Liverpool owners refuse Benitez transfer demands

Paul Walker,Pa
Tuesday 18 August 2009 16:34 BST
Benitez has signed Aquilani and Glen Johnson over the summer
Benitez has signed Aquilani and Glen Johnson over the summer (GETTY IMAGES)

Liverpool's American owners are believed to be refusing to release funds for boss Rafael Benitez to buy a centre-back to ease the club's injury problems before the transfer window shuts.

And the situation could well escalate into yet another financial crisis at Anfield, as the club bid to recover from the damaging first-day loss at Tottenham on Sunday.

Benitez's diminishing transfer budget is overshadowing Anfield's opening league game of the season tomorrow against Stoke, who achieved a goalless draw on Merseyside last season.

Benitez was today asked several times at his pre-match media conference to explain his cash-flow problems, but on each occasion he said: "I do not want to discuss money."

But sources close to the Spanish coach confirm he has held talks with temporary managing director Christian Purslow, appointed by owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett in the wake of Rick Parry's summer departure, and now the go-between for Benitez and the American owners.

Benitez has explained the pressing need for another centre-back to be signed, with Daniel Agger now out for another three weeks with a worrying back problem.

Martin Skrtel is doubtful to face Stoke following the jaw injury he sustained in Sunday's defeat at Spurs, although he did train today. Benitez will not make a decision on whether to risk the Slovakian until closer to kick-off.

With Sami Hyypia now having left the club on a free transfer, Benitez is left with youngster Daniel Ayala to partner Jamie Carragher, who has recovered from the head injury sustained at White Hart Lane that needed stitches.

But it is Benitez's transfer budget, or the lack of it, that is causing serious problems at the club.

The source said: "The figures have changed since Rafa signed his contract. He has sold several players and raised a lot of money, but is not being allowed to spend it."

There is a belief among fans the club's owners have soaked up much of the money Benitez has generated this summer to pay off the £60million they were instructed to find by the banks to reduce their debt, ahead of the re-financing package for the loans they took out to buy the club.

Financial experts in the USA predicted last month the owners would use player sales to raise the £60million they need, and fans now fear that is what is happening.

Benitez insists he is not prepared to gamble £6million-plus on Stoke's former Manchester United defender Ryan Shawcross, when he has comparable youngsters on the staff at Anfield who deserve a chance.

But Benitez is believed to want to buy Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta, and is not being allowed the cash to do so.

The key problem is that Benitez was promised £20million for his transfer kitty when he signed his new contract last season, and told he could have any money he raised in the market, plus the fee received when Robbie Keane returned to Spurs.

Benitez has raised around £40m from the sales of Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastien Leto, Paul Anderson, Jack Hobbs and Adam Hammill.

His buys have been Glen Johnson from Portsmouth and Alberto Aquilani from Roma. The cash up front for those two is under £20m.

But it is clear that in the last few weeks the financial dynamics of Benitez's kitty has changed.

The owners seem to be insisting the money spent on new contracts for Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Agger and Dirk Kuyt as well as several of Benitez's backroom team, must come out of the transfer budget.

This stand-off is doing nothing to calm concerns at Anfield following the nature of Liverpool's defeat at Spurs, where the paucity of his squad depth was obvious.

Now Liverpool must overcome Tony Pulis' physical, organised Stoke to get their season back on track.

Benitez said: "We know the problems from last season in facing Stoke. But our home fans will want us to show our quality.

"We must play well, keep possession and be positive to make our chances. Stoke's manager is clever, he uses his players well and they are physical and well organised.

"But the future of our club depends on showing the quality we have in our squad.

"I do not want to discuss my transfer budget. But our scouting department is continuing to work hard to find the players that we need."

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