'Undermined' Benitez wants showdown with Hicks and Gillett
Monday 14 April 2008
Rafael Benitez yesterday demanded a meeting with the warring factions at Anfield and may find his future at the club untenable if he does not find the reassurances he is seeking, as acrimony between the owners continues to escalate.
Benitez feels his position at the club is being seriously undermined by the increasingly public battles and was distressed to learn, via emailed statements issued by the club's owner Tom Hicks on Saturday, that the chief executive, Rick Parry, was present at a meeting in California before Christmas at which Hicks and his co-owner George Gillett approached Jürgen Klinsmann about taking his job.
"It was a surprise to me to read about some meetings," Benitez said. "I need to talk to the board to clarify the situation. I want to do that as soon as possible, within hours maybe. I want to clarify everything. I was surprised with some meetings with another manager. I was surprised by the people who were at the meeting. It is not the first time I heard about the meeting but about the people who were at the meeting. My position is being undermined."
Hicks' revelation about the meeting with Klinsmann will place further pressure on Benitez's already difficult relationship with Parry. The Spaniard was indignant to be told earlier this season that Parry – and not he – is the Americans' point of contact when it comes to transfer policy. But Benitez was careful not to side with one or other of the parties when he spoke after the win over Blackburn, which cements fourth place. "I don't want to speak to one specific owner," he said. "I want to speak to all of them. They were all in a meeting together and I want to know something more. I want to speak to all the owners, preferably all at the same time."
Hicks' revelation about Parry's involvement in the Klinsmann meeting came when he hit back at the weekend at Parry's suggestion that his calls for the Liverpool chief executive to quit had been "offensive." Hicks said: "I didn't hear Rick Parry say it was offensive when George gave his radio interview [in Canada, earlier this month] telling the world our relationship had become unbearable. When the Klinsmann story broke, I didn't hear Rick Parry or George Gillett say they were the ones who set up the Klinsmann meeting."
Gillett, Hicks said, had known Klinsmann from a meeting at Vail, the US ski resort. "Rick, George and Foster [Gillett's son] had participated with Tom Jnr [Hicks' son] and me in the meeting," he said. "Rick allowed all the controversy to build without taking any responsibility."
Parry, who says Hicks has turned the season at Anfield into a "nightmare", reacted indignantly to Hicks, explaining he had attended the Klinsmann meeting on the orders of Hicks and Gillett. "I stand by my track record in English football and as chief executive of Liverpool," he said.
But the latest of a number of statements from Hicks leaves the club's ownership wrangle as far away from solution as ever and jeopardise Benitez's preparations for next season to the extent that he may be wondering whether his future at the club is viable
Gillett will push for independent arbitration over the sale of his Liverpool shares to draw a line under the strife which is threatening the club's preparations for next season. Gillett has discussed the idea with his associates, though Hicks' latest outburst against Parry, which leaves the different factions at the clubs more polarised than ever, provides little hope of a prompt resolution.
Hicks, who let it be known last week that he had written to Parry asking him to tender his resignation, elaborated on his criticism of the former Premier League chief executive, blaming him for the club's failure to win a league championship under his tenure and accused him of "arrogance".
Hicks said: "Our commercial revenues have not kept up with other top clubs during that time, which has made it very difficult to compete for the Premier League," Hicks said. "After watching him operate, I came to the conclusion it was time to ask him to resign, due to his inability to manage an organisation, his seemingly arrogant attitude to our supporters and his lack of communication with Rafa [Benitez]."
Parry told The Independent on Friday that the club's preparations for next season, including the drawing up of transfer targets, needed to begin by next month, or June at the latest, and Hicks agreed yesterday that transfer preparations needed to begin by next month. Dubai International Capital remains close to Gillett and there is a belief from the Arab consortium that a deal may be secured to buy Gillett's 50 per cent share in the company, despite Hicks' insistence that he will not sell.
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