• Premier League

Benitez: Hicks & Gillett cost Liverpool the title

ESPN staff
September 11, 2012
Rafa Benitez took Liverpool to second place in the Premier League in 2009 © Getty Images

Rafa Benitez has accused former Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett of destroying the club's best recent chance to win the Premier League title.

Benitez guided the Reds to second place in 2009 and said he believed the addition of three key players over the summer could have brought the title to Anfield in 2010.

In his new book, Champions League Dreams, he has blamed Hicks and Gillett for wrecking the chance for Liverpool to claim a first title since 1990 by tightening the budget and forcing him to be "a bank manager".

Benitez had planned to sign either Sylvain Distin or Matthew Upson to provide centre-back cover, as well as Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic, but was unable to land any of them and lost his job in June 2010 after the club had slipped to seventh in the Premier League.

"For five years I had been a football manager at Liverpool. By the start of my sixth, it was clear I had become something else entirely. I was suddenly supposed to be a bank manager," he wrote. "Decisions were being made to appease the banks, not the fans. That is how serious the situation with the owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, had become.

"Attempting to work in the transfer market that summer was almost impossible. We knew we would need cover and support for Fernando Torres, as David Ngog was still developing, and we had raised the cash to find it. The player we identified to fill that role was Stevan Jovetic, a young Montenegro forward playing for Fiorentina in Italy.

"The funds we thought we had available would also have stretched to another central defender, to provide cover for Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger.

"The two players we had identified were Sylvain Distin, then with Portsmouth, and West Ham's Matthew Upson, both boasting abundant Premier League experience. Signing one of those two, plus the tall, powerful, intelligent Jovetic, would have given Liverpool the squad we needed to build on the previous year's title challenge.

"Liverpool, though, was no longer a football club. It was a business. The money, which we wanted to use to take Liverpool on to the next level, was all gone."

Benitez wrote that Liverpool "would be punished for the disappearance of that money - and our failure to sign Jovetic - again and again that season".

He said what had been supposed to be "our year" had instead turned into a "long, hard campaign, a battle from start to finish".

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