Sir Martin Broughton was the man who sold Liverpool. The man who went through the courts to prise the club out of the much-despised hands of George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
It was he who Hicks infamously accused of being the orchestrator of 鈥渁n epic swindle鈥?over the sale of the club.
His six months as chairman of Liverpool FC were some of the most dramatic in the club鈥檚 125 year history. Seven years this week after his appointment in April 2010 - and finally clear of years of legal wrangling - he spoke with Neil Jones and Andy Kelly about those astonishing times at Anfield.
He revealed for the first time the inner workings of a club which at the time was in the midst of a civil war.
The full 90 minute interview is available to our Anfield Extra subscribers by clicking here (details of how to subscribe for a whole month of content for just £4.99).
But here, Sir Martin Broughton gives his version of the final days of Rafa Benitez.
The popular Spaniard left Anfield less than two months after the new chairman鈥檚 arrival - and has a very different view of those final weeks - but Broughton now insists he never wanted him to go.
'I didn't sack Rafa'
The circumstances surrounding Rafa Benitez鈥檚 exit as Liverpool manager have been discussed in depth for the first time - by the man who let him go.
Sir Martin Broughton was Liverpool鈥檚 chairman at the time of Benitez鈥檚 departure in 2010, having been appointed by RBS bank to find new owners that could take over from the despised pair of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Hicks and Gillett owed the bank in the region of £300m and RBS wanted a sale of the club to ensure that loan was repaid.
It was agreed that Sir Martin would take a seat on the LFC board to progress a sale within six months and he was given the casting vote among that five strong board.
But within days of his arrival on Merseyside, the former British Airways chairman found himself at the centre of a storm involving Benitez and Christian Purslow, then the Reds鈥?managing director.
And in an exclusive, 90-minute interview with the ECHO for Anfield Extra subscribers, Broughton has lifted the lid on those days and weeks, insisting: 鈥淚 never wanted Rafa to go.?/p>
Sir Martin said: 鈥淭he one thing I did not want to do was to sack Rafa. And the reason for that was nothing to do with my relationship with Rafa. The reason was that I felt the right people to decide who the new manager should be, or that it should be Rafa, were the new owners.
鈥淭he wrong person to decide that was me, who had been brought in to find a new owner on a temporary basis. So I was very clear in my position that Rafa stays.
鈥淎s you are aware at that time, there was a very unhealthy atmosphere at that time, where there were three cliques basically. You had the owners, you had the manager and you had the executive, all leaking to people against the other two ?and there was a sub-division of that between the two owners as well.
鈥淩afa had his own full-time PR person who was managing his position.
鈥淚 had expected, given that, that with me coming on board, Rafa would actually make an effort to align himself with a potential ally. It turned out to be quite different.
鈥淭his may be me being old fashioned, but I didn鈥檛 want my first meeting with Rafa to be on the phone. I wanted a face-to-face meeting.
鈥淎lmost immediately after I was appointed, there was a match on a Monday night (against West Ham) so I sent a message to Rafa that I would like to have breakfast with him on the Tuesday morning. Don鈥檛 interfere with the manager on the day of the match, so let鈥檚 have breakfast the next morning.
鈥淭hat was fine, but it turned out that that was the week with the volcanic ash problems, and Liverpool were off to Spain on the Thursday.
鈥淭hey were leaving Tuesday lunchtime, so I didn鈥檛 think that would stop Rafa from meeting Tuesday morning. That wouldn鈥檛 have been an issue for me, but in the early hours of the morning a message went from Rafa to Christian Purslow to say that he couldn鈥檛 meet me because he had to be off Tuesday lunchtime.
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 really understand that. I had been at the club three days maybe at this point, and still hadn鈥檛 met him. So anyway he went off to Spain, then the following weekend there was an away game (at Burnley) which I didn鈥檛 go to.
鈥淭hen the following week there was the replay (second leg, against Atletico Madrid) and again I asked to meet for breakfast the day after the match.
鈥淟iverpool won the game but went out on away goals, and again in the early hours comes a message that says 鈥業鈥檓 too distraught with the result, my head鈥檚 not in the right place, I can鈥檛 meet鈥?
鈥淭o me, this is getting weird. This was the second opportunity to meet, just for a chat.
鈥淏ut on the Saturday, in his pre-match chat with the TV, Rafa says 鈥業 don鈥檛 understand what is going on here, the new chairman has been here nearly two weeks and I鈥檝e not even met him yet!?/p>
鈥淚 thought 鈥榟mm, I see the tone of things now!?But I still didn鈥檛 want him to go. I鈥檓 used to people playing silly games at times, so I thought let鈥檚 keep it straight.?/p>
Broughton did eventually meet Benitez, and detailed the discussions which took place at that face-to-face.
He said: 鈥淲e had an interesting thing where I did then meet him, and I had a two-hour download from Rafa, without being able to get a word in, where he told me what was wrong.
鈥淭hat was fine, get it off your chest, it鈥檚 not a complaint at all. I like to hear his version. I then had another meeting with him maybe a week later, and got the same two-hour download.
鈥淚 kept interrupting 鈥楻afa, you told me that...?and he said 鈥榶ou just need to hear this...?before we could have a conversation.
鈥淓ssentially, I was saying to him 鈥榳hat do you need??In my background, if you want investment you say what is wrong, what have you tried to do about it that hasn鈥檛 worked, what do you need and how is it going to work.
鈥淗e had come with a shopping list which included, for example, a left back. And I said 鈥楻afa, you鈥檝e been here six years, and you鈥檝e bought six left backs and you鈥檙e telling me none of them have worked. So what are you going to differently this time??There was no answer.
鈥淚 asked him to write down everything he wanted and why it was going to work. And he did. He thought it was totally incomprehensible from a football viewpoint but he did it!
鈥淎nd I was beginning to think we were starting to get on the right wavelength, when it became obvious that he wanted to have discussions through his lawyer ?and that鈥檚 when it became obvious that he wanted out.?/p>
Benitez would eventually see out the 2009/10 season, but left Liverpool 鈥榖y mutual consent鈥?on June 3, 2010, stating that he was 鈥渆xtremely sad鈥?to be going. He was appointed by then European Champions Inter Milan a week later.
鈥淚 think he鈥檇 probably already decided he鈥檇 had enough before I got there,?Broughton said. 鈥淭he atmosphere was pretty awful, and I think he鈥檇 seen the opportunity to maybe get out with a new person coming in.
鈥淚 didn鈥檛 want to get distracted by all of this. And it was very interesting that the fan input to me personally, a bit face to face but usually via e-mail, was about 50-50 ?there was no moderate ?it was totally polarised.
鈥淚t was 鈥榙o not get rid of Rafa鈥?to 鈥榯his club will never go forward unless Rafa goes鈥? It was about 50-50, but they were total polar opposites. My idea was still that he would stay.
鈥淩afa basically pulled out of the whole thing and said 鈥業鈥檓 going to leave this to my lawyers to negotiate.?/p>
鈥淗e didn鈥檛 say he was leaving, and I never told him he was leaving. It was 鈥業鈥檒l leave this to my lawyer鈥?and his lawyer鈥檚 stance was 鈥榳hat are the terms for Rafa going鈥??/p>
Was there any thought that Rafa going could make the sale of the club easier?
鈥淚 don鈥檛 think I saw it as making the process easier. I found having to deal with the exit of the manager a distraction, and getting in the way of what I was trying to do. I would have preferred he stayed.
鈥淒id it have the impact of having one less problem to deal with? Yes. But had he stayed and not been a problem, that would have been better still!?/p>
Broughton, of course, replaced Benitez with Roy Hodgson, who proved to be one of the worst managerial appointments in Liverpool history.
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