Harry Kewell is a player who has captivated and frustrated, been loved and loathed in equal measure by fans and who has divided opinion wherever he has played. However, he may have just lost his remaining fans in Liverpool who had sympathy for his bad luck with injuries.
The reason why? Kewell has rejected a new contract. Now if the reason for this rejection was that he wanted a new challenge, or guaranteed first-team football then that would be fair enough. However by all accounts it has been rejected because of money and that is really galling to Liverpool fans, as a player who promised so much but was riddled with injuries restricting him to only 93 games in 5 seasons, has passed on the chance to repay the faith shown in him and the chance to prove his love for the game.
Kewell left Leeds United in 2003, when Leeds were in the middle of a fire-sale in a desperate bid to save the club from financial meltdown. Unlike some of the other players though, it wasn’t a clean break. In an interview to the BBC Kewell claimed to have been ostracised by teammates and that Leeds’ medical staff had made his injuries worse.
However, there were still lots of clubs queuing up to sign him. Kewell had been offered champions league football from some of Europe's biggest clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United as well as AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid but eventually chose Liverpool, the club he supported as a boy.
Liverpool fans were delighted with his signing and even though he was no stranger to the treatment room in his first season, he did enough to encourage the fans. However, fans soon became frustrated with the frequency of his injuries and when he did play he played with no heart and determination. Kewell played in the 2005 champions league final to the surprise of everyone. As he had been battling achilles and thigh injuries all season long. Kewell lasted only 25 minutes before being injured. And was booed off by fans, who incorrectly believed he was faking an injury.
The following season was probably Kewell’s best for Liverpool. He came back and seemed intent on repaying Rafa Benitez for the faith shown in him and to try and win the fans over again. Kewell went to the 2006 World Cup where he picked up an injury that shelved him for almost the entire season but came back to play in the final game of the season, where he again showed his talents and made enough of an impression to earn a substitutes place in the 2007 champions league final.
The 2007-08 season was the final year of Kewell’s contract and again he was hampered by injury. It was believed the club would give him a new contract if he could stay injury free and Kewell himself stated he wanted to earn a new contract and stay at Liverpool. Unfortunately, these seemed to be empty words as he rejected the contract offered.
Whilst I admit I have no knowledge of just how much was offered, its not as though Kewell needs the money. Futebol Finance, a Portuguese website published a list of the 50 highest paid footballers in Europe. Kewell came 39th, higher than Deco, Zambrotta, Pauleta, Govou and Trezeguet. Kewell even gets a higher salary than David Beckham!! Kewell is financially set for life and could have stayed at Liverpool for a season on reduced terms then could have asked for more money if he stayed fit.. Kewell could have repaid the club and the few fans that have stuck with him for 5 years.
However, whether it is his ego, or through bad advice from his agent, Kewell seems to believe he still belongs in the upper echelon of players. Kewell rounded on the fans who booed him for coming off in Istanbul, and while he was unfairly criticized, it didn’t occur to him that the majority of Liverpool fans had no problem in believing he would fake an injury to get out of a battle he didn’t have the stomach for.
Kewell looks like getting a big contract at Celtic and if he can stay healthy he will be a big success in Scotland. Unfortunately his lasting legacy in Liverpool will be as a player who will be remembered as a failure, if he is remembered at all. For a man of Kewell’s talent that is truly a shame.