Liverpool say they are “disappointed” by “unattributed comments” and “unfounded allegations” made about the club by the agent of teenage striker Bobby Duncan.
In an explosive statement posted direct onto Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, Duncan’s representative, Saif Rubie, accused the Reds of “mentally bullying” and “destroying the life” of the 18-year-old.
Rubie’s statement, which singled out Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards and made repeated references to the “small salary” Duncan earns at Anfield, criticised the club’s decision to reject loan offers from both Fiorentina and FC Nordsjaelland in recent weeks, stating that the player was, for a number of reasons, unhappy at Liverpool and eager to leave for the benefit of his career.
Duncan, he said, would “never go back” to his boyhood club.
Liverpool’s response came via a statement issued later on Wednesday.
It read: "Liverpool Football Club is aware and disappointed by the unattributed 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."
Duncan, who is the cousin of Reds legend Steven Gerrard, joined Liverpool in the summer of 2018 having previously spent almost seven years at Manchester City.
He left the Etihad under a cloud, spending the best part of a year in limbo following a contractual dispute, but his first season with the Reds was a successful one. He formed a prolific partnership with Paul Glatzel for Barry Lewtas’ Under-18 team, helping Liverpool to their first FA Youth Cup success since 2007.
He has since featured for Jurgen Klopp’s first team, scoring in their first pre-season friendly of the summer at Tranmere in July and playing a part in the three-game tour of the USA later that month.
But he missed Monday’s U-23s game at Southampton, with Rubie claiming he was suffering “deep mental health issues” as a result of the club’s actions.
Rubie’s statement, which was shared by Duncan on his own Twitter page, read: "There has been a lot of things said the last few weeks regarding Bobby Duncan's future at Liverpool.
"And today [Wednesday] is the final straw of the behaviour and dealing of Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards.
"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 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 (sic) option to buy for amounts of £1.5 million 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.
"Putting all of that aside, the real reason Bobby missed the U23 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 well being.
"The Liverpool hierarchy have shown zero consideration to that and have even gone as far as saying in writing that they will punish him and make him stay at the club until January and beyond to teach him a lesson.
"This is not really dignified behaviour from a club with the rich history of Liverpool and one who 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 a Liverpool can be allowed to get away with mentally bullying and destroying the life of a young man such as Bobby.
"I know one thing for sure, and that is he is never going back there again and he's on such a small salary that no amount of fines will even make a difference.
"In this situation all that matters is the player's health and in this case Michael Edwards has totally ignored that because of his own stubbornness and I really pray that his experience doesn't happen to any young players again."
Later, Rubie would become embroiled in a Twitter exchange with Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, who accused the agent of “hurting a young lad’s career” and urged Duncan to dispense with his services “before he gets sacked by the club.”
Rubie then continued to insult Edwards via Twitter, referring to him as a “glorified analyst” and repeating accusations made in his initial statement.