Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good news from unusual source as rest is all bad news

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has vociferously defended his record at Anfield, claiming that the club have improved under the stewardship of himself and George Gillett and revealing that Rafael Benitez will be given a "substantial" transfer budget this summer.

Hicks and Gillett decided last month to sell the club after more than three tempestuous years of infighting and fan protests, with Hicks confirming that the duo hope to complete the sale by the end of the year.

But despite mounting criticism over the way the pair have conducted their affairs since taking over in March 2007, Hicks claimed Liverpool had actually improved under their leadership.

Having posted their worst Premier League finish for 11 years - seventh - speculation has grown about the futures of Benitez, striker Fernando Torres and captain Steven Gerrard.

However, Hicks said although they were in the process of finding new buyers, he and Gillett did not want to cash in on their prize assets - despite the debt of parent company Kop Holdings rising to £351 million last summer - and were prepared to invest heavily in the squad.

"We have no intention of selling any of our top players and we have a substantial transfer budget in place,'' Hicks told Sky Sports News. There's so much misinformation about transfer spending.

"It's more than doubled under the ownership of George and myself from the previous three years and we will make a significant investment this summer. It's really about getting the right players.

"There's been so much misinformation put out by people who have their own agendas and it's unfortunate. But the truth is the club is much better off than it was three years ago.

"We've done our best. I'm disappointed on a personal level that are efforts have not been received as well as I wish they had have been.''

Benitez has suggested he needs at least £50 million to get the club back on track in terms of challenging for the Champions League places never mind the Premier League as they did in the 2008/09 season. Torres has also called for "four or five'' quality signings this summer.

Hicks said he was prepared to make allowances for one season, after watching the club struggle badly over the recent campaign.

"We're all disappointed with where we finished this year," Hicks said. "People forget that we almost won the Premier League last year (finishing a close second to Manchester United with a record 86 points). We had injuries and players performing below their level of expectation.''

Former chairman David Moores admitted on Wednesday that he "hugely regrets'' selling to the Americans. In 2007 they paid £470 million for Liverpool, but having incurred so much debt in the purchase and subsequent running of the club, many potential investors baulked at the asking price of almost double that set by Hicks last month.

However, the Texan believes that could be a fair price for a club which has reached two Champions League finals, winning one, since 2005.

"I think I have said £600-800million is not an unrealistic value range, but the market's the market. We'll see,'' he said. "We will sell the club. We're not going to sell it to the wrong group, we're not going to sell it for the wrong price, we're going to do it in a very thoughtful way.

"I don't anticipate it will be done necessarily before the beginning of the next season. We hope it gets done by the end of the calendar year.

"We're more concerned about finding the right next owner, somebody that can make the investment in the club to get the stadium built, and to let Liverpool be the best possible football club in the world.

"The new stadium is fully designed now and the global financing markets are back so I think with the change of ownership coming we'll be able to have the new stadium built for Liverpool.''

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