Anfield exit ajar as Liverpool revisit Stanley Park plans

 

Liverpool's decision to revert to their original plans for a new stadium does not mean the club have dismissed the prospect of remaining at a redeveloped Anfield.

Their owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), have ditched designs by the Dallas-based architects HKS, commissioned by the club's former co-owner Tom Hicks, in favour of the earlier proposals of Manchester company AFL, which were granted planning permission in 2004. The futuristic HKS stadium plans entailed an estimated cost of £400m, £100m more than those proposed by AFL.

As nearly nine years have passed since AFL drew up its plans there is some scope for modification, but building a new 60,000-seater stadium in Stanley Park is dependent on the club securing naming rights. Liverpool have been carrying out a year-long, worldwide search to assess the viability of finding sponsorship that would bring in about £150m.

The club's managing director, Ian Ayre, has admitted previously that building a new stadium with a capacity only 15,000 more than Anfield makes no financial sense without huge external investment. Although FSG has decided on how the new stadium should look, it is not committed to it being the definitive solution.

Very soon after FSG took over in October 2010 it began looking at how Anfield could be redeveloped. It is not an easy option because the ground is in a residential area, which would require the purchase of numerous properties as well as complicated planning consent. However, the idea has not been ruled out entirely and sources say both options are still being looked at and the situation is ongoing.

Across Stanley Park, the defender John Heitinga believes Everton would be priced out of any attempts to bring Steven Pienaar back to the club. The South Africa international was sold to Tottenham for £3m a year ago but injuries have restricted his progress and the 29-year-old has made only 16 appearances. Pienaar has been linked with a return to Goodison Park but his former Everton and Ajax team-mate believes that is unlikely, with manager David Moyes working to a restricted transfer budget.

"I'd take him back but I don't think it's realistic," the Dutch international said. "They would ask for more money to sell him than they paid us for him and we don't have much more. It's up to the manager and the board whether a few players come or not but Pienaar is unrealistic."

Heitinga did not criticise Pienaar for his decision to leave, but had expected the midfielder to have had more game time. "I played with him at Ajax and he's got a lot of quality," the defender added. "It surprises me that he's not playing more regularly for them. He was injured but he did very well for Everton in the past.

"Everton is a nice club to play for and Steven made the decision to go to another club. You'd need to ask Steven if he regrets [leaving]. I heard in the newspaper he was going to leave and go to another team, so you never know what's going to happen."

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