Liverpool have agreed personal terms with Javier Mascherano and expect to conclude a deal to keep him at Anfield before the transfer window closes tomorrow but any relief felt by Liverpool fans will be tempered by the disclosure that their club's entire expected profit from 2007 will be needed to meet the £30m interest payments created by last week's £350m debt refinancing deal.
Though the refinancing agreement secured by co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett set £245m against a holding company they have set up – Kop Football (Holdings) Limited – and £105m against the club, it had been unclear whether the interest payments would be met by both companies and Hicks declined to discuss the issue in a BBC interview at the weekend.
The fact that Liverpool FC meets the entire sum flies in the face of the Americans' boasts, when they took over at Anfield, that their arrival bore no comparisons to the Glazers at Old Trafford. Liverpool's interest payments are just £7m less than the £42m which Manchester United paid out last year in light of the Glazers' refinancing arrangements. But United's profit was a record £59.6m – boosted by extra stadium capacity – while Liverpool expect operating profit for 2007, boosted by their Champions League run, to be around £30m.
United, unlike Liverpool, do not have a new stadium to build. Around £250m more is expected to be borrowed to pay for that though naming rights, sponsorship and ticket sales should pay for it. Neither Hicks nor Gillett has invested a penny in Anfield. They committed personal guarantees to Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia last week, not hard cash.
Hicks' financial PR company, which disclosed that the holding company debt "was supported by the assets it acquired", said that if there was any shortfall in cash flow at Liverpool, Kop's ownership was "prepared to fund whatever is required." But this will hardly be of consolation to those, like Benitez, seeking to build on the squad he has got and Liverpool looked like a club on the threshold of continued crisis last night, as their manager prepared his squad for a difficult trip to West Ham with three points an imperative in the ongoing tussle for fourth spot.
John Mackin of fans group Reclaim The Kop, said he feared for the future of the club if Hicks and Gillett remained as owners.
"We are looking at a level of debt, or the interest payments at the very least, which could sink the club if we have a couple of bad seasons. I'm just hoping that this admission by Hicks is part of an exit strategy which would allow him to sell the club because of the outrage this announcement will cause."
On Mascherano, Benitez said, "Rick Parry [Liverpool's chief executive] is working on the deal. He has also concluded the deal for [Mohamed] Sissoko to go to Juventus.
"That will be good for him [Sissoko], he wanted to play and needed to play. But we have enough players in this position. We have Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano and now Lucas for the midfield roles, and that made it hard for Momo to play regularly. Momo is a fantastic professional and a nice boy and I feel this was the right outcome for us and him. Now we are working hard to complete the Mascherano deal. I am confident it will be tied up soon. Sissoko has gone and we are closer to a deal for Javier.
"We are working very hard to achieve that before the window shuts. I hope for something positive in the next 48 hours. Javier has made it very clear he wants to stay here and I believe he will.
"But we do not need to do anything quickly – he is our loan player until the summer, and it could all be sorted out then. We have two days, and if we can finish everything now it will be perfect. He wants to stay. The fee we have got for Momo can help as we try to complete the deal."
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies