By Nick Harris
2 June 2010
The Rafael Benitez era at Liverpool is over after he was offered £3m to walk away and was told his position was untenable. A large number of the club’s fans will be appalled by the effective ultimatum that Benitez was given, but sources have told sportingintelligence this evening:
- Benitez had already been told by chairman Martin Broughton that the club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, did not want to hand him free reign on any transfer spending this summer (and in fact did not want him to spend any more money unsupervised). This website reported on the owners’ stance last month. It is a stance that is understandably unpalatable to supporters.
- Benitez had been warned that he has “lost the dressing room” and that star players, specifically Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, no longer had faith in his regime. Liverpool insiders privately fear that even with Benitez gone, Gerrard may still want to leave Liverpool to join Jose Mourinho‘s Real Madrid.
Hicks and George are understood to believe that with Benitez gone, they may be able to find a potential buyer more easily because removing Benitez might otherwise have cost £16m in compensation. It is thought the idea of walking away with £3m was presented to Benitez as an honourable way to help the club.
Hicks and Gillett have made and broken a series of promises to Liverpool fans since they took control in 2007. The club lost £55m last year and the pair, both suffering degrees of financial meltdown in the USA, have been forced to put the club up for sale.
They want between £600m and £800m for a club with a market value of no more than £400m. Their delusional assessment of why it is worth as much as £800m is – truly, but ridiculously – based on the logic that Manchester United are supposedly worth £1.5bn, and Liverpool’s turnover is more than half of Liverpool’s. That valuation rationale is held at the highest level of the club, sportingintelligence can reveal.
For the moment, Benitez’s departure will mean yet another period of Liverpool turbulence in a season never free from bumps. Any successor will be, by definition, short term, because the American owners cannot know that a perspective buyer will want whoever they put in place.
Already bookmakers are speculating that Martin O’Neill or Roy Hodgson will step into Benitez’s shoes, though why either man would want to take the job without promises of long-term stability or any significant resources is open to question.