Benitez appalled by keeper's conduct at memorial service
Saturday 18 April 2009
The Liverpool career of reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje is over after TV cameras captured him laughing and fooling around at Wednesday's Hillsborough memorial service.
The 26-year-old Frenchman has been told he is not welcome back at the training ground after hundreds of outraged Liverpool supporters complained about his behaviour on internet message boards. His conduct was utterly at odds with the prevailing mood at the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans. The keeper appears to be laughing and joking, simulating dance moves and trying to make team-mate and compatriot Damien Plessis laugh during the "Tragedy" song sung at the service. Plessis was clearly embarrassed by his team-mate's conduct, which he ignored.
A senior club figure who has viewed the footage described Itandje's conduct yesterday as "wholly unacceptable." Manager Rafael Benitez, who has seen the images, was also said to be appalled and moved swiftly to act. How Itandje could not have realised the significance of the occasion is unimaginable. Benitez spoke only this week about how touched he had been to have met a survivor of the disaster and other members of Liverpool's playing staff, including youth players, were praised for their dignified response to the day.
The prospect of Itandje continuing his Liverpool career is now inconceivable though Benitez's decision to effectively summarily dismiss him is one he would not have had to take with a heavy heart. The former Lens goalkeeper, who joined on a free transfer before the 2007-08 season, has struggled to make a positive impact and featured in just seven first-team games, with his most recent outing last season's FA Cup defeat to Barnsley. Itandje has retained a squad number but Liverpool have struggled to offload him since bringing in the Brazilian Diego Cavalieri. Moves to several clubs were mooted last summer, including Galatasaray, but the player's personal demands put paid to such a move.
Meanwhile, Andriy Voronin, whom Liverpool offloaded on loan, seems set to return to the Anfield when his deal with Hertha Berlin expires at the end of the season. The Hertha manager, Dieter Hoeness, said his club could not afford the Ukraine striker's transfer fee and salary, and Voronin said yesterday: "It looks like I'll be going back to Liverpool. It's a pity, I am little bit disappointed. But I can also understand the financial problems."
Voronin has scored 11 goals for Hertha this season, becoming known as "King Andriy" in the German tabloids. Only Hertha qualifying for the Champions League would make a permanent deal viable though that is up in the air. "Nobody knows now if we'll get there and I can't buy out my own contract," he said. Voronin's deal with Liverpool runs for another two seasons.
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