Thursday 21 September 2017

Comment: Van Dijk saga the latest embarrassment for Liverpool - and the owners should look at themselves

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: John W Henry watches the game from the stands during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield on September 10, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: John W Henry watches the game from the stands during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield on September 10, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Simon Hughes

Another public relations embarrassment for Liverpool under Fenway Sports Group.

In 2011, there was Luis Suárez’s ban and the subsequent inappropriate shirt protest. Later that year, John W Henry had to call Phil Gartside to say sorry for comments made by Ian Ayre relating to Bolton’s supposed appeal amongst foreign TV viewers.

In 2012, chairman Tom Werner offered a personal apology to Fulham owner Mohamed al Fayed after Liverpool’s website wrongly claimed the club had signed Clint Dempsey. There was the Jen Chang affair, Liverpool’s director of communications, who left after he told an anonymous Twitter user that supporters would feed “dog dirt” through his letter box if his identity was revealed after releasing transfer stories.

There was the main stand ticket price fiasco of 2016, then Liverpool’s academy being banned from recruiting players domestically for making illegal approaches, and now this: another climb-down, with the announcement that Liverpool have ended their interest in Virgil van Dijk after it was suggested by at least one newspaper that the Southampton defender had met Jürgen Klopp, presumably without the appropriate permission.

There are serious questions Fenway should be trying to answer Stateside this evening, not least: if it was the case that Klopp and van Dijk met secretly in Blackpool why standard procedures were not followed, but perhaps, most significantly, why damaging headlines continue to emerge since their arrival - the sort of which reflect badly on their guidance of the club and which only encourage scepticism about the capabilities of the individuals that run Liverpool in their absence.

Tonight, the focus amongst supporters will be on the role of Michael Edwards, the sporting director who was appointed to the role last November – someone who so far in such an important official position has not been able to negotiate the transfer of a player when it has involved the co-operation of another club, someone who Fenway’s Mike Gordon nevertheless thinks is “world class.” This opinion is shared by the new CEO Peter Moore.

If it is assumed Liverpool have pulled away from van Dijk in order to force the player to file a transfer request, which might make it easier for them to sign him and thus act as some sort of cunning manoeuvring tactic, not only would that ignore any notion that the means simply justify the end regardless of the PR involved, it would be also to trust Liverpool far too much based on form.

When it was suggested last month that Liverpool were suddenly and rather emphatically no longer interested in Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham’s exciting teenager, it was assumed that the left-sided player had simply chosen Tottenham Hotspur over Liverpool because Spurs had negotiated harder.

Fulham were furious, however, that Sessegnon’s name had appeared in various reports after it was announced Liverpool were banned from signing academy players. From there, their position hardened – not unlike Southampton’s.

(© Independent News Service)

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