Family at war - Liverpool FC deserves so much better
WHEN Robbie Keane signed for Liverpool last summer one of the first things he told the ECHO was how delighted he was to be joining the club he supported as a boy.
He couldn't have been any more wrong.
The Liverpool Keane followed as a youngster growing up in Dublin was a club where unity was a watchword and where boardroom politics never had a negative effect on what was happening on the pitch.
The Anfield Keane walked into last July was - and still is - a place torn apart by civil war and internal strife where only the bravest souls dare to tread.
The Liverpool family has become so dysfunctional that it should be the adoption agency not the Premier League which rules on whether or not they can add to their number. But Keane was blissfully ignorant of such issues when he completed his "dream move".
A brief conversation at the Malmaison Hotel which was his temporary home after moving north was the first indication the Irishman had that Liverpool FC was not what it once was.
Advised by one associate not to get involved in the internecine politics which has plagued the club for far too long, Keane asked exactly what such comments meant.
Another associate was less cryptic, telling him that Liverpool "is not one club, it is actually two or three in one".
Keane soon came to know what that meant as he became an unwitting pawn in the ongoing power struggle between Rafa Benitez and Rick Parry.
It has been inaccurately suggested in some places that the Liverpool manager never wanted Keane and that he was in fact signed by the club's chief executive.
This is not the case as not only had Benitez confirmed his interest in Keane long before he actually signed, he had also consulted with several figures at Melwood about him.
But - and this is a big but - by the time Keane came to sign on the dotted line to seal a four year contract at Anfield, the Reds boss had already tried unsuccessfully to halt the ÃÂ£20.3m deal.
Gareth Barry was Benitez's number one target and it was the Englishman and not the Irishman whom he wanted capturing first.
Benitez's fear was that if Keane signed before Barry it would diminish his chances of bringing in the Villa star.
Parry's argument was that Villa were not budging on their prohibitive value of Barry and that the proposed Keane deal was so far down the road that there could be no turning back.
To paraphrase a Benitez-ism from his Valencia days, he asked for a table and a lampshade but in that order. When the lampshade was unloaded at the Shankly gates with no sign of the table the Spaniard was far from impressed.
Wholly innocently, Keane had become Benitez's lampshade and he had also unwittingly got himself caught in the crossfire between Anfield and Melwood.
To this day, Benitez believes his chief executive worked harder to sign Keane than he did on the Barry deal in keeping with his own personal football judgement, an accusation Parry emphatically denies.
Only those involved know the truth of the matter but what is not in any question is that the saga shows no-one involved in a favourable light.
Keane may claim he was never given a fair crack of the whip but equally he never looked like setting the world alight during his short spell at Anfield.
Statistics do not always give the complete picture where humans are involved but the fact that the partnership between Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres produces a goal every 74 minutes - while with Torres and Keane it was every 245 minutes and Gerrard and Keane every 231 minutes- tells its own story.
It is hard to recall a game where Keane did not look like a big fish in need of a much smaller pond, one which only the likes of Spurs can provide.
Similarly, Benitez should not take any pride at identifying a target, failing to get anything like the best out of him and then returning him to whence he came without having a replacement lined up.
Parry should also be asking himself whether he could have done more to deliver Benitez's transfer targets in the order he had requested them because in not doing so he helped create a situation which resulted in the manager demanding total control of the buying and selling of players because he feels he cannot trust his chief executive.
And yet more accusing glances will be cast in the direction of Tom Hicks and George Gillett for sanctioning a ÃÂ£20.3m deal for a 28-year-old, a fee which most observers thought was grossly exaggerated, at a time when they would not back their manager's judgement that ÃÂ£18m was a price worth paying for Barry.
Liverpool's co-owners have been guilty of the most alarming dereliction of duty and have quite literally fiddled while Rome burns. They have had it in their gift to impose a chain of command in which each link is connected by trust but have singularly failed to do so.
What's more, the Americans have actually made things worse by playing Benitez and Parry off against one another in their quest to rid the club of one another when they should have been looking for ways to make the relationship between manager and chief executive work better.
The whole situation stinks to high heaven and it is Liverpool's reputation which has taken the biggest battering.
Robbie Keane's dream move was doomed to fail from the very start, now Liverpool must return to the values which made them the team to support when the Irishman was a boy or else the newly installed Spurs skipper won't be the last victim of this ongoing civil war.
In fact, there is already another one waiting in line because unless the impasse over Daniel Agger's contract is resolved - he has been waiting for the club to speak to him about his future since November - the Danecould be next through the exit door as his sense of utter bemusement is growing with every passing day.
The same could be said of Liverpool's fans who deserve better.
So much better.