Liverpool sale backed by Benitez

'Good news' for manager as Gillett and Hicks seek offers for 100 per cent of the club
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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, has offered a cautious welcome to the news that owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have put the club up for a "100 per cent" sale.

A turbulent three-year tenure for the Americans appears to be coming to an end – eventually – with Martin Broughton, the British Airways chairman, brought in to the club as the new chairman to oversee its sale, along with Barclays Capital who are being asked to advise on the process.

While "pleased" that the announcement has been made, Benitez has recognised that, in effect, little has changed and that there is still a long and winding road to travel before Liverpool have new owners.

"We have a new chairman and he is in charge, so he has to answer your questions, maybe," Benitez said, hardly taking the opportunity to extol the news. "It could be positive, we will see. At the moment we have important games to play against West Ham on Monday and then Atletico Madrid in the Europa League. Always we will have to be positive and have the belief that things will improve, so it is good news and hopefully it will be true. My experience is that it is better to wait and see what happens."

A joint statement from Hicks and Gillett read: "Owning Liverpool Football Club over these past three years has been a rewarding and exciting experience for us and our families.

"Having grown the club this far, we have now decided together to look to sell the club to owners committed to take the club through its next level of growth and development.

"We are delighted that Martin Broughton has agreed to take the position of chairman, working alongside the club's excellent senior management team. Martin is a distinguished business leader of excellent judgement and with a great reputation. He is a genuine football supporter and will seek to oversee the sales process in the best interests of the club and its supporters."

Hicks and Gillett bought the club in February 2007 but have been the subject of intense criticism from a number of supporters' groups, having failed to build the promised new stadium and for also plunging Liverpool into huge debts which currently stand at £237m owed to the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia.

In the past, the duo – who have also had their own very public falling out – have both separately tried to find new investors, with Hicks asking investment bank Merrill Lynch to intervene while Gillett engaged Rothschild with the same intention.

Those attempts failed, ultimately because there were too many points of contact and too much confusion as to whether both Hicks and Gillett were willing to sell up, and if so, how much of the club they were willing to relinquish. That matter has now been resolved after they announced that "100 per cent" of Liverpool Football club is up for sale.

Sources at the club are confident that now that Broughton has been recruited as a solitary figurehead, a sale will hopefully be completed in less than six months. They insists there is no specific asking price and that Liverpool are subject to market forces, but it remains to be seen whether Hicks and Gillett will be willing to walk away without a profit, and on previous form it is unlikely.

In March 2008, a £400m bid from the Dubai International Capital was rejected, while talks with Kuwaiti billionaire Nasser al-Kharafi fell through 12 months later when he offered a similar amount.

It would appear, therefore, that Hicks and Gillett have a figure in mind. And it would also appear that that is why Benitez has tried not to fuel the excitement that the news created on Merseyside yesterday.

Benitez's agent, meanwhile, has again denied having contact with Juventus over the possibility that the Liverpool manager will be taking over from Alberto Zaccheroni at the end of the season.

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