Saturday, June 05, 2010

Liverpool Supporters Burn American Flags Outside Anfield In Protest Against Tom Hicks & George Gillett

Liverpool fans expressed their anger about the way in which the club has been run by burning American flags outside Anfield following the departure of manager Rafael Benitez from his post on Thursday.

Around 500 Reds fans were involved in the protest, which began outside the Kop at around 18:00 GMT and was organized largely through social networking websites.

Protestors were keen to stress that the demonstration was in no way an attempt to persuade the owners to retain Benitez as manager but rather against an ownership regime which has seen debt at the club spiral.

"This is another example of how this club has become the biggest farce in town. In a sense, Benitez is just collateral damage. When you look at Liverpool in a general manner, who will want to take the club on?" Paul Rice, of the supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly, said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

One banner at the protest read: "Thanks Rafa. Purslow $$ Yanks Get Out Now."

Supporters are also believed to be concerned about the role of chairman Martin Broughton in the club's day-to-day running.

Broughton, also chairman of British Airways, has always stressed that his role at the club was non-executive and he was not involved in running the affairs of the club.

Rather his role was created to help facilitate more investment in the club, along with managing director Christian Purslow.

But Purslow is still in post a year on from being appointed, whilst Broughton's name was one of those which appeared on the statement confirming the departure of Benitez.

Liverpool FC In No Rush To Replace Rafa Benitez

Liverpool FC have set no deadline on their search for a new manager following the departure of Rafael Benitez.

The Champions League-winning Spaniard parted company with the Reds by mutual consent on Thursday after six years at the Anfield helm.

Benitez is thought to have agreed a £6million compensation package and attention will now turn to the identity of his successor with Martin O'Neill and Roy Hodgson, managers of Aston Villa and Fulham respectively, among the favourites - while Guus Hiddink, despite his recent appointment as the Turkish national team coach, is also in the frame.

50-year-old Benitez had four years remaining on his contract but has paid the price for the club's disappointing 2009-10 season, in which they finished a disappointing seventh in the Barclays Premier League.

With owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett planning to sell the club, former Reds boss Kenny Dalglish, now an Academy ambassador, could also be a short-term option.

The club have already said Anfield legend Dalglish, manager from 1985-91, will assist managing director Christian Purslow in the recruitment process.

Installing the 59-year-old Scot, widely regarded as the club's greatest ever player, would at least be popular with supporters at a time when confidence in the hierarchy is low.

Fans gathered in numbers on Thursday night to protest against Hicks and Gillett and the regime which has saddled the club with a debt of £351million.

Liverpool Consider Shock Move For Redknapp

Harry Redknapp is a shock contender to become the next Liverpool manager - as Kenny Dalglish draws up a shortlist of names for the Kop post.

The Tottenham boss is much admired by Dalglish, who has been asked by the Anfield owners to find out who wants the job of replacing Rafa Benitez.

Redknapp's stock has never been higher after leading Spurs to the Champions League, a triumph that ironically went a long way to getting Benitez the sack on Merseyside.

And Redknapp could be tempted away from Tottenham, with friends revealing he is upset that White Hart Lane supremo Daniel Levy has not approached him about a longer and improved contract.

However, there is also the lure of Liverpool, who have the kind of big-name history and glamour that Redknapp has always fancied - and at the age of 63 he is unlikely to get one of the established giants calling for him again.

Redknapp could have to uproot from his Dorset base - a domestic problem that has stopped him moving north in the past - but a two-year deal on top money may ease that pain.

And Redknapp can also count on his friendship with Dalglish to help open the door and make him welcome, with friends claiming he is willing to chase the job.

Dalglish is close to Redknapp and was trusted with taking on his son, Jamie, when he started out on his top-flight football career. The families have been tight ever since.

Redknapp was rated the top manager in England last season - with Fulham’s Roy Hodgson also picking up a similar award - and Liverpool could not find a more experienced boss.

The only box he does not tick is his lack of success in Europe, but he has been at clubs where a run in those competitions has been a handicap.

Roy Hodgson Tops Liverpool's List After Rafael Benítez Agrees Exit

Kenny Dalglish is to lead the search for Rafael Benítez's successor as Liverpool manager, with Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill among the frontrunners.

Benítez accepted a severance payoff worth a maximum £6m from Liverpool's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, today, to end a six-year reign that polarised opinion at Anfield.

Dalglish, the revered former Liverpool player and manager and now club ambassador, will assist the managing director, Christian Purslow, in the pursuit of a manager who can restore Liverpool's Champions League status on a limited budget and convince leading players such as Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano not to quit Anfield.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Liverpool over players and the future ownership of the club, with Hicks and Gillett struggling to find a buyer willing to meet their £600m-£800m price, Anfield officials insist they will not rush a decision and can install a long-term appointment.

The leading candidate at present is Hodgson, who has many admirers at Anfield with his European pedigree and recent success at Fulham. The 62-year-old former Internazionale, Switzerland and Blackburn Rovers manager is on a 12-month rolling contract at Craven Cottage and Liverpool are confident he would be receptive to their advances, despite insisting he was fully committed to Fulham after last month's Europa League final defeat to Atlético Madrid.

Another Premier League manager under consideration is O'Neill, although any approach to Aston Villa would be fraught with complications for Liverpool. The Villa owner, Randy Lerner, recently announced the 58-year-old would not be leaving the club for Anfield or any other destination this summer and the Midlanders' stance has not altered. The Villa board is also believed to be confident that problems on and off the field at Liverpool would dissuade O'Neill from starting anew on Merseyside.

Dalglish himself has also been mooted as a possible interim appointment, 19 years after the stresses of the job prompted his departure as Liverpool manager, but it is understood moves for Hodgson and O'Neill take precedence over what would be a remarkable return for the Scot.

Benítez's departure was confirmed this afternoon following a further round of talks between Liverpool directors and the Spaniard's agent, Manuel García Quilón. The position of the former Valencia and now Liverpool manager was made untenable yesterday when, following negotiations between Benítez and the new club chairman, Martin Broughton, the Anfield board offered him a compromise fee of £3m to leave with immediate effect.

Under the terms of the five-year contract signed only last March, Benítez would have been entitled to £16m if sacked by Liverpool this summer. Instead, he agreed to go with an initial £3m severance payment plus the guarantee of a further £3m spread over future dates. It is unknown whether the outspoken critic of the financial restrictions in place at Anfield has signed a confidentiality clause as part of the deal, but Benítez is now free to take a job without Liverpool demanding a compensation fee.

Benítez, an adversary of José Mourinho during their time in the Premier League, could replace the new Real Madrid coach at Internazionale. The president of the reigning European champions, Massimo Moratti, today insisted: "There is nothing new to add at this stage." An Inter director, Gabriele Oriali, however, admitted Benítez is under consideration. "Benítez has a certain affinity with Inter fans. He is very appealing to us," Oriali said. "He has already given us great joy, namely the 2005 Champions League win against Milan. Who does not remember Istanbul? We like him a lot. But the decision will be made by our president, Massimo Moratti."

Liverpool insist there is no timescale on the process to install a replacement for Benítez, and chairman Broughton claimed the decision to dispense with the European Cup winning coach stemmed from the disappointments of last season. "Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul," he said, "but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned."

News of Benítez's departure, officially "by mutual consent", provoked an angry protest outside Anfield tonight, where hundreds of Liverpool supporters voiced their support for their former manager and outrage at the ownership of Hicks and Gillett.

Benítez, who is on holiday in Sardinia, said: "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts. I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager. Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

Liverpool Midfielder Alberto Aquilani Linked With Inter Switch

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani could be set to return to Serie A with treble winners Inter, according to tuttomercatoweb.

The playmaker transferred to Anfield from Roma last summer for a fee of £20 million, but he spent plenty of time on the sidelines and was then used as a rotation player unable to live up to the potential he showed with the Giallorossi.

The 25-year-old's link to the Nerazzurri is interesting, since his former boss at Liverpool Rafa Benitez has been widely tipped to take over the vacant bench after Jose Mourinho's departure to Real Madrid. Once Aquilani recovered from injury, the tactician often used him as a rotation player, rather than a regular member of the starting XI.

The midfielder could leave the Premier League club for around half the price he was bought, if rumours are to be believed.

France International Midfielder Moussa Sissoko Chased By Liverpool, Tottenham & Lyon

Toulouse youngster Moussa Sissoko continues to court interest from around Europe, though talk of a move to the Premier League has escalated, with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur continuing to lead the chase from England, while Olympique Lyonnais maintain a French interest in the dynamic midfielder.

According to Le Parisien, Sissoko has a release clause set at a value of €20 million, which could be triggered by any of the aforementioned sides, though the 20-year-old would appear to be outside the reach of OL, who have a €25m budget to sign around three players this summer.

Les Gones have already taken a serious interest in the central player previously, having seriously courted him during the last winter window. A move abroad now seems more likely for the Paris-born player, whose style has seen him compared to Mouhamadou Diarra and Patrick Vieira.

Sissoko has been involved at first team level in the Pink City in each of the last three seasons, but this campaign marked something of a breakout. In addition to playing all but one fixture and scoring seven goals, the midfielder also won two caps for France.

A host of European clubs, including Juventus, have previously been associated with the midfielder.

Gerrard To Get England Armband

Steven Gerrard is set to captain England at the World Cup after Rio Ferdinand was ruled out with a knee injury.

Reports coming from the Three Lions camp in Rustenburg say Ferdinand will miss out on South Africa altogether after suffering ligament damage to his left knee in training.

It means vice-captain Gerrard will take the armband - while Jamie Carragher could also feature more heavily as a result.

Though Gerrard will be gutted for his international teammate, he will no doubt be relishing the opportunity to become only the second England skipper to lift the World Cup after Bobby Moore in 1966.

Liverpool Cannot Be Sure Of Attracting Top Candidates To Replace Rafael Benítez

As Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow and Kenny Dalglish begin the search for a new manager they can expect to face the same opening question from every serious candidate: who am I going to be working for?

For now the answer will be, “Don’t know”. Liverpool is for sale, but if there is one thing that Rafael Benítez’s abrupt ejection this week tells us it is that a deal is not imminent. As long as there was a prospect of a prompt exit for Tom Hicks and George Gillett, it made sense for the club to retain Benítez, leaving his future and the terms of any settlement to a new buyer.

But with no prospect of a deal before the start of the new season, and possibly not before the end of the year, it was left to the current board to make a call on the Spaniard’s future.

The uncertainty over the ownership is unlikely to end any time soon. To appease RBS, holders of the club’s £237 million loan, investment bank Barclays Capital was appointed alongside new chairman Martin Broughton in April to help find a buyer.

Progress has been slow, however, with the club not significantly closer to finding a buyer than it was when Hicks and Gillett were pursuing investors individually.

Price may yet be a barrier to a deal, though Hicks’s recent £600 million-plus public valuation will privately be tempered by realism and a respect for the verdict of the market.

Whatever the final figure it will have to reflect the club’s liabilities, which swell to £351 million when the owners’ shareholder loans are included.

Nor is the wider economic climate helpful. The days of trophy-asset hunting are, for now, over and any investor will have as much concern for the bottom line as the reflected glory of owning Liverpool.

Persuading a manager on an upward curve to take the post will be a challenge. Only short-term contracts will be on the table, and the lack of clarity over future investment may rule out candidates who can equal Benítez’s CV when he took over in 2004.

High-quality managers would certainly want an increase on the £15 million transfer budget promised by Hicks and Gillett.

That said, they would inherit a talented squad, featuring two of the world’s best players if Gerrard and Torres can be persuaded to remain and be at a club generating more revenue than it ever has, exceeded only by Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Plenty of managers would bite your hand off for that. The question for Liverpool is whether the very best will be tempted.

After Rafa Benitez's Departure, Kenny Dalglish And Christian Purslow Begin Search For El Dorado

Compass? Check. Map of Europe? Check. One-month inter-rail pass? Check. And so the time has come for Kenny Dalglish, the king become kingmaker, and Christian Purslow, Liverpool’s managing director, to set off across the continent in search of the man who can fill Rafael Benitez’s suede brogues.

He must be experienced, established, stable, capable of dragging Liverpool back to a semblance of normality after the fevered madness of the last six months. He must have a good reputation in Europe, a tactical brain which is capable of outfoxing his peers in Madrid (not Real, just Atletico, at this stage) as easily as those in Manchester (City, probably, rather than United, in Liverpool’s world of realigned priorities).

Oh, and he must be willing to work on the pittance handed down to him by his absentee American overlords, he must not complain when they remove money which was promised to him for the transfer market, he must enjoy seeing the goalposts shift almost at random depending on whichever rules Tom Hicks and George Gillett are playing by this week and he must radiate the warmth of a thousand suns so as to illuminate the cosseted lives of multi-millionaire footballers. He must also win the approval of Jamie Redknapp, arbiter of excellence.

It is no easy task. Perhaps, in their quest, Dalglish and Purslow may like to take in two scenes visited by the last pair to undertake quite such an unrealistic search for El Dorado, the optimist Candide and his philosopher-guide Pangloss. You know, the man whose doctrine stated that all must be for the best since this is the best of all possible worlds.

They could go to Lisbon, for the promising Jorge Jesus, or Constantinople (now Istanbul) for Frank Rijkaard, the former Barcelona manager currently with Galatasaray. Maybe Manuel Pellegrini or Guus Hiddink?

The problem with all four, though, is that the only attractive thing about Liverpool at the moment is the club’s name, and that may not be enough to tempt a Portuguese, a Dutchman or a Chilean, so deep-seated are the scars continually being scoured into the Liverpool’s reputation by Hicks and Gillett.

Instead, Purslow and Dalglish may find the inter-railing ticket ditched in favour of an Apex super-saver return to Birmingham, to speak with Martin O’Neill, or to Lancashire, where Mark Hughes watches and waits. Neither, though, fit the apparent criteria. One is notably irascible, and the other boasts a playing CV which includes the four words which should rule any manager out of the running: “Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton.”

Instead, Liverpool’s head-hunters may find themselves in London, attempting to pick up the most likely and best-suited candidate. Experienced, established, stable and proven in Europe, Roy Hodgson appears to fit the bill more than most.

He is due a high-profile job with which to end a career spent in the shadows. He plays attractive football, and he will not expect a fortune to spend on players. True, his palmares are hardly dripping with honours – two UEFA Cup runners-up slots are the best he can offer among the world’s most illustrious competitions – but then perhaps Liverpool are not looking for a golden one. In their reduced circumstances, all Purslow and Dalglish can hope for is a silver medal.

Anfield Politics, Not Results Caused Rafael Benítez's Liverpool Downfall

Benítez was the victim of Liverpool's financial problems but flawed signings made him partly responsible for his exit.

Were it simply a football decision, a detached analysis of where Liverpool should be in the midst of a debt-ridden power vacuum, then Rafael Benítez, for the many faults, facts and suspect full-backs, would not be leaving Anfield with a lucrative pay-off. But it is not simply football that has done for Benítez.

It is the politicking that is as much a feature of the Spaniard's managerial career as European expertise and the misfortune to fall into the employ of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The leverage buy-out experts promised a spade in the ground for a new stadium within 60 days of their arrival in February 2007 but have only dug the hole into which Benítez has now fallen. He moved closer to the exit with every refinancing deal the Americans secured while his reputation inevitably suffered with every transfer window without additional funds. Not that Benítez walks away blameless.

In announcing the end of the manager's six-year reign Martin Broughton, the chairman parachuted into Liverpool from British Airways to lend gravitas to the sale of the club, and who could not attend the final home game of last season due to his Chelsea allegiances, stresses that football was behind the departure. No one would dispute Broughton's analysis of the "disappointing season" just gone but this was one dreadful campaign following five seasons of steady progress. The man who delivered Liverpool's fifth European Cup in such miraculous style in 2005 and the FA Cup a year later had enough goodwill left on the Kop to be allowed a shot at redemption. Circumstances inside the club, many Benítez-created, however, ensured that could never happen.

It was only November 2007 when confirmation of an approach to Jürgen Klinsmann from Hicks and Gillett brought Liverpool supporters on to the streets in support of the former Valencia coach. On the back of two Champions League finals in three seasons, FA Cup success and the astute purchases of Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and José Reina, Benítez was untouchable in Anfield eyes. An Indian sign over José Mourinho's Chelsea in Europe didn't damage his cause either. His own discontent with the inner-workings of a club without the stadiums or resources of their main Premier League rivals was already surfacing, however.

The morning after defeat to Milan in the 2007 Champions League final brought the first evidence of Benítez the agitator in Liverpool colours. He left Valencia owing to boardroom interference and transfer restrictions, famously stating: "I asked for a table and they brought me a lampshade." He had earlier fallen out with Jorge Valdano at Real Madrid over his input into the youth team. Now he was voicing frustrations inside Anfield. Prevarication on transfers, an underachieving commercial operation, lack of progress with a new stadium and being pressured to keep pace with clubs who could afford to make £20m mistakes on players; his protests were set to repeat until today's exit.

Benítez's motivations were to improve Liverpool but, having won the battle to oust Rick Parry as chief executive and also secured a lucrative five-year contract with no release clause that also ceded to him control of an unproductive youth academy, he consolidated his own authority in the process. That left him exposed should Liverpool falter, and the Americans' financial problems combined with several expensive transfer mistakes made for a fatal concoction last season.

The now former Liverpool manager justifiably raged against having to sell players before he could buy in recent windows, particularly with his squad finally emerging as genuine title contenders in 2009. In that restricted climate, however, he erred badly in marginalising Xabi Alonso and compounded the problem by replacing him with Alberto Aquilani, a talented midfielder no doubt but not, as he recovered from ankle surgery, the player needed to enhance Liverpool's title credentials.

Starved of funds but not, until now, the will to fight, Benítez refused to be silenced on the financial problems, and relationships with the boardroom continued to fracture until the point where he had little support above him. Liverpool could not start next season with the same dysfunctional power structure in place and, with no sign of Hicks and Gillett selling up, the manager became increasingly isolated.

The value of today's Liverpool squad is vastly superior to the one Benítez inherited in 2004 and may be the commodity that has prevented the Royal Bank of Scotland taking more drastic action against Hicks and Gillett. Perversely, however, Benítez inherited a Champions League team from Gérard Houllier and a ticket to his finest hour, the victory that guarantees allegiance among many supporters to this day, in Istanbul the following May. His successor is bequeathed a pass to the Europa League and a team that could struggle to emulate last season's seventh place finish should Steven Gerrard and Torres decide they have witnessed enough false promises and turn the Anfield exit into a revolving door.

Before Benítez bit the bullet there were reports the Liverpool board were forced to act by a threatened dressing-room revolt should the manager stay. Gerrard, Torres and others, so the line goes, have questioned Benítez's management following the last, miserable season. Who hasn't? What is more pertinent to the futures of Liverpool's finest players – many of whom are aggrieved their names have been dragged into the argument – is the direction the club is taking and its ability to strengthen the squad to compete for the top honours once again.

These were the very same assurances that Benítez wanted to hear in his recent meetings with Broughton. Unable to grant them, due to the on-going uncertainty at the top of the club, the Liverpool chairman was left facing a manager disillusioned with financial constraints, in dispute with most of the Anfield hierarchy and accepting that something had to give. That it was him, and not the American co-owners who are the root cause of Liverpool's implosion, will be a source of immense pain for Benítez.