes at Anfield at the moment. Rafael Benitez has openly criticed his superiors in a blatant display of insubordination, with issues revolving around how much investment will be made into squad development: the Liverpool boss has clearly expressed his unhappiness about the perceived lack of a transfer activity at Anfield, as he chases targets in the January transfer window. Benitez complained that Liverpool owners Hicks and Gillet “do not understand’ the transfer system in Europe“. What’s happening to the Liverpool Buccaneers then!?


Benitez’s main gripe is about not being able to get deals in place before the start of the winter transfer window. There is a problem between both sides here the information would suggest.Firstly Rafa wants to get the Bosman signings of two unnamed Brazilian youngsters. Now the only problem I can see with this from the owner’s point of view is the extra few grand on the wage bill and the few grand shelled out as a signing-on fee for agents. The fact that the Gillet and Hicks won’t sanction the signings shows a blatant misunderstanding of the European Transfer Window system and then Benitez has some cause to gripe (in private at least).

Secondly Benitez wants £15m to secure the signing of Argentine Starlet Ezequiel Garay. Now my problem is with Benitez here; okay Sami Hyypia isn’t as quick as he used to be and the defence has clearly suffered in the absence in the absence of Dan Agger, but if he wanted to get some more cover in at centre-half why didn’t he eat into his main budget in the summer to do so, instead of paying over the odds for players such as Ryan Babel, who seemed to have a deal in place with Arsenal for £6m, half of what the ‘Pool paid for him.

Also the big surprise for me was the fact that Javier Mascherano is not actually a Liverpool player. I would’ve made him my first signing of the summer, without a doubt. The man is the complete midfielder, he tackles, he passes, he covers ground excellently, he’s top dollar and at £17m he would be a bargain. The fact that Benitez though has spurned his war chest and now needs more is incomprehendible. He spent £25m (or £22.5m, or £19m which rises to £27m, or £27.5m, it just depends on who you believe) on the mercurial Fernando Torres, undoubtedly a great buy. Then we have the £12m on Ryan Babel, £6m on Lucas Leiva, and £5m on Yossi Benayoun. That’s over £50m on players, and yet he wants another £32m to spend on Mascherano and Garay. It’s ridiculous.

The Moolah

Okay so it doesn’t help that your gaffer has spent £50m and his still a bit behind in the title race, but when your £100m overbudget with the new digs your trying to build down the road your money problems get worse one feels. And now Gillet and Hicks are going to have to back on their word; they will have to borrow against current and future assets of Liverpool Football Club, which is risky for a club which is reknowned for producing sporadic form at best each year. For example when Malcolm Glazer did the same with Manchester United, he did so on the basis that they are a Top 2 club and they will take some shifting. Okay they are still £600m in the red but they are in decent positions in major competitions to win it back over the next few seasons.

Another major problem is the very real possibility that Liverpool may not make it into the Super 16 of the Champions League, which would cost the club upto £30m, depending on how far they could have gone.

Benitez Himself

The so-called ‘Liverpool Way’ doesn’t involve washing your dirty linen in public. This was a very bold move by Benitez to come out and complain outright about the ownership of the club. He should have kept everything in-house instead of creating the view of the club being torn apart. Obviously now we look destabilized and it may give Sir Alex the mind-games boost he needs when United visit Anfield.

Another bad mistake by Benitez was attempting to conduct the transfer business with one of the Brazilian youngsters off his own back, without the consultation of Rick Parry, the chief exec, or the owners themselves. Again, another act of blatant insubordination and it may well cost Rafa his job come the crunch meeting in mid-December.

To Sum Up…

Although Benitez is wrong in the way he has gone about things he shouldn’t be sacked. There has already been overwhelming support from fans and players – namely Torres, Babel and Mascherano – alike for Benitez and it definitely would not be the Liverpool Way. Liverpool just don’t sack managers, they persuade them to leave more often than not, or they jump before they are pushed (Houllier aside of course). The only situation in which Benitez should be sacked is if it is clear that the club hasn’t made a clear step forward. So we’re talking Top 3 Finish and less than 10 points behind the leaders – should we not win the Title that is.

Roll on December, it’s sure to be a huge month for Liverpool Football Club.

[Editor’s note: see also Benitez, Hicks and Gillet – Power Struggle at Liverpool? by Arvin]

Transfer Roundup: Chelsea, Newcastle United, Bolton, Everton, Wigan, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Fulham, Juventus, AC Milan, Roma
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