As per usual, I try to say as little as possible about transfers before they’re completed, but with article after article speculating over the future of Javier Mascherano, I feel the need to chime in.
The Mascherano signing is the canary in the mineshaft for this club. It will be more of a bellwether about new owners’ priorities and capabilities than anything we’ve seen so far.
More so than the promises over the stadium. More so than the spending last summer, much of which was recouped through sales and money brought in from the Champions League run. Far more so than any platitudes doled out in the interviews and press conferences held by Gillett and Hicks.
Rafa: I want Masch to stay
We shouldn’t have to see pieces like this again and again. It is clear Mascherano is vital to this team. It is clear Benitez wants him permanently, and it certainly appears as if Mascherano wants to stay, although players’ public pronouncements always have to be taken with a grain of salt.
I can’t pretend to know all the vagaries about his contract with MSI. We can’t even be sure that the £17m price tag so frequently quoted is true. But in any case, the holdup is wearying and feels unwarranted.
And although the loan runs until the summer and it’s only the 4th of January, I’m quickly tiring of the saga being played out in the press. Other clubs are already sniffing around, and while Mascherano seems happy in Liverpool, it’s impossible to predict the future.
I’d hope that Liverpool’s not reliant on making some sales before a deal’s done, but even if that’s the case, what’s the hold up? Carson’s deal with Villa has seemingly been in the offing for months, and I’m sure most readers are aware of the couple of other names rumored to be leaving.
But the other worrisome thing is that the signing is also a bellwether for the future of Rafa Benitez. The Mascherano deal certainly seems linked to the discord between Benitez and the new owners a month and a half back.
Even if I’m upset with Liverpool’s progress in the league, and have not been thrilled with the results over the past couple of weeks, I still believe that Benitez is the right man for Liverpool. But I also believe the management – the new owners, board, and Rick Parry – must support Benitez fully.
The January window is hit-and-miss and riddled with inflated price tags. Doing business over this period can easily backfire. But more than ever, I think that Liverpool needs to be active in the market and to support Benitez’s plan for the future. First and foremost because I believe the team needs improving, but it’s also a time to get behind the manager, and demonstrate that Liverpool’s on solid footing and continuing to move forward.
The permanent signing of Javier Mascherano is a necessary first step on that road. Only that, or backing of Benitez in the window to make other purchases, will really reassure me that the rift between manager and management is behind us.