Martin O'Neill and Kenny Dalglish yesterday both sought to play down speculation that they might replace Gérard Houllier as Liverpool's manager. But neither man categorically ruled out the possibility.
The end of another eventful week at Anfield also saw Steve Morgan admit defeat in his efforts to invest heavily in the club. The millionaire property magnate announced that he had "reluctantly" withdrawn all offers - potentially worth more than £73m - after the Liverpool board had rejected a second proposal from him this week.
The board had dismissed his previous £73m proposal as "not attractive" because it valued the club's shares at £1,750 each, as opposed to £4,000 each, the value the board put on them. Morgan would not make public the details of his improved offer but said yesterday it was in a different format from the first and contained a "substantial increase" in the price per share. Liverpool's chairman, David Moores, and the rest of the board remained unimpressed.
Morgan's decision to cease bidding leaves Thailand's controversial prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in pole position to invest in the club, despite snags that have stymied a deal he believed would be completed this week. He has offered £60m for a 30 per cent stake in Liverpool. The board now face a tough choice of either accepting his cash, and a torrent of bad PR, or turning their back on the money.
Houllier's position remains uncertain. Liverpool have declined to comment on suggestions that he is in the final few days of his six-year reign. Sources in the city say he no longer has the confidence of board and that his position is under review.
O'Neill has been linked with the Liverpool job on numerous occasions and has nearly always dismissed such speculation as nonsense. The Celtic manager took a similar tack yesterday.
"I have no real thoughts about it. There is absolutely nothing in it [the suggestion he has turned Liverpool down]. It's good to have turned down a job you have never been asked to do. It is all news to me.
"We have gone through this [being linked to Premiership jobs] for four years, which if you talk about it on a weekly basis is about 200 weeks. At some stage or other, somebody is going to be right. I will either get booted out of here or leave, whatever the case may be, and those who have been waiting for four years will say: 'Told you!' I can say no more than that."
Dalglish, who managed Liverpool between 1985 and 1991, said he was reluctant to talk about the possibility of a return. "Because of the speculation about Liverpool supposedly having spoken to me and this and that and everything else that is supposed to happen, there's no way I'm going near anything," he said. "I haven't spoken to anyone at the club. As for being interested, I wouldn't even go there, why should I? I've no desire to start throwing my name into any ring. I'm not going to prostitute myself for a job. I'm very happy doing what I'm doing and that's it."
Muddying the waters somewhat, he added: "I wouldn't rule a return to management in or out because I've not been asked. If I was asked then whoever asked me would get an answer."
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