The Yanks, after the disasterous season we have had are, for once, united in their view that they want Rafa Benitez to leave.
After the Klinsmann talks were made public in January 2008 – when it became evident the owners had doubted Benitez – Hicks fell firmly into the pro-Rafa camp. Sources add it was also Hicks who was the driving force in giving Benitez a five-year deal last year.
Gillett, on the other hand, although supportive of the Spaniard, felt Benitez worked best under the supervision of a “moderating” executive, specifically the former chief executive, Rick Parry.
Parry left in the summer of last year, after it became clear that, according to one source, “it was obviously going to be a dysfunctional situation going forward.” Hicks was aligned to Benitez, who had been given more powers in his new deal, while Gillett was aligned to Parry, who Gillett believed “kept Rafa in control”. Except Benitez didn’t want to be kept in control, and would not be.
Fast-forward one extremely disappointing season, and Hicks and Gillett are much closer now in mindset. The club is up for sale and Barclays Capital are actively talking to potential bidders.
The Americans still privately insist the club is in great financial shape, despite losses for the parent company of £55m last year, mainly due to interest payments of £40m on debt. They are also prepared to inject more money for transfers this summer “for one last time”, a source says.
The rationale is that they need an asset in good shape to make it attractive for a decent bid, but the Americans harbour “grave doubts” that Benitez should be the man to spend the money to keep the asset in good shape.
They will not sack him because his £16m pay-off is too expensive, and thus hope he leaves of his own volition. If he doesn’t leave – for Juventus or elsewhere – then they will only spend in the summer if the club’s chairman, Martin Broughton, oversees any deals.
It is believed that Benitez and Broughton held a second meeting this evening, lets hope for good news to come from that.