A month after Clint Dempsey's move from Fulham to Liverpool was supposedly a done deal, the American who scored 17 goals last season is now playing for neither club and Fulham have filed an official complaint against Liverpool as the summer transfer window nears its end. And the reason this situation has turned putrid is largely because of silly, amateurish failures in communication.
"Clint's a player that we have inquired about," said new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in July. "It's as simple as that. Ian Ayre, our managing director has spoken with the club [Fulham] to see what the position is. And that's where it's at. So there's been nothing more than that. He's obviously a very talented player but we don't like to speak on other club's players. But that's as far as those went really. There's nothing else more."
Obviously he did speak about another club's player immediately before saying that's not something he likes to do. Further complicating matters is that around this same time the official website of Fenway Sports Group, the owners of Liverpool, featured a headline that read "Fabio Borini, Liverpool gear up for North American tour as Clint Dempsey joins club (video)." This, of course, was false and hours later it was changed to "Fabio Borini, Liverpool gear up for North American tour as team begins training at Harvard (video)."
The combination of the website mix-up and Rodgers' comments seemed to convince Clint Dempsey and everyone else (except Fulham) that the deal was all but done. So as days turned to weeks and those weeks led to the start of the season, Fulham manager Martin Jol publicly accused Dempsey of refusing to play. From the Telegraph:
"Clint was not involved over the last four weeks so he is not going to be in the squad," said Jol. "He is not committed to the club. He wants to leave. I would like to keep him, but I think it's impossible. It's a sad and an almost embarrassing situation."
"There was never an offer. Clint himself told everyone he was going to Liverpool so we really thought there was quite a firm interest in him.
"Even Rodgers told everyone he was interested in Clint Dempsey, but our people never had an offer on the table. If you have shown interest in a player, especially in England, you have to follow it up with an offer. They didn't."
It was also reported that Fulham valuation of Dempsey (at £9-10 million), who is in the last year of his contract with the club, was higher than Liverpool's. But this was apparently unknown to Dempsey, who was now branded as an uncooperative holdout by his manager. "There are two sides to the story," Dempsey said on Twitter after Jol's comments. "The truth will come out soon."
A week later, with Dempsey still footballing limbo and the season underway, the Premier League announced that they received an official complaint from Fulham against Liverpool ''regarding certain comments made by Liverpool FC officials" prompting an investigation into tapping-up (relevant rules listed here).
On the same day, Jol also clarified his earlier comments and said that Dempsey did not refuse to play in the club's 5-0 win against Norwich. From the AP:
''I was probably a bit naive, asking, 'Clint, do you want to start?''' Jol said. ''All he said was, 'You know what I want' ... after that it was very difficult to communicate. He was not committed to the team."
As foreboding as the stern-faced Dempsey grumbling "you know what I want" could be, it's not exactly a "no." But it's also not a "yes indeedily do!" either (I like to imagine that Clint Dempsey talks like Ned Flanders sometimes).
So now there's an official complaint being investigated, Dempsey is being forced to train with Fulham's youth team (according to ESPN's Ian Darke) and relations between all parties involved is highly toxic as the need to find a resolution on a tight timetable grows desperate. All because one manager spoke about another club's player just before saying he doesn't like to do that, a corporate website featured the wrong headline, a player decided to shut down and take it to heart and another manager decided to make assumptions in public. Plus the small matter of a difference in valuation.
Maybe it's time that all transfer dealings are mediated by a licensed therapist. Or Eric Cantona.