Liverpool's new chairman, Martin Broughton, has asked Rafael Benitez for a full written report on the club's playing assets before agreeing to a figure for Anfield summer spending, after the club's latest financial results revealed a record £54.9m loss before tax.
The results show Liverpool to be in such a poor financial state that Broughton – supported by the club's bankers – had to demonstrate to the Premier League that they could fulfil their fixtures for next season before submitting the figures to Companies House. It is a state of affairs which offers little encouragement to Benitez and which explains why Broughton asked Benitez for a player-by-player appraisal of his squad, rather than offering him a pot of money to go into the transfer market, when the two men met for the first time on Thursday.
The accounts for the year to 31 July 2009 reveal that Liverpool joined Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea as the only clubs in the Premier League with a wage bill over £100m and that the club were forced to ask their bankers for two extensions to their lending facility as they embarked on a desperate, though ultimately failed attempt to find new investors to bail them out earlier this year.
Benitez's decision on whether to move to Juventus in part depends on assurances that money generated from sales will be his to spend, though Broughton is clearly uncowed by the prospect of Benitez leaving and is dictating the summer spending issue. "We really need to sit down – and we have sat down – with Rafa to determine what is the strengthening that it needs, who are the right players, who needs to be sold – if anybody," he said. "I don't think we start with how much money do you have. We start with what the club needs and take it from there."
The accounts revealed that Liverpool's lending facility with Royal Bank of Scotland expired on 24 January and that the club secured a five-week and then a further two-week extension. This explains the deadlines the managing director, Christian Purslow, set on finding a new £100m investor before Broughton was brought in to locate a buyer instead. The accounts also suggest that the pay-off to outgoing chief executive Rick Parry last June was close to £4m.
The £54.9m loss was driven by £40m in interest payments to service debts. Broughton revealed he is recontacting groups who have previously expressed interest in buying the club, the same strategy Purslow embarked upon. He said there is neither a time limit on the sale nor a price put on the value of the club, but he expects to be out of Anfield within "a matter of months" once his role – securing a buyer – is concluded.