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Parry loses power battle

Phil McNulty | 10:24 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Liverpool's rumour mill has been spinning wildly with claims about a big-name departure from Anfield - now we know it has been a case of right rumour wrong man.

Rafael Benitez was the name in the frame in the hours before Liverpool's Champions League victory against Real Madrid on Wednesday, a suggestion met with wide-eyed incredulity from the manager.

Now we know it will be chief executive Rick Parry going through the exit door at the end of the season after the latest twist in the public power battle being waged inside Anfield.

My understanding is that talks over the past fortnight have led to a "mature" acceptance that Parry and combative American co-owner Hicks' philosophies are so apart that they will never be reconciled.

One of the pair had to go - and in the current climate it was never going to be Hicks.

Parry and Hicks have had, I believe, a more amicable relationship recently after the Texan's mud-slinging last April, when he called the chief executive's reign "a disaster" and demanded his resignation.

But ultimately, in words Hicks himself might use, the town was not big enough for both of them. Talks, which were described to me as "measured and calm" have brought another episode of the Anfield soap opera to a close.

The move is as close to the famed "mutual consent" as it gets. Hicks and Parry mutually agree they cannot work together and that one of them should go, in this case Parry.

It will be portrayed as Benitez finally getting his way and seeing off Parry in his own pursuit of power, but is my belief that the decision is based on the chief executive's relationship with Hicks rather than his manager.

And while Benitez will stop short of claiming Parry's departure as a victory, there is little doubt it removes one more obstacle in his plans to secure his long-term Anfield future and cement his personal power-base.

A key sticking point in Benitez's negotiations over a new contract has been his desire not to have to answer to Parry over football matters, a wound that was open long before this summer's ill-fated and acrimonious pursuit of Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry.

My information is that both Hicks and fellow owner George Gillett felt strongly that the Barry deal was too pricey for Liverpool's liking and that Parry was furious that he seemed to be shouldering the largest share of blame for the failure of the deal.

I also believe Barry's arrival was also strongly dependent on the sale of Xabi Alonso to Juventus and subsequent off-loading of Jermaine Pennant and Yossi Benayoun - none of which happened.

Benitez has been openly frustrated for four years rather than six months by what he regards as Parry's failure to move swiftly enough when targets have been identified by his scouting team.

Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic, Arsenal's Abou Diaby and Chelsea winger Florent Malouda are Benitez's private examples of those who got away after he had lined up deals - although in the case of the latter Parry should surely be thanked rather than scolded by his manager.

My belief is that Liverpool had a strong interest in signing Vidic when he left Spartak Moscow in January 2006, but were left unconvinced by the player's real desire to move to Anfield and subsequently signed Daniel Agger instead.


Kakha Kaladze was another defender Benitez wanted from AC Milan, but again he was regarded as too expensive at £6m - with the more preferable and younger option of Martin Skrtel eventually arriving at Anfield.

I understand George Gillett, a strong supporter of Parry in the face of criticism from Hicks, is saddened by his exit - although some Anfield insiders believe it may lead to a reconciliation of sorts between the pair as no potential purchasers are on the horizon to mount an Anfield takeover.

It is felt a more "neutral" chief executive might help them work more fruitfully together during their remaining time in charge because Parry was viewed as very much Gillett's man among the Anfield power-brokers.

There may also be a section of Liverpool's support who will see the development as a sign that Hicks may be strengthening his own position inside Anfield's corridors of power, hardly something they will welcome unanimously.

Parry has also taken public criticism for the decision to bring Hicks and Gillett into Anfield and back away from the proposed deal with Dubai International Capital.

This, of course, has proved to be a mistake on current evidence, although it was actually a decision made by shareholders as opposed to Parry.

I have dealt with Parry over the course of his time at Liverpool and found him to be an honest, hard-working, low-key operator who prefers to go about his business away from the spotlight. I am certain Parry would have loved to stay at Liverpool - but not neccessarily Liverpool in its current form.

Parry is an advocate of what used to be known as "the Liverpool Way" of doing business without fuss and behind closed doors - not the public airing of dirty linen that has driven a coach and horses through that philosophy in recent years.

He is a lifelong Liverpool fan and the image portrayed by some as a man who will procrastinate, almost to the deliberate detriment of Liverpool, is false. Parry is well-respected within football, and will have no shortage of suitors once he leaves Anfield.

As Parry prepares to go, focus will now switch back on to Benitez's protracted contract talks and the growing belief that he will now finally sign the extension on offer, although his departure alone will not seal any deal.

It certainly gives Benitez one less reason not to sign the deal, although whether Hicks and Gillett finally grant him almost unprecedented power over the use of a Liverpool transfer budget is yet to be revealed.

Benitez's hand has been strengthened considerably by the outstanding win in The Bernabeu in midweek and, even though he will not say it, by Parry's decision to end his reign at Anfield.

For all the talk of the Premier League title being Liverpool's priority this season, you would not back against him winning the Champions League to offer up as a more than acceptable consolation prize, such is his tactical expertise in Europe.

And Parry would also regard it as the perfect ending to a turbulent 12 years at Anfield.


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