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Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 12:29 UK

Alan Hansen's column

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Liverpool is a club that has prided itself on being a model of togetherness on and off the pitch - so the current bout of very public boardroom in-fighting is hugely detrimental.

Liverpool owners George Gillett (left) and Tom Hicks
If the Americans cannot unite and move forward they should sell to Dubai International Capital

In the past Liverpool traded in positive news and if there was anything negative no-one ever heard about it. Sadly, there has been a lot of dirty laundry washed in public recently and it is not doing anyone any good.

Manager Rafael Benitez has a chance to lead Liverpool to their third Champions League final in four years, and yet so many headlines are about the differences between the co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, with Benitez and chief executive Rick Parry now dragged into the debate.

Indeed, the results on the pitch have gone a long way to masking the differences between the owners. Make no mistake, if Liverpool were not in the last four of the Champions League, the media would be having even more of a field day at the club's expense.

It is a simple thing to say, but for the club to go forward and challenge Manchester United's domestic supremacy, this must be sorted out quickly before any long-term damage is done.

We'll come to the ramifications for Benitez later, but in my opinion the only way forward for Liverpool Football Club is a new stadium and if this goes on the back-burner because the owners cannot sort themselves out, then this is once again detrimental.

If the Americans cannot get together and go forward, and from what we see and hear there is little sign of that, then they should sell to Dubai International Capital - clearly a very interested and ambitious party with the financial muscle to build the new stadium and invest in the team.

I love Anfield and the European nights there now are something else. They are even better than the ones I used to experience, perhaps because it was expected as a matter of course back then. I love the "This Is Anfield" sign as you go down the tunnel and love looking around the place where I played and had so many great memories.

Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez will find it difficult to plan for the future in an atmosphere of uncertainty

But time moves on and Liverpool are being left behind, with Manchester United getting 30,000 more fans every home game and Arsenal having a licence to print money at The Emirates. The new stadium has to be the next major step forward for Liverpool, and it cannot afford to be held back by differences at board level.

This brings us to Benitez, who has clearly and publicly been unsettled by developments behind the scenes at Anfield.

He needs to have plans in place for next season and it is difficult for him to do that with all that is going on in Anfield's corridors of power. He needs to know how much money he has to spend in the summer. He needs to know who is going to own the club to back his transfer plans.

My hope - and my belief - is that Benitez will stay because you cannot argue with his record in the Champions League. The Premiership is another story, but they have improved this season.

Liverpool need to find another signing of the quality of Fernando Torres in the wide positions, and to my mind the player who could fit the bill is Blackburn's David Bentley, although Mark Hughes will have his own ideas about that.

I said at the start of the season that Liverpool needed a 20-goal a season man in the Premier League. They have found him in Torres and yet still come up short in the league, but with a couple of quality additions they can improve again.

But the main item on the agenda now - apart from the obvious ones of playing in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea and securing fourth place in the Premier League - is ending the boardroom strife and moving on with the new stadium.

  • In my opinion, the championship race is over after Chelsea's draw with Wigan left Manchester United five points clear with only four games left.

    I cannot see United letting it slip now, although we can be certain Sir Alex Ferguson, a man without a shred of complacency in his body, will be hammering home a clear message to his players that there is still work to be done.

    For me, though, the game is up after Emile Heskey's late leveller at Stamford Bridge and United will retain their crown.

    Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

    see also
    Parry keen for talks with Benitez
    14 Apr 08 |  Liverpool
    Benitez urges his squad to focus
    12 Apr 08 |  Liverpool
    Parry hits back at Anfield owner
    11 Apr 08 |  Liverpool
    Hicks calls for Parry resignation
    10 Apr 08 |  Liverpool
    Parry calls for Reds resolution
    30 Mar 08 |  Liverpool

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