Revealed: how new Liverpool owner's wife pestered her husband to buy
Henry's team looking to increase revenues by being both smart and efficient rather than spendthrift
The big, fat ring John W Henry wore on the fourth finger of his right hand at Anfield on Saturday was the only sign of ostentation in an individual whose arrival – which began with a solitary, reflective walk on the hallowed turf just after sunrise – was so much more understated that that of his American predecessors.
This was no ordinary adornment, though. It was one of two World Series baseball rings Liverpool's new owner has collected as proprietor of the Boston Red Sox and it was an emblem of what clearly motivates him most. "Competing" as he put it.
Last night Henry left Goodison Park after Liverpool's demoralising 2-0 defeat acutely aware of the job on his hands. But he had to search his soul in the first place for the belief that he and his partner, Tom Werner, really can bloody the nose of Manchester United and Chelsea in the same way that they have the Yankees back home.
Henry's wife, Linda Pizzuti, has played a significant role in pushing him towards the Anfield gates, and it was she who pestered him to walk up to Tom Hicks and ask him if he was selling Liverpool, at a baseballowners' meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, in January.
"My wife kept bumping at me [at the meeting] and saying 'why don't you go ask Tom Hicks if he is selling Liverpool,'" Henry revealed. He admits that he was uncertain he wanted the challenge - "'Oh, man, it's a long way away..." he says he told Ms Pizzuti. But she persisted, "so finally I went over and tried to approach Tom but he was in conversation so I approached Tom Hicks Jnr and I asked him." Hicks jnr apparently replied with a flat "no" .
Henry is not sure why his wife was "more serious than I was" in Liverpool, but her enthusiasm was fateful since the club has kept coming across Henry's horizon over the past few years.
Two years ago Henry was on a flight with Mike Dee, the chief executive of Miami Dolphins, when Dee handed him the sales prospectus for the club. "I thought 'oh, oh we have enough headaches'. This seemed like a lot of work and I just didn't think about it again until the owners' meeting."
But one of Henry's commercial executives at New England Sports Ventures, Joe Januszewki, emailed him to say he thought the club's appeal has certainly increased since it became clear that Uefa's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules will prevent clubs sustaining huge losses under wealthy benefactors to spend on players' wages.
"I don't have 'Sheikh' in front of my name," Henry said from a seat in the Anfield boardroom on Saturday. But, he added, that does not matter if there's a level playing field. Henry was incredulous when it is put to him that Manchester City, Real Madrid or anyone else will find a way around those rules.
"You're cynical," Henry said. "If the FFP rules were ridiculous or not that strong, why was the transfer window down 25 percent last year? The clubs have to comply." His interest in Liverpool "would be less" if that regime were not imminent.
In the new landscape Henry and Werner are looking to apply the Red Sox model of driving up revenues through judicious spending because it has been demonstrated that less may not mean more where investment levels and trophies are concerned. They see the big-spending Yankees as the equivalent of Manchester United. "You have to be smart about it," Henry said. "We will never have the revenues of the Yankees. They always out-spend us, about 50 percent a year, so we have to be smart. We have to be more efficient. We cannot afford player contracts that do not make long term sense.
"When we arrived at the Red Sox, the New York Yankees were a juggernaut and it wasn't that much of rivalry. I believe we turned it into a rivalry where we have gone toe-to-toe. The [Yankees' revenues] keep going up but we have gone up faster and we have got to the point where if you look at our wins and losses against them over the last nine years, we are almost dead even."
Though there is an open mind on the refurbish-or-rebuild stadium debate for Liverpool , it is hard to avoid the impression that refurbish appeals – even though the club can now draw on the experience of the Red Sox chief executive, Larry Luccino, who built Camden Yards, the fine Baltimore Orioles ballpark. They are encouraged by fans' polls which show a sentiment for staying put and improving revenues at Anfield.
A Liverpool board meeting today will also include discussion of January's transfer window spending, though the Americans know that you do not find good value in that window.
In line with the Red Sox model of prudent investment, it is a developed scouting system which appeals to them. So the new owners are patient then? Not exactly, well not completely. "You can destroy teams competitively in a short period, but it takes a long time to build a strong foundation," Henry concluded on Saturday. "We're very patient but aggressive. Impatient and patient."
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