27 November 2007

Kaladze transfer at the root of Benitez's outbursts

By Ian Herbert
Published: 27 November 2007

Rafael Benitez's outbursts against his club's American owners stem from their refusal to allow the Liverpool manager to discuss the purchase of the central defender Kahka Kaladze, who played for Milan in their European Cup success against Liverpool last May.
Benitez now believes he might have gone too far in last week's public railing against Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and he let it be known through sources yesterday that he had expressed his frustration for a reason: the Americans' insistence that transfer talk must wait until they meet him on 16 December, which means that any hope of signing the Georgian centre-back has now gone.
The Spaniard has evidently also been denied the chance to discuss two players he wanted to bring in on Bosman deals next summer – a situation he finds particularly galling since he feels he has the right, at the very least, to talk to players who do not carry the financial complication of transfer fees.
"We [football managers] know what it means to sign free – and I insist free – players now. I was not asking to spend money, I was asking to do things with free players," he said after Saturday's Newcastle game.
Though Kaladze is not a regular starter at San Siro, a situation which prompted talk of a move to Chelsea two years ago, his influence would be substantial at Liverpool, for whom Sami Hyypia has struggled and Jamie Carragher been at less than his best during the absence of Daniel Agger this season. The price tag would be £4m. Benitez is also understood to be interested in Racing Santander's central defender Ezequiel Marcelo Garay.
Despite the talk of missed opportunities, Benitez went to some lengths yesterday to heal the rift with the club's American owners. He does not want to leave Liverpool, not least because his wife loves the city and his children are settled there, and he let it be known, through the Liverpool Echo, that he wants to continue working with Hicks and Gillett.
Benitez only went so far with his new emollient tone. He still does not want to be seen to be backing down and his assertion of contentment with life at Anfield came after a great deal of thought on Sunday about what the tone might be.
Yet the language was significant. "All he wants is to be able to continue the job that he's started so he can continue improving the squad in a bid to deliver the title he knows Tom, George and Rick want just as badly as he does," a source close to Benitez told the Echo, purposely using the first names of the club's co-owners and Rick Parry, Liverpool's chief executive, whom Benitez referred to by name three times as he expressed his frustration after Saturday's match at Newcastle.
The source continued: "The frustration stems from the fact that communication has been so difficult with everyone being so far apart and in different time zones. But the fans should be reassured Rafa has no plans of walking away. He loves it here and his family are settled on Merseyside. He always describes his children as 'Scousers' and that makes him really proud."
Benitez may be be tempted to elaborate on his position at Liverpool this afternoon when he assesses his side's crucial Champions League match against Porto. He will at least feel a temporary line of communication exists when Foster Gillett, the co-owner's son and Liverpool managing director, who has left his permanent office at Liverpool's training ground for reasons which remain unclear, arrives in the city for the Porto game tomorrow

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