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Its Rafas Fault!

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George Gillett has claimed that Rafael Benítez is to blame for Liverpool’s failings on the pitch – rather than the owners – after stating that the club is in “extraordinarily” good financial shape compared with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.


By Rory Smith

Published: 7:30AM BST 06 Oct 2009



“In the last 18 months, we have invested £128 million on top of what has come in. That means it should be getting better,” Gillett said.


“Now if it’s not getting better, it’s not Gillett and Hicks, it’s the manager, it’s the scouting. You have to make sure you balance out your *****ysis. There was plenty of money, so if you have any complaints, take a look at the ins and outs.”


Gillett made the comments in an ad hoc interview with a representative of the fans’ union Spirit of Shankly at Liverpool’s Kirkby academy prior to the Premier League match with Hull last week.


During the conversation, the Colorado-based businessman, who was showing the Saudi prince Faisal al-Fahad bin Abdullah bin Saud around the facility, denied declaring in the aftermath of his takeover of the club that work would begin on a new stadium in Stanley Park “in 60 days,” suggesting Hicks was responsible for the statement.


“I have never talked about that,” he claimed. “Hicks was the one who said 60 days. In that period of time, the world’s credit market collapsed and he ended up with big egg on his face. I do not talk about absolute dates when we are talking about credit markets.”


Footage of the press conference held after the Americans’ 2007 takeover of the club, however, shows Gillett insisting “the shovel needs to be in the ground in the next 60 days or so, and we expect to follow that”.


Of more immediate concern to the club’s supporters, though, is Gillett’s insistence that “the £30 million [from the sale of Xabi Alonso] went straight back in” to Benítez’s coffers, as well as “£22-23 million as part of our budgets”.


Gillett’s statement that Benítez is to blame belies the fragile peace between boardroom and boot room at Anfield. Benítez has been noticeably coy on the subject of the club’s owners this season after two years of almost constant conflict, but relations remain strained, particularly on the subject of transfer budgets.


Gillett insists the £20 million average spend predicated in investment do*****ents leaked last month is “an estimate, not a cap” and is adamant “we spent more than the £20 million in the off season,” denying that he and Hicks “took any money out to pay down debt”.


Yet Benítez, who made a late £12 million offer for Gareth Barry in early June as he opened negotiations for the £18 million purchase of Glen Johnson and privately examined the possibility of signing David Silva, the Valencia midfielder, two months later failed to find the funds to sign Michael Turner, then with Hull, for £12 million.


Such turmoil was said to be the result of Hicks and Gillett’s refinancing of the £350 million loan with RBS and Wachovia used to buy the club, although the latter insists “the club has the lowest debt to each dollar of earnings of any major club in the sport”.


“The club is in extraordinarily good financial condition. Far better than Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.


We have invested massively, we have put more money in than anyone other than Manchester City, with the craziness they have got,” Gillett said.


Gillett insisted the “debt on Liverpool is very sound” and denied suggestions the club would struggle to meet interest payments without Champions League football. “The budgets are done very conservatively,” he said.


“They are based on a very limited success in the Champions League. Even without that, we have enough cash flow to pay the minimum interest and give Rafa what he needs to make us competitive.”


Gillett's key points


On Benítez: “We have invested more money than our competitors, in keeping with the history of the club, which means it should be getting better. Now if it’s not getting better, it’s not Gillett and Hicks, it’s the manager”


On finance: “The club is in extraordinarily good financial condition. Far better than United, Chelsea or Arsenal.”


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