Well there you have it. The newspapers have finally managed pull off what they would no doubt see as very neat trick by uniting two stories.
One is the long running saga of disquiet between Rafa and owners, which ran like a rotten thread through last season. The other is the long running saga of the Gareth Barry transfer that is running like a rotten thread through this summer!
Now that the stories about financial stand offs, breaches of etiquette and intransigence between us and Aston Villa finally appear to have run their course, all the scribes seem to be left with is resurrecting our own internal troubles. We are told that Rafa is miffed, embarrassed and alone, no “isolated” as the star Spangled Duo have failed to back him over the Barry transfer. The price and the player’s age, or more specially the sell on fee once his contract ends, seems to be the main concern even though he is cheaper and younger than Robbie Keane.
Apologists would say that there is a difference. Keane fills a part of the team that needs strengthening. Barry, arguably, doesn’t as we already have strong midfield. Rafa clearly doesn’t stand in this camp and presumably sees Barry’s versatility, good understanding with Gerrard, as seen when they played together for England, as enough reason for persisting in the way he has. There is also the Xabi Alonso issue which to Rafa I suspect isn’t just about football?
If there is any truth is these stories many, who have been critics of the owner’s ham-fisted behaviour since they joined the club, may find themselves in the unusual position of actually agreeing with them! Although this is by accident or default rather than design? Does anyone really want to see Alonso leave Liverpool? The Kop certainly doesn’t if their chants at the Lazio game were anything to go by. Does anyone think that spending £18m on Barry is value for money in terms of the deal which also sees Steve Finnan, a perfectly fine full back, leave?
Of course it’s the owner’s money (or their banks!) and they have made no secret of the fact that things are tight. They will point to the fact that they have backed Rafa before. But perhaps, having gauged the climate of opinion over the Barry transfer they, for once, might feel they are on fairly safe ground by expressing doubts and questioning their manager? They may also, erroneously in my view, point to the fact that rumours about money being tight have been partially addressed by the fact that have also tried to “sweeten the Barry pill” by pitching in for David Silva. Although I suspect his arrival is unlikely Silva, as a winger, fills in many people’s eyes a more deficient part of the squad than Barry would in midfield. Too many, myself included, this would be the desired outcome of this summer’s shopping, another top class striker and a winger. However, does Rafa see it that way?
I don’t know how much truth there is in these stories. As usual I suspect there are small bits that are partially credible and vast amounts that aren’t. The simple fact is that all summer we have been steadfast in our refusal to meet Villa’s asking price for Barry with or without the owners pitching in. The difference now is that with the start of the season four days away, Rafa and the Star Spangled Duo are again the subject of gossip once more. What are the odds of this escalating if, as looks increasingly likely, Gareth Barry never gets to wear a red shirt?