Benitez finds his hands tied

Click to follow
The Independent Football

By the time Rafael Benitez finally makes his way past the Shankly Gates, he may have to manage Liverpool in a way somewhat closer to the Shankly method than he might have expected. The apparent collapse of Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's £56m investment is threatening to leave Benitez with just the £10m the Liverpool board had set aside for summer transfers before deciding to part company with Gérard Houllier.

By the time Rafael Benitez finally makes his way past the Shankly Gates, he may have to manage Liverpool in a way somewhat closer to the Shankly method than he might have expected. The apparent collapse of Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's £56m investment is threatening to leave Benitez with just the £10m the Liverpool board had set aside for summer transfers before deciding to part company with Gérard Houllier.

It is not quite the parlous state Bill Shankly encountered when he arrived from Huddersfield in 1959. There were no facilities for watering the pitch at Anfield; there was an air-raid shelter and a cratered pitch at the training ground; and there was little money in the transfer kitty. Shankly was denied the funds to buy Jack Charlton and had to wait a year before investing £37,500 in Ian St John and £30,000 in Ron Yeats, the purse strings having been loosened by the arrival on the board of Eric Sawyer, a leading figure in Littlewoods.

Benitez might have been forgiven for thinking he had won the pools when his agent, Manuel Garcia Quilun, met Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, in Spain last month and agreed terms for the £6m, four-year contract the former Valencia coach is poised to start on 15 June, by which time he will have served an obligatory 14 days' notice. The attraction, clearly, was not just the generous personal terms, but also the scope for team-building that the Thai investment would allow. The Liverpool board had hoped to free some £30m for the 44-year-old, and he had already earmarked three members of the Valencia squad he guided: Santiago Canizares, Pablo Aimar and Roberto Ayala.

Thailand's prime minister has yet formally to withdraw his bid for a 30 per cent stake, but the proposed deal has been on the verge of collapse since he bowed to mounting opposition to his scheme to use funds from a new state lottery. An ultimate failure would leave the Liverpool board facing the prospect of asking Benitez to wait to see if the club successfully negotiate the qualifying round for the Champions' League before furnishing him with further spending money, or turning, cap in hand, to the building tycoon Steve Morgan, whose £73m investment scheme was twice rejected last month.

In the meantime, Benitez can only wait and wonder what his budget might be - and possibly consider offers from Internazionale and Besiktas. His principal reason for leaving Valencia was his desire for greater control over transfer dealings. On Tuesday he broke down in tears when announcing his resignation, but he has since hit back at accusations that he left purely because of the money offered to him by Liverpool.

"I am not motivated by money," Benitez insisted, in an interview with the radio station Onda Cero. "I don't need it to be happy. What I need are the correct conditions to work in. I am very grateful to Valencia. It's not a question of money. There have been too many things.

"Any choice was not going to be easy, but my wife and I have evaluated everything and we think we have given a lot at Valencia. We cannot offer that 150 per cent in the future." The question now is what exactly Liverpool can offer him - assuming he is not attracted elsewhere, that is.

Comments