Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has reawakened doubts about his commitment to Liverpool by expressing his deep disappointment that a move to refinance the club's large debts has seemingly fallen through.
On the eve of Liverpool's Europa League quarter-final second leg against Benfica, Benitez was outspoken about reports that the New York-based Rhône Group's offer of £150m has apparently been rejected by the club. "If we don't have new investors its will be difficult to go one step further," the Liverpool manager said. "For six months I was really optimistic, especially about this group, because they were one of the groups who were there," he added. "But they are not there now. The Rhône Group is not there."
"I have heard a lot of talk about investors for six months," Benitez added. "I have had some talks myself with possible investors and still we are here and working hard but without confirmation." Liverpool are unwilling to discuss whether the Rhône offer has been withdrawn, though it has, with the current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett's reluctance to cede overall control seemingly the stumbling block.
With Liverpool seeking to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Benfica tonight, Benitez also agreed with striker Fernando Torres' frank assessment of his team's failings. Torres has claimed that a spate of summer departures meant "everything got messed up" for the them this season. A draw at Birmingham on Sunday has left them sixth, four points adrift of that all-important Champions League-qualifying position, having played a game more than both Manchester City in fourth and Tottenham in fifth.
Benitez concedes his squad need major investment this summer to force its way back among the title contenders. The Spaniard said: "I agree with Fernando about a lot of things. He talks about it being a pity we finished with 86 points last year and we couldn't progress.
"We need to sign some players, we need to bring some money. We need an investor and then we can challenge in a better way. The players are working so hard and they feel they can do more.
"Fernando the other day [at Birmingham], he was feeling really tired. He was trying and the other players were trying but while we don't have the investor it will be difficult to go one step forward."
The Europa League looks like their best hope of salvaging something from the season and Benitez added: "We will try to do our best [tonight] to win. Hopefully we can balance the books this year. We need now to perform on the pitch and create a better situation for the new investors."