Rafa facing defensive crisis as Reds’ cash dries up

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. Benitez’s diminishing transfer budget is overshadowing Anfield’s opening league game of the season against Stoke, who achieved a 0-0 draw on Merseyside last season.

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

But sources close to the Spanish coach confirmed he has held talks with temporary managing director Christian Purslow, 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. Benitez will not make a decision on whether to risk the Slovakian until closer to kick-off.

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 that the club’s owners have soaked up much of the money Benitez has generated this summer to pay off the £60 million (€70 million) they were instructed to find by the banks to reduce their debt, ahead of the refinancing package for loans they took out to buy the club.

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 £20m (€23.5m) 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 (€46m) from the sales of Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastien Leto, Paul Anderson, Jack Hobbs and Adam Hammill. 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.

Meanwhile Benitez could be in trouble for his outburst against referee Phil Dowd following the club’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham. The FA will write to the Spaniard for an explanation following his comment about Dowd when asked after the game whether he would expect to get two penalties as an away team.

Benitez said: “No, with this referee I knew that was impossible.”

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