Rafael Benitez on Tuesday defended the sale of Robbie Keane back to Tottenham, claiming the forward had failed to prove himself at Anfield and left the club with no option but to “cut our losses.”
Keane returned to Spurs on Monday, leaving Liverpool, who paid £20 million (US$29 million) to sign him last summer, nursing a loss that Benitez admitted would be more than £3 million.
Benitez’s decision to offload the forward has provoked some disquiet among Liverpool fans who fear that his failure to bring in a replacement forward could undermine the club’s ability to challenge champions Manchester United for the Premier League title.
There is also a suspicion that Keane was a victim of the manager’s dispute with the club hierarchy over transfer policy.
Benitez is refusing to sign a new contract unless he is given control of the buying and selling of players and said last week that the decision to buy Keane had been the club’s rather than his.
The Spaniard insisted however that the decision to sell was purely business: Keane was not performing on the pitch and Tottenham were prepared to pay top dollar to get him back.
“He is 28, and if he was not playing the situation and the fee in the summer could have been worse,” Benitez said.
“We had to do it now. Later would have been worse for him and worse for us. If you know something is not working you must find a solution right now,” he said.
Keane has maintained a dignified silence over the way he was treated at Anfield but it would be astonishing if he did not feel slightly aggrieved.
The Irishman’s confidence appeared to be affected by Benitez’s habit of substituting him (18 times in 28 appearances) and when he appeared to have finally hit some form, with three goals in two games over Christmas, he was promptly sent back to the bench.
Keane’s departure leaves the injury-prone Torres as the only experienced, out-and-out striker on the club’s staff.
Benitez can also call on Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt, although the Dutch pair have been used as wide players far more often than as central strikers, and David Ngog, the promising but inexperienced young French forward.