Harry Rednapp A 'Special Kind Of Guy' Says Milan Mandaric
The football chairman accused of sending bungs to Harry Redknapp has told a court of their rollercoaster friendship.
Milan Mandaric said he agreed to pay £4.2m a year to his "special guy" before their relationship led to "a bitter divorce".
Mandaric told jurors: "In 35 years in football, I never had a closer relationship as a manager than I had with Harry."
When asked about their relationship, he said: "Do you mean when I strangled him or when I love him?"
Mandaric said the £189,000 deposits for Redknapp in a Monaco bank account was "something entirely different" from football, the Press Association reported.
Mandaric told Southwark Crown Court: "I want to do something special for Harry because he means more to me than a football manager. This was something as a friend.
"If this was something to do with employment, I would have done something entirely different."
The payments were "something special for my friend... That's all I wanted to do."
He added: "I want to make it absolutely clear that it was completely away from his duties, his bonuses, his salaries... It has nothing to do with it. It is an entirely different subject."
Redknapp joined Portsmouth - initially as a director of football - in 2001 before Mandaric asked him to take on managerial responsibilities.
When asked about Portsmouth's promotion to the Premier League, Mandaric said: "It was a dream for me, it was a goal that I desperately wanted to achieve for those wonderful people in the city."
Mandaric said he often dined with Redknapp and his wife and the two families spent several days together after celebrating a New Year's Eve, he said.
Mandaric said Redknapp, 64, would often pick him up and drive him around the Portsmouth area.
"Rumour around was that he was the most expensive driver in England," Mandaric told the court.
"Harry is one of those guys, I learned a lot more about him later, he is not really a small timer in trying to nail you down about everything.
"He gives you a lot of room. I thought we strike up a relationship quite quickly from the time we met."
The chairman added: "Overall he was a special guy in my view."
Mandaric said his relationship with Redknapp "started to go a little bit uncomfortable" amid frustration over fees being paid to agents. He also said he lost more than £10m in one year from investments.
When asked by Redknapp about the Monaco investment, Mandaric said: "I said 'Harry, it does not look good. Actually it's disaster all over the world'."
Redknapp and Mandaric did not speak for a year when the manager joined Southampton in 2004, jurors heard.
"We didn't speak, it was a little bit of a bitter divorce," Mandaric said.
"It was a bit on the bitter side, especially as Southampton-Portsmouth, there's not a lot of love lost."
Mandaric told the court he became interested in owning football clubs as the sport began to expand in America during his time there.
He was involved in deals to bring football stars including Bobby Moore, George Best and Pele to the new US league, he said.
It was during this time that Mandaric became aware of Redknapp as a manager, he told the court.
Mandaric said "my ambitions were limited" when he first took control of Portsmouth.
"I was only asking for one thing: To trust me," he said. "I will support the club as much as is needed. I will stay there until there is success."
He added: "My ambition first and foremost was to put the club back on track and save it from financial ruin."
He said he cherished his time at the south coast club.
"If I look back at my 12 years there was a real love affair with football in that city," he said.
The court was adjourned until tomorrow when Mandaric will continue his evidence.