Rival factions back Benitez's shopping list

His club's future remains shrouded in much financial uncertainty but Rafael Benitez suggested yesterday that the rival factions who still control it had agreed on the list of players he can pursue this summer.

A meeting at Melwood on Wednesday between Benitez, Tom Hicks and his son, Tom jnr, established transfer targets, even though the meeting did not include the chief executive, Rick Parry, and the 50 per cent co-owner, George Gillett.

The idea of such a discussion being convened without Parry present seems a bizarre one and reflects the crisis at a club which seems likely to be taken over by Dubai International Capital within the next two weeks. But Benitez was adamant that Hicks and the pro DIC element (Parry and Gillett) all "know the names [of targets] and how to progress".

Repeating the words "everyone knows" several times to underline a sense of mutual agreement, Benitez said: "It was very positive. We spoke about some targets and everybody now knows the names, about the price and how to progress, so it was positive. They all know now."

The names on Benitez's list are believed to include Philipp Degen, the Borussia Dortmund defender available under the Bosman ruling, Aston Villa's Gareth Barry and Blackburn's David Bentley.

But Benitez said that Liverpool were not looking to break the bank with the kind of big money signing which brought Fernando Torres to Anfield last summer. He said: "We won't need too much. Our squad is much better now and we maybe need four or five players. But we will not need to spend big, big money. It's all about doing the deals at the right moment."

The sense of harmony over who Benitez might buy is highly unexpected, coming two weeks after the furious public row in which Hicks tried to manoeuvre Parry out, in part by implicating him in the issue of the talks held with Jürgen Klinsmann over Benitez's job, before Christmas. Yesterday's disclosures provide the clearest sense yet that Benitez is ready to stay at the club during the probable handover of power which threatens to be another challenging period for the club.

Though Torres has been a revelation Benitez pointed to the unpredictability of big money signings. "If you want to win the title, you must spend millions and millions," Benitez said. "It is not easy, so the key is maybe to sign the players that you need and the players that will make the squad stronger. Then you have to try to progress with those players. How much have Chelsea spent in the last five years? If you want to go to that level, you need to spend millions and millions, but nobody can guarantee that players costing £20m will settle down.

"If you need to write on a piece of paper, I could give you the best pen in the world. But maybe you don't need that pen for the paper."

Benitez did not say which players might be on their way out of Anfield this summer but indicated that Scott Carson (Aston Villa) and Danny Guthrie (Bolton Wanderers) may return from loan spells.

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