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Oct 22, 2009

"Liverpool need takeover to compete with rivals"

Keith Harris is regarded as the No.1 mover and shaker on football club takeovers, coming close last year to pulling off a Middle East deal to buy Liverpool, so there can be few greater authorities on the current crisis gripping Anfield.

•  Benitez publicly backed by Gillett • Mascherano calls for improvement
• Benitez remains defiant
• United fans prepare beach assault

The boss of high flying City firm Seymour Pierce spoke to ESPN Soccernet about the situation gripping the giant Premier League club on the eve of their critical clash with Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

Investment bank Seymour Pierce's Harris told ESPN Soccernet: "Liverpool is one of the best football brands in the world - but it is currently suffering.

"Liverpool finds it hard to come near to its main rivals in the Premier League because it doesn't have the matchday attendance to compete at the highest level. Anfield is limited to 45,362 and without the stadium source of revenue it is not able to fund investment in the team that is required by all top clubs in this highly competitive climate.

"Liverpool requires further investment in the team to compete, and for that reason it would benefit from new owners who could invest and give the club the backing to build the new stadium that it needs."

No one knows better the degree of difficulty in pulling off a takeover at Anfield. Harris brokered a bid from a Kuwaiti investor, which had an excellent opportunity to take Liverpool a stage further with big investment from the Middle East. The Kuwaiti offer followed closely on the heels of an approach from Dubai's DIC which ultimately was topped by the bid which saw Hicks and Gillett assume joint control.

Harris, the former Football League chairman, says: "We came very close in July last year when the Kuwaitis pulled out at the last minute.

"The problem at Liverpool is actually straightforward - a short-term debt level which restricts its capacity to build a new stadium and invest further to enhance the playing squad. It is hampered like many other clubs by the continuing difficulty of raising money in the world's capital markets.

"Liverpool has not had a sustained period of success for many, many years. Yes, they won the Champions League a few years ago, but the club needs a sustained period of success, and that is not happening."

The fans turned on Rafa Benitez in the Champions League defeat by Lyon, but George Gillett has issued a statement backing the manager, although that has not yet been endorsed by Tom Hicks.

Earlier this week, ESPN Soccernet revealed the financial importance of qualifying each season for the Champions League, suggesting that without the competition's £30m bounty underpinning the clubs interest repayments, there would instantly be a crisis situation.

No one at Anfield would have envisaged that the team that nearly won the title last season would now be languishing in eighth place, with little prospect of winning the title, and more significantly from a financial point of view, threatened with the prospect of not finishing in the top four.

Such factors appear to make the clash with Manchester United a make-or-break encounter of enormous importance.

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