Liverpool board damp down hopes of rapid sale

Chairman says bidding process remains ‘uncertain’ as Hodgson claims side are way off a title challenge
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The Independent Online

The Liverpool board moved to reassure fans last night that a number of bids for the club are being considered, though they also admitted the prospects of a sale remain "uncertain" and the conclusion of a deal which would see Tom Hicks and George Gillett walk away does seem some distance off.

The non-executive chairman, Martin Broughton, brought in by the current owners to conclude a sale, said after a meeting in London to consider the proposals laid before the club that he is unable to guarantee when the sale process will be concluded. "The sales process is continuing. However its timing and outcome remain uncertain," he said.

It seems – though has not been confirmed – that Broughton still awaits proof of funds from the two publicly known bidders, Kenny Huang, who heads a China-based investment group, and Syrian Yahya Kirdi, who is the frontman for a Middle Eastern consortium and Canadian investors. There are certainly unanswered questions relating to both bids and Broughton will not be rushed.

But beyond the issue of funds, he is also still seeking to address the issue of finding a bidder who can take the club forward. Broughton will not accept a bid which will send the club down the debt-laden road it has been on since February 2007 under Hicks and Gillett. The Americans were in the United States yesterday and not at the London meeting. "The club... is doing all that it can to ensure that the club is ultimately sold to a buyer who has the resources and real commitment to give it a long-term, stable and secure funding position for its plans," he added. The focus is increasingly shifting to 6 October, the date by which Hicks and Gillett's loans are up for refinancing and by when its banker Royal Bank of Scotland had hoped a buyer would be found.

Despite the lack of outcome to the sales process, manager Roy Hodgson has done exactly what he was employed for – stabilised the club and ahead of tomorrow's challenging opener at home to Arsenal, he moved to dampen down any wild hopes of a title pursuit , declaring that he has simply not had enough time to impose his ideas on his new squad.

"After seven training sessions with what I regard as the key players, it is pretty obvious to all that we are a long, long way from being a team like Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea," Hodgson said yesterday at the unveiling of Liverpool's new signing, midfielder Christian Poulsen.

"I don't even pretend that the team, after six or seven training sessions, are going to be anything like the team we want to be. It would be ridiculous to suggest that we can be at the top of our game now in terms of how I want the team to play," he added.

Hodgson may not have Liverpool playing in the manner he wants but he certainly knows whom he wants – and that list includes Javier Mascherano, despite the Argentine publicly stating that he wants to leave the club. A reunion with Rafael Benitez at Internazionale has been widely suspected but Hodgson believes the Argentina captain is not going anywhere, at least for the time being. "I don't want to let Javier go," he said. "An offer has not come along and he's working hard to play for Liverpool."

Mascherano insisted that if he does leave it is because he is tired of Liverpool as a place not Liverpool as a club. "I know that if I can go to another country maybe it will be better for my life and when I say my life it's not just me, it's also my family and everything else," he said. "But I have to say that everyone has treated me fantastically well at Liverpool from the very first day that I arrived. This is why I have to stress that it is not about the club. If I leave Liverpool it will not be for another Premier League club."

Meanwhile, Fernando Torres could feature against Arsenal following a swifter than expected recovery from injury. He has been out since injuring his thigh in Spain's victory over Netherlands in the World Cup final last month but is making impressive progress and could be employed from the bench.

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