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Could Saudi prince be answer to Liverpool FC's investment problems?

LIVERPOOL FC co-owner George Gillett faced protests from angry fans as he made a rare trip to the city over the weekend.

Supporters from Reds’ union Spirit of Shankly (SOS) gave the US businessman a hostile reception as he visited training ground Melwood, the LFC academy and Anfield.

Gillett was at Anfield to watch the Reds 6-1 drubbing of Hull on Saturday.

And he was accompanied by a Saudi billionaire.

Prince Faisal bin Fahad Bin Abdullah al Saud, who owns Sports Investment company F6, was pictured sitting alongside Gillett in the directors’ box.

Their appearance sparked reports the Prince and Liverpool were on the verge of a massive deal that could see the Saudi take control of up to 50% of club shares in return for investment ranging from £200m to £350m.

But sources claimed talk of the wealthy Saudi ploughing cash into the Reds was not on the agenda.

Instead it was suggested Gillett invited Faisal in a bid to rubberstamp plans to set up Liverpool FC academies in the Middle East.

Anfield bosses stressed privately talk of high-level investment and selling of club shares was wide of the mark.

According to Liverpool sources matters of sponsorship and global branding were uppermost in the businessmen’s minds.

Asked directly about speculation involving possible Saudi investment, a spokesman for the owners declined to comment.

Relations between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett who have had several major fall-outs since they took over in February 2007, are said to be more cordial than they were 18 months ago.

And sources insisted the meeting between Gillett and the Prince was arranged with Hicks’s backing.

Over the weekend Saudi-based Al-Riyadh newspaper quoted Al Faisal as having said: “We are currently seeking to buy 50% of the shares in the club {Liverpool} which is now suffering debts worth £245m.

“The transaction, upon which a decision is close to being reached, will be worth £200m to £350m.”

On Saturday Prince Faisal, flanked by bodyguards, was given a tour of Melwood and the academy facilities in Kirkby where he was greeted by demonstrating fans.

One member of Spirit of Shankly asked to speak to Gillett about the club’s finances and was granted a one-on-one meeting with the American owner.

SOS’s Paul Rice told the ECHO: “He came out with all the usual lines about why the stadium wasn’t being built yet because of the credit crunch.

“He said again how Liverpool was in a better state than most of its rivals and the budget available to manager Rafa Benitez was acceptable.

“Amazingly he said it wasn’t him who promised the ‘spade would be in the ground within 60 days’, when they discussed the stadium at that first press conference.

“He said Hicks had said that.

“If it’s correct that Rafa has just £20m to spend each year it was ironic to see Gillett jumping up and down after Torres scored his three goals.

“Under that regime he wouldn’t be able to buy a player like him as he would simply cost too much.”

Up to 200 supporters assembled around the directors entrance at the Main Stand on Saturday to protest.

SOS also alleged that some fans were threatened with eviction from Anfield by stewards if anti-Gillett and Hicks banners were not taken down.

A SOS spokesman said: “We will be seeking clarification on this matter.”

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