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Carragher denounces `ruthless' Liverpool owners

sports Updated: Sep 10, 2008 22:21 IST
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Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher has denounced the club's "ruthless" owners over broken promises and profiteering in the most scathing verdict on Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. from within Anfield.

In his autobiography to be published Thursday, Carragher does express sympathy with the Americans in saying manager Rafa Benitez publicly undermined them over transfers, but gives a largely critical assessment of a year of turmoil.

The 30-year-old defender hesitantly embraced the Americans when their March 2007 takeover came with a pledge to invest in the team and replace the crumbling Anfield stadium without burdening the Reds with debt.

But Carragher said he was quickly riled by the owners apparently reneging on that pledge, becoming further disgruntled over infighting that triggered "the demise of those values which come under the definition 'The Liverpool Way."'

"For richer or poorer, we'd sold Liverpool to two ruthless businessmen who saw us as a moneymaking opportunity," Carragher writes in "Carra: My Autobiography," published by Bantam Press. "They didn't buy Liverpool as an act of charity; they weren't intent on throwing away all the millions they'd earned over 50 years . They wanted to buy us because the planned stadium offered a chance to generate tons of cash and increase the value of the club."

Carragher, who made his Liverpool debut in 1997, said the owners' worst mistake was claiming no debt would be put on the club's balance sheet when in fact the loans used to buy the five-time European champion created annual interest payments of around 30 million pounds (US$55 million; euro37 million).

"Breaking this vow set the first alarm bells ringing, the embarrassing continual changing of the stadium plans was irritating too," he wrote.

Millions of pounds were written off when existing plans to replace the 115-year-old Anfield were ditched after the buyout so architects from Hicks' native Texas could design a more spectacular stadium in the adjacent Stanley Park.

The subsequent global economic turmoil forced the new vision to be scaled down and the club announced last month that the 73,000-seat stadium, which Liverpool hopes will open in 2011, will be delayed "in the short term."

Carragher said the internal strife swelled in the aftermath of the May 2007 Champions League final defeat to AC Milan when Benitez demanded that Hicks and Gillett quickly invest more money in the squad.

"These words sparked a chain reaction that brought problems into the open, almost cost (Benitez) his job a couple of months later, riled Liverpool's owners into an ill-fated meeting with Juergen Klinsmann, and ended Hicks' and Gillett's honeymoon relationship with The Kop (fan base)," Carragher wrote.

Hicks acknowledged talking to former Klinsmann about replacing Benitez last November during their public spat over player transfers. Klinsmann, the former Germany coach, is now with Bayern Munich.

Carragher said he was surprised that Benitez defied standard workplace practice by going public to "slag off your boss." "I understood why the owners were unhappy with him too," he wrote. "They'd been undermined by Rafa and now they were undermining him. "It was a political rather than football battle, and although the fans wanted to see it in black and white terms, with the owners the bad guys and Rafa their hero, I saw far more shades of gray."

Fans hoped a resolution to the Anfield infighting would be reached in February when an oil-rich Dubai consortium tried to buy the club, but Hicks refused to sanction a sale. Gillett Jr. wanted to accept Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's offer. While the UAE buyout offered stability, Carragher was "disgusted" by the fact the Americans could have each profited nearly 100 million pounds (US$176 million; euro125 million) from their year in charge.

"Think how many world-class players that 200 million pounds could have brought to the club," Carragher wrote. "Instead, if Gillett and Hicks did sell, they or their banks would make a huge profit. I felt ill thinking about it."

Carragher has urged the hierarchy to put aside their differences and personal agendas to restore dignity to the club as it strives to win its first English title since 1990.

The Reds hosts defending champion Manchester United on Saturday. "We can't have arguments played out in public every week, and we can't ever hope to catch Manchester United and Chelsea if we're too busy scrapping with one another to take the fight to them," Carragher wrote.