Anyone following the imbroglio at Liverpool between Rafa and the owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillette will be amazed at how quickly their relationship has soured.
Hello! Liverpool. Welcome to America. Where you are only as good as your last title and the bottom line is - show me the money. Rafa, what were you expecting with Tom Hicks? The man whose name is practically synonymous with leveraged buyouts. A grace period?
Rafa has been mortally wounded and it is not because he has been rebuffed in his attempts at getting meaningful winter transfers, it is because the owners, especially Tom Hicks in their response, have questioned in a pointed manner whether he is the right person to lead them to a Premiership given the players he has, which of course makes the question of future transfers moot. They are questioning Rafa's competence, and there lies the sine qua non of the imbroglio.
In recent days, Rafa has toned down his criticism and has made overtures to the owners but he like Martin Jol has been effectively stripped of transfer decisions which are now being handled by Rick Parry, the chief executive. He is no longer the manager. And this will not sit well with Rafa when he sees his opposite number, Sir Alex demanding and getting his way with transfers, most recently making a permanent bid for Carlos Tevez. Rafa's desperation at getting the best transfers that money can buy is not sitting well with Liverpool's new owners who want to see what they are getting for the money that they have already put down. It took all of four years for Roman Abramovich to get to the same mindset. And once that happened Jose Mourinho was on his way out.
Economic considerations make transfer money for expensive players virtually impossible and there maybe other reasons for Tom Hicks go slow approach. As the owner of the Texas Rangers, he was notorious for making the most expensive blunder in sporting trade history, the $252 m acquisition of Alex Rodriguez who turned out to be a bust. He was ridiculed mercilessly by every sporting pundit and fan, a reputation he wants to keep a lid on in the UK.
Liverpool fans should not look to Tom Hicks own money to bail out their club. With the real estate industry, one of his major financial holdings, in retreat, coupled with the devalued dollar, money available for expensive players is harder to come by. With banks demanding more money up front, a recent attempt at refinancing their Liverpool buyout, a £298m loan collapsed. And it looks like major cost escalations and escalating interest rates to finance their loan and find construction money for Liverpool's new stadium will severely deplete money for the transfer budget. Rafa has to live with the reality that the new owners have essentially put him on notice with the players that they have given him.
Rafa of course does not want to be forced out as is being widely seen but I think his recent exercise in diplomacy is a prequel to his leaving on his own terms. Even as he licks his wounds, I am pretty sure Rafa is diagramming an exit strategy. And even as this fracas boils over, look for Rafa to leave at the end of the season. He will go to the La Liga or the Serie where it is harder to buy clubs and business families who own them look on it as a tradition, not necessarily as an investment.
Here is Soccerblog's look at Tom Hicks, a hard nosed businessman with some real ethical issues >>