LIVERPOOL end a turbulent campaign at Tottenham tomorrow with little sign that a season of constant turmoil will be followed by a peaceful summer.
The Anfield men are assured of fourth spot and Champions League football next term before they trot out at White Hart Lane but the club’s long-term future is little more than a ticking time bomb.
Funding for the new stadium, the future of manager Rafael Benitez, co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett plus chief executive Rick Parry are anything but assured.
And half-a-dozen players also have uncertain futures. Peter Crouch, John Arne Riise, Jermaine Pennant and Xabi Alonso could all follow axed Harry Kewell out of the Anfield door.
Benitez’s patience could depend on how quickly Liverpool’s hierarchy act in the transfer market. He admitted yesterday that he was delaying his holiday to see through the deals he wants.
But if things start to go wrong on the transfer front and deals take too long to complete — Benitez’s major complaint about Parry’s stewardship — his relationship with the owners could well again become strained.
Benitez said: “I think I will have the backing in the transfer market from the owners this summer.
“At least we are doing our job and we are saying to the owners ‘this is our plan and our idea’. They will see that we are not asking for silly things and we need to improve the squad and the team.”
Benitez knows that the ownership battle, and Dubai International Capital’s presence waiting in the wings, will not go away.
It is now believed that Gillett is again prepared to talk about the sale of his shares to DIC, having made it clear to Hicks that he will not sell to his partner.
Hicks is trawling the cash markets — banks and hedge funds — searching for backers with the obvious need to find £350 million (€441.5m) to underpin the new stadium costs and allow work to start.
There is money for transfers, but not enough to avoid Benitez’s having to sell as well as buy. He even admitted after the final home game with Manchester City that he was unsure of his transfer kitty.
And the ownership crunch could come if Gillett again agrees to sell to DIC and Hicks attempts to veto that move. It is still not clear how long he can block such a position, with the Dubai group unwilling to face a long, legal battle.
So Liverpool’s summer starts with this worrying backdrop, with Benitez “doing his job” and working with the owners and Parry over transfer targets.
For now Benitez is playing everything very straight, and concentrating on the final match.
He says: “To achieve 76 points would be fantastic. You always want to win trophies but we want more than 117 goals and another clean sheet, that would make us happier.
“We would like to sign off with a win, score some goals and play well.”
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