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Ian Rush on his proposed move to Napoli

“I was very happy at Liverpool and had no desire to leave, but Charles Roberts (his agent) told me I should not dismiss the opportunity outright.

“When Charles told me what Napoli were offering it made my eyes water. I was to receive £1m as a signing on fee.

“I was aware of my knees trembling, and I nearly fainted when Charles told me the ‘bones of the deal’.

“In addition to the signing on fee, Napoli was willing to pay me another £1m over a three-year contract. It was a Thursday and the Italian transfer deadline was 48 hours off. Charles told me that if I did not sign by Saturday all bets were off.

“Liverpool chairman John Smith was in London watching the tennis at Wimbledon, and in the days before mobile phones Charles didn’t manage to get in touch until Friday.

“Mr Smith told him he needed time to think and refused to discuss the matter until the Monday morning, which of course was two days after the Italian transfer deadline.

“I managed to contact Mr Smith, asked if I could come down to London to discuss the matter, only for him to refuse point blank.

“Though still not 100 per cent sure about whether I wanted to move or not, I was angered by Mr Smith’s reaction, given the urgency of the impending deadline.

“The deadline came and went. As a consequence the deal collapsed. I then received a call from Charles to say Napoli had been in touch. Having been unable to speak to Mr Smith they’d had no alternative but to look elsewhere and had signed Diego Maradona.

“I was so upset with the chairman’s belligerence and rudeness in not even returning Napoli’s calls that for a long time afterwards I refused to acknowledge him.

“Ironically, when I eventually did go to Italy three years later I did so for a fee of £3.2m. Without even taking inflation into account the club had let £1m slip away – as, to all intents and purposes, had I.”

When the Italians came calling again, in the wake of the European ban on English clubs, Liverpool were far more receptive.

Rush was once again reluctant to leave, and when he was called into boss Kenny Dalglish’s office he was rocked by the news which awaited him.

“It had been some time since I had been in the manager’s office,” he recalled. “The flock wallpaper had gone, as had the flying ducks and the picture of the scrambling pigs. ‘Fings’ weren’t what they used to be. Sitting alongside Kenny was our secretary Peter Robinson.

“ ‘There are stories in the newspapers about you moving,’ said Peter. ‘Well that’s the newspapers for you,’ I said dismissively. ‘It’s the close season. You know how it is Peter; it’s the silly season for newspapers. They haven’t got any news to write about’.

“ ‘That’s as maybe Ian, but those stories, they’re true’. I literally flopped back in my chair. I was totally flabbergasted. I was being moved on? My mind went blank with the shock news.

“Peter went on to say that, reluctantly, the club were prepared to sell me.

“The European ban was having a severe effect on club finances and, after much deliberation, the club had agreed to sell me as a solution to a cash flow problem that would only get worse unless a sizeable injection of capital was generated.”

This time Juventus was the team who had come calling. The Italian giants already had Michel Platini and Michael Laudrup filling their allowed complement of foreigners.

Platini had originally planned to retire at the end of the 1985/86 season, but had been persuaded to stay on for one more season.

Rushie recalled the conversation he had with Juve president Mr Boniperti.

“ ‘When Platini retires at the end of 1986/87 we will recall you,’ Mr Boniperti concluded.

“From where? I asked, becoming confused and not a little concerned.

“‘Lazio’ replied Mr Boniperti. We will sign you now and loan you out to Lazio for the season, then when Platini retires, you come back here.

“‘With all due respect, no,’ I said. And I meant it. Lazio were at the time in Serie B. To me such a move would be akin to me leaving Liverpool to spend a season at Sheffield United or Sunderland.”

The solution to the impasse came from Rush himself.

“‘OK if I have to go on loan, what about this,’ I suggested. ‘I sign for Juventus and I go back to Liverpool on loan for the season’.

“The lawyer raised his eyebrows, but I could tell by the slight sideways nod of his head he thought this a possible solution to the impasse. Peter Robinson practically grazed his jaw on his shirt buttons at the thought of Liverpool receiving over £3m, but still having me for another season.”

That’s how it worked out, with all parties delighted by the outcome.

Copyright - Ian Rush
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