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So unfair to pin the blame on Katharina Liebherr
IT remains, for many fans, an iconic image of a man who was all too briefly owner of their football club.
The late Markus Liebherr is captured in this Daily Echo picture celebrating Saints’ JPT final win at Wembley in March 2010.
To help him remember the occasion, he is taking photographs.
And for a man whose personal wealth was in the billions, his camera is remarkably under-stated. No huge wide angle lens job, just a normal sort of camera.
No fuss, just like the man himself.
Markus Liebherr always looked like a man who enjoyed being Saints’ saviour.
Saints fans no doubt once thought their club would never ever slump as low as to be playing in the JPT, a cup for third and fourth division teams.
But Markus Liebherr didn’t seem concerned on that spring day at the national stadium.
His delight was all too obvious.
Imagine what his reactions would have been if he’d lived to see Saints win promotion to the Premier League, and then beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the space of a few weeks?
Here’s another question.
I wonder if Katharina Liebherr has ever seen the pictures on these pages, to see what Saints meant to her dad? If she hasn’t, hopefully she will see them now.
If your father loved something that much, and he then passed away, would you go out to ‘wreck’ that something?
I ask that question because Katharina was portrayed yesterday in one national newspaper as a ‘dream wrecker’.
That banner heading was followed by a smaller one – ‘she’s the £3bn heiress who’s never shown any interest in football. Now she has ousted the man who made Saints believe again.’ In the story, Katharina Liebherr was not paid many compliments.
“She has inherited her father’s looks and his taste for simple clothes,” was one choice remark.
The story was obviously written from a pro-Cortese angle, but unfair to Katharina and also unfair to Saints fans wanting the truth behind the latest sensational story to rock their club.
You cannot say, on the one hand, she has no interest in football and then, on the other, claim she was last summer making demands to be involved in the day-to-day running of Saints.
Until she speaks, we do not know what her motives are. We cannot accuse of her being a ‘dream wrecker’ until any dreams are wrecked.
She might want to sell the club, and if so she will have a nice profit.
Unbelievable as it might now seem, Markus Liebherr bought Saints for more (£13m) than the club paid Roma for Dani Osvaldo.
Saints must be worth about £80m-£100m these days.
She might sell the club to a person(s) who love football, who take a far bigger interest in the sport than she does.
Is it beyond the realms of possibility she might sell it to someone with a bigger fortune than her dad possessed?
Perhaps, though, she does NOT want to sell it. Perhaps she is now happy to pump more money in now Nicola Cortese has left.
We do not know. We cannot know.
Having previously been involved with her father’s Mali Group of companies, Katharina took on the role of Saints ‘owner’ when Markus passed away in August 2010.
Talk of a ‘power’ battle is wrong in so far as Katharina has always been in overall control.
We will almost certainly never know just how often Cortese had to report to her.
This is Saints, lest we forget, and there are lots of unanswered questions all the time.
Did Cortese have to report to Katharina every time he wrote a large cheque for a new player? Or was he allowed to write those cheques unchallenged?
Was Cortese allowed to run Saints as he wished, or was Katharina’s shadow permanently hanging over him?
Did Katharina think the chairman, a good friend of her father’s, had too much power?
Was he asking for too much money?
These are obvious questions to ponder, but I do not have the answers.
None of us do, but unlike some national newspapers the Daily Echo is not painting a one-sided picture.
Katharina is a businesswomen involved in one of the biggest – and, by implication, one of the most successful – family groups in Europe.
She is a former president of some companies which come under the umbrella of the Mali Group her father set up in the mid 1990s.
She might not know who set up Bobby Stokes to score the winner in the 1976 FA Cup final – she might not even know who Bobby Stokes is – but at the moment that is beside the point.
We do not know much about her – not even her age – but we cannot just write off her ability to do the best for the club her father loved without giving her a chance.
Saints legend Matt Le Tissier took to Twitter yesterday to say just that. “Before people start criticising the Liebherr family just remember whose money allowed us to get where we are today,” he tweeted. Another Dell legend, Mick Channon, wondered what all the fuss was about following Cortese’s departure. “What a pantomime at Saints. Is it really that dramatic?” he tweeted. “They’ve been going since 1885 so I think we can cope with people leaving.”
So I ask the question again. If your father loved something that much, and he then passed away, would you go out to ‘wreck’ it?
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