Turmoil At Liverpool

Last updated : 25 November 2007 By Editor

The People:

Tom Hicks and George Gillett are gripped in a £500million financial crisis that threatens Kop carnage - with the departure of Rafa Benitez only one item on their nightmare agenda.

The Anfield boss is at breaking point with his American owners and is only one more rant away from the sack after last week's bizarre outburst - prompted by what he sees as their failure to back him again in the transfer market.

Although if Benitez does get the boot he is understood to have a clause in his contract that would see him walk away with a £6million pay-off.

The club owners are desperate - with the world credit squeeze threatening to wreck their grandiose plans for a new 76,000-seater stadium that is due to open in 2010, but which could now be delayed.

Hicks and Gillett, even if they get the £500m they need to start work on the new ground, are likely to be faced with double-digit interest rates that would see the club paying out a staggering £50m in bank fees - £20m more than the expected operating profit for 2007. They know that would not make business sense and the only way to fund the loan would be by either hiking ticket prices - something they vowed not to do - knowing that such a move would wreck their fragile relationship with an increasingly doubtful support.

Or they can freeze transfer cash, a move that would almost certainly cause a final split between them and Benitez.

The Times:

The growing tensions between Rafael BenÍtez, the Liverpool manager, and the club's American owners were further exposed yesterday when Tom Hicks declared that it was time for the Spaniard to "quit talking about new players and to coach the players we have".

Hicks is deeply unhappy with BenÍtez over his recent demands for more backing in the transfer market and, after a private warning to the manager during a fraught telephone conversation on Thursday lunchtime, chose to go public yesterday by airing his grievances in the Liverpool Echo. That move has further antagonised Benitez amid fears that their working relationship will become untenable unless the manager begins to show more deference to Hicks and George Gillett Jr, the club's owners and co-chairmen.

Benitez bit his tongue when he faced the media on Thursday within minutes of his exchange with Hicks about transfer strategy, responding to questions about his future and other issues by saying no fewer than 25 times that he was "focusing on coaching and training the team". That, though, was interpreted by Hicks - perhaps correctly - as a deliberate and dangerous swipe at two American tycoons whose knowledge of football, by their own admission, does not begin to rival that of the manager.

Hicks feels that BenÍtez has said enough. "After the Champions League final in May, Rafa made certain demands of us and we responded to those demands in the summer," the Texan said. "We brought in some good players and spent more money than has ever been spent before at this club. We now have some crucial games coming up in the Premier League and the Champions League and we want to see if we can win these games with the players we have."