Liverpool have been accused of “mentally bullying” Bobby Duncan by representatives of the 18-year-old and holding the player against his will after rejecting two loan offers for the striker.
Saif Rubie, Duncan’s agent, issued an extraordinary statement on Twitter on Wednesday that claimed the boyhood Liverpool fan has not left his house for four days because of stress and will not return to the club. It also condemns Liverpool’s sporting director, Michael Edwards, claiming he refused to allow the striker – a cousin of Steven Gerrard – to join Fiorentina or Nordsjælland on loan with a view to a permanent transfer next summer.
Liverpool insist the allegations are unfounded and that the statement is littered with inaccuracies. The club has not ruled out taking legal action over what it considers to be defamatory claims against itself and Edwards.
Rubie’s outburst followed Liverpool’s rejection of a loan move to Fiorentina for Duncan, who endorsed and pinned his agent’s tweet before removing it. The teenager, who joined Liverpool from Manchester City in August 2018 having stalled on a new contract, played for Jürgen Klopp’s team during pre-season having been top scorer for the under-18s last term with 32 goals.
The statement released by Rubie alleged: “A few months ago before the end of last season, Bobby had meetings with the club’s hierarchy including academy director Alex Inglethorpe. It was recognised that Bobby wasn’t happy at Liverpool for different reasons and Alex invited us to bring offers to the club for the exit of Bobby Duncan.
“For a player with zero first-team experience, no clubs were prepared to pay an outright reasonable [sic] fee for a player they got for £200,000 last summer. With that in mind we have been able to find clubs that were ready to take Bobby on a season-long loan with a option to buy for amounts of £1.5m upwards which is a great return for the club on a player who will never play for the Liverpool first team and who doesn’t want to be there.
“The club and Michael Edwards specifically made it clear that that kind of deal wouldn’t work. So then myself and my team worked even harder and managed to get a deal on the table for a loan with an obligation to buy after five starts with a higher transfer fee than before and a sell-on to Liverpool.”
It added: “The real reason Bobby missed the under-23 game [against Southampton] on Monday is because he has suffered some deep mental health issues with all the stress the club has put him under. Stress of being told he can leave but then going out of their way to force him to stay against his will. Not only is he on a very small salary but he also has one season left on his contract after this one and Liverpool have flatly said he will not get a new one.
“Bobby has not left his room for four days because of this and will never go back to Liverpool again and my only concern now is his mental health and wellbeing … It’s a sad state of affairs that a club such as a Liverpool can be allowed to get away with mentally bullying and destroying the life of a young man such as Bobby.”
Liverpool regard Duncan highly and believe the striker, who scored in last season’s FA Youth Cup final victory against City, can continue to progress with the under-23s this season.
A spokesperson for the club said: “Liverpool football club is aware of and disappointed by the unattributed [sic] comments and unfounded allegations regarding one of our players. As the interests of the player in question are not best served by either inaccurate speculation, inflammatory statements or public discourse, we will be making no further comment. We will, however, continue our efforts to work privately with the player to find resolution in the best interests of all involved.”