The Times 1 Feb 2008
Liverpool have agreed a £17.1 million deal to sign Javier Mascherano on a long-term basis, bringing some much-needed succour to the club at the end of a month that has brought boardroom clashes, a meek surrender in the Barclays Premier League title race and the erosion of much of Rafael BenÍtez’s authority at Anfield.
At a meeting yesterday Rick Parry, the Liverpool chief executive, and Kia Joorabchian, who heads the companies who owned Mascherano’s “economic rights”, shook hands on a deal that will enable the club to assume sole ownership of the Argentina mid-field player until June 2012.
The fee, which does not include the previous payment of a £1.5 million loan fee in January last year, had been specified in the contract that Liverpool agreed with Joorabchian 12 months ago. They had hoped to negotiate the fee down, but, aware of serious interest from other clubs, agreed to make Mascherano the second most expensive signing in their history behind Fernando Torres.
The deal will delight BenÍtez, who was furious in November when the board vetoed the agreement he had reached with Joorabchian, but the Spaniard’s future at Anfield is nothing like so secure. BenÍtez knows he is under threat, even though a downturn in results in recent weeks has been overshadowed by unrest in the boardroom, where the relationship between Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, the co-chairmen, remains strained.
A 1-0 defeat away to West Ham United on Wednesday left Liverpool 17 points adrift of the top of the Premier League, with Jamie Carragher conceding that their exceedingly slim title hopes were now nonexistent. “I think the league has gone,” he said.
Despite issuing a vote of confidence a week ago, Hicks is known to have serious reservations about BenÍtez, whose best hope of surviving at Anfield would appear to lie with a second takeover in 12 months. The persistent interest of Dubai International Capital, the private-equity investment arm of the Dubai Government, has not been discouraged, although its role as prospective saviours of the club is under threat from the Share Liverpool FC Group, which yesterday launched its attempt to recruit 100,000 shareholders to buy the club and take it into the ownership of the fans, following the Barcelona model. Manchester United’s supporters are contemplating the launch of a similar venture.
— Kia Joorabchian was at the centre of some of the biggest deals of this transfer window. The businessman handled the transfers of Javier Mascherano, Afonso Alves and Felipe Caicedo, for a combined transfer value of nearly £40 million. Joorabchian offered advice to Afonso, the forward who was close to joining Middlesbrough last night, and Caicedo, the forward who signed for Manchester City. But Joorabchian still has some way to go to match his business associate, Pini Zahavi. Among the transfers in which the Israeli super-agent was involved were those of Benjani Mwaruwari and Nicolas Anelka.