Reds ruined unless we get cash, says Benitez

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez has warned the club’s current – and prospective future – owners that without major investment, they cannot continue to survive on reputation alone.

While the likes of Manchester City, in particular, Aston Villa and Tottenham are likely to spend heavily in the coming months, the Reds face another summer of uncertainty.

They are the outsiders in the battle for the fourth Champions League spot and without money to bolster a squad lacking in quality in numbers, Liverpool are at risk of falling further off the pace and losing their manager and the few world-class players they do have.

Benitez has argued throughout the campaign that their second-place finish behind Manchester United last season was a result of the squad performing at their absolute maximum with no margin for error.

Without significant reinforcements, the Spaniard believes it makes it almost impossible for them to challenge for the Premier League title, never mind end a 20-year championship drought.

“At this moment, the club has a big name and a big history and everyone is expecting us to be at the top,” said Benitez.

“But in reality we don’t have enough money so we have to manage the expectation.”

Co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett put Liverpool up for sale a fortnight ago having admitted they had taken the club as far as they could. The problem is, with £237m (€272m) of debt, a new stadium to build and Benitez wanting a summer transfer budget of £70m, any new owner will have to have find in the region of £600m just to even get things back on track.

And with the US owners holding out for the best possible price, although the £800m suggested by Hicks is a long way from a realistic valuation, the danger is Liverpool will by hamstrung by inertia while their rivals are making big plans.

When senior players start calling for a raft of new signings it becomes obvious there is concern about the future in the dressing room.

“Jamie Carragher and Fernando Torres were talking about needing between three and five players and I agree with them,” said Benitez, who continues to be linked with an end-of-season exit to Juventus. “We will need those to have a stronger team. When I was asked about this I didn’t say how much but a top-class player is around £15m so you can do the numbers – but it depends on the investors.”

With the extra-time Europa League semi-final exit to Atletico Madrid on away goals, despite winning 2-1 at Anfield, Liverpool’s season is now all but over. They may hold out slim hopes of snatching fourth place but with two matches remaining – City and Tottenham have an additional game in which they play each other – there are too many variables to make securing Champions League football anything more than a dream.

“Still we have to play two games and see what happens but it is not a good season, that is very clear,” said Benitez.

“We are disappointed because we worked so hard and deserved more but conceded another silly goal which made the difference because at 2-0 we were there (in the final). It has been the same the whole season. We are pushing, in control, then make a mistake and the whole thing is different.”

Meanwhile youth coach Rodolfo Borrell has criticised the “unacceptable” standard of the club’s academy. Borrell’s assessment is that it will take two years before the set-up is close to the right level.

“The reality of what we found was unacceptable,” said Borrell, who joined nearly a year ago having worked with Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi in the Barcelona youth system. “The under-18s had no centre forward, no balance, no tactical level, no understanding of the game. We are working hard, but you can’t change things overnight. I think we have made a lot of progress over eight months, but we need to improve a lot more. I think if we keep working hard maybe in two years somebody can appear in the first team.”

Borrell’s brief from Benitez is to develop more English players. This week the club signed England youth international Jonjo Shelvey from Charlton.

“The best players to defend the Barca shirt are Catalan players, the best players to defend the Liverpool shirt are English players,” Borrell explained. “We have to fight to make English players arrive. The players who are not English must be massive quality.”

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