Saturday 7 December 2019

Hodgson fears Man United bid for Torres

Roy Hodgson fears Manchester United could launch a bid for their star striker Fernando Torres. Photo: PA
Roy Hodgson fears Manchester United could launch a bid for their star striker Fernando Torres. Photo: PA

Rory Smith

The pressure on Roy Hodgson intensified on Wednesday night as the Liverpool manager admitted the club may be powerless to resist a bid from Manchester United for striker Fernando Torres and managing director Christian Purslow, his most powerful ally in the Anfield boardroom, departed.

United are expected to pursue a marquee signing should Wayne Rooney be granted his desired move in January and Torres, along with Real Madrid duo Karim Benzema and Kaka, is thought to top Sir Alex Ferguson’s wishlist to replace the England international.

Though Liverpool have not sold a player to their fiercest rivals since Ted Savage in 1938, and despite the outrage such a transfer would provoke at Anfield, Hodgson insists it would be naive to assume such a move is impossible.

“I think we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. When a great player like Rooney is looking to leave his club, United will be in a position to target a lot of players around the world.

“I do not think Torres will be the only striker they target and I do not think we will be the only club worried. I am not naive enough to believe there will not be any danger and I am not too naive to believe we will never lose a player like Torres.

“I do not believe we will lose him, we will do our best to ensure he stays and I only hope I can do everything in my power to keep him happy at the club.”

Purslow’s departure, though, fuels concerns that Hodgson will be in no position to analyse any January bid from Old Trafford. A key figure in the former Fulham manager’s appointment, Purslow stepped down from his position yesterday following the takeover of the club by New England Sports Ventures.

“I came to Liverpool to lead the club through a sale process to get the best overall deal including, vitally, the removal of the debt,” said Purslow, who will continue as a special adviser.

Hodgson was appointed unanimously by the club’s board in July, but Purslow’s departure means four of the five members who ratified that decision are no longer in place. The fifth, commercial director Ian Ayre, has been persuaded to stay by NESV.

That would appear to leave Hodgson vulnerable after an abject start to the campaign and with the club’s new power-brokers clearly intent on wasting no time in shaping Anfield to their image.

Hodgson revealed he did not know of Purslow’s exit until they arrived in Naples airport. His admission that he could not guarantee his continued employment after two tumultuous weeks at Anfield, though, was more telling.

Asked what ramifications Purslow’s departure had, he said: “That is not a question for me to answer. I had no idea he was going to leave the club, but I came here to work for Liverpool, not for any individual. I was regarded after an extensive search as the best man for the job by the people making the decision and I am happy to continue in that way.”

Defeat in Naples tonight, or against Blackburn at Anfield on Sunday or at Bolton the following week in the Premier League, would make that unlikely. Liverpool’s chances of success against their hosts, fourth in Serie A, are diminished by Hodgson’s decision to omit Torres, Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles.

“It is a question of priority,” he said. “We need a win on Sunday more than we do here. If we lose and people say you prioritised Sunday over this one then I will have to hold my hands up and say yes I did.”

It may yet prove to be the defining game of Hodgson’s brief Liverpool career, despite his squad selection. Lose and, as Dickinson might suggest in song, he had better run to the hills.

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