Liverpool's American owners are believed to be refusing to release funds for boss Rafael Benitez to buy a centre-back to ease the club's injury problems before the transfer window shuts.
And the situation could well escalate into yet another financial crisis at Anfield, as the club bid to recover from the damaging first-day loss at Tottenham on Sunday. Benitez's diminishing transfer budget is overshadowing Anfield's opening league game of the season on Wednesday against Stoke, who achieved a goalless draw on Merseyside last season.
Benitez was on Tuesday asked several times at his pre-match media conference to explain his cash-flow problems, but on each occasion he said: "I do not want to discuss money."
But sources close to the Spanish coach confirm he has held talks with temporary managing director Christian Purslow, appointed by owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett in the wake of Rick Parry's summer departure, and now the go-between for Benitez and the American owners.
Benitez has explained the pressing need for another centre-back to be signed, with Daniel Agger now out for another three weeks with a worrying back problem. Martin Skrtel is doubtful to face Stoke following the jaw injury he sustained in Sunday's defeat at Spurs, although he did train on Tuesday. Benitez will not make a decision on whether to risk the Slovakian until closer to kick-off.
With Sami Hyypia now having left the club on a free transfer, Benitez is left with youngster Daniel Ayala to partner Jamie Carragher, who has recovered from the head injury sustained at White Hart Lane that needed stitches. But it is Benitez's transfer budget, or the lack of it, that is causing serious problems at the club.
The source said: "The figures have changed since Rafa signed his contract. He has sold several players and raised a lot of money, but is not being allowed to spend it."
There is a belief among fans the club's owners have soaked up much of the money Benitez has generated this summer to pay off the £60million they were instructed to find by the banks to reduce their debt, ahead of the re-financing package for the loans they took out to buy the club.
Financial experts in the USA predicted last month the owners would use player sales to raise the £60million they need, and fans now fear that is what is happening.
Benitez insists he is not prepared to gamble £6million-plus on Stoke's former Manchester United defender Ryan Shawcross, when he has comparable youngsters on the staff at Anfield who deserve a chance. But Benitez is believed to want to buy Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta, and is not being allowed the cash to do so.
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