Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has accused Cardiff owner Vincent Tan of “knowing absolutely nothing about football” as Malky Mackay faces an uncertain future in South Wales.
• Morris: Mackay holds the aces
Malaysian businessman Tan’s relationship with boss Mackay has become increasingly strained in recent weeks. Mackay’s head of recruitment Iain Moody was replaced in October by 23-year-old Alisher Apsalyamov, who was on work experience at the club in the summer and is a friend of Tan’s son.
The owner has since slapped down his manager’s argument that he needed to sign three players in January, with chief executive Simon Lim declaring on Tan’s behalf that no money will be made available when the transfer window opens next month.
Mackay, who led Cardiff to promotion by winning the Championship title last season, said on Tuesday that he would not resign despite the criticism, and he has been backed by Rodgers, who was manager at Watford between November 2008 and June 2009, when Mackay was the club’s first-team coach and Moody was also on the staff.
Rodgers said: “My only conclusion, when I look at it from the outside, is that you’ve got a business guy who is operating the club who knows absolutely nothing about football.”
Liverpool face Cardiff in the Premier League at Anfield on Saturday, and Rodgers -- who knows the South Wales football scene well after managing Swansea between 2010 and 2012 -- is astonished to see his opposite number under pressure.
He explained: “I find it astonishing what he’s had to go through, and that’s just looking from a distance. Cardiff had lost in the playoff semifinals just before he came in. They waited nearly two weeks to sack the manager, Dave Jones, and they did it on the day that Swansea were in the playoff final [against Reading], which I found strange.
“Malky walked into a club that had given him 10 players to work with. Ten players he had that summer, and he had to build a new team. They lost a manager who had done very well in Dave Jones, but they brought in someone who totally transformed the culture and mentality of the club.
“He took them to a League Cup final, to a playoff place, where they just lost out, and the following season, he took them to the Championship title and promotion. They became the second team from Wales to get into the Premier League.
“But he started this season with great results, he’s going to go on and become a big manager at a top club, and I find it astonishing that there’s talk about him leaving there. Absolutely astonishing.
“Iain Moody was released from his duties there. I worked with Iain at Watford as well, and he’s one of the most authentic people you’ll ever meet.”
Rodgers believes that Tan is to blame for the current unrest at the club.
The Liverpool boss said: “He has obviously been a very successful businessman in his life. Congratulations. But football is like no other business. It’s like no other business.
“People will try to compare some of the principles, but when I look from the outside and I see what Malky has had to put up with, because I know how hard he works and what he puts into his football life, I find it remarkable to see him questioned on what he’s done.”
Cardiff go to Anfield lying 15th in the Premier League, four points above the relegation zone, having ended a five-match winless streak by beating West Brom 1-0 last Saturday, and Rodgers said he feared the club would be in trouble if Mackay ever left.
He said: “I would do, because I know how much he puts into his work. He’s a super professional. The humility that he’s shown since he’s been there, and during his period where his work is being questioned, along with that of his staff and his players, I think what he’s done there has been brilliant.
“There’s absolutely no question that Cardiff have got a really, really top manager, and I know the supporters know that as well. He’s set them on a great pathway and I’m sure he’d love to continue on that pathway, because the longer they’re in the Premier League and the longer he is there, the more he will build them up.
“He’ll be focused on his job. We’re good friends, but on Saturday, our friendship ceases, and we’ll both want to win.”
Rodgers contrasted the soap opera at Cardiff to the stability he has enjoyed under Liverpool’s Boston-based owners Fenway Sports Group since taking the manager’s job in June 2012.
He said: “I think the owners here have a strategy. When I look this week at managers and decisions that have been made, it makes me really appreciate the decision I made to come here with the owners.
“They’ve been so supportive of me in my time here, but ultimately they had a strategy. They had a vision as to how they wanted to work. They brought someone in and trusted them enough to give them the time to implement things.
“We still have a long way to go to be where I would want us to be, but I think it’s clear that we’re making progress. You have to give the owners huge credit for that, because never once have I felt under any pressure.
“I think if they’re putting you under extreme pressure in a short period of time, it may affect decision making. But I’ve never, ever felt that.
“Even in the most difficult moments, during the first five or six months here, when the transition was really taking place in terms of our identity, and we didn’t have a lot of coaching time with the players on the field, they were very strong and committed in terms of the choice they had made.
“And I hope over the longer term, they’ll get the rewards for that, because they’ve shown that strategically, they know where they want the club to go, and they’re prepared to give it that time to evolve.”