Graeme Souness fears Liverpool downward spiral
Former Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness fears the club are in "meltdown'' after a disastrous Champions League campaign - and things will get much worse if they fail to qualify for next season's edition.
A stoppage-time 2-1 defeat to Fiorentina at Anfield left Rafael Benitez's side, who were already unable to progress to the knockout phase, with just seven points from six matches.
The Europa League is of little consolation to Souness, who is more concerned with Liverpool's disappointing Premier League form which means there is a real danger they could not be involved in Europe's top club competition next season.
Souness, who won the European Cup three times with Liverpool, captaining them to victory in 1984, has grave concerns about what failing to progress in the Champions League this season could mean for his club.
"I fear they are in meltdown. If they don't reach the Champions League next year the best players won't want to play for Liverpool,'' he said. "That would be the first time in as long as I can remember. They are hundreds of millions of pounds in debt and they need a new stadium to keep up with the rest and just stand still.
"Every year they are dropping off the pace so they need a new stadium. If they don't get to the Champions League the banks will be knocking on the door wanting to replace the income stream that the Champions League would give them.
"All those scenarios are frightening for Liverpool supporters. I can't see them becoming a Leeds United because I think there will always be someone out there, whether it be a Russian or someone from the Middle East, who deep down is a big fan and would get them out of a hole - a saviour if you like.''
Souness said the priority now must be securing a top-four place in the league despite the lure of silverware elsewhere.
"I think there is real danger. They have to look at the second half of the season,'' he told Sky Sports. "The Europa League means nothing to Liverpool. I'm a Liverpool supporter and I would love them to finish in the top four and win the Europa League and FA Cup. But if there was a choice of those three it would be to finish in the top four.
"If you are looking to move your club forward you have to encourage the best players to come to your club. If they are not in the Champions League that won't happen because you won't have the same income coming into the club. If you are already in debt the banks will put pressure on Liverpool because they want money from somewhere to lessen the debt they have right now.''