Tuesday’s Papers: LFC could go for £350m

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It’s back to Champions League action this evening with the final group game, away at PSV Eindhoven. Rafa Benitez is taking a weakened squad to Holland, with Saturday’s Premier League game at home to Hull City in mind and qualification to the next phase already sealed.

But beyond the game, the story that catches the eye in this morning’s papers lies in Ian Herbert’s story in The Independent. He looks at the current world financial crisis, and the forthcoming crunch time for Liverpool FC co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks as they prepare to be forced to pay a £350million loan back to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Herbert quotes Gillett as not commenting when asked about whether he and Hicks have hired investment bankers Merrill Lynch to find a new buyer for the club when asked on a Canadian radio station. He continues:

Some financial analysts believe that with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, who has been trying to purchase the club for the last two years, no longer interested, a purchaser will probably only now be found if the Americans are forced into a fire sale by their banks foreclosing on them or them running out of money. The Americans may be wishing they accepted the £500m Sheikh Maktoum offered them before the credit crunch hit and may even accept £350m, the total sum of the loans, some financiers believe.

It’s a very interesting story (read it in full here) and hopefully something that will develop over the next few weeks. Although my worry is that the off-field antics at the club will distract what is happening on the pitch; déjà vu from last season?

Back to matters on the pitch and this morning’s Daily Telegraph runs with a story encouraging the Reds to re-sign striker Emile Heskey from Wigan to help their goal shortage problems up front this season. Henry Winter writes:

Benitez will surely warm to the prospect of Heskey holding up play and laying the ball off to Gerrard, encouraging Liverpool’s captain to shoot from 30 yards. Gerrard and Heskey are old friends, and the midfielder remembers well the impact Heskey had on Liverpool first time round, scoring 60 goals in 228 games and helping win the Uefa Cup, FA Cup and League Cup in 2001.

In another excellent piece of journalism, Winter discusses why Robbie Keane’s arrival at the club just isn’t working and how this could be solved by the arrival of Heskey in time for a full-on assault on the Premier League title. Read Winter’s full article here.

Looking ahead to tonight’s, the reports focus on Keane’s lack of form and Andy Hunter writes in The Guardian of how tonight is important for his Irishman to prove himself.

Keane is expected to exchange an unused substitutes role at Ewood Park on Saturday for the Liverpool starting line-up at the Philips Stadium, where an intense spotlight is guaranteed on the 28-year-old irrespective of the electronic company’s investment in the arena. Liverpool have secured their place in the knock-out phase for the fourth time in four years under Benítez and, but for the debatable merits of winning Group D above Atlético Madrid, their final group game in Eindhoven is an irrelevant distraction. Not so for Keane.

Likewise, James Ducker of The Times makes a similar point about how it is essential Benitez starts with Keane at PSV tonight.

An unused substitute in the 3-1 win against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday that kept Liverpool top of the Barclays Premier League, Keane is expected to return to the line of fire away to PSV Eindhoven in their final Champions League group D game this evening. However, it is more out of necessity than an urge on Benítez’s behalf to start a player who cannot argue that he has not been given a fair crack of the whip this season.

PSV Eindhoven vs Liverpool gets underway at 7.45pm.