By CHRIS BASCOMBE , Liverpool Daily Post
LIVERPOOL’S cash-strapped American owners will overrule Rafa Benitez’s hardball stance on his £15million valuation of Peter Crouch.
The Anfield boss has vowed to keep Crouch and play him in the reserves unless he receives an £8m profit on the England international.
But with the 27-year-old having just a year left on his contract, the final decision on the price will be out of Benitez’s hands.
Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp says he is willing to pay around £10m for Crouch.
If he follows up with a firm offer, Liverpool will begin negotiations with or without Benitez’s approval.
That will infuriate the Spaniard. But with only £20m being made available by the Americans — roughly the amount Liverpool won for reaching the Champions League semi-finals — Benitez needs to raise funds for the rest of his summer spending.
The farcical situation at Anfield shows no sign of improving, with the crippling divisions in the club set to continue into next season.
Hicks and Gillett are resisting any attempts at mending their fractured relationship, while Dubai International Capital’s hopes of a takeover remain frustrated.
The co-owners have not communicated for months and are refusing to meet to thrash out their differences.
Tom Hicks insists he will find the necessary funds to buy out George Gillett — while Gillett is in the process of raising the resources to buy out Hicks.
One or the other must find £500m by September to realise their ambition of becoming sole owner of Liverpool. Even then the other must agree to sell his shares.
The club must prove it has the £300m to pay for the new stadium on Stanley Park, while Hicks or Gillett would need a further £200m to buy out their co-owner.
Neither is likely to succeed before the start of next season.
Failure to secure stadium funding in the next 12 weeks will jeopardise the start of building work as the pair seek to extend existing financial deadlines.
And that is putting calls for a shared stadium with Everton back on the agenda.
Hicks has spent the last month trying to raise funds — but not for Liverpool. His priority seems to be in assisting Republican presidential candidate John McCain in his bid for the White House.
Gillett, meanwhile, appears undecided whether to pursue a fresh partnership or cut his Anfield ties completely.
Talks with DIC hit a brick wall after Hicks exercised his right to veto any attempt by Gillett to sell without his agreement.
Legal challenges to Hicks failed to materialise as the agreement between the pair makes it clear Gillett could not sell against his partner’s wishes.
In the meantime, key transfer decisions are being made through an exchange of curt emails across the Atlantic.
Against this ridiculous background, Liverpool have had an improved £12million bid for Gareth Barry rejected.
The Merseysiders offered a straight cash sum for the England midfielder, but Aston Villa still insist he is not for sale.
Kop boss Benitez had earlier offered £10m and a choice of players in a swap deal, but he may have to go as high as £15m to secure the 27-year-old’s services.
Villa boss Martin O’Neill, now in Switzerland for the European Championships, is remaining defiant in his resolve to keep Barry.
Benitez has also been frustrated in his attempt to buy Newcastle winger James Milner.
The Geordies told Liverpool they would have to cough up £7m — far beyond their valuation of the England Under-21 star.
Milner, 22, was targeted for a swap deal, with Jermaine Pennant heading to St James’ Park. But there is no way Benitez would allocate so much of his budget on the winger.
Benitez is keen to recruit more English blood because from next season the minimum number of home-grown players required in the 25-man Champions League squad goes up from six to eight.
Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing is another target, but he would cost around £12m.