Having once suffered fromthe tiniest kidney stone, your correspondent has every sympathy with what Liverpool's Rafa Benitez is currently going through. Whether it entirely excuses his recent outbursts of tetchiness is another matter.
Last weekend it was Manchester United and all their works that caused the irritation; now his own club have inflamed him, and last night he was forced to deny suggestions that they will be looking for a new manager this summer if he is not given greater control over transfers. It was at best an odd way to set the agenda ahead of two critical matches in the next seven days against Everton.
Why bring the matter into the open at this particular moment? "The owners offered me a [contract] extension and I said that we would have to do it very quickly because I don't want distractions," Benitez explained yesterday. "After two months of conversations they know my ideas. I told them that we cannot progress. We cannot keep going over and over with these things. For me it was good to do it, finish, and concentrate on football. So we finished the conversations. That's it."
As he is happy with the length of contract and the sums on offer, it is hardly a secret that the "things" in question concern control over transfers. Yesterday he made it clear that the manager should have the final say on how much a particular player is worth: "If you have £20m you can sign five players for £4m or one of £20m. Who will know? The manager, because he knows what he needs in the squad. It's clear."
Benitez's complaints about transfers are of long standing and go to the heart of his relationship not so much with the owners but with Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry. The morning after losing the Champions' League final to Milan in 2007, Benitez shocked listeners at the squad's hotel with a diatribe clearly directed at Parry about the way Liverpool were losing out on transfer targets because they did not act quicklyenough. "We talk and talk but never finish," was his beef.
His particular frustration this season is not having signed Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, apparently because his superiors decided that the £18m Villa held out for was too much; as the American owners were hardly in a position to judge the players' worth, it was assumed to be Parry who made the decision. The worry now is that Liverpool's best chance in recent years to win the Premier League may yet be frittered away. It would be hard to bear if Manchester United were the team to come from behind and take it, equalling Liverpool's record of 18 English titles.
Clearly, Benitez will have to return to discussions with the Americans, who are expected at Anfield in two weeks' time for the game with Chelsea. "I don't have any problem at all about talking with them," he said. "The phone works both ways. It's about how I can manage the club in the best way for the future. I am working very hard for Liverpool and I want to stay here a long time.
"My relationship with the owners is better than people think. So if you have a disagreement about different things in the contract it doesn't mean you have a bad relationship. We have finished talking and now we have to concentrate on football."
So to Everton, firstly in the League tomorrow night and then the FA Cup next Sunday. For many Liverpool supporters, treating their nearest neighbours with disdain, United are the most important team to beat these days; a sentiment echoed yesterday by Fernando Torres. For Evertonians, however, it is still the derby matches that matter most, which is why these two fixtures are so essential to their wellbeing.
They will travel across Stanley Park tomorrow in sixth place, which represents an excellent recovery from some patchy early-season form, including a 2-0 home defeat inflicted by two fine goals from Torres. Unfortunately for Everton, he now appears ready to start a game again, Liverpool having missed him when he was left in the dug-out for the first hour of a poor performance at Stoke last weekend.
What even the most jaundiced Red would admit is that David Moyes has done as good a job as could be expected given the financial constraints imposed in his seven years on Merseyside. Getting in a famous little dig on arrival in March 2002, he christened Everton "The People's Club". Benitez later stirred up a fair old storm when he spoke of "small clubs" like Everton coming to Liverpool to play for a point. Blues walking into enemy country this week may claim that, small or not, they appear to be the more united of the two clubs.
Take it as red...
Moyes' Mersey derbies: Liverpool won 8, Everton won 2, drawn 3.
Everton 0 Liverpool 2
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Everton 3 Liverpool 0
Liverpool 3 Everton 1
Everton 1 Liverpool 3
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Everton 1 Liverpool 0
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Liverpool 0 Everton 0Reuse content