Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Gillett invites DIC to Euro semi

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has invited prospective new owners Dubai International Capital to the Champions League semi-final with Chelsea.

Gillett will not be at Tuesday's tie but it is believed his son Foster will host DIC representatives at Anfield.

DIC lost the race to buy the club last year but Gillett is reportedly keen to sell his stake to the group.

The move is the latest instalment in the ongoing and bitter power struggle between Gillett and co-owner Tom Hicks.

Americans Gillett and Hicks took control of Liverpool in a deal worth £218.9m in February 2007 but the relationship between the two men broke down some time ago, with the pair no longer on speaking terms.

Their falling-out has led to a war of words breaking out in the Anfield boardroom and in a television interview last week, Hicks defiantly outlined his own plans for the future of the club as well as calling for the resignation of Rick Parry, claiming that the chief executive's tenure was a "disaster".

The players are focused on football because we know it is really important now
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez

Gillett, an ally of Parry, responded by saying he would not sell his stake to Hicks and by inviting DIC to the first leg of the European showdown with Chelsea, he has made a clear statement of intent.

DIC has been trying to buy the club for 18 months, having been beaten by Hicks and Gillett just over a year ago.

The investment group seemed to have tied up a deal at the turn of the year, only for Hicks to send a representative to Dubai for talks before pulling the plug on the possible sale.

It is believed that DIC's chief negotiator Amanda Staveley will be among Gillett's party, along with chief executive Samir Al-Ansari.

"Pre-match at least, Liverpool's two Americans are threatening to steal the show," said BBC Radio 5 Live football correspondent Jonathan Legard.

"Gillett cancelled his trip because of illness but such a public statement of intent in response to Tom Hicks' sabre rattling last week, only ups the ante in the battle for control at Anfield - especially if Hicks carries out his plans to attend.

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"Manager Rafael Benitez and his team, including the fit-again Steven Gerrard, may be aiming for progress towards the final in Moscow; Gillett looks to be forcing the pace towards a sale sooner rather than later."

For his part, Benitez has been keen to divert attention away from the row and hopes his players will not be distracted ahead of the vital semi-final with Chelsea.

"The players are focused on football because we know it is really important now," he stated. "You cannot think and talk about other things because it is better that you do not say anything."



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