Liverpool for sale: American owners admit they will cut a deal for club with £237m debts
By Joe Bernstein Last updated at 2:18 PM on 11th April 2010
The Premier League club's co-owners have hired investment bank Barclays Capital to find potential investors to ease the financial crisis at Anfield. But, significantly, they have also indicated for the first time that they would sell the club for the right price.
The move will delight under-pressure manager Rafael Benitez, who knows his spending plans have been badly affected by the £237million debt built up by the owners, who are unpopular with the majority of Liverpool fans.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, who, along with American investment bank Wachovia, lent Hicks and Gillett the money, have demanded that they reduce that debt by £100m in July.
Benitez yesterday warned that he needs to spend £60m this summer to compete for major trophies. The manager underlined his concern that Liverpool's status will be under threat unless they sign three world-class players in addition to acquiring Serbia midfielder Nikola Jovanovic on a Bosman free.
Hicks and Gillett were met by hostile demonstrations when they went to Anfield for Liverpool's Europa League quarter-final against Benfica on Thursday night and they are set to appoint British Airways chairman Martin Broughton to take on the same role at Liverpool because of their own unpopularity.
However, the Americans are unlikely to be forced into a fire-sale of the club, having recently rejected a £105m offer for 40 per cent from New York investment bank The Rhone Group. Five sets of investors have expressed an interest but Hicks, in particular, was against the offer from The Rhone Group.
Liverpool take on Fulham today 19 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and four points behind Manchester City in the race for the final Champions League place.
Benitez, who is being courted by Juventus, last night put a price on his ambitions at Anfield, saying: 'We need three or four players. The cost of a top-class player is about £15m or £20m, so you can start counting how much it will cost.
'If we have problems with one of our signings like Alberto Aquilani, we find it difficult to manage. Other teams have expensive players injured, or not in the team, and they can manage because of the size of their squad.'
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan, who will face Liverpool in the Europa League, and Spain forward David Silva of Valencia are among Benitez's targets.
The manager will not want to stay if players such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are sold. But he is willing to offload the likes of Ryan Babel, Albert Riera and Aquilani.
The Liverpool manager has spent £220m in six years at Anfield, with Peter Crouch, Craig Bellamy, Robbie Keane, Andrea Dossena and Mark Gonzalez, among others, coming and going through the revolving door. But Benitez insists the high turnover has not been his fault.
He said: 'I was criticised for selling one tall striker [Crouch] but his wages at Portsmouth were double what they were here. How could I keep him?'