Liverpool legend Alan Hansen has told BBC Sport his former club must find new investment immediately or risk becoming a footballing "relic".
Hansen thinks the Reds should accept tycoon Steve Morgan's money if they want to challenge the elite once again.
Talking to BBC Five Live, Hansen said: "Investment is an absolute priority and Steve is a fan, he's got the money and the clout and I think he'd be perfect.
"The last thing you want as a Liverpool fan is to be submerged in mediocrity."
The Match of The Day pundit explained: "It always used to be 'first is first and the rest is nowhere'. That sort of thinking is just not there now.
"Don't get me wrong. We're certainly not a relic yet but we're nearer to it now than we were 15 years ago and that's the danger to me."
Rafael Benitez's side made it into the Carling Cup final on Tuesday after beating Watford, but lost their previous three games, including an embarrassing FA Cup exit with an under-strength side at Burnley.
They are currently fifth in the Premiership, seven points off a Champions League qualifying place and a massive 24 points behind leaders Chelsea.
Benitez has acknowledged criticism of recent performances while remaining confident things will improve.
But Hansen believes Liverpool are light years away from competing with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, with massive investment the only way to make them competitive again.
He added: "They are a long way off the top three, I think it's fair to say both Benitez and Gerard Houllier have bought one or two ordinary players.
LIVERPOOL'S RECENT FINISHES
2000: Fourth (24 points behind champions Man Utd)
2001: Third (11 points behind Man Utd)
2002: Second (Seven points behind Arsenal)
2003: Fifth (19 points behind Man Utd)
2004: Fourth (30 points behind Arsenal)
"In recent years Liverpool have always had six or seven really good players but it's not enough, they need 16 or 17 like all of the top three have.
"The gulf between the top three and the rest is bigger than it ever was, I can't see Liverpool challenging this year, next year or even the year after.
"Chelsea have changed the face of English football - what they have done, and Arsenal last year, is ensure that you cannot now win the league with average sides - as we did in 1986 and 1990."
Property giant Morgan has had two bids to inject cash into the club via a share issue turned down by chairman David Moores.
And he abandoned another offer in December, accusing Moores of using his offer "as a stopgap while they look for a better one".
Chairman Moores indicated after Liverpool's last two annual meetings that he was willing to negotiate with Morgan, but relations between the pair have been frosty and no progress has been made.
Morgan has been a critic of the board in the past and has been a fierce advocate for change at Anfield.
But Hansen claims the club cannot afford to procrastinate as they search for investment.
"I know Morgan well, he is a massive, massive fan, and it's just about an appropriate deal for all parties," he said.
"It's important to get this deal done because the team isn't good enough and the next two or three players Liverpool buy are going to be absolutely crucial.
"If nothing happens and they lose the captain, Steven Gerrard, it's all over for them.
"It's a really serious situation. I don't know the financial detail, but because they can't get the investment whoever is looking at the club wouldn't seem to think it's a good deal at the price everybody wants.
"The need for new investors is so imperative it's untrue."
Here is a selection of the comments found on the 606 message boards.
He was a legend for us and his knowledge of the game is excellent, but he has never shown an interest or the desire to manage the club - in fact he has gone on record saying that he would never do such a thing. Why then must he constantly harp on about the club - usually in a negative manner?
Hansen talks about Morgan as if that is the only solution.A one-off boost of the Morgan kind may sort things out. However, if that doesn't close the gap, the gamble is lost and Hansen's grim prediction may become true. A more Liverpool solution is to get back to what made us great. That is evolutionary improvement throughtout the club. This is at a team level and a club level.
It kills me to say so but I agree with Hansen. I know we have had horrendous injury woes, but our squad just ain't good enough.
I am not convinced the problem at Liverpool is financial. They have continued to spend big even though they are planning a new stadium. Problem, as I see it, is in the attitude of the club and the fans. You would think they were still a big club. Liverpool need a shake-up, would Shankley and Paisley be as successful today? Basically, stop looking for a new Shankley and start looking for the next Mourinho.