Liverpool reject claims of 'bullying' 18-year-old

Luke Bradshaw
Sports Writer
Duncan is at the centre of 'bullying' claims (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

Liverpool have rejected claims that they bullied teenage player Bobby Duncan.

The 18-year-old forward was set to join Italian club Fiorentina this week but the deal subsequently fell through, with Duncan’s agent, Saif Rubie, claiming the club were holding the player against his will.

Rubie took to social media to call out Liverpool and its director, Michael Edwards, although he has since deleted his twitter account since writing the posts.

Among his claims he said that Duncan has “suffered some deep mental health issues” and “has not left his room for four days” as a result of the disagreement.

He said: "This is not really dignified behaviour from a club with the rich history of Liverpool and one [at which] one of their greatest-ever players, Steven Gerrard, happens to be Bobby's cousin.

"It's a sad state of affairs that a club such as Liverpool can be allowed to get away with mentally bullying and destroying the life of a young man such as Bobby."

Duncan appeared to endorse his representative, quote tweeting Rubie’s statement, although he has also deleted it since.

Duncan on duty for England Under 17s (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A Liverpool spokesperson has responded officially. They said: “Liverpool football club is aware of and disappointed by the unattributed [sic] comments and unfounded allegations that have been made in the media 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.”

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Earlier in the week Fiorentina made a loan bid, with an option to buy next season for £1.6 million. This was rejected by Liverpool. It came after the club had recently rejected a similar deal from Danish club FC Nordsjaelland, with academy director Alex Inglethorpe believing that the offers were insufficient.

Duncan joined Liverpool from Manchester City for £200,000 in 2018. What first appeared to be a somewhat well-trodden story about a young player wanting a move away for more game time has taken a twist with Rubie’s accusations.

Duncan winning the FA Youth Cup Final (Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Liverpool’s strong response has been measured but it remains to be seen what will happen to Duncan. The transfer windows of both clubs interested in purchasing the player, in Italy and Denmark, remain open, so there is potential that a move could be resurrected. Whether the clubs can come to an agreement, given recent events, remains to be seen.

Rubie, who works for Future Gen and Sports Luxury, a company based in Dubai, became the youngest FIFA-licensed agent in 1999, at the age of 21. He has since been involved in the deals that took including Saido Berahino from West Bromwich Albion to Stoke City, Antonio Rudiger to Chelsea and Kolo Toure’s move from Arsenal to Manchester City.

He said yesterday: “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 Liverpool can be allowed to get away with mentally bullying and destroying the life of a young man such as Bobby.”

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