With Gillett and Hicks putting the kibosh on spending, is Rafa on his way out of Anfield?
And so Daddy Warbucks has put taken away the credit card. The honeymoon is over and the hefty bill is sitting on the bureau.
Make no mistake, a comment like: “There are some very important games coming up in the next couple of weeks and all of us need to focus on winning those games and getting the best out of the players we already have at the club” is owner-speak for “there’ll be no more money.”
It seems to be a common affliction amongst managers after their team comes under foreign ownership to act like the younger wife of a wealthy older man, splashing money around with impunity on baubles and shiny new things that they get sick of fairly quickly.
But in the grand scheme of how liberally money gets dispersed after the coffers are opened, what Rafa spent on his summer signings was a pittance in comparison to the sums put out by some of his managerial amigos when they came under new ownership.
The tightening of the purse strings at this juncture is perplexing. Why demand “value for money” now? Under Rafa’s control in ’07/’08 Liverpool is one of only two undefeated teams in the Premiership and only 6 points out of first. If the American duo’s concern is the revenue lost by crashing out of Europe in the group stages, it may a bit premature. They must have missed the record 8-0 win over Besiktas in the Champions League that put Liverpool back in charge of their own destiny.
So Rafa is understandably terse. What he is trying to accomplish, if the Man U/Chelsea Premiership winning model are the norm, requires a lot of tin. And it must be especially infuriating because he was comparatively frugal in his acquisitions so he probably felt he would be given some leeway when it came time to put bids in for the type of quality that would win the club more trophies.
This is a meeting that will not go well — at all. It must be humiliating for him to have the war chest slammed on his fingers and then be indirectly chided in the press. Worse yet, it sounds like they are questioning his competency.
But why publicly question his ability now? If they are looking for an indicator of Rafa’s capability, his track record at Liverpool alone speaks for itself: two Champion’s League finals in three years and a smattering of domestic trophies.
And now, by all indications he is going to be micro-managed by his financiers when he is successfully navigating the course they offered their full backing for less than a year ago.
It is true that Liverpool will always be held to higher standards because of their impressive history, but history takes time to compile. This current course of action, however, will make Rafa history, not a part of it.
It seems a bit myopic to insist this represents the end of Rafa’s tenure at Anfield. What is myopic is Gillett and Hicks’ insistence on looking for unrealistic returns instead of giving their investment time to grow.
One just hopes that Rafa’s Iberian blood doesn’t get the better of him and his machismo put him in an untenable position with his now hawkish backers. There are still many miles to go. This is really only the beginning.