There seems to be a tangible renewed air of goodwill circulating around Liverpool Football Club at the moment, thanks chiefly to the appointment of the ever-affable Roy Hodgson in the Anfield hotseat.
In three short weeks, Hodgson has quickly restored a lot of the ‘accessibility’ to the club that former incumbent Rafa Benitez seemed to work so tirelessly to dissipate by consistently portraying his side as besieged bastions of martyrdom to anyone who’d listen.
Whereas Benitez was, on occasion, divisive and alienating with his players, contemporaries and the media alike, Hodgson is outwardly open, frank and accommodating – three characteristics that can go along way in terms of building a positive image in the public consciousness, and incidentally three characteristics that you’d struggle to ascribe to his predecessor.
Along with the installation of a new manager at the helm, Liverpool have also been making shrewd moves in the transfer market – a strategy that is more than likely to have a positive effect on the relationship between any club and it’s supporters.
In the 27 days that Hodgson has been in charge, the club have procured the signatures of no less than three new faces, namely free-agents Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic along with promising Scottish defender Danny Wilson – all signed for a combined initial transfer fee of around £2.5 million, which represents good (if not great) business in anyone’s book.
Of course, the wheels for each of three transfers were set in motion during Benitez’s tenure, but the fact that it was Hodgson photographed holding the various shirts and scarves aloft again serves to bolster the burgeoning optimism emanating from Anfield during this brief period of visible change.
Perhaps the most salient piece of news from a Liverpudlian perspective is that the club’s talismanic headline acts, captain Steven Gerrard and striker Fernando Torres, have both intimated that they are willing to remain on Merseyside for the time being despite a barrage of conjecture to the contrary – although speculation about the latter’s immediate future will inevitably continue to simmer until a definitive end is forthcoming.
After a season of near-abject misery last term, the cumulative sum of each of the aforementioned positively-spun fragments is the formation of a tentative feeling (however it misplaced it may yet turn out to be) that a new dawn may be about to break at Liverpool.
However, there is one blot on the club’s copybook and that is the plight of one Javier Mascherano, who informed the club that he would like to leave on Monday after remaining incommunicado whilst away on holiday in Miami during the first week of his new manager’s reign.
Hodgson then issued a flatly unsurprising confirmation of the Argentinian’s desire to move on at a press conference yesterday, telling the gathered media;
“Yes, he wants to leave the club. He has made that perfectly clear. I think he wanted to leave a year ago.
He wants to leave now but he is contracted to Liverpool so whether he leaves or not will be our decision. He is a Liverpool player and will continue to be treated as a Liverpool player until such a day arrives when he no longer is.
The mere fact that the player is a little bit unhappy with his situation and would prefer to leave does not necessarily mean that he will do. It disappoints me but it is not unusual. I think in every club throughout the world there are players playing in the team who would prefer to leave.
Some are allowed to, some are not allowed to. Mascherano is a Liverpool player with a two-year contract. I expect him to honour that contract until the day comes when the club decides to accept an offer for his services.”
The prospective move that Hodgson is alluding to is, with good reason, deemed to be a transfer that would see Mascherano reunited with his former manager Benitez – the Spaniard now being the chief custodian at Italian treble-winners Inter Milan.
With major figures like Gerrard and Torres willing to commit their services to the club for the foreseeable future, you’ve got to wonder why a player that also forms a considerable part of Liverpool’s spine is so eager to leave for foreign shores.
Inter secured an unrivalled haul of honours last season under the conservative guidance of their paradoxically extroverted coach Jose Mourinho (now of Real Madrid) and, with Liverpool failing to even secure themselves Champions League football last term, it may be that Mascherano is allowing a touch of green-eyed envy to colour his judgement – a concept not wholly alien within the modern footballing circle.
Regardless of the sizeable efforts being made to restore Liverpool’s ailing fortunes, the Nerazzurri are already kitted out for victory on both the domestic and the European front, with the key remnants (the players and the mentality) of Mourinho’s successful era still in good working order.
Flippantly speaking, Mascherano would be more-or-less guaranteed instant gratification at Inter next season, and the potentially trophyless transitional period Liverpool may be forced to endure may be a barren hiatus that his impatient ego will simply not allow.
Of course the fact remains that, should Mascherano decide to finally join Inter and the Italian side do manage to maintain their victorious momentum next season as planned – there is still a distinct possibility that the combative midfielder may not play a particularly integral part in any festivities, regardless of the furore that has surrounded his future recently.
The stumbling block in question is the fact that Benitez already has Mascherano’s fellow Argentine international Esteban Cambiasso at his disposal who is, in this humble writer’s opinion, a much more consummate holding midfielder.
He may not quite have the athletic prowess of his compatriot, but Cambiasso’s discipline (both positionally and temperamentally) and technique is definitely superior to that of his compatriots’ – although his three-year seniority may hold negative sway in Benitez’ mind, but who knows what’s going on in there?
Of course, trophy-counts are a pretty accurate measure of footballing success, but it could the resultant by-product of which that is causing Mascherano to pine for a move to the Giuseppe Meazza so longingly – a by-product which seems to guide many-a-modern player, regardless of talent, throughout their careers.
Cash-strapped Liverpool, who are currently in the midst of tumultuous boardroom upheaval, would most likely be unable to match any terms offered by the Italian giants and in Mascherano’s case it could be that the miopic lure of financial gain (which seems to blight so many of today’s mercenary footballers) is just rearing it’s ugly head again – although I don’t actually know the player in question personally, so you could justifiably argue that that is a slightly unfair assumption on my part.
However, if you had to press me for an definitive answer to the question posed in the title of this meandering piece, then I think I’d simply plump for ‘filthy lucre’ – as I have a sneaking suspicion that Javier Mascherano is no different to you or indeed I.